Using every bit of the metaphorical cow

Hi All,

Firstly, has anyone else out there noticed an increase in blog followers lately? Aside from the blog followers, are any of you experiencing a lot more spam making it through the spam filters for WordPress? Well I have been and so I went hunting to see what I could find. The reason I went hunting was that I am naturally nosey and I decided to see who my “new followers” actually were. It turns out that 6 of the last 10 blog followers are not actually bloggers. Several of them are blogs that show me how to make money out of blogging and the rest are either suspended blog accounts or remain unused. It turns out that this problem, as it IS a problem, has been surfacing on many blogs lately. It would seem spammers have worked out a new way to make revenue out of blogs and are exploiting a loophole where WordPress doesn’t allow bloggers to choose who follows them. A simple choice, like we get with comments, would solve the problem but apparently WordPress is loath to implement this change for some reason. At the moment all we can do is report these spam/faux blogs to WordPress. Here is a bit more information about the problem…

http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2013/04/09/wordpress-com-follower-management/

From the site above I found a link where I headed over to a forum post specifically to do with spam followers…

http://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/preventing-spammers-from-being-notified-of-new-posts/page/4?replies=83

If you have suddenly become incredibly popular in the last few months you may have picked up some spam hitchhikers but at the moment we just have to grin and bear them. The only option available to us is to report them to WordPress but as I said, WordPress is in mass denial mode and seem to want to divert the problem rather than deal with it. Let’s just hope that these faux followers are merely a nuisance rather than a problem waiting in the wings that WordPress simply can’t deal with.

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“Sorry? You want me to look dignified? Not today, I am too comfortable”

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A very large boat heading out to sea via the Tamar River

Now I can get back to the title of the post after sharing that with you. I think that everyone needs to know that the spammers are trying to get in the back door so to speak before heading side left into metaphorical cows et. Al. We all need to be more aware of food waste and we vegans can’t be smug in that arena. We might not end up with lots of grisly and gristly entrails dripping with gore when we choose to make our evening meal but we do end up with a whole lot of skins, pips and “other” that needs to be dealt with. We can compost our bits or we can often use some of them to feed domesticated animals (Earl and Bezial would like it to be known that they are NO-ONES domesticated animals and therefore point blank refuse to entertain the idea of eating our veggie and fruit scraps) but what about those skins that worms fear to taste like citrus skins and onion and garlic skins? What do we do with them? I am as guilty as the next person of surreptitiously tossing them into the rubbish bin salving my conscience with “they will biodegrade before I do!” but if everyone throws their peelings into the bin that’s a whole lot of waste on top of the waste that is more difficult to get rid of. What’s a conscientious environmentally aware person to do?

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After paring the white pith away from the zest they had to be covered with cold water and brought up to the boil

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Draining the peel after one of it’s simmering sessions

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After the final simmer in fresh water the peel is added back into the pan along with sugar and water

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Here the peel has taken on a translucent look and the syrup is thick. After checking that the syrup had reached 230F (the recipe was in “F”) I removed the pot from the heat and allowed it all to cool down for 30 minutes. The end results are a delicious way to preserve all of the harvest and minimise waste.

Well, let’s think of a clever way to reuse those problem peels. You can use pips and skin of citrus in marmalade. Save them in the freezer till you need them. You can also turn citrus skins into zest for all kinds of cooking purposes that you can freeze until needed or you can glace or candy the zest for cakes and decorations or just dipping into chocolate or sugar and eating. Here are a couple of links for anyone looking to have a go at minimising their own personal waste in the citrus area…

http://veena-cakesbakes.blogspot.com.au/2011/09/preserved-orange-peel.html

http://kitchenpreserve.com/candied-orange-peel/

http://daysontheclaise.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/preserved-orange-peel.html

http://scraplunchproject.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/preserved-orange-peel.html

The same principals can be used for all citrus zest, just make sure to get as much of the white pithy bit from the zest as you can because it makes the final product bitter. I am peeling some orange skins at the moment and just found out a small tip by good chance. I froze a lot of orange skins in a bag in the freezer and was adding them to the bag as I ate my oranges. The frozen (now thawed) orange skins are much easier to get the zest from than fresh orange peels so if you want to make a lot of preserved orange peel, it might take the edge off all of that pith removal. This next tip is specifically for lemon rinds and results in zest powder and the link after that is a spin on preserved lemons, using the preserved orange rinds to make a savoury ingredient. No waste, useable and desirable edibles and less landfill a win-win situation

http://chocolateandzucchini.com/archives/2010/06/roasted_lemon_zest_powder.php

http://scraplunchproject.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/preserved-orange-peel.html

The onion skins make a wonderful natural dye for egg shells and natural spun wool and combined with alum and other mordants you can get some pretty amazing colours out of the humble onion skin. See some of these links for some really useful information and sites…

http://pioneerthinking.com/crafts/natural-dyes

http://craftykatiegates.blogspot.com.au/

http://waysofthewhorl.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/natural-dyeing-take-2-onion-skins/

Anyone wanting to keep their own goats or sheep might want to head to that first blog where there is an extensive list of colours linked to particular plants. The second blog is now defunct but still there for us all to check out and this clever little cookie has managed to use some interesting things to dye skeins of wool including the humble black bean!

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My lovely new friand/financier pan courtesy of my wonderful daughters

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err…”Oops!” I always forget how powerful the vitamix is and this is what happened to my soaked skun almonds, they went straight from nut to paste!

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After sieving the paste through a fine mesh sieve to remove all of the lumps I decided to soldier on and hope for the best that almond paste would suffice for almond meal

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There’s quite a lot of butter in friand but what’s a slab of butter when something is delicious eh? 😉

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The end result, lovely rich, dense little cakes that taste wonderful

I have just been doing a bit of nosing around on a website that I previously pilfered a few tutorials and articles from but haven’t had time to revisit for a while. Jess, a.k.a. “Rabid” from http://rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com/ and LyndaD from http://middleagedreflections.blogspot.com.au  reminded me what a valuable source of information this site actually is. I was trawling around and discovered this amazing woman. She built a log cabin on a waitress’s wages all on her own and then after losing it to a fire just after it was completed, she and her partner did it all over again! What an inspiration of a woman! Check out her story here and marvel at how this woman was able to overcome the odds and never EVER try to beat her willpower to succeed, methinks it must be diamond skinned!

http://www.dorothyainsworth.com/welcome.html that’s a lot of linkies in one post and I promise no more.

It’s now 4.24pm and suddenly it’s almost time to post this post and I have been phaffing around all day trying to animate teapots and kettles but realising that I am certainly NOT the I.T. Specialist in this family. The clucky who was sitting on eggs has hatched out 4 babies and despite being completely surrounded by feral cats as soon as they realised that there were 4 tasty little fluffy squeakies she still had 4 fluffy little babies. It would seem that her mother’s (Effel Doocark) uselessness with hatching out babies hasn’t passed down to this angry mother of a chook and she is ready to take ALL of the feral cats on at once! She attacked every single one that came close to her and is now sitting in the middle of a pile of grain that I tossed out for her on top of her fluffies and maybe…just maybe she might manage to keep all 4 babies but I am not investing myself in baby chicks anymore. The odds are against them folks and narf7 has no way to make those odds any better short of trapping all of the feral cats, driving them over the Batman bridge and hurling them out into the park on the other side along with the feral crazy man who emerges from his caravan to greet his day with a solid round of yelling each morning. Steve, the dogs and I get serenaded by his dulcet tones. Maybe he would like some cats to keep him company? At least he would have something to yell about then! 😉

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This is Steve’s latest batch of homemade ice cream. It’s rich vanilla bean ice cream with homemade creamy English fudge pieces

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The ice cream packed into a container and heading for the freezer

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My choko now looking like some sort of exotic mantis giving a speech

I have decided to take up knitting for relaxation. I don’t know how that is going to work out to be honest because whenever I get a knot the relaxation quotient of knitting is probably going to get a reworking but the other day I decided to head off and find a sound wav of a kettle boiling. A simple little sound wav that I could put into my next animation. The very first site that I clicked on was infected with a Trojan and instantly, so were we :o(. Steve was out so narfy, the technophobic luddite had to think her way out of the fact that AVG appears to be on the blink and not updating properly and was only managing to “contain” the virus and every 5 minutes I would get a pop-up warning telling me that I had 3 viruses all vying for my attention. After ascertaining that an AVG scan just wasn’t going to cut the mustard and realising that I had NO idea where Malware Bytes was situation on our computer any more (after the last virus went through the start menu got erased)… and as I was downloading Microsofts answer to Armageddon I suddenly realised that we had been contracting a lot of viruses lately, all from websites. AVG SHOULD be catching these viruses before they have a chance to invade Poland but apparently the free version no longer does a very good job. It would appear that “free” is something that WordPress and most internet security services no longer want to host.

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A tray of sausage rolls for Another one of Steve’s evening meals

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Finished and ready for mass consumption

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I had some milk kefir hanging about in the fridge and as neither Steve nor I use it I decided to put it to good use and make a cake. The cake recipe was for a buttermilk spice cake. The end result was incredibly moist and smelled wonderful. Being a spice cake this should mature nicely as well. I even made the icing sugar myself (from regular granulated sugar) in my vitamix.

It took 15 minutes to download the most excellent Microsoft malwares tool (from here should anyone out there find themselves up to their armpits in viruses with no-where to go…)…

http://www.microsoft.com/en-au/security/pc-security/malware-removal.aspx

After choosing “full scan” I was told that it was going to take over 2 hours…there went my morning of study! I spent the next 2 hours clicking “heal” on AVG every 5 minutes and knitting up a storm while I watched the monitor for those 5 minute pop-ups courtesy of Mr Virus and his host of minions, most persistent little buggers they are, so knitting was my only real option. I actually had fun! Once the malware removal tool had managed to find the 23 infected files and deal with them the PC was back to perfick and Mr Virus is going to have to wait till stupid narf7 plays Russian roulette again with wav sites…on second thoughts, I reckon I am going to record the sounds myself as then I am guaranteed virus free. It looks like we are going to have to pay for virus protection for the very first time. A sad but sorry indictment of the “free” software that is lagging behind and is going out of date faster than the viruses are replicating (lightning speed). As irritating as having a virus (or 23) was, there is a real danger that there are many people out there simply unaware that by clicking on a website you can become infected.

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As you can see I have some knitting in prime position next to the P.C. (and yes Sarah, that IS one of your glorious U.K. meadow shots blatantly pilfered and used as my desktop 😉 )

Well that’s Wednesday done and dusted folks. It’s getting later and I have to liberate Steve’s tea from the oven. Tonight he is having marinated tofu and oven baked Chinese rice. We had 3 blocks of tofu that need to be used up and so tonight is the night. Lucky Steve likes it really ;). See you next Wednesday folks. Steve is going to have a look at working out how to format the animations so that I can share them with you along with a few photos. Take note, this post is 800 words less than your usual doorstop and narf7 is honing her craft ;). Till Wednesday, Ciao :o)

Here are my last 3 animations. You will have to click on the links below because WordPress won’t allow imbedded content. Make sure to turn your speakers on because the last animation has sound.

http://s1101.photobucket.com/user/bezial27/media/BabooshkabeforeEase_zps58a0c4c6.mp4.html

http://s1101.photobucket.com/user/bezial27/media/FranWindmillTask_zpsdb06ed8d.mp4.html

http://s1101.photobucket.com/user/bezial27/media/typeanim_zps2bd9c39b.mp4.html

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Green Tea, Chainsaws, Moonshine and Redneck Rock down on the farm…

Hi All,

A terrifying thing has just happened…I headed to my “Blog” folder on my PC to look for the beginnings of a blog post. I usually have one or two ideas stuffed up my collective sleeve (I collect things in my sleeves so I am allowed to abuse the vernacular, mostly dirt and dog hair but whatchagonnado when you live on 4 acres out in the bush?) but today I found nada. Nada isn’t a good start folks…nada…zip…zilch…whatever you want to call it means that narf7 has to pull her finger out and get cracking with something for her dear constant readers to pore over with a microscope (you don’t? I am assured many do! 😉 ) for a Wednesday. Hump day arrives and narf7 has responded by being in recovery from her complete and utter addiction to Pinterest last week and by actually doing some work for once. Yesterday I spent the day removing rope and sundry “things” from a massive length of ex-fish-farm netting. The sundry things consisted of a huge amount of sludgy green algae (I removed it with that collective sleeve I mentioned earlier…), assorted chook manure that I kept finding thanks to the chooks being out now and most curious about what I was doing, several white plastic rings that I have NO idea what they were meant for but that made Steve excited to be the new owner of (for “own” read “throw in shed to make more mess…) along with so much thick nylon rope people are going to start talking about us unless I decide to find a tutorial for how to make a hammock that has a half-life.

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Here’s the view from the deck looking over the water at 7.30am on Monday morning and Steve just caught the sun coming up…

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And this is exactly the same spot the last image was taken but at 7am on Tuesday morning…it doesn’t look like the same place does it?! Anyone else think that we are in for a bit of rain in the near future? ;). Note, neither of these images have been Photo shopped.

We have been busy collecting wood and waiting for rain. We have various piles of debris on Serendipity Farm that we would like to imagine that we left there for the specific purpose of allowing the leaves to fall from the branches and mulch the denuded soil, harvesting smaller branches for a hugelkultur base for our soon to be realised ENORMOUS fully enclosed veggie garden (typing that just made me tired…) and for harvesting the larger portions for making Brunhilda the equivalent of a tasting platter. In reality we just piled them up whilst doing the metaphorical equivalent of putting our fingers in our ears and yelling “I CAN’T HEAR YOU” loudly…over and over again. Now we have to deal with our metaphoricals in a more physical way and after poring over ideas to make me look like I am a clever and savvy horticulturalist, environmentalist and permaculturist (all the “ists”) I came up with the idea to use the big bits for firewood. It’s amazing how much wood you actually get out of piles of ex shrubs. Steve and I know…we have been harvesting it all week.

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Ferals enjoying the autumn leaves

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The maple tree has finally started dropping it’s lovely red leaves

The weather for our winter so far (all 5 days of it) has been that glorious mix of crispy squeaky cold mornings and lovely sunny days. I love weather like this. It makes you feel clear headed and full of purpose (even when you aren’t and are just dragging along behind an overexcited dog hell bent on urinating on every shrub he sees). Today we cut more ex-fish farm netting and we collect more firewood. It might not sound interesting but when it all comes together it is both productive and delicious. I have been cooking a lot lately. Lots of wholesome soups and delicious Stromboli’s and my mind is starting to turn to food adventures. I am considering making a sweet Stromboli. How does adding some more sweetener to the dough and some kind of dried fruit and sweet spice sound? How about when I flatten it out (easiest dough to work with folks…) I spread over some grated apple and cinnamon sugar or grated chocolate and orange zest or jam and more sultanas, but this time they have been soaked in rum? Then I roll it all up, tuck in the ends and bake it for the sake of a happy man. I could call it “Stromboli Poly” and could serve it with custard and thick pouring cream. I reckon it’s a date!

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As you can see, we aren’t short of a few leaves here on Serendipity Farm. Do you like where we chose to put the craypot we got for $5 from the progressive garage sale?

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A close up of a vegans nightmare 😉

I got up at 2am this morning. I don’t know if it was the pressing need to write a blog post or just that my mind is a bit twitchy today. I am off to my daughters this weekend and my brain has gone into planning overload. I want to bake up a storm. On the phone yesterday my youngest daughter Bethany told me that they had bought me a tray of friand pans and had also bought me some Matcha green tea powder. They couldn’t find me any locally so they imported it from China! The food miles are prohibitive but apparently I have a certificate with my bag of fluffy green powder to assure me that it is “Genuine Green Tea”. I can only begin to imagine why they would feel the need to issue a certificate with their green tea…I don’t want to imagine it any more…all roads lead to adultered milk powder with stirred in spirulina ;). We are going to have a great time this weekend and I am taking the ingredients for making waffles over with me. I am also going to take the ingredients for friand. Apparently “Friand” is a peculiarly Aussie word for the French “Financier”. They are one and the same thing but we Aussies love to take something and make it our own (just ask the New Zealanders, they have been saying that we pilfered lamingtons, pavlovas and goodness only knows what else from them for years! 😉 ). I have been lusting after friand pans for a while now and whilst I can’t justify buying a set of pans for a single use, I CAN accept them as a gift 😉

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Steve has had Stromboli’s on a regular basis ever since we trialled them for The Virtual Vegan Potluck last month. As an Omni, he has smoked csabai and bacon and feta on his Stromboli’s along with grated cheddar cheese which I hadn’t grated on yet in this picture. This is the Stromboli pre-roll…

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And here it is post roll. You get a good look at our kitchen in the background. That board resting on the floor was designed to fit snuggly over the gas cooktop on that section of cupboards to the left at the rear of this image so that we can use it for extra preparation space. We don’t use this cooktop much in winter as Brunhilda is on pretty much 24/7 so it’s a good idea to utilise the wasted space when we need it the most, when we are up to our armpits in bread dough etc. over the cold winter months.

I have to report to you that Steve will be my guest poster on Saturday. I was twitching about having to get this post AND Saturdays post done yesterday and Steve gallantly came to the rescue. Steve is an attention hog folks…don’t let his mild mannered beatific smile lure you into any false pretences that this man is a benign sideliner…no sooner is my back turned then he has plans for this space. Apparently he is going to give you a history lesson for Tasmania “Steve style”. I just wanted to mention here that I can’t be held responsible for any content that my wonderful quirky Aquarius husband inserts here on Saturday…just hold onto your rollercoaster seat and get ready for a decidedly “side left” experience! I have given him free range so long as he doesn’t go on about religion and politics. He seemed a bit crestfallen there as just about everything going on in Tasmania at the moment has something to do with both and that is where he got the idea about history…you can’t go wrong with historical events…they have already been and Wikipedia has more than enough of them for the average bear. He didn’t really like what Wikipedia said. It bored him. He is easily bored so he is going to rectify that by adding in his own interpretation on events. Good luck…make SURE to affix your safety belts and don’t tell me you weren’t warned when I get back here on Wednesday 😉

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Glad allowed us to take a few shots of her driveway when we were talking to her the other day. See all of those leaves? That’s about 1/8th of the leaves to be raked and claimed by yours truly :). I love it when helping your neighbour is also helping yourself :). The road you can see at the end of Glad’s driveway drops off straight into the river on the other side.

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Aren’t these oaks lovely? The minister for the Auld Kirk church next door to us was buried in Glad’s garden somewhere as her home used to be the church manse. I wonder if Glad knows where he is?

I’m back. Did you miss me? I have been outside collecting wood and cutting net while the sun shone which wasn’t all that long to be honest but at least we were able to get some of what we wanted done. Steve has been wrestling with his chainsaws which have both apparently gone on strike. I decided to retreat to the safety of the house to protect my delicate ears from the ensuing stream of profanity and decided to finish off this post. I have fed Audrey and she is ruminating nicely on the kitchen bench. I like to give her a little bit of time out in the warmth of the kitchen to make up for the fact that she pretty much lives in the fridge. I have also transferred my milk kefir grains from their twice weekly dunking in “real” milk to a container of homemade soy milk made from organic beans and date paste. The grains LOVE date paste. I have been watching them closely to see if there was going to be any negative connotations with putting them into non-dairy milk on a long term basis but haven’t seen anything yet. If anything, they appear to grow faster when they live like this. I guess they know that they are going to have a nice holiday in regular milk every couple of days and have decided to make the best of it. I get the feeling that certain sections of the yeast/bacteria symbiosis that forms the complex relationship we know as kefir grains love nothing more than fruit sugar. I had read that you can double ferment kefir by adding fruit to the finished result for the kefir grains to continue to feed on. I use date paste because they seem to like it a lot. They actively feed on it whenever they are added to the date sweetened soymilk and I have started to get adventurous with my combinations

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I was talking to Roxy, our friend who lives down the road on the way past her home yesterday and as she volunteers in the local Beaconsfield thrift shop I asked her to keep her eyes open for any hand knitted jumpers that I could buy and unpick for the wool. She said “hang on a minute” and came out with a bag of wool. This bag contains 5 balls of a lovely khaki green wool. Not sure what I am going to make with it but I think I might make Steve some fingerless gauntlets

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She also gave me a large bag of hand spun wool that she had spun herself. I will be making myself some gauntlets out of this gorgeousness. I love sharing. We gave Roxy and Guy a whole lot of potted plants to plant out on their property and Roxy, in turn has been very generous back with veggies and this lovely wool. Developing community allows one mans trash to become another mans treasure. Roxy said that she had knitted herself enough beanies, gloves and scarves to last her a lifetime and I was welcome to the rest of the wool. I will try my hardest to do it justice. Any suggestions for patterns (pointing me in the right direction online) would be most gratefully listened to 🙂

I am not all that sure that my adventurousness is being rewarded. I have combined the finished kefir with some homemade coconut milk that I made a while ago (from fresh coconut meat not dried) and promptly put into the cold part of the fridge and promptly forgot all about. I found it the other day when I was hunting for cheese for a sandwich for Steve. I opened the top and it didn’t smell “bad” so I decided to throw it into the kefir mix. Not so sure it was a good move…it tastes nice but it seems to have added something explosive to my kefir mix. The kefir has started to bulge alarmingly in its 3 litre plastic milk container. I opened it this morning and the lid blew off! It is über fizzy, tastes lovely and as I have been adding more date paste to keep the mixture fermenting it is certainly using what I give it. I figure that I have made a sort of date, coconut and soy hooch. I tossed in a bit of leftover almond and oat milk this morning and the kefir assimilated it like the Borg. I don’t know what I have created but I feel like Dr Frankenstein once he lost control of his creation…it may yet go over to the dark side and need euthanising but for now, it’s great fun and so long as I remember to release the gasses from the finished kefir every time I go to the fridge, I shouldn’t have to clean up an almighty mess any day soon. (Note to self…remember to use it all BEFORE you go away for the weekend… 😉 )

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This is what “real eggs” look like folks. Those feathered Somalian pirates do have some benefits. The problem is, it is getting increasingly harder to find where the crafty minxes are laying!

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Remember that tree that rotted and dropped and is being propped up by another tree right next to the house? Well it’s still there…sigh…

The chainsaw just started and kept going so I figure that means “SUCCESS!” and it might be safe to step outside and check if the bit of drizzle that we have had so far is adding anything to our rainwater quotient. Steve now sounds like he is trying to play “The Chainsaw Song” by Jackyl (a band from the 80’s folks…I hadn’t heard of them either…) on one of his long suffering chainsaws. To illustrate what I am talking about here is a link to the song…watch it, and then you will understand what I mean…incidentally…I would like to apologise for the 30 seconds of “Kardashians” that you will be forced to watch before the actual video commences…please feel free to get a bucket in readiness for the inevitable vomit response that will highly likely occur…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A52p9jc-gOo

Now let’s get something straight from the get-go…Steve and I both LOVE this song. We are apparently both Sidmouth Rednecks in the making but manage to stifle it most of the time. You can be sure that we are both jumping around the kitchen for the duration of the song (and I dare you to remain seated…its catchy folks 😉 )…aside from that you might be forgiven for thinking that Bon Scott from ACDC has somehow taken possession of the lead singer of Jackyl…he hasn’t. The man’s name is “Jessie James Dupree” (somehow incredibly fitting) and aside from being a pretty good and most athletic singer in a redneck band, you may have seen him in the heinous approximation of a television show called “Full Throttle Saloon”. Much like Mr David Lee Roth who is also an athletic and very good singer, Mr Dupree seems to be squandering his talents. At least Mr Lee Roth is driving an ambulance…Mr Dupree seems hell bent on getting Mr Lee Roth as much work as he can handle.

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This is an Osteospermum daisy. It is my nemesis. I decided to share this photo with you because they do look pretty but they aren’t welcome here along with their Vinca major mates!

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Since we cleared out all of the competing undergrowth from around this lovely Protea it hasn’t stopped flowering. It’s probably the happiest plant on Serendipity Farm

Steve appears to have a desire to become an aging redneck. His hero is a now deceased man called Popcorn Sutton. Popcorn Sutton made the best moonshine in the U.S. Steve is in awe of the mention of his name. He has an uncanny ability to dance just like Popcorn Sutton and wants me to video him doing his hillbilly shuffle so that we can rotoscope him for posterity. Should this strange (and somewhat disturbing) video ever eventuate, I promise to share it with you all here on The Road to Serendipity, cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye folks! By the way…what is it about half naked men with long hair that appeals to me girls? Give me an 80’s Pearl Jam clip and I am gone! ;).

Here is a “Doodied up” version of Popcorn Sutton dancing…marvel at those moves folks and know that Steve has been studying them intently and can replicate them in minutiae…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E575kEtKRBs

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Finally we see fungus! Anyone who has been hanging around Serendipity Farm and this blog for long enough will know of my undying love and respect for my fungal companions here on planet Earth. I have NO idea what this fungus is, all I know is that they tend to grow on tree stumps and rotting wood in large clumps like this.

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Isn’t this pretty? My love for fungi knows no bounds 🙂

I might make this a slightly shorter post than usual and leave it here folks. It is starting to get late and it’s already almost dark at 2.45 in the afternoon! I have my evening routines to start at 3 when we feed the dogs and everything flows from there till about 7pm when we get to both sit down (after racing around after animals all over the place) and have a well-earned rest. We think Frank and his wife have headed off to Canada as they have been strangely quiet on the Western Front. We did see a good friend who used to work at the Alanvale Polytechnic when we attended horticulture lectures there for 2 years (Hi Nat :o) ) who used to be the head groundskeeper. He wasn’t ANYTHING like Groundskeeper Willie from the Simpsons and was more like Mr MacGyver (Mr Smarty-pants fix it with string…) from the hit television series of the same name that back in 1985. Corey could fix ANYTHING and was/is the most laid back person I have ever met. Today we saw him driving a truck load of gravel for a new house being built right next door to Frank’s house.  So we have impunity to see just how many roosters we can populate Serendipity Farm with in the 6 months that Frank will be absent without leave. Let’s take some bets on how many shall we? The winner takes them all! 😉

A Serendipitous Stromboli for The May 2013 Virtual Vegan Potluck

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I hope you enjoyed your flight over from Colorado in the U.S. where you just explored Reia’s wonderful culinary creation at The Cruelty Free Review to Sidmouth Tasmania. I guess you are all starting to know how Santa Claus feels on December 25th 😉

Welcome to Serendipity Farm for the May 2013 round of The Virtual Vegan Potluck. This is my very first time as a participant but I have avidly followed the previous 2 events and found a lot of amazing new vegan food blogs to tuck into my overstuffed RSS Feed Reader. If you want to check out a list of all of the participants in one fell swoop you can click here. Otherwise you can start off hungry and end up stuffed like Mr Creosote from the Monty Python movie “The Meaning of Life”. The trick is to eat slowly folks and not get overwhelmed or the fate of Mr Creosote might be inevitable with 169 fantabulous recipes for you to try. As this potluck is going to have you zipping from one side of the world to the other in a dizzying race to the finish line I figure we can all indulge freely…how many calories does it expend to race from one side of the earth to the other? Quite a few methinks and we are running this marathon all night folks!

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Here on Serendipity Farm we do things old school. Not because we shun the amazing plethora of vegan short-cuts that are available, but simply because as penniless student hippies living in Tasmania who are trying to live as sustainable a life as possible we choose to try to grow or make our own before we turn to the supermarket shelves. Secondly, most of the amazing vegan items that are simple shelf selections for the rest of the world just aren’t available here in Tasmania. I shop at our local Chinese, Korean and Indian stores to get my “interesting” ingredients and everything else we grow or we create ourselves from scratch.

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My recipe for the potluck is a conglomeration of several other recipes. Some I borrowed and adapted and some I invented. The mushrooms, tomatoes (Fresh, sun-dried and dried and powdered), jalapeno’s, spinach and walnuts used in this recipe were all grown on Serendipity Farm. I wanted to show you all that even if you can’t get vegan convenience food or takeaway where you live, you can make something just as satisfying and delicious with a bit of planning and thought. My Stromboli came about because Steve was watching “Man vs. Food” one night, that horrific show where one man attempts to eat his way through the American fascination with everything HUGE and comes out the other side with a t-shirt and a case of indigestion that would haunt him for a week. Neither of us had ever heard of a Stromboli but I am game when it comes to invention and invent I did! I hope you all enjoy the results. Steve did and as a picky Omni who doesn’t like kalamata olives at ALL he managed to polish off this entire enormous Stromboli in 2 settings. What better praise could a vegan want?

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Without further ado, here is the recipe…

Serendipity Farm Stromboli

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Stromboli dough ingredients: –

Adapted from http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/399/calzones with my own personal touch…

8g of instant dried yeast

1/2 tsp. ground Himalayan pink salt

1 tsp. caster sugar

3/4 cup warm water

2 cups plain (all purpose) flour

2 1/2 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp. Italian dried mixed herbs

1/2 cup of home dried tomatoes ground into a fine powder in a coffee grinder

1 tsp. dried chilli flakes or more to taste

Filling Ingredients: –

1 batch of tomato and walnut pesto (see recipe below)

½ batch of Vegan Colby Cheeze (see recipe below)

2 medium sized ripe tomatoes sliced

1 medium onion sliced very thinly

Approximately 250g (just on 9oz) of button or field mushrooms thinly sliced

1 bunch of fresh spinach shredded

½ cup Kalamata olives, seeded and cut in halves or sliced

A little olive oil for frying the mushrooms and sautéing the spinach

Fresh ground black pepper and sea salt to taste

Method:-

1. Combine the yeast, sugar and warm water in a jug and stir with a fork. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm place for about 5 minutes or until bubbles form on the surface.

2. Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the dried tomato powder, the mixed herbs and the chilli flakes evenly.

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3. Add the yeast mix and 2 tbsp. of oil. Mix to form a soft dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it for 8 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Put it in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with cling film and set aside in a warm place for 15 – 20 mins or until doubled in size.

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4. Preheat the oven to 220C (428F). Line a flat biscuit (cookie) tray with baking paper. Aside from preventing the Stromboli from sticking to the tray you can use it to guide you when you are forming the Stromboli.

5. While the dough is rising prepare the filling ingredients

6. Finely shred the spinach, slice the mushrooms, tomatoes and Kalamata olives and very thinly slice the onions.

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7. Gently fry the mushrooms in a little oil to remove some of the moisture to ensure they don’t make the Stromboli dough wet.

8. Flash fry the spinach in a little oil till just wilted

9. Shred the vegan Colby cheeze

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10. Assemble all of your filling ingredients together on a plate, not forgetting the pesto, ready to layer on the dough when it is ready

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11. Once the dough has risen, punch it with your fist. Knead it gently on a lightly floured surface. The dough should be quite soft and easy to work. Press the dough out to a 30cm x 35cm (11 x 14 inches) rectangle and try to ensure that the sides of the rectangle are reasonably straight. This will make it easier to roll the dough around the filling.

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12.  Spread the pesto over the rectangle leaving a 5cm (2 inch) border all around the outside of the rectangle. Top with the spinach, tomato slices, onion slices, fried mushrooms, olives and lastly the vegan Colby cheeze shreds.

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13. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper

14. Starting with one of the longer (35cm/14 inch) sides of the rectangle and using the baking paper as a guide, roll the Stromboli up like a sushi roll. The dough will probably stick a bit to the baking paper so do this slowly and tease the dough from the paper as you go. When you get to the end of the roll, press the sides and ends of the dough together. The dough should be soft enough to meld together. Once you have pinched the dough shut and using the baking paper as a guide roll the Stromboli back onto the sealed edge.

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15. Using a bread knife or other serrated knife, make slices 2 ½cm (1 inch) apart along the length of the Stromboli, ensuring that you only cut down halfway through the roll.

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16. When you reach the end of the roll put it into the preheated oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown

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17. Remove from the oven when done and allow the Stromboli to cool for about 5 minutes and then slice into pieces and serve with salad or on its own.

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18. ENJOY! 🙂

Sundried tomato and walnut pesto

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Note: – you will need a full batch of pesto for the Stromboli

Ingredients: –

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1 cup of walnuts

1 cup of Sundried tomatoes preserved in oil patted dry on paper towel

1 tsp. dried Italian mixed herbs

3 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp. chilli flakes finely ground

1 tsp. pink Himalayan salt

2 tbsp. Chili Bamboo Shoots a wonderful Chinese product that adds a lovely cheesy taste to this pesto

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Method: –

Put everything into a food processor and whizz until the pesto reaches a consistency that you like. It’s nice smooth or chunky. For this recipe I used it chunky to give added texture to the Stromboli. Note: – if you can’t find the chili bamboo shoots just omit them. They add flavour but the cheezy flavour can be somewhat replicated by using 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes (nooch). If you like your pesto a little looser you can add a little olive oil to the mix.

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The only vegan “cheeze” available in our local Tasmanian supermarkets is plain nasty. Its soy cheeze and looks like soap. It kind of tastes like soap as well…I only ever tried it once before wondering at the desperation of the masses purchasing this more than once and keeping it on the shelves. We might be penniless student hippies but we never compromise on taste. If we can’t buy it better, we make it better! I turned to my trusty old agar stained copy of “The Uncheese Cookbook”. I imported this book from the U.S. and after making most of the uncheeses contained within its hallowed pages, Steve and I ended up loving this version of Colby Cheeze.  The only additions that I make is to add 2 tsp. of miso and swap the mustard powder out and add yellow American style mustard to add colour and just the right flavour.

Colby Cheeze

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Adapted from “The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook” by Joanne Stepaniak

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Ingredients: –

1-1/2 cups water

5 tbsp. agar flakes, or 1-1/2 tbsp. agar powder (I used powder)

1/2 cup roasted red capsicum (peppers) skin and seeds removed, or pimento pieces

1/2 cup raw cashews or skinless Brazil nuts (I used cashew pieces)

1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes

3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice (I used bottled as we didn’t have any lemons)

2 tbsp. tahini (I made my own using this recipe http://vedgedout.com/2013/01/02/toasted-sesame-tahini-pictorial/ )

2 tsp. onion powder (I made this using dehydrated onion flakes in my repurposed electric coffee grinder)

1/4 tsp. garlic powder (again, made from garlic granules in my repurposed electric coffee grinder)

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1 tsp. salt (I use ground pink Himalayan salt)

1/4 tsp. mustard powder (I subbed 2 tbsp. of prepared yellow American style mustard for flavour and colour)

I add in 2 tsp. of Hikari white miso paste to add an umami cheesy flavour to my uncheeze but feel free to skip this ingredient if you don’t have it, it isn’t in the original recipe.

Method: –

  1. Lightly oil a 3-cup plastic storage container and set aside. I used a small metal rectangular muffin pan and a small round ceramic bowl.
  2.  Combine the water and agar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring often, until dissolved, about 5 to 10 minutes.

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  1. Transfer to a blender and add the remaining ingredients.
  2. Process several minutes until completely smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender jar as necessary. I use a Vitamix to do this to ensure my mix is completely smooth
  3. Pour into the prepared container and cool uncovered in the refrigerator. NOTE: – I find that this cheeze sets almost as soon as it is made so make sure that you pour it out of your mixer into your moulds as soon as the mix becomes smooth
  4. When completely cool, cover and chill several hours or overnight. As I mentioned above, don’t hang around once your mix becomes smooth in your blender or your uncheeze may set in the container. This has happened to me on more than once occasion so take note!

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  1. To serve, turn out of the container and slice. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator. Will keep 5 to 7 days.
  2. This cheeze can be grated easily and will soften nicely when used in hot dishes

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Variations: – In place of the red peppers, use 1/2 cup cooked chopped carrots, 2 to 3 teaspoons paprika, or 2 tablespoons unsalted tomato paste. For Chedda Cheeze add 2 tablespoons light or chickpea miso prior to blending. For Olive Cheeze replace dry mustard with 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard. After blending, stir in 3/4 cup chopped black olives or sliced pimento-stuffed green olives.

I managed to find a YouTube video of how to make this cheeze and it looks like Jack Black beat me to it! 😉

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3FYduSF-dw

So there you have it folks. Hopefully you will enjoy our Stromboli creation and will be fortified enough for the long haul flight over to the next blog in Canada, the amazingly delectable Mermaid Café where your chef for tonight will be the lovely Mira. “Please ensure that your carry-on baggage is stowed safely in the luggage compartments above your head and enjoy your flight…”

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When soybean met date…”I want what they are having!”

Hi All,

I have been making my own homemade soymilk for a few weeks now as an alternative to the carton stuff that I had been using. Soymilk is a dirty word these days and aside from my early morning cuppa I don’t use it. I had been drinking the Coles brand for a few weeks (Steve does the shopping and it’s only $1 a carton 😉 ) till something made me take a look at the carton more closely and I realised that the magic words “Non G.M.” were most suspiciously missing on my carton! That’s often more telling folks and this little black duck isn’t going to be drinking soymilk made somewhere else using genetically modified mutagenistic materials! No sir! So what’s a girl to do? I didn’t want to start buying the more expensive cartons because 1. They are more expensive (duh!) and 2. I can make it myself…and 3. I actually own an incredibly underused soy milk making machine that I can and should be using. 3 strikes and I am out! I asked Steve to pick me up some organic Aussie soybeans from David, our local Health Food shop maestro and my new cycle began. I say “cycle” because I never really understood the true cost of my early morning splash of soy milk before. When you make it, you suddenly realise that it’s not instant folks! I soak my beans overnight. They really do need to be soaked for at least 12 hours to loosen the skins…why care if the skins are loosened? That’s another 1; 2 folks…1. Because the skins clog up the machine, make the milk über frothy and very hard to clean and 2 (most importantly) if you skin the beans (yes…hand skin…) the resulting soymilk is actually drinkable…even tasty! As with everything that I do, I like to refine the processes. If you are going to keep doing something, it has to fit in with your ethos and your life and thus the refinement process began…

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2 homemade Cornish pasties with butter shortcrust and homemade oven wedges

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Any of you craft mamma’s out there want to give me ANY idea how I could make something like these?!!!

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The closest I got to actually documenting the soymilk making process today. Sloth overtook me and I spent the day researching all kinds of fermented goodies recipes…I have to skin all of these babies before I can turn them into soymilk so you can see the process in Wednesdays email 🙂

Soak the soybeans overnight (first REMEMBER to soak the soybeans overnight…black tea tastes hideous!)…next skin the beans. Find a way to make skinning the beans enjoyable as it’s going to take you the better part of a hour to do it and you will resemble Rumplestiltskin with a hump by the time you have finished if you stupidly decide to do it at the kitchen sink… I choose to sit on the deck dangling my feet alternating looking at the view, dropping the soybean skins to the ground below where the feral kittens toss them about and the feral chooks eat the beans that I accidentally throw over the edge (whilst tossing the skins into my newly popped pile…sigh…). I usually end up with Steve and the dogs as my companions and when I finish I head inside to the awaiting machine…toss the skun beans into the basket of the machine (obviously I am going to have to take some photos of it now…note to self…”TAKE SOME PHOTOS!”), wrangle it all together (like every other electrical machine that I own it has a personality and not a good one :o( ) and plug it in, press the start button and wait for it to do it’s “thang”. After it beeps at you an inordinately long amount head back from the furthest reaches of Serendipity Farm where you OBVIOUSLY have to be and start the next part of the equation…making it taste good. As I mentioned, if you remove the skins you are most of the way to getting something approximating shop bought carton milk. Unlike shop bought carton milk, homemade soymilk hasn’t got all the fillers, the oil, the sugar and the thickeners etc. that shop bought milk has. You get to customise it out the wazoo and that’s what makes this little black duck’s heart sing! I don’t use sugar any more. I gave it up back in January when I started my green smoothie challenge (another moment when I was just going along for the ride and ended up predominately changing my life…) and I have no intentions of starting it again just to make soymilk palatable.

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I got this sturdy cast iron fire set at the local tip shop for $1. All it needs is a bit of rust removal and rust protector and it will be as good as new… does ANYONE know what those weird extending tongs are?! You usually get a fire poker with these sort of sets but I had to have these because of that extendable set of pinchers 😉

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This wonderful cast iron pan cost me $1 at the Exeter tip shop as well. It was a bit rusty but here it is after Steve, the maestro rust remover and pan seasoner has worked his magic on it. I LOVE tip shop bargains ;). As you can see by the silicone oven mitt, this pan is smoking baby!

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I have a newfound desire to start cooking recipes from some of these wonderful books…watch this space…

Cow’s milk naturally tastes somewhat sweet and as someone who needs her early morning mug (bucket) of tea, not wants folks…NEEDS…to function through her day, I wanted to approximate the mouth feel and level of sweetness that cow’s milk delivers. I decided to use my newfound sweetener of choice. I made up some date paste. I make it in my Vitamix and use some of the date soaking water to process the mix. When I finish scraping out the resulting smooth paste, I throw in the rest of the soaking water (sweet in its own right) and whizz up the dregs of the paste to make date syrup that I use in my morning smoothies…no waste here on Serendipity Farm! I add 3 heaped tablespoons of date paste to the hot soymilk and half a teaspoon of fine crushed (in my mortar and pestle) sea salt and voila…I have a really tasty soymilk minus the gums, thickeners and weird sugar approximations. I love it, and Kid Creole’s babies apparently love it to! I used some to attempt to make soymilk kefir. I thought it was a complete flop as I tasted it while I was separating the grains from the resulting mass (couldn’t technically call it “kefir” 😉 ) and at best it could have been considered thin, lumpy soy vinegar but I underestimated the power of the date, and the kefir (that I poured into a 2 litre container after 2 days of making it and promptly “forgodaboudit”) kept doing its “thang”…I noticed it in the fridge door and thought “best taste it before I throw it out”…and it had transformed! It was fizzy, lightly sweet, clean tasting and sort of alcoholic! I put this down to the inclusion of the dates as apparently you can culture kefir twice. Once in its milk and then with added fruit. I am well on my way to making something that I can use neat in my morning green smoothies to give added probiotics and to take out the frowned on soy molecules and make them acceptable (fermented). “WOOT!” Another job done and dusted…”NEXT!” 😉

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The “ingredients” for a homemade chalk board…some leftover acrylic paint…some leftover tile grout, a paintbrush and something to paint

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Everything that I just said above…but closer! 😉

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The recipe calls for half a cup of paint…Steve calls for autonomy of his processes and the right to remain free to choose how much paint he is going to use and just “bungs” some into a glass…sigh…

Why all of a sudden has Serendipity Farm been littered with posts and pictures about food? The weather is starting to turn the thermostat down and we are having blissful low 20C days and cooler mornings and nights. As a newfound convert to early mornings I am starting to have to wear jumpers again and I love it! With the newfound arrival of autumn, it seems my desire to cook has ramped up. It’s like bulbs sprouting in the spring, bring on colder weather and my cooking genes ignite. As most of you know, I am a vegan. I have been vegan for about 17 years now and I follow a lot of amazing vegan blogs. I consider these wonderfully innovative people to be like rock stars and last year I discovered an event that handed me a whole lot more amazingness to cram into my RSS Feed Reader called “The Virtual Vegan Potluck”. I had never heard of a “Blog Hop” before. It is where a group of people get together and decide to post on a similar theme and link to each other. There are lots of small blog hops online that range from once a week to a few times a year and The Virtual Vegan Potluck is a biannual event (cheers for clearing that up for me Google or I may just have inadvertently made it once every 2 years in my ignorance 😉 ). It sees some of the most amazing vegan food bloggers coming together to create a monumental homage to vegan food gorgeousness. All kinds of people post recipes because the only stipulation to join in on the blog hop is to post a completely vegan recipe. There are vegetarians and Omni’s (that’s you “normal” omnivorous people shortened to make you as cute as we vegans 😉 ) that post and this year I have bowed to pressure and will be joining in myself. It’s a complete departure from normalcy here and for one post I will be part of a united chain of vegan deliciousness that will circumnavigate the globe. Whether you are interested in animal welfare, or just some delicious meat, egg and dairy free grub it’s a great place to check out what vegan food is all about. There are fringe groups that are Gluten Free, Paleo vegan’s and all kinds of strange skewed varieties of vegan but we all unite to agree to disagree to create this incredible ladder of food hope and you are all invited to check out the amazing array when I take part in May. For one day, Serendipity Farm posting will be hijacked and there will be a link to the post before me, and the post after me that if you choose to take a little trot around the world, you might just find some incredible new recipes to tantalise your tastebuds and add something new to your repertoire. Even if you just want the odd vegan recipe in case your crazy sister comes to town (hint hint Pinky 😉 ), you will find something here because everyone pulls all the stops out and delivers their very best. Last year one of the stellar crowd delivered the most amazing vegan cheeze en croute that you could imagine including recipes for the unctuous “cheeze”. All free, all just a linky click away. I have plans this year. As you all know I am OCD when it comes to just about everything and when I channel it, hopefully it can be used for the good of all mankind ;). My entry will be in the Main course section and will showcase our home grown produce and just how frugal deliciousness can be. I hope that you will all head off in random directions and salve your curiosity and discover that vegan is the new mainstream black :o). You never know what deliciousness you will find…

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Measure out your grout…1 tbsp. for 1/2 cup of paint…can anyone tell me why it’s alright to measure grout, but not paint? 😉

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Grout into paint…

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Mix the grout into the paint

My little sister Pinky (Catherine to you 😉 ) has started a new blog. She has just gone part time working as a Laboratory vampire (I will let her explain) and has time to twiddle her thumbs and contemplate her navel now so being the wonderful big sister that I am, I decided to introduce her to the world of blogging. I know that she will end up as addicted as I am to this amazing platform of communication and after feeling her way around the blogosphere, she will find her niche and will slot in nicely. If you would like to check out her blog it’s here…

https://cathyandchucky.wordpress.com

Love you Pinky! :o). It’s been raining steadily here for most of the early morning. Steve is NOT going to be happy! We had plans to collect wood today and I think our sporadic sky precipitation might have just put the kybosh on his plans. I can’t say that I mind. I have always got a backup plan and todays backup plan is lighting Brunhilda, baking some decent sourdough carrot cake (using up some of that milk kefir) and reading a good book. Steve will just have to twitch in the lounge room and watch some of his “stories” ;). A wet and extremely happy Earl just burst through the dog door, flipped himself upside down onto the kitchen rug, ootched along on his back in ecstasy  and is now trotting around in the dark lounge room at 5.41am expecting me to join him in his tomfoolery…”TOO EARLY EARL!”…sigh…the story of my, and his, life ;). Yesterday the dogs got bones from Nigel, our friendly butcher. They got enormous meaty delicious bones and as top dog (in his own private universe) Earl has decided that it is HIS job to patrol the bones. He must get up at regular intervals and stalk around ensuring that nothing has touched his bones. A difficult task when there are lots of feral cats, possums and butcherbirds all concertedly trying to steal them. It’s a tough job but Earl is up for it!

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Steve decided to mask the frame after a “discussion” about what happens when artisan craftsmen “bodge” things and their wives find interesting ways to take revenge…

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Just paint the amended paint onto the surface. It doesn’t need any preparation but if you are using something shiny and metal it might be an idea to lightly sandpaper the surface. Cover the paint glass with some cling wrap to keep it damp in between coats. Note, this coating will dry quite quickly.

Steve donated his shed white board that he never uses to be our new pantry door chalkboard. This time I took some before and after shots to share with you so that you can see how easy it is to make your own chalk paint and save yourself a HUGE amount of money. We didn’t have to pay anything for our chalkboard paint as we have lots of leftover tins of paint. Think about how good you are, recycling paint and grout that you might otherwise have had to toss into landfill? Think about how you don’t need to find scraps of paper to scribble down “must buy turnips” or “must remember to brush hair” or “must eat more fibre”…you mean you DON’T scribble down things like that? If you DO plan your scattered life in a series of mounting scraps of paper (must get myself a spike…the wind is a biotch!), a homemade chalkboard will give you a degree of autonomy that is amazingly satisfying. You can make it any colour you like. You can use any kind of grout you like to make a smooth as silk finish or a nice rough finish that will hold chalk nicely. You can even make your own chalk! I know you can, I researched it :o). I found recipes using plaster of Paris that work amazingly well. I also found a recipe for how to make your own crayons but they are probably not the best medium for writing on chalkboards kiddies! Think of the trees that I am saving! No more scraps of paper telling me to “drink more water”…I can write it on the chalkboard and erase the dust as and when I please. I feel positively cleansed folks! Consider this pictorial tutorial our gift to you trees…aside from trying to plant as many of you as we can in a single given location (NOT IN OUR LIFETIME! 😉 ), we are singlehandedly going to get everyone to stop using paper! Ok, so that might be a bit of a pipe dream, but if every one of us used a little bit less paper we might be able to preserve some of those amazing old forest trees that have been strutting their green stuff for hundreds of years and wouldn’t that be an amazing thing? You can all call me the Narfy Lorax now in unison :o)

Here’s a linky for how to make some chalk (plain or coloured) to go with your chalkboard if you want to make one :o)

http://www.ehow.com/how_6867981_do-chalkboard-chalk-household-ingredients_.html

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After the first coat it will look a bit blotchy but there is enough paint left for a second coat which will render the surface nice and evenly coated

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The painted board in situ on the pantry door where we can now write items we need to put on our shopping list whenever we think of them. Steve is being used to show you how big this board is

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This is one happy camper…Brunhilda has been on for 2 days straight now and this little black dog is about as happy as a pig in muck :). This is his own personal couch right next to the blissful wafting warmth of our wood fired 4 oven stove (Brunhilda) and Earl has a recliner chair on the other side. They both spent most of the day upside down sleeping…whoever first used the term “It’s a dogs life” certainly knew what they were talking about 😉

I tried some of my homemade soymilk kefir in my breakfast smoothie yesterday and it was so delicious, I had to immediately put some more beans on to soak. I am going to look into making kefir with other milks, specifically the cheaper ones like sesame, sunflower and perhaps grain milks like oat. If you are going to use something on a regular basis you need to make sure it’s going to pay you back in kind and won’t deliver too many negative results. The jury is still out on soymilk. I just found some good recipes for combining oats and a few almonds to make satisfyingly delicious non-dairy “milk” that should be cheap enough for me to use regularly without the hype of soymilk. Now all I have to do is see if Kid Creole’s coconuts feel the same way about it as they do soymilk. I think the secret is to use dried fruit to get a secondary ferment (to all of you crazed fermenters out there that this means ANYTHING to 😉 ). Kefir, correctly cultured, ends up slightly alcoholic. I made soymilk booze! Forget sake folks, this stuff can be drunk for breakfast?! I am in! I will let you know how my experimentation with oaty, almondy goodness goes and if Kid Creole’s coconuts have anything positive to say about the equation. I will be experimenting with different fruit pastes as well. I adore dried figs. Let’s see if Kid Creole’s coconuts do too. I will be experimenting with making home-made beer soon. I will be buying the barley, soaking, sprouting and dehydrating it myself. I will also buy local hops fresh from this year’s harvest source to add to the brew. I want to see if I can make it myself and I want to cultivate “barm”. Barm is a frothy mix of bacteria and yeast that forms on the top of brewing mash (or Wort as it is commonly called). The barm is the lively stuff that converts the sugars and starches into booze… the magic little tiny union of alchemists that deliver us into table dancing maniacs and that hand us our regret on a headachy platter the next morning. I recently read that this barm is also what brewers used to sell to bakers to bake their bread…how interesting? My little twitchy researching brain started twitching rhythmically when it got onto the scent of an interesting new hunt…I headed off and discovered that you can, indeed, make the European version of a sourdough starter using barm and that it was, indeed, the precursor to todays dried yeast! Guess who will be brewing more than just beer in the near future :o). I also have plans for home brewed, fermented ginger beer from a ginger beer plant (hopefully Pinky still has mum’s recipe…) and home brewed naturally fermented root beer for my daughters who LOVE the turpentine taste of Sarsaparilla. If this little black duck can make it herself, saving HEAPS in the process, damning “the man” and customising the flavours and nutrients to her own desires then its BONUS time in the deal-o-drome (if you don’t watch “Deal or No Deal” that isn’t going to make any sense to you 😉 ). Time to make like a tree and leaf folks. Have a great weekend and enjoy whatever you have planned to the max. If it doesn’t work out…always have a plan B and that’s the sage advice that you are getting for free from the Narfy Lorax today ;). See you on Wednesday when goodness ONLY knows what craziness we have gotten up to in the name of frugal penniless student hippidom! :o)

Pasta sauce and preserving the harvest on Serendipity Farm

Hi All,

Another shopping day has arrived and Steve will be up at 6am for a quick cup of coffee and to grab the veggies and herbs that I have parcelled up for our daughters, the pile of seeds and a single eggplant (she is suspicious to the last! 😉 ) for our Friend in the witness protection and my library cards to pick up my holds at the library. I have been getting quite adventurous with some of my holds and am sure that one of the librarians is living vicariously through my choices ;). Steve loves the processes and the speed of shopping. He loves the mad dash to get to the shops just as they open and the natives are conspicuous by their absence. He gets the supermarkets to himself and now that we don’t have a massive shopping trolley full of groceries he can race to the finish line without having to feel guilty that they only put 1 poor girl on in the early mornings and that someone is muttering behind him because they only dropped in to grab a carton of milk on the way to the office. Steve has his little shopping processes and sticks to them religiously…starting with Woolworth’s and ending with picking up our chook grain from a local producer he drives like Sebastian vettel from shop to shop, out to Bunning’s (a large hardware chain store) to pick up our gas bottles and then back to town to see our friend in the witness protection at work and to pick up some tender baby leeks and black corn that she wants us to grow here to protect them from the heavy blankets of frost that she gets on her inland property (sharing means a more resilient seed bank). She bought some red flowering heritage broad beans and although I wasn’t in a position to grow them last year (before we built our raised beds) I handed them to Roxy, another friend of ours in the neighbourhood who grew them, kept half and passed the rest of the seed back to me and now I have some to share with our friend in the witness protection (I am going to have to start saying that as OFITWP 😉 ). We recently divvied up a stack of organic soil amendments that she had purchased and that we traded a stack of conifers for half of. Steve Solomon had recommended that we use these wonderful natural soil amendments and gave us soil prescriptions to remedy our soil nutrient problems (after we had a soil analysis) and all we have to do is mix up our amendments in the correct ratio’s to make our own C.O.F. (Complete Organic Fertiliser). If you would like to read a bit more about Steve Solomon who lived somewhere closer to Christi in Olalla Washington State (http://farmlet.wordpress.com/ ) than he did to us and then moved to Tasmania and is now a whole LOT closer to us than he is Christi check out this article in Mother Earth News. Steve started Territorial Seed Company in Washington State and now runs a small farm box business and develops new seed for our local conditions here in Northern Tasmania…

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/2006-06-01/A-Better-Way-to-Fertilize-Your-Garden.aspx#axzz2NowQKomN

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A basin of ripe tomatoes just about to be turned into unctuous Italian style pasta sauce

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Veggies and herbs

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Found spirulina! Once disgusting, now still disgusting but useful in my morning breakfast smoothies

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How much is in each tub?!!! I have 3 of them…should keep me going forever “I have an inheritance for my kids!” 😉

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Just be thankful…VERY thankful that you don’t have smellivision on your monitors 😉

I will be making pasta sauce with another large basin of ripe tomatoes that we harvested the other day. It’s the best way for us to make good use of our gorgeous ripe tomatoes and aside from a few damaged ones that are mouldering away in Steve’s shed to give us seed for next year’s tomato growing activities, the rest are being put to good use. We use a lot of “tomato sauce” in our house. Not the ketchup variety, but home made with onions, garlic, herbs and love. We used to use tinned tomatoes but now we won’t have to because I am freezing this homemade gorgeousness in small batches, enough for a recipe. There isn’t anything that you can buy from a supermarket that compares with the flavour of homemade. It might be an old cliché, but it’s true. The processes that need to be involved to churn out an endless supply of a specific product and have it turn out the same batch after batch render that product generic to say the least. So many additives are needed and the product ends up being beside the by compared to the process that gets it from its raw state to the can/jar on the shelf. If you can do it yourself, do it. It makes a lot of difference to your intestines, your self-esteem, your wallet and to your tastebuds. Rabid (Jessie from Rabid Little Hippy blog fame… http://rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com/ ) recently made something out of the wild hawthorns on her property. Aside from skewering herself on hawthorn thorns (kudos girl 😉 ) she got 3 jars of “something” out of a whole lot of nothing and made the most of the wild harvest that was sitting outside her door. I have to take a whip to myself mentally and flagellate myself because of my inability to organise and get out and harvest more blackberries this year. They were everywhere and my only excuse is that it was so hot out there I didn’t want to stand there picking them. A pathetic and most lame excuse indeed and one that doesn’t even wash with me! Lazy… sigh. I can make it up now with the bumper crop of ruby red haws that are presenting themselves like strumpets in the hedgerows and on the sides of the road at the moment. We also have glorious and fluorescent orange wild rose hips festooning the drab little shrubs in huge quantities this year. The long hot dry conditions have at least favoured some shrubs and we may as well take advantage of this. I am thinking “Membrillo” or the Froggy equivalent “Pate de fruits” or perhaps rendering them down into a thick paste and then dehydrating them into roll ups so that I can pull a bit off the edge to use to add flavour and texture to recipes. The hips will be made into syrup to be boiled slowly down or perhaps a type of rosehip molasses like pomegranate molasses to add a major hit of vitamin C to whatever I choose to use them in.

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Although the zucchini plants are sucumbing to powdery mildew at an alarming rate, the eggplants are soldiering on regardless no matter the weather

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I really love these long thin Japanese eggplants and will grow them again next season. Much quicker to fruit and ripen and they just keep on going…and going…and going!

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I thought this was a daikon radish when I saw it the other day…nope, an albino eggplant! I am going to attempt to keep some seed from one of these to see if it will reproduce true to type 🙂

As the pasta sauce simmers (and the dogs sulk on their respective couches by Brunhilda who isn’t even on to give them a reason to lay there) I will potter around sweeping the floor (a.k.a. moving the dust from one area of the house to another) and cleaning off the computer area. It’s really my area. Steve isn’t really interested in this workstation much. He would prefer to be “Off doing something” or watching television and playing one of his guitars at the same time (acoustically folks, he isn’t superman 😉 ). He practices scales while he watches TV. I spend my free time here researching. I have recently discovered several crafting blogs through Rabid and one of them belongs to Linne who is one of my new dear constant readers. Linne is a human dynamo! The things that this lady has done with her life proves her to be a true survivor and innovator of note and if you would like to check out her blog please head here… http://arandomharvest.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/giveaway/ her most recent post is about a very novel giveaway idea that she has come up with for her 100th post. I wouldn’t have expected anything less from this feisty and most wonderful lady than to donate money to a worthy cause in the name of the winner of her 100th post giveaway. The winner will get a chance to win a most gorgeous handmade quilt and know that the money donated in their name will be used to give secure safe water to a community. What better giveaway could you want? I love people like Linne…they don’t let life get them down; they just get stuck in and go lateral and find the answers. That’s my kind of peeps and whether you are from Canada (as Linne is) or Australia or Uzbekistan or anywhere else in the world your life can’t help but be more beautiful and poignant and meaningful if you actually apply yourself to living it wholeheartedly.  Linne puts me to shame on the craft fronts. I bow to her abilities and the crafty endeavours that she is involved with are endless. I dabble (rarely) in crocheting and will usually manage a row or two of knitting before either tension problems or Earl come to rescue me but Linne soldiers on and creates beautiful things from raw materials and is truly a wonderful ambassador for her ilk.

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What do you do with 2 litres of mature kefir?

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You drain it till it is quarter of its original bulk

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and you end up with the tangiest ricotta substitute you ever tasted 🙂

Linne and I were recently talking about how we need to preserve our traditions for future generations. The crafts that we do today for pleasure are the result of the necessities of the past and we need to be learning these crafts and pass them on. Linne mentioned a wonderful teacher who took their student charges out to learn from elders in the community. Aside from being a wonderful opportunity to forge community, imagine the skills that these children were able to learn? I think it is a wonderful idea. Apparently the teacher and children documented these forays into the community and what a wonderful learning exercise that would have been. Today’s political correctness would have that sort of community venture fraught with legal requirements and prohibitive insurance coverage rendering it near on impossible to do something as simple as share anymore and we are lesser people for our need to clog up any process with so many rules that we can’t actually do ANYTHING  anymore. Our parents and their parents seemed to manage alright playing on swing sets without a metre of soft fall underneath…sure they broke a few arms but they called it “experience” and were done with it. No-one expected “someone else” to pay for their own personal choices but now everyone seems to want to pass the buck. There are always consequences folks and even if we do manage to get someone else to pay for them, what goes around comes around and society is worse for our efforts.

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Freshly harvested walnuts “NO MORE FOR YOU RATS!”

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My work station to remove the husks from the nuts and toss them straight into the compost heap where they can leach to their hearts content. Note the chickens behind bars…a most satisfying situation 😉

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How disgusting do my hands look?!! I have to tell you that it was only 3/4 of the way through my shelling event when I rememebered that walnut husks are used to dye wood…and apparently fingers 😦

http://mysite.verizon.net/ELLshipmodeler/walnut.htm

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Some of the husked nuts showing you that we had a good walnut year this year

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They look like little brains…which is coincedentally what eating walnuts is very good for…your brain. (Note to self EAT WALNUTS! 😉 )

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Now I just have to let them dry out to store them in their shells

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This nut split while I was roughhousing it and the fresh nutmeat is very different to the dry nut we know well.

My new rss feed reader has me a bit flummoxed. It’s not that it is worse than Google read; it is just “different”. I am not a creature that likes change. I like my morning processes to be regular so that I can yawn and get out of bed, stumble to the kitchen (I am starting to sound like some song lyrics here 😉 ) in the dark and put on my clothes where I won’t wake Steve up. I then put the kettle on (still half asleep and half clothed because I have tried to put my shirt onto my leg 😉 ) and I turn on the P.C. and monitor to get them going ready for when my eyes have decided to focus on the same thing at the same time (Steve Buscemi doesn’t know that I borrow his eyes for a short period of time while he sleeps on the other side of the world 😉 )…my processes are my slow ascent into my days and each one primes me for my 3 or so hours of research, blog posting and eventual readiness to tackle my days head on (and at full speed once Steve and the dogs wake up at 7am) with a positive attitude and a readiness for what is ahead. I used to be a real grouch in the mornings and now I am practically Pollyanna ;). This new Rss feed reader is completely independent from a browser although I have to be connected if I want to update my feeds.  I can read to my heart’s content but at the moment it still feels foreign to me and hasn’t quite got me excited about my mornings. Google will be stopping their reader on July 1st. I am hoping that my feed reader (that currently syncs with Google Reader) won’t suddenly do a Millennium bug and “stop” when Google disappears. I have taken a backup of all of my information just in case it does (fool me once!) and will just have to head off (sighing heavily) with my tech savvy husband to find another feed reader that will support my 501 blogs that I follow (3 up from my last post 😉 ). Who would have thought that a Luddite would come to be so dependent on something technical eh? Certainly not this little black duck, but as a ducky style magpie my need to learn has overridden my bolshie need to stay put when it comes to technology and I keep forging ahead because it suits me to do so.

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Herman’s old sourdough pot being recycled to house flour and starter overnight for early morning cinnamon muffins

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After taking off the lid the sourdough is ready to be used in my muffins. I add kefir to my mix to ensure I get a really good rise and great flavour and digestibility with anything grainy

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The finished muffins. Poor Steve keeps getting more and more treats to eat and there is only 1 of him. Might have to start taking treats to the neighbours 😉

I should be reading my rss feed reader as I tap away here. It’s 5.42am and I will be putting the kettle on in a minute to make Steve his first and only cup of coffee till he gets home at around 11am. If I went with him (and God forbid…the dogs!) we would probably be still shopping at 3pm. Steve is a human one man dynamo who is able to negotiate the supermarket aisles with both speed and purpose, stopping only to help short elderly ladies to reach things on top shelves. Curiously babies and elderly ladies know with an inerrant instinct that Steve is harmless. He might appear to be a crazed trolley wielding maniac to most people but animals, babies and the elderly just “know” :o). Where other people tend to steer clear of us/him when we are on a mission (he is hardly “mainstream” material!) he is constantly being approached and asked for help by elderly ladies who he always helps. He is, despite his appearance, a most wonderful soul and always finds time to help someone who needs it. He is a crazy mix of incredible impatience that will have him twitching at a moment’s notice but an equally momentous stubborn streak that will have him labouring long into the night to ensure he is able to solve a problem or find a way to do something. We have to head out soon to attend our graduation for our Diploma of Landscape Design that we completed last year. We will wear gowns and will be presented with a bit of paper for posterity’s sake and will be applauded by an audience of our peers and who would care about it if we didn’t want to send Steve’s mum a photo of the event. Hopefully we will return to a home that hasn’t been desiccated by Earl and Bezial will be still mentally able to function and won’t be a dog perpetually mentally in the foetal position for the rest of his life. Earl has a way of making people twitch ;). We might even be able to meet our current lecturer at this event. Any lecturer worth their salt turns up to give their graduating students a bit of well-deserved kudos, after all, its these graduating students that keep lecturers in jobs. We will get Nat to take a photo of us in our silly gowns and if I don’t hate the results too much, you might even get to see them here…if you don’t…don’t ask! 😉

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I decided to use my mature kefir “ricotta” to make Steve a wonderful homemade lasagna. I had some of the aforementioned unctuous Italian style pasta sauce and decided to make lasagna sheets (after looking in the pantry and discovering that we didn’t have any…)

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Earl has developed a distinct love for raw eggs and anything containing a large proportion of eggs (think omelette, French toast and now egg rich pasta dough!)…don’t panic, he didn’t get that questing beak into the pasta, Steve removed him and all traces of his presence from the table quick smart! 😉

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A close-up of lasagne heaven

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Another case of “Not enough Steve’s” to eat what I make him…anyone want to be adopted (but only for mealtimes and coffee breaks!) 😉

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I would like to call this post “Windswept and interesting” and be done with it! (Note, Steve insisted on wearing those Cons to maintain his hippy dignity in the award ceremony…they worked…the M.C. (after delivering the correct Diploma spiel for me) announced Steve as “Steve Pimblett”… nothing else! Obviously he was so cool he didn’t need to pass anything to be given an award 😉

Another post is starting to draw to an end and I am constantly amazed at how avidly my muses direct me around the dance floor of my mind. I used to wonder at Stephen Kings ability to write book after book and now I know how he does it. He is harnessed to a flotilla of muses who are all forging ahead regardless and all he has to do is listen intently to their avid mutterings and he has his “words”. Mine flow out like overflow water from a rainwater tank and for now, they show no signs of halting. Whether that’s to your benefit or not I am sure you will work out for yourselves ;). I officially have 133 blog followers but I have more than a sneaking suspicion that most of them don’t actually read the blog any more. I have a close core of dear constant readers who grace me with wonderful comments and suggestions and I couldn’t hope for better. I am, indeed, a very lucky blogger. I get delightful regular spam that sometimes makes me “SQUEE” with delight because it is so hilarious…something along the lines of “I loved your blog and share with kids mine happy days you mate!” from someone called “BIG_willyforu”… how could you not love that eh? ;). Blogging has certainly made my life richer. It channelled my need to write and allowed me to quantify my own little world to share with the rest of you and sharing is what this is all about. I get the feeling that some people don’t really realise that. You can tell bloggers who are blogging in an attempt to elevate themselves up the social hierarchal structure…the “Look at ME” blogs and the “Aren’t I FANTASTIC” blogs…and I don’t follow blogs like that. I prefer real people who are open and honest about their lives and who like to share. Why would you want to follow someone who spends their posts telling you how great they are? Surely you should be able to work that out for yourself if, indeed the blogger is worth reading about? Every one of my 500+ blogs is worth it for some or other reason. They range from the blogging equivalent of rock stars to humble small blogs with very few followers and every single one of them is precious to me. If I follow your blog, you are one of the select groups of blogs that has made it through my rigorous selection criteria to get to where you are and I am a HARSH task mistress…a positive sadist when it comes to blogs so you can only begin to imagine how many blogs I reject ;). Ok, enough of this! We all have things to do this morning/today/tonight and we can’t be spending hours with narf7 on a quest to goodness only knows where…time to mentally disengage and head off into the real world and get “doing”… thank you all for sharing the time with me to read what I tap out here in my early mornings when my brain is fresh and raring to go…most of you won’t see much of 3.30am so I am glad to translate it for you. See you all on Saturday when goodness only knows what we have been up to but at least we are living it to the fullest :o)

A confraturnity of early morning bloggers

Hi All,

What have I done! It would seem that my newfound zeal for early mornings has managed to insinuate itself on Jess (a.k.a. “Rabid”) from   http://rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com/ and now one of Jess’s blog followers the wonderful Linne http://arandomharvest.wordpress.com/  has started following the blog and suddenly here we are…a confraternity of early morning ladies gathering in spirit all over the world! Admittedly our early mornings are Linnes evenings but our ethos is woven together over the miles (kilometres in our neck of the woods but who is going to count eh? 😉 ) and this small sisterhood of communication and mutual respect has begun. Who couldn’t love someone who says that “My inner geek is a luddite!” The girl is speaking my language! Next, I got this marvellous comment when Linne had a peek at our sideline page where we admit to being middle aged hippies…

‘’Aging Hippies’??? Wonder what that makes me, then . . . nope, you are still very young; try using my New Age Ruler: 0 – 50 = Young; 51 – 100 = Middle Aged; 101 – 150 = Old; anything after that and you’re Ancient’

And this lovely lady lives in Alberta…that’s in the U.S. to all of my dear constant readers in other places in the world (all 4 of you 😉 ). Don’t forget Christi of http://farmlet.wordpress.com/ who is officially my olalla twin and so many more of you that I have come to think of as family more than dear constant readers. I have to admit that when I started this blog it most certainly wasn’t to communicate with like-minded people in far flung corners of the globe, but more a way to keep my mother who lived in my home state of Western Australia in touch with us without the need for a 7 page email every day. Mum loved the blog and it was a sort of letter from the new country to her heart and she loved Serendipity Farm with a passion. Like most things born of necessity, the blog grew like topsy and took on a life of its own. I have met amazing people through this blog, pioneers of their own minds who take hold of what life has handed them and make the most of their lot. True heroes who explore the parameters of life and tease the fabric of the extremities just to see how far their life can take them. I love you all dearly and you go a long way to making my own personal life a more meaningful and vibrant place to be. I think the blog has given me more than a means to communicate, it has given me a way to release my inner writer and despite my inner writers desire to maniacally type till the cows come home, you keep coming back to pore over my rampant words and find something that resonates with you and I thank you all for your confidence in me :o)

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Kniphofia uvaria seed stripped off a stalk on our walk this morning with the dogs and scattered near the gate just inside Serendipity Farm. It’s plants like these that are going to give us the look and feel that we want here at no cost and with minimal intervention. It’s all about getting cluey enough to work out what is going to do the best on your property/in your garden and get clever about sourcing it and planting it. Over winter this year I will be poring over my gardening tomes to find all different kinds of plants that will love living here and that will be something that we actually WANT to live here…a juggling act that will be worth the effort

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Badumna longinqua “Black house spider” whose habitat is listed as “tree trunks, logs, rock walls and buildings (in window frames, wall crevices, etc).” I would like it known that the “etc.” part of this equation also encompasses sports shoes…and my worst nightmares!

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Here she is looking decidedly groggy after her forced eviction from my shoe. Note the laces have been undone because Steve insisted that she was gone…I am an Aussie…we Aussie Sheila’s don’t “bugger off” all that easily mate…I KNEW she was still in there…apparently the females never leave the nest (unless they are forced out with a stick and the arachnid equivalent of a force 10 earthquake when their new house is being banged against the brick wall…) and remain in situ waiting for males to come along and coax them out of their homes…this one decided that my sports shoe was a LOT better than the shoe that she had been living in (rent free mind you!) right next to where my shoes were stashed… its VERY lucky I decided to take a peek inside them before I put them on!

Back to the early morning thing… I am sitting here at 4.22am thinking “I had best get back to my rss feed read”…I think I am addicted to it, to be honest. These early mornings are more to feed my information habit than for any other reason. I am a quintessential knowledge fiend who loved to acquire useful information that is pertinent to our own personal situation. I don’t know why I feel compelled to hoard this precious information but it’s like gold to me and gives me the ability to be able to choose to bypass mainstream consumerism (which is a good thing because mainstream consumerism involves large quantities of the plastic folding stuff and here on Serendipity Farm that is a rare commodity!) and find ways to do what we want to do here at minimal cost. Have you ever felt rich beyond your wildest dreams? Sometimes a recipe, or a technique or a specific way of doing something that I wasn’t aware of before that is revealed to me in an early morning blog when my mind is wide awake and I am vibrant with possibility after a good night’s sleep makes me feel like that. Its really strange the more I focus on how lucky we are, how happy I am and how many possibilities there are out there to give us what we want and change our lives, the happier I get! Its not like anything has really changed, we haven’t suddenly taken receipt of any secret formula for how to change the world around us and it certainly isn’t as if we have come into a large sum of money, it’s something more fundamental than that. It’s the ability to think, act and do for ourselves what humanity has been doing for millennia and what has delivered us to this very point here in our existence with the ability to choose to “first do no harm” to ourselves and our surrounding environment. Once you get your head around the fact that you DO, indeed, make a difference and that even your smallest efforts are like that smile that we have all heard about that can travel the earth or that small ripple on one side of a lake that causes a bow-wave on the other side, we can start to feel like our existence is worthwhile, meaningful and that there actually is “Hope”. Happiness is something that we weave ourselves…it might have a lumpy boucle look, it might be ruched by the dog pulling the wool/fabric of your existence, it might have slipped stitches and mismatched colours and be badly knit and you might have to wear it minus the collars and cuffs because life is too short to learn how to make them BUT at the end of the day you have a life jumper and it warms you when its cold and it gives you a sense of solidity that your life is actually something that you chose to take part in…your life HAS meaning and at the end of the day, that’s something precious :o)

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“Look! Lassie came home!”…wouldn’t Earl just LOVE that! This is Della a beautiful bearded collie. She is one of the boys friends from one of their regular walks and she comes up to the fence to get treats. She is well behaved, beautiful, elegant and dignified… her son “Tiny” shares NONE of those traits and spends he days racing up and down the fence barking at the top of his lungs and attempting to incite riots with Earl who studiously ignores him (making Tiny even crazier)

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Meet Tenodera australasiae or “Purple-winged Mantis” (thanks to http://www.ozanimals.com/Insect/Purple-winged-Mantis/Tenodera/australasiae.html for pictures so that I could identify him 🙂 ). This one was sitting on the edge of the ashphalt and so we picked him up and put him into the shrubs on the side of the road

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This is an Egretta novaehollandiae or “White faced Heron”, one of the local birds that cohabit our little space between the river and our property. They nest on Glad’s property next door and spend their time alternating between invading our garden for worms and insects and fishing in the river

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This is Cassytha melantha or “Coarse Dodder laurel” and I am assured by a most reputable website that the fruits are edible and harvested from the wild but we know dodder more for its ability to completely cover a tree and kill it. Any parasitic plant that kills its host is a bit mental but as you can see, dodder fruits prolifically and if the seed is actually tasty, its no wonder birds carry it for miles

That’s what early mornings deliver to me…I am a philosophy major at 4.32am ;). Let’s see how my mind, my energy levels and my desire to wax lyrical change over the course of a day shall we? It’s Friday…todays’ blog post (posted Saturday night) is going to go…today we have to upload all of the activities that Steve and I have been slaving over for the last week. This course isn’t difficult but it is work intensive and we are learning heaps about all different kinds of things and I, for one, am loving it. Steve has very kindly let me do most of the work…I know that sounds like I fell for some sort of sales pitch and Steve is sitting with his feet up and a straw in his mouth dreaming of television and a nap on the sofa BUT “I” am the luddite and “he” is the computer literate and to let me bumble around in programs where he can just zoom, is an act of love on his part. Steve is like Speedy Gonzales that little Hannah Barbera mouse who goes 110% all of the time. To slow down to my Luddite speed is tantamount to being given a huge dose of valium and told to “sit”. Not an easy task for him to say the least but to give him his credit, he has been an angel about me clicking the wrong dropdown boxes for the 27th time in a row and I am only able to detect him twitching after about 6 hours solid of sitting here next to me. I didn’t think that I would like this course but I actually love the freedom that learning about how to really use the Adobe suite is giving me. We are even talking about heading out and designing our own web pages and bollocks to WordPress but that’s in the future and like we all know…in the future there are robots!

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These are Crassostrea gigas or “Pacific or Japanese oysters”. In some places in the world they would be sought after seafood and indeed, many tourists scarf down copious quantities of them on their camping holidays but eating these babies from the Tamar River might give you more than a stomach ache. As filter feeders they collect lots of heavy metals and it simply isn’t worth eating them. This shot was to show you why we don’t let our dogs loose just over the road from Serendipity Farm…we love them too much 🙂

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One of the panorama’s that Steve took from directly in front of Serendipity Farms front gate. The lighthouse to the left is in front of Glad’s house and is an historical monument and the rest is just…”rest”…whatever the camera picks up while Steve is slowly tracking. If you want to see this photo larger just click on it and when you finish looking hit your back button to return to this post…I will wait for you here…no really… knock yourselves out! 😉

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Another misty morning and part of the payback for walking the dogs every day is that we get to see things like this, nice and early before most people are up 🙂

That’s about all I am going to do now as it’s 4.39am and Bezial just came in from his early morning back yard dog bone munching efforts and on his way past he sighed at me…he has ensconced himself on the sofa where he will “mind” me for the next few hours till Earl gets up at approximately 6.45am and prods both Bezial and I in readiness for his happiest part of the day…”THE WALK”…the reason for Earls very existence is “THE WALK” and his questing beak is stuck into any portion of both human and kennel mate in a furious effort to arrive at “THE WALK” as soon as is possible after that 6.45am wake-up call. See you later in the day to see how these synapses adapt after a few hours study… It’s now 1pm and Serendipity Farm is shimmering with heat. Steve is outside taking a few panorama shots for me with the new/old camera that my brother gave us and Bezial and Earl are panting under the table. That’s what autumn brings to us here in Australia, 32C today and no change in the immediate future…global warming has knobs on! We finished our learning activities for our course yesterday (all except having to draw 50 pumpkins and we won’t talk about that for a little bit because it makes me hyperventilate and need a paper bag…) and posted all of the links to our pseudo blogs up. Do you remember me making snide comments about the class factotum? Well Steve and I just officially moved into that spot as of this morning when we uploaded EVERYTHING that we possibly could to the study site and we can actually “feel” the rest of our class seething through the ether…too bad…we have 50 pumpkins to draw over the next few days and we don’t need any distractions getting in the way. Now all of our current workload is uploaded we are free to concentrate on those dreaded pumpkins. We are studiously avoiding them at the moment. “It’s too hot…I need some photo’s for tomorrows blog…I have to think about what we are going to cook for tea tonight…I need to lay on the ground and look at my navel…” you know the kind of procrastinations that we humans can come up with to avoid having to do what we know we are going to have to do sooner rather than later…

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Another one of Steve’s panoramas, this time showing you the state of our “lawn” in the side garden and see how some of the shrubs are actually starting to curl up? Not a good sign!

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Looking back towards the house and if you notice that the “lawn” hasn’t been mowed, keep it to yourself. “Tut-tut” me and “Pfft” me all you like but do it behind my back…I am a broken woman with all of this heat and mowing what’s left of the “grass” is a sobering reminder that rain isn’t going to be coming any day soon 😦

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This walkway leads from the driveway up to the house. You can walk this way or you can head on up the steep driveway if you are insane enough… I choose the steep driveway every time. It’s nothing to do with my sanity and everything to do with me heading straight out to water the veggie garden as soon as we get back in from walking the dogs. I water, I think, I ruminate, I pick a bunch of spinach and I head indoors to blend a green smoothie and start my day

I can’t wait for the weather to cool down. It’s not only the heat, the dryness, the cracks in the ground and the soul sapping, ongoing, stretched-outedness of summer, it’s the minimalist role that cooking takes in summer that gets to me. I want to dance the dance of the Swedish Chef from the Muppet show as I hop from one pan to the next on top of Brunhilda and all ovens have something exotic wafting from them. I want to “feel” the warmth of the fire as part of something wholesome and not something that has to be endured. You can tell the plants on Serendipity Farm that have suffered through all of the extended summers past and they are eking out what remains of the soil water at the expense of the green stuff that some would call lawn that is now brown, crispy and blowing away on a regular basis. If the soil wasn’t so hard, rock filled, sloped and comprised of clay I would simply get rid of most of the “lawn” and would make more garden beds. I saw a really great idea on Facebook…Facebook is where I get a lot of ideas. I am a bit over it for “communication purposes” but ideas flow left right and centre from the carefully selected pages that I like and today I noticed some spiral herb gardens giving lift and shape to garden beds. One was simply made of rocks (we HAVE those!) and the other was made of gabion and looked fantastic. We don’t have a lot of wire at the moment (it’s draped over EVERYTHING that we don’t want the possums and wallabies to inhale…) so gabions are out of the question but like cooking, gardening in our “autumn” is starting to make me twitch. You can almost feel the earth yearning for water. I noticed someone digging out their dam today on our morning walk with the dogs. Large scoops of duck infested slime being removed so that this year’s winter rain (if, indeed, we get winter…) will fill it anew. Steve still hasn’t returned from his photographic sojourn down to the river… (Speak of the proverbial…he’s back! 😉 ). Off for a bit to check his photos :o)

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This is a “red lily” don’t ask me to find its botanical name because I already tried that. I can tell you what it ISN’T…just not what it is. I have NO idea what it is but it cost me $2 from Big Pot Nursery and it seems to like it here so it can stay 🙂

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Orange seems to be the colour of late summer…maybe nature is trying to reflect the enduring heat of it all…
I have been pulling this plant out all over the place becase I thought it was a weed…this one escaped my attentions after hiding out in a spiraea (English May) bush and isn’t it pretty? I hereby cease my efforts to remove this “weed” from Serendipity Farm! 😉

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Some beurre bosc pears that my eldest daughter Madeline shimmied up the tree and picked for Steve when he was visiting on Monday. I may, or may not have eaten a few of these pears and I may or may not have inadvertently consumed a coddling moth larvae. I expect to have an angry lynch mob complete with pitchforks and lit torches from the vegan society banging on the door any day soon to take my membership card away…

It’s Saturday and it’s still hot :o(. I am NOT happy about the “hot” bit because hot and I make bad bedfellows. Luckily we don’t have to study today because we were such swats yesterday and handed in most of our work AND we uploaded our websites so our fellow students can REALLY think we suck. Sometimes you just have to do what you gotta do and finishing up work early is how we roll. It’s a good lesson to learn when you work from home and we learned it very early in the piece. We still have to draw those pesky pumpkins but I can feel a smattering of artistic interest being piqued by my artistically challenged brain so it might be more interesting and enjoyable than first thought. For today though, I have fed Audrey, the fridge dwelling sourdough, I syphoned off 250g of her unfed bulk to make a large sourdough carrot cake tomorrow and I have decided to have another go at making home-made soy milk. I own a soymilk machine that has been gathering dust for years now after I tried to make soymilk that would work in my daily cup of tea and failed abysmally. I know that store bought soymilk has little tricky inclusions like sunflower oil, gums, starches and sugars to give it body and flavour and mine just tasted watery and beany and not very nice in my tea. I am going to spend the day hunting to see if I can’t find a recipe to approximate store bought soymilk at home. I dare say the spiders will be upset about being evicted at short notice from the soymilk maker but fair do’s, they have had a VERY long lease! ;).  I am getting more and more interested in fermentation and feel the need to ferment myself some miso and other interesting Japanese ferments. I have found a source of koji (the ferment used) but need to source it from the U.S. It might be a very exciting experiment as miso tends to be a slow cultured ferment and I like the idea of tucking it away and waiting till it is ready, sort of like a Japanese Christmas present. There are so many ferments that indigenous cultures use every single day. We think of them as exotic, but to their daily users, they are just a means to an end in food form. I really like the idea of knowing how to make these incredibly useful and nutritious ingredients myself and in being able to source the cultures. Once you start making your own miso, you can keep using it to culture future batches. I had an amazing book about tofu that I can’t find. Steve and I just turned the house upside down and I fear I may have included it in a stack of books donated to the local thrift shop! “Zut alors!” Or more like “Dummkopf” on my behalf :o(. Oh well…I DID find a great ex libris copy of a fantastic book on how to make your own soba noodles so that salves my tofu and miso parched soul…

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I have Birdy style “Skinny love” for these eggplants. I most cleverly (I can’t be waiting for you lot to praise me up so I am just going to have to do it myself…) chose to plant these smaller Japanese style eggplants so that they wouldn’t require a longer period to ripen than our short season can give them. I did the same for our tomatoes choosing cherry tomatoes and “medium” tomatoes (that are large but shhhh! Don’t tell! 😉 ). You have to work with what you have, what will grow well in your endemic situation and you have to learn from your mistakes…consider it done! Next year I will be an older (sigh…) and wiser Narf7 🙂

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Here we have Kid Creole and his coconut. I can’t help but think of the Clash song “Rock the Casbah” when I look at my kefir pot. Kid just sent his coconuts off to convert the milk that I made from this very cute coconut. Just a quick aside…does anyone else think that the advertisment for Wrigley’s Extra Gum delivers the wrong message? I don’t see that cute food as anything bad, in fact I want to embrace that doughnut! I want to bring him home and snuggle him up into a paper bag so that I can open it and look at him whenever I need a smile. To all of you outside Australia, here’s one of the adverts if you would like to check it out…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTEhfj24PBc&feature=endscreen&NR=1

“The act of smelling something, anything, is remarkably like the act of thinking. Immediately at the moment of perception, you can feel the mind going to work, sending the odour around from place to place, setting off complex repertories through the brain, polling one centre after another for signs of recognition, for old memories and old connection.” – Lewis Thomas

Am I the only one that uses their sense of smell more than just a way to get those stomach juices roiling? Scents can take me all over the place…I get a slight whiff and I have strong and vivid memories related to these scents. I have a theory (might even do a thesis on it one day should I ever stray into the realms of social nutrition or psychology 101…) that we more “generously” proportioned human beings have much better senses of smell than you skinny malinkies out there. We are able to use our olfactory senses to seek out food, much like little piggies hunting out truffles. Rather than be sneered at as a lack of personal willpower, it should be seen as a survival trait, much like our bodies stubborn refusal to give up its fat stores at all costs…modern humanity scorns it, we exhibit it and it could help us live longer in a famine situation…see how I turned that negative into a positive? I would like a positive point now please…preferably a nice shiny factotum gold star ;). Well the heat is starting to melt my brain. Its autumn and its hotter than summer was. I am more than over summer and 90+F (that’s for all of you Americans who scoff at our 32C days because you didn’t see the “C” and thought we were whinging about the cold…) Indian summer that we are being forced to endure. I am going to resize some photos, soak some soybeans, decant my weird fizzy sour tasting homemade coconut milk that Kid Creole’s coconuts just made me and put Kid into some new fresh milk…I am then going to try to work out what to do with 2 litres of kefir  and do my level best to find a free online PDF of “The book of tofu”…”The book of Miso” and “The book of Tempeh”… consider it a challenge and this little black duck loves nothing more than a challenge! “To the fray Robin!” (That’s you Steve…NO I get to wear the cape! 😉 )…

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This is OFFICIALLY “Me” 🙂