Where there’s muck, there’s brass

Hi All,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.ravelry.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

The great sushi carousel of life…

Hi All,

I come up with some wonderful ideas while I am walking Earl. I don’t know whether it’s the wonderful early morning fresh air or the constant jerking around, back and forth, sometimes being dragged, sometimes dragging, all the time on edge and ready for action that jogs my brain around enough to get it back on track and actively thinking again but thoughts randomly appear and usually nothing to do with what Steve and I might be talking about at the time. I was talking about studying and suddenly the thought that life was like an ethereal sushi carousel came to me. We sit down at the bar and we watch little plates of experience pass us by. We eyeball them suspiciously (the older we get the more suspicious we get 😉 ) and we tentatively pick up plates we deem “suitable” and leave those plates that tend to be something we are suspicious or afraid of. Most of us are fine with the Californian roll. Nothing to worry about there folks! The salmon and avocado? “Don’t mind if I do!” How about a nice inside out sushi roll? “Yup, reachin’ over for that one RIGHT now…” but then you get something indistinguishable…something plain out “weird”. “What the heck is that?!” It has fish eggs or something bright orange and glow-in-the-darky and flaky brown bits on it…not sure but if I don’t grab that plate, it is going to head straight past me in a most determined sped up sushi carousel sort of way and it might not come around another time…someone else might snap up that weird creation and I might never get to taste it… then you have to factor in the cost at the end of your meal. We all arrive at the end one day folks and what we have ingested in our own little personal sushi bar of life is going to dictate how we pay at the end. I guess walking Earl does have its benefits. If it can jog my mind into crazy analogies at least these early morning wrangling events that have me completely knackered at the end are worth a few paragraphs of blog fodder 😉

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This is NOT sushi…this is Bezial, shamelessly luxuriating in the warm spot that I just left to go to the loo at 2.30am…no point trying to wake him up now as he is OBVIOUSLY fast asleep…sigh…looks like an early morning for narf7! 😉

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Bezial in his rightful place in the bed…if you look a bit closer you will see the accusatory eyes that are telling me “turn off that bloody light don’t you know its 2.30am!”…sigh…

That was a long paragraph…sorry about that folks. I am learning to break up my words so that you don’t need to come up for air in the middle but that paragraph needed to be kept together for posterity. An artist can’t be destroying her creation now! ;). Not sure when I am going to post this post. I have The Virtual Vegan Potluck post this Saturday…then next Wednesday I have a post all about the progressive garage sale that also occurs on Saturday. Luckily I already have my VVP post done and dusted (well I will by the day 😉 ) and all of the tinker-doohickie stuff that we had to learn to put linky buttons to link my post to the post before me, and after me in the list of more than 150 blogs that are taking part was a major blogging lesson. It turns out it’s very easy to put a linky to a picture to take you somewhere else in a blog. It’s also easy to schedule your post to post itself! You learn something every day. Tonight’s post is already done and so this poor post most probably won’t see the light of day till the Saturday after next!

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I would get you to cast your minds back to the episode of “Black Adder” where Black Adder is trying to teach Baldrick to count…I quote “What do you get when you have 2 beans, and you add 2 more beans?”…and Baldrick answers “A small casserole”. Behold…a small casserole.

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I was amazed to get this amount of dried beans from the small bean cube of vegetation that the possums couldn’t reach with their questing extended little hairy arms. I have enough to grow lots of beans next Spring and to share with friends.

I guess them’s the breaks when you have a sushi carousel moment of clarity that you want to share. Whenever you get this post I hope you will think about occasionally taking a little bit of a risk with your “sushi”. This is a single carousel line folks…we only get one chance to sample that sushi and the older we get; the more cautious we tend to be. Life has handed us sea urchin roe before and we are MOST wary of putting that disgusting stuff in our mouths again and so we tend to look harder, taste slower and get ready to spit in a moment’s notice. In the process we often lose that chance to sample truly magnificent things because we let our fear of that disgusting sea urchin (yes…I HAVE tried it :o( ) ruin our future gustatory enjoyment of life. Taste it slowly, savour it and if necessary spit it out, but at least give it a go :o) (apart from the sea urchin roe…you have my permission to let that one glide right on past 😉 )

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Steve took me a few shots of The Gorge, a heritage area very close to Launceston. As you can see the deciduous trees are in full colour. Gorgeous isn’t it? Why aren’t I taking these shots? Because right in front of the car is a sign saying “No Dogs”…sigh…I waited with Earl and Bezial in the car while Steve knocked himself out taking photos 😉

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Another glorious shot of The Gorge

I love sharing the love. I consider myself to be a collector of life’s detritus and someone who was born to pass things on. Generosity comes naturally to me and I have a sneaking suspicion that is solely because we didn’t have a lot of money when I was a child and so living comfortably without it is where I feel most secure. Would you like a book? Take one from the bookshelf, I probably haven’t read it for ages…how about something from the garden? Let’s get the secateurs and go hunt. I have so many potted plants out there I could probably populate your front garden and we STILL wouldn’t notice the plants I gave you missing. I am not the only one who realised the value of sharing the love. On Thursday, Steve and I headed down the driveway (who am I kidding…Steve skidded down behind an overexcited Earl and Bezial ran circles around them delighting in his free state and I trundled down picking Easter lily seeds and tossing them into areas of the garden where I want Easter lilies in the future…) for our daily walk with the dogs. Nothing unusual there but Steve checked the mail box on a whim. I don’t know what he is waiting for…HE doesn’t know what he is waiting for but he always has to check the mailbox whenever we go past it 😉

DSCF1759Incidentally, this isn’t a small casserole…it’s a large quiche made with eggs that our hens have now remembered how to lay after a 5 month hiatus…funny how a few weeks out foraging in the garden can jog your egg laying parts isn’t it girls? 😉

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The suspense is palpable…

Today his checking was rewarded. A small and most discrete parcel rested on the rusty bottom of our mailbox. An address in the U.K. showed that it came from my blog pal Thinking Cowgirl and after we got back from our walk (drag) I tucked the parcel under my jacket (it was raining) and wondered at what she had sent to me. The weather has turned decidedly feral here in Tassie. Don’t get me wrong, I love it! It’s cold and we had 3 solid days rain this week which made my soul smile. Forget superficial rain love, this runs deep and primal and ancient inside me and echoes the dusty sighs of those trees outside that were clinging tenaciously to the tiny bit of moisture that they could suck from deep down in the soil. Dry was an understatement for the horrific season we just had. “Arid” is a more appropriate word. I knew that we would get a very tough winter after that summer. It seemed somewhat inevitable and as we head into the last month of autumn we are getting temperatures less than 10C. Only last month we were hitting 28C. It’s a bit of a culture shock and I have the chilblains to prove it!

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Hens in their “Happy Place”…invading the garden en masse

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My kind of card 🙂

What was in my parcel you (nosy buggers) say? I got inside and lay the parcel down on the kitchen table with reverence. I headed off to let out the chooks (hell hath no fury (or lack of eggs) like 8 furious chooks that have to wait inside their pen to be let out!) and sweep the mats (something I have to do on a regular basis or they end up hairier than Earl…) and put the kettle onto Brunhilda after feeding her up with her woody rations and then I sat down to ponder the parcel. It was very light and came in a wonderful recycled paper bag. I carefully opened it to find a card and beautifully wrapped tissue paper gift inside…I opened my card first and instantly fell in love with the message. “The Biscuit of Loveliness” Underneath, a hand drawn illustration of said biscuit in all of its comeliness radiating out its gorgeousness and a simple prayer underneath…

A Prayer

Shine down upon us with your

Golden RADIANCE.

Make us glow and sparkle

Like HAPPY children in the

Glorious dance of LIFE

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The Gorge is beautiful at this time of year…you might almost think that we were in Canada

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Lovely moss covered rocks.

Amen sister! You nailed it Sarah :o). There is NOTHING more satisfying than a simple well-cooked crunchy homemade biscuit of loveliness to accompany your beverage of choice (I no longer have a choice, if I don’t drink tea I cease to exist…) and the simple ritual of imbibing that biscuit is the secret to happiness…it’s all in the small stuff folks! That’s where happiness lives…it resides in those humble oat biscuits that your mum made you and sent you as rations because otherwise she just KNOWS you are going to starve…that cup of tea that you knock together when you have just come in out of the cold that tastes like the pure distilled elixir of heaven and that manages to warm body, soul and spirit all in one…those simple little moments of gold that we are being taught to ignore for the sake of someone else’s profit margin and new Mercedes are the real reason that we are here. That biscuit of loveliness might just save someone’s life, might just be the reason that someone gives it another day here on this glorious battered planet revolving around the sun.

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The steps leading up to the car park at The Gorge

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Some of these shots are going to make it into Steve’s final assessment

So what did Sarah send me? Aside from some seriously gorgeous tissue paper that I most carefully folded and saved for “later”, she sent me a horticulturalists winter happiness folks! Sarah is a fellow horticulturalist. In fact, if we are being honest here, Sarah is a REAL horticulturalist. Steve and I might have thrown ourselves in at the deep end and might have collected more seed and grown more seedlings than a small African nation since we started studying horticulture but Sarah has worked in the industry. Sarah speaks from years of experience and Sarah knows what a horticulturalist needs in life. Copious quantities of beverage of your choice. Great bickies to carry you through your day. Throw bags and bags of them into the car all you aspiring horticulturalists because when you are out there bums up in someone else’s garden, in the wilderness 100km away from the nearest shops, that thermos and a bag of out of code biscuits that you find under the seat are going to be all the food that you get out here! Forget sandwiches and picnics on the lawn, that’s for people without horse manure under their nails…a biscuit is calorie dense, satisfying, quick to eat and you can throw half of it back into the bag and leave it for another year and it will STILL be good! Perfect food for an horticulturalist…

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You can’t have enough shots of that beautiful staircase…(well maybe you can but Steve took them for you all so you can just sit back and enjoy them 😉 )

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Isn’t this little old rotunda pretty? It’s about 150 years old and still looks beautiful today.

Sarah has been bums up creating someone else’s dream more times than she might care to remember. When you are at the coal face of creativity where it meets active participation and fundamental action you learn quick smart what really matters in horticulture. You don’t need all of the whizz bang “stuff” that they try to sell you when you start. Bypass all of that expensive bampf and do yourself a favour. Spend up big on the best pair of secateurs you can find. Get some decent steel cap boots that you can wear comfortably and after wearing them in, you can’t feel them anymore…extensions of your feet is what you need folks with the added benefit of saving your toes when you are exhausted after 9 hours digging trenches and forget that your foot isn’t part of the ground… some sturdy clothes that are going to take the punishment you are about to inflict on them. Forget those gorgeous Laura Ashley printed “frocks” that you see in gardening magazines, head down to your nearest workman’s store and pick up whatever you like from the colour range, blue or khaki…them’s your choices folks!

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I couldn’t resist sharing this little family of common house sparrows with you. I hadn’t ever seen a sparrow living in Western Australia because they are actively destroyed should any of them be discovered anywhere near the border. We also didn’t have starlings or blackbirds or bumble bees but here in Tassie we have all of them. These little guys seem to think that no-one can see them and perhaps no-one can…maybe it takes someone who delights in them to be able to take the time out of their busy day to enjoy them enough to see them 🙂

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Inner city Launceston…a very pretty city indeed and this sort of view goes a long way towards making me less homesick for Western Australia 🙂

After that you can throw in a few gardening tools but don’t go fancy, you just need something to reliably dig, something smaller to weed and if you are feeling particularly adventurous, something to hoe with. The K.I.S.S. principle is most important here because horticulturalists are like Gypsies, they are transient folk. Mohammad has to move with the mountain on a constant journey from place to place, garden to garden, compost heap to green waste site at the local council (although clever horticulturalists make use of other people’s green waste to their own profit 😉 ) a constant cycle of moving back and forth that starts with dragging your tired derrière out of bed and ends with dropping it right back into bed to sleep the sleep of the dead and awake again to another round. Horticulture isn’t an easy career choice folks but it is rewarding.

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“BEHOLD the mitts of eternal happiness!” 🙂

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Gloves that are shamelessly never taken off pointing at the biscuit of loveliness now ensconced over my monitor so that I can remind myself to glow and sparkle on a regular basis 🙂

Back to that parcel you say? I had to fill you in on the reality of horticulture before the precious nature of what Sarah had sent to me, a gift from someone who recognised my passion from her own echoed passion deep within her. Once plants get hold of you they don’t let go. You can take an hiatus from them…they will allow you that, but like fungus, their underground network has infested you, you belong to THEM now and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. You signed an ancient primal waver when you started to dig the soil and you planted that first plant. They count you as ally and you count them as master. Sarah has been “on hold” of late…dabbling…but reading between the lines the fungus is restless…it has been tweaking at her peripherals and Sarah has been gardening again folks…for other people. Sarah knows what horticulturalists really need. She “knows”. Sarah sent me a pair of hand knitted fingerless, but more importantly “thumbless” gloves. I put them on instantly and knew that I wouldn’t be taking them off much for the rest of our cold season. From one horticulturalist to another…our fundamental slavetude unites us…the plants might call us but we are still able to communicate with the outside world (for now) and my gratitude is deeper than those plant roots :o).

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Frozen hands holding a mug (bucket) of tea immediately after returning from a sub zero dog walk and finding these most welcome fingerless mitts in the mail 🙂

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Chickens thinking about invading the vegetable garden while I am watching them but biding their time till I am out of sight…

Sarah, you are a true friend :o) I will wear these amazing gloves until they fall apart. I have plans to knit more. I suck at knitting but these gloves are so amazing I can’t be without them in our cold season for the rest of my life. I will perfect my ribbing simply so that my newfound best wrist friends will always be close at hand like those biscuits in the car…several rolled up pairs will be stashed in the glove box, the boot, in various voluminous winter coat pockets and in Steve’s tool kit to be found out in the forest when I realise that it is -5C and I forgot to bring a pair. I will knit Steve pairs of them…My knitting will improve exponentially simply because I can’t be without these mitts EVER. I will probably learn to cable now. I will learn how to weave ends in because I am going to NEED to do these babies in rainbow colours. It all started from one horticulturalist to another who recognised on some fundamental level that a need had to be met…the plants whispered it to Sarah…Sarah listened…the plants have spoken. And I have a gorgeous pair of mitts that I adore with a passion that is at once both enormous and pathetic in its glory…I am in love and that’s all that I need to say apart from “Thankyou Sarah from the bottom of my heart…for my biscuit that now lives over my P.C. monitor and for my long suffering wrists that now reside in ambient comfort…you are a true friend and you have my eternal horticultural gratitude :o)”

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This Cordyline australis makes this sunset on Serendipity Farm look somewhat tropical. One might even be forgiven for thinking we were someplace warm…can you see where the possums have been scratching away at the bark on this poor specimen?

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And a final shot of sunset on Serendipity…a lovely cold evening with the promise of many more to come…just how narf7 loves it! 😉

Steve and I have been studying for a week. We have been honing our Photoshop skills to satisfy said studies and are really learning about how to manipulate images. I never thought I would enjoy this course anywhere near as much as I am but it is certainly taking a lot of our time. Today is the first day that it hasn’t rained and we have a weekend of sunshine…frigid sunshine to get stuck into digging our holes and concreting in our poles to get our new fully enclosed garden started. And thus it begins folks…like mice we scurry from studies to garden and back again…we were in Launceston for the entire day yesterday taking photos for our final Photoshop assessment. Our next adventure in our course is going to take us both into foreign territory involving parts of the Adobe CS6 suite that we have never heard of, let alone used. It’s going to be an interesting journey indeed! But for now we are busy beyond belief and so I am going to have to hug you and leave you all there folks. Have a fantastic week till we meet again for our L.A. meeting (Life Anonymous…) and confess our sins for another day :o) Don’t forget to take that plate of squidgy lumpy grey sushi by the way… you might not eat it today, but it might just be the seasoning that makes your life bearable tomorrow…

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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It rained on our parade…

Hi All,

Buggery bollocks the net’s gone down. My apologies to anyone sensitive reading this post but I have intentionally limited my angst to that initial sentence so it’s hopefully all uphill from here. It’s 4.46am and I have just written an entire post, I have resized 15 images for last Wednesdays post and am starting on today’s post last Wednesday. I like to make the most of my time but this is ridiculous! Last Wednesday I was typing Saturday’s post about Peak Oil. Who knows what has happened in the last week? I am guessing that Steve and I have done “something” regarding our proposed large fully enclosed vegetable garden. I am hoping that we did or this post is going to be an epitaph to our laziness or to how much rain Tasmania can spawn in a single week. I am going to turn our modem back on now after an hours rest. If it decides that it is going to play ball and connect us to the net this is going to be a very short paragraph and I will be off surfing the ether for recipes, processes and my addiction to knowledge. If it doesn’t…you might have to suffer a post spawned by the frustrations of a knowledge addict.

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This is what happens when you get up at 3am and forget that you didn’t put a screw cap on the container with your homemade non-dairy milk…sigh…

We are seeing a lot more grey herons hanging around the shoreline at the moment. It must be nesting season

We are seeing a lot more grey herons hanging around the shoreline at the moment. It must be nesting season

Sigh…the net is incommunicado and narf7 has been relegated to typing. Brunhilda has been sparking away since I got up at 3am this morning. We both slid back into our morning processes with consummate ease and now that I get up so freakin’ early, she barely has time to settle down into slumber before I am prodding her with the poker and asking her to boil my kettle for another day. “Chicken” and “Stock” are both loudly progressing themselves even closer to the dinner table as I sit here typing and my second kettle of the day is just about to boil. I am going to sit it on the edge of the cooktop where it can gently tick away. My grandmother taught me to put a smooth well boiled pebble into my kettle so that you know when it is about to boil (and so you can catch it before it starts to scream at the top of its lungs…a good thing when the rest of the household is fast asleep and entirely uninterested in how many cups of tea you want to cram into your early morning sessions…) and it’s a little tip that keeps grandma around in a small way. I think of her when that little stone starts to tap and as it keeps the beat slowly throughout my day.

A little bit later on and the sun is just starting to come up on a gorgeous chilly autumn morning

A little bit later on and the sun is just starting to come up on a gorgeous chilly autumn morning

Our neighbourhood has suddenly started showing off

Our neighbourhood has suddenly started showing off

Last Tuesday we visited our friend in the witness protection. She gave me carrot; broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower seeds and she also gave me some seeds that look like round emerald green pearlescent cake sprinkles. She has no idea what they are…”I” have no idea what they are. I have my suspicions that they ARE cake sprinkles but I am going to try them in a pot and see what grows. She also gave me some seed from a plant she purchased at the nursery where she works. It’s called a “Rocoto Tree Chilli” and promises to be a perennial tree that produces chilli’s that grows in temperate climates in full sun in a wide range of soil types. Its botanical name is “Capsicum pubescens” and apparently the fruit it produces is hot. Aside from the usability of the fruit, the plant is apparently hardy and there are stories about a man “living down south” who has one 8 metres high and 2 metres wide…I get the feeling that this plant is something akin to our own Cape Gooseberry that lives happily on Serendipity Farm and I figure it might self-seed all over the place but I have NO problem with an edible condiment that wants to keep on keeping on with very little input…some might offer up the word “weed” but we don’t call things weeds here on Serendipity Farm (not since we learned that constant weeding is NOT something that we wish to do for the rest of our lives) and choose to see as many benefits in our fast growing botanical cell mates as we can.

The solitary artichoke that didn't get munched to the ground by the wallabies with cat for size comparison

The solitary artichoke that didn’t get munched to the ground by the wallabies with cat for size comparison

I love this little house and it's for sale folks! Anyone want to move to Sidmouth and be narf7's neighbour?

I love this little house and it’s for sale folks! Anyone want to move to Sidmouth and be narf7’s neighbour?

Our friend in the witness protection and I huddled over Peppino shrubs and her exponentially increasing Tree Chilli plant and her cuttings that she took recently and we gravitated to her veggie garden and over to her unprotected garden where the neighbours cows and bull decided to crush half of her hard work in planting out conifers over the last year…curiously, they only crushed the half that were growing…the half that the possums and wallabies and rabbits decided weren’t palatable enough to predate and strip and so her garden is suffering a bit at the moment but her garden is like our friend…resilient, stubborn and optimistic and we are going back yesterday (remembering I am typing this last Wednesday and am projecting into the future…) to take lots of cuttings of hardy pentstemon’s, tree chillies, peppinos, and collect a tray of young leeks that she grew for us. We will be giving her chives and PDF’s and a barrel of biscuits that won’t even go halfway to repaying her kindness or the load of wood that she told Steve to get while we are visiting.

Steve insists that these are "my fishnets"...who thinks he would make a good Frankenfurter?

Steve insists that these are “my fishnets”…who thinks he would make a good Frankenfurter?

We discussed my fear of Earl and Bezial bowling over my high school bestie Kym who is going to visit from Western Australia for a week to celebrate us both mutually hitting the grand old age of 50. We even considered sending our friends partner off to stay with Steve and the dogs for a week and pretending that our friends house was ours just so that we could circumvent the badly behaved larger dog problem in the first place but hopefully Kym is made of sterner stuff and can understand that our 2 dogs might be badly behaved…they might have as much training as our chooks do and they might pay attention to us about as much as my children do BUT after about an hour they will settle down and ignore you like they did with my mum when she visited. If you AREN’T made of sterner stuff and you don’t think you can handle an hour of dog slobber and jumping Kymmy we might have to go back to plan A! 😉

1 roll of fish netting off to be cut up for our garden

1 roll of fish netting off to be cut up for our garden

After we headed into town we took some photos to illustrate the HDR function in Photoshop. What is the HDR function in Photoshop? Beats me folks, but it involves setting up a tripod, taking a “normal”, an “underexposed” and an “overexposed” photo all of the very same thing, all without moving the camera in the least and using the HDR function in Photoshop to blend the photos to arrive at something that looks like a black and white or sepia photo that has been hand coloured. I think I showed you some of them last Wednesday… (See how I cleverly pretended that I am actually here rather than back there typing this out last Wednesday? 😉 ) and they remind me of Victorian hand coloured photographs that my nana used to have in frames. I quite like them and the dogs behaved while Steve took the photos and I held them both. Their combined weight now exceeds mine quite significantly and should they have suddenly become aware of the presence of a cat per-se, I think Steve might have been able to take some entirely hilarious photos that he could have sold to the local newspaper. Thank goodness the feline population of Launceston decided not to make an appearance.

"I SWEAR I can smell fish!"

“I SWEAR I can smell fish!”

After we took our photos we picked up another bottle of hot sauce (my latest addiction) and headed home where Steve spent the afternoon manufacturing a new dog door for the back door and devising a way to make it unavailable to nefarious enterers when we are not here. Just a small aside folks…if anyone IS considering waiting till we head out and attempting to crawl in through the dog door I think I owe it to you to admit that we often leave our dogs behind when we head out. They like being warm and laying on the floor in front of Brunhilda and Earl loves to run at top speed out the dog door. Should anyone be foolish enough to want to crawl through a large dog door that hasn’t been secured at the back…they might ask themselves “why haven’t the home owners secured this dog door and why am I able to enter this establishment via said dog door so easily?” they might be able to get this thought out before Earl crashes headlong into them at 100+kph and they get to meet both Earl AND Bezial…I just thought I would give you a sporting chance 😉

Free steel poles to be concreted into the ground as part of the new veggie garden

Free steel poles to be concreted into the ground as part of the new veggie garden

It’s now 5.35am last Wednesday. “Chicken” and “Stock” are getting nearer to meeting their maker and I am starting to think about what I can do for the next hour and a half before I wake Steve up and we start our day. We have big plans for today (for “today” insert “last Wednesday”) and will be cutting sheoaks down, collecting large steel poles from a friend’s house, digging holes and humping stones from one place to another to be used in building the keyhole gardens and spiral gardens that are going to be created inside this large fully enclosed garden. Our friend in the witness protection is giving me lots of raspberry canes to grow. She is also giving me a “Youngberry”. Not too sure what a “Youngberry” is but it has very large berries on it and everything in the whole wide world wants to eat it because it is so delicious so I figure I might tack myself onto the end of that tasting conga line and graciously accepted her offer of a sucker. She is also giving me lots of perennial plants that have grown in her lawn over the long hot summer that we just had and that just elevated themselves into “must have!” status on Serendipity Farm. If they didn’t get eaten on our friend’s property, they are magic and are plants to be treasured at all costs. Sometimes you have to outthink your enemy. If we want a garden full of flowers we have to plant things that “the enemy” can’t stand. “Fool me once!”

Steve's maples still have a few leaves left by the possums to start putting on a lovely show

Steve’s maples still have a few leaves left by the possums to start putting on a lovely show

Steve and I are going to attempt to cut our way through about a kilometre of ex fish farm netting today. We have to circumnavigate our 175m2 fully enclosed veggie gardens with something that seals and dolphins can’t bite through. We figure if aquatic mammals can’t beak their way into it, possums and wallabies have NO chance! The weather has been perfect here lately. It’s lovely and cool and bracing outside but the sun is shining and the skies are blue and it’s easy, and a pleasure, to work for hours out of doors. We have even been having the odd rain shower but rain in Tassie works on Tassie time. It rains at night and on the weekends and rarely before 10am (when most native Tasmanian’s like to get out and about as a rule ;)) so we can have the dogs walked before it starts drizzling for the day.

On fire under the deck

On fire under the deck

It’s very exciting to be underway on the veggie garden…exciting and daunting. I now have to figure out how to fill these garden beds cheaply. We are going to use hugelkultur principals by using up the branch wood and sticks that we cut from the trees that we had to remove from the new garden area (after chopping them up to facilitate faster breaking down) as the basis for our garden beds. It worked really well in our other garden beds as most of them have chopped up chunks of wood in the base before we topped them with the wonderful black gold locally produced compost as our growing media of choice. Hay and straw are readily available, I just have to source reasonably priced versions of the two and now that autumn is definitely up and running, there will be lots and lots of autumn leaves to take advantage of. Lucky I LOVE to rake and collect them :o).

Franks 37 tonne behemoth in the river in front of our properties

Franks 37 tonne behemoth in the river in front of our properties

The next few weeks are going to be filled up with the logistics of building the veggie garden and planting out our food forest. I am just about to use Google Earth to map our first paddock to find out the area that we have to use for our initial food forest. After I do that, I can plot it into AutoCAD and can use it to start really planning where our trees and shrubs are going to be planted. Being a penniless student hippy is certainly teaching me more about patience than life up to now. When you are forced to wait for what you want and need there are life lessons contained in every step. Nature and a moth eaten sock under the bed don’t care if you have a temper tantrum because you don’t have what you want or need…they just ignore you thrashing on the floor and it’s quite humbling to arrive at the other side of a good “whinge” to realise that life doesn’t revolve around “YOU” like you thought it did 😉

Franks boat and the Batman Bridge in the background

Franks boat and the Batman Bridge in the background

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Sigh…like vegan narf7 is going to eat muscles and oysters!

I guess that might be all for today folks. I know I have been thrashing your eyeballs with large posts lately and don’t want to alienate my dear constant readers. I love you all for staying with Serendipity Farm even when it becomes a 2 cup of tea matter to read a post. I hope the new, smaller paragraph; format is helping somewhat with the reading. Have a great “rest of the week” and see you on the weekend where hopefully some progress has been made on our netting cutting and we might be ready to start digging holes. We have to see our friend Jenny (SO liberating to not have to type “Friend in the witness protection” now 😉 ) soon to get a load of firewood and some cuttings including; pineapple sage, Chilli tree (Capsicum pubescens), Peppino (Solanum muricatum), a new mint that I don’t have and some Young berry which I found out is a strain created by crossing the Austin-Mayes dewberry with a blackberry and raspberry hybrid known as the Phenomenal, and it has since been given the botanical name Rubus cecaesius.

3 narfs on a sofa. One of our media tasks

3 narfs on a sofa. One of our media tasks

"Excuse me...could you see your way clear to showing me how to make this thing work?"

“Excuse me…could you see your way clear to showing me how to make this thing work?”

In return I will be baking some batches of home-made biscuits and will be giving Jenny a large clump of chives. Jenny was a class mate when Steve and I studied certificates 2 and 3 in horticulture on campus in Launceston. We became great friends and share a love of plants that all 3 of us didn’t realise we had until we started our courses. We support each other whenever the possums and wallabies eat away at our inspiration and our hope and set each other back on track and ignite our horticultural passion over a cup of tea and a good chat. See you Saturday folks :o)

When chaos comes to town

Hi All,

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

Sketti Doritos

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

Tamar NRM Bush Tucker Gardening Workshop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Preparing the fruit to be washed ready to turn into jam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Steve using a romantic fuzzy halo around his Monte Carlos

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

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

Anzac Day lest I forgot

Hi All,

How odd?! I find myself sitting here at 3.13pm on a Sunday with no dogs noses demanding anything (they have already had their tea…), Steve is tucked up watching something actually worth watching on the television and I cooked him a delicious chicken curry from scratch last night so he wants the second half of it for his tea tonight so all I have to cook tonight is a bit of steamed rice to accompany it. I made 24 Anzac biscuits today…I like to think of them as “Résistance Biscuits”…never one to be mainstream if I have a choice folks, I am aligning them with the French Resistance because “Resistance is futile” when it comes to not eating them. Today’s batch deviated from the recipe that I found on the Aussie recipe website “Taste”…here’s how it started out…

http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/21104/anzac+biscuits

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The first batch of biscuits was a teensy bit über crunchy and so I baked the second batch a little less. The tartlet case was baked only till it was set because I didn’t want it to be too hard to cut when Steve was eating it later in the day

Nice and easy…a good recipe to send to the troops by savvy and canny Aussie housewives who didn’t want their menfolk to have to eat soggy or mouldy treats. The secret is the golden syrup that sets them nice and crispy and crunchy and as I had decided to make “biscuits” today Steve said “what about making Anzac’s? After all…it IS just about Anzac Day isn’t it?”…Bugger…the Pom remembered and I didn’t…my patriotic father would be spinning in his grave! My family has a very strong tradition with Anzac Day in many different ways and so Anzac biscuits (as penance along with a bit of self-flagellation in the privacy of the shed, Frank has suffered enough! 😉 ) were my saving grace. I also forgot my sisters 48th birthday yesterday. “SORRY PINKY!” I made you a nice card in Photoshop and you can consider some of that shed flagellation penance as yours ok? 😉

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A close up of the leftover Anzac biscuit dough pressed into a small individual tart pan and baked

Of COURSE my Anzac biscuits were not the same as the recipe. Nothing to do with pretention mind you, I could care less about elevating my recipes by cramming them full of super foods and strange overpriced ingredients. I would rather source something locally that would do the trick thank you! The reason for the swapsies was that this little black duck had run out of golden syrup :o(…I had also run out of coconut…now coconut and golden syrup MAKE Anzac biscuits so what was I going to do to save the day? First I remembered a pot of strange Chinese malty stuff that resembles almost set toffee in my pantry. I bought it back when I lived in Western Australia on one of our jaunts from the south up to Perth the capital city and our favourite place to go hunting for interesting ethnic ingredients. I bought it…I opened it…I looked at it…I tasted it…I forgodaboudit. It wasn’t that there was anything predominately “wrong” with it; it was just bland and stiff, sort of like über thick glucose on steroids. I figured that it would approximate the desired effect of golden syrup and after wrestling an approximation of 2 tbs of it out of the tub I forced the lid back on and hid it at the back of the pantry where it will probably stay till the next time I need golden syrup.

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The finished desert full of sticky toffee apple pieces cooked in a vanilla butter toffee sauce. Steve said it was lovely. The only thing missing was a great big dollop of thick whipped cream 😉

Coconut was harder…I then remembered that I HAD coconut flour! I had made homemade coconut milk and had dehydrated the resulting pulp and had jars of the stuff languishing on my pantry shelves! I tossed a cupful of it into the mix and crossed my fingers that the recipe would work. I mixed the bicarb soda and water and was assured that I had to remove the melted butter and pseudo golden syrup from the heat as it would fizz up majestically once the bicarb was added… I was expecting Vesuvius and removed the small saucepan away to the sink where I dumped the bicarb and water mix into the pan and cringed…nothing happened. Not even a pathetic “bloop”… I mixed everything together and then rolled the sticky mass into tablespoon sized balls and squished them down onto a baking paper (fool me once!) lined baking tray and after the prescribed time in the oven they emerged brown, über crisp and a complete success!

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This was the dog door prior to today. As you can see it had developed a curious coating of “filth” over the top of that wonderful silver colour that Steve found in the shed. Note the fluffy bathrobe…apparently “Earlvis has left the building” 😉

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Behold…the new dog door! Steve made it bigger so that Bezial doesn’t have to do the limbo when exiting and we don’t have to keep getting up to open up the sliding door at night time when he thinks he senses a possum invading his personal space

Steve was most pleased. Steve is a grazer and likes to open the fridge and cut a bit off “something” to walk around with in his hand…he likes to open a lid and extract another “something”, he loves nothing more than 1 ½ cheese sandwiches at odd times of the day smothered in the latest condiment of his choice wrestled from the fridge. Cold butter is the bane of this man’s life ;). The ability to walk past the newly instated biscuit barrel, do a double take and walk back…followed by a furtive lid lifting and extraction moment will give him endless pleasure. I have promised to ensure that the newly instated biscuit barrel remains half full at all times. I am on a baking jag and that won’t be hard. I found a recipe for chocolate sourdough biscuits (that would be “cookies” to you Northern folk) that I want to try so I might just fill up the biscuit barrel tomorrow and whenever I notice the level falling below half I can bake another batch of biscuits to ensure the barrels “never-ending” status.

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Here’s the new dog door in situ. Note the “Not A Barn” sign…you saw it? Steve doesn’t …sigh…

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Bezial showing his willingness to exit the dog door (at least in the daytime when it’s not all that cold outside…)

I have been threatening to adopt a Biafran…to go doorknocking to deliver baskets of goodies that I want to bake. I want to get stuck into perfecting a really good loaf of sourdough so that I can regularly turn out something both presentable AND delicious. Not a whole lot to ask is it? I think it’s time to get into the neighbours good books and start dropping off fresh baked loaves of bread and home baked treats. I love to experiment and as Steve so succinctly put it the other day “I can only eat so much, I am only 1 man!” When my recipe wanderlust sets in it’s hard to get it to stop. The freezer is full to the brim of lasagne, chilli, pasties, calzone and lots of individually portioned soup (my food of choice for my evening meal) and can’t handle anything more. This happens to me occasionally. I think the cold weather brings out a primal need to nest and my baking up a storm seems to be linked to that desire.

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Here’s a cute shot of Earl for all of his multiple fans around the globe…

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And here’s Earl thinking “I’m SURE celebrities get something for all of this posing!”

Did you notice that I have started splitting my posts up into MUCH smaller paragraphs? You can thank the wonderful wordstress “Thinking Cowgirl” for that. She reminded me that I am actually typing for an audience here and not just to vent my muses. She has a wonderful blog that you can check out here…

http://thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com/

Her latest post on Baroness Thatcher’s demise really got me thinking. We got most of Ms Thatcher’s thrashed and broken union leaders who came out to the Antipodes to lick their wounds. No matter what you thought about the woman, she certainly knew how to scare people! This cowgirl knows how to write…her style captivated me from the very first post that I read and I wouldn’t miss a post now. I like to hoard them, like Mr 23 Thorn’s posts, and savour them over a nice big mug of tea when I haven’t got anything else to detract from the wonderful flavours that these wordy alchemists are able to infuse their posts with.

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We went to Launceston yesterday after visiting our friend in the witness protection and took a few photos for our course while we were there. This beautiful old Acer vitifolium caught my eye and I decided to share it with you

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I love Boston Ivy/Parthenocissus tricuspidata (or Virginia Creeper as mum used to call it). It’s a very useful plant for covering up unattractive areas and it turns the most glorious colours in autumn each year.

Words are beautiful folks. If you can weave them into something that can reach out and grab the attention of a complete stranger and carry them halfway around the world and enlighten them with your common condition you have something special at your fingertips. You ALL owe her a huge “thank you Thinking Cowgirl” because now you don’t have to stick a piece of chewing gum onto your monitor if you get interrupted when reading a Serendipity Farm blog post ;). Now if I can only learn to harness my muses for good who knows what I could do? Just thinking…it might be best to let sleeping dogs lie! 😉

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An interesting number plate that we noticed on our walk with the boys in town. This one is from my home state of Western Australia (3886.8km or 2415.14555 miles away from Launceston for those of you who aren’t sure of the translation). We were curious to see this obvious “work vehicle” parked in a leafy suburb in Launceston Tasmania… when the driver gets home do you think he will have some “splainin’ to do?” 😉

I am going to backtrack to where I told you that I made 24 Anzac biscuits and add “and I had some mix left over”. I could have made another 4 biscuits but I decided to get creative. I filled a small individual round flan tin with the mix and pressed it into the tin. I then baked the mix but not to crunchy brownness because I didn’t want Steve to chip his teeth on what was “supposed” to be a dessert treat! I then cooked some of my traditional “toffee apple apples” by peeling and slicing them and tossing them gently in butter and spices (in this case cinnamon, mixed spice and a pinch of ground ginger) and cooking them until tender and then adding about ¼ of a cup of sugar. I did this to make a sort of sticky toffee sauce that you could replicate with rapadura or coconut sugar or even honey if you wanted. After removing the caramelised mix from the heat and cooling a little I added some vanilla and then heaped the mix into the flan tin. I then made some vanilla custard and Steve got dessert, a rare but most welcome event

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Bezial just demanded to get in on the “cute” action as well…he says he is every bit as cute as Earl but without the chicken plucking capabilities

Well we made it through Monday and we collected some wood. We also made a plan to tidy up the driveway (at least the bits you can see) and haul off the brushwood that is littering the area to burn or to stockpile somewhere less visible. Half of what makes a “lovely garden” is what you see; it’s a pity that most “lovely gardens” are so maintenance intensive folks! The best thing for the garden, a “natural” garden, is to let everything stay where it drops. Let the wood lay there, the leaves, let the chooks scratch and dig and let the fungus grow. Your garden will look like utter shite BUT it will be a happy garden :o). Is there a happy medium? Apparently there is. I have seen them. Gorgeous green gardens full of fecundity and health…permaculture paradises that make Serendipity Farm look like something that slithered directly from the surface of Mars. Do I know how to turn Serendipity Farm into something approximating these gorgeous vistas? Nope. I have all of that horticultural “stuff” crammed inside my head…so does Steve…but we found ourselves wanting to take the easy way out and just “BURN THE LOT” when it came to brushwood and fallen branches and Steve did the WORST cut with his chainsaw on a poor tree resulting in a massive branch bark tear…time to send that Chainsaw license back methinks Steve!

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We live in a very pretty state (I DO feel sorry for that poor woman lugging her groceries up that steep pathway though 😉 )

What is it about “stuff” that you have crammed in your head that makes it SO difficult to get it to translate out into the real world? What do these magic green fingered permaculturalists have that we don’t? Is it because we are lazy middle aged sloths? Most probably. I dare say the vim, vigour and verve of some of these idealistic creative people would make me tired just to be in their presence. I am a bit like Garfield…I occasionally have to curl up and fall asleep in a sunbeam. These people put in dawn to dusk hours and the results speak for themselves. Steve and I wander around our “garden” hand in hand in hope that the fear that rises whenever we venture from inside the house will somehow abate if there are two of us sharing it… it doesn’t. Everywhere we turn there is something else to do and sometimes it is as much as we can do to just go outside!

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Most of the older houses in Launceston have these lovely old balconies and stained glass windows. I love the eclectic mix of styles that has evolved over the years and am not sad that we moved to this pretty part of the state 🙂

I have vision…I have all kinds of PDF’s and word documents and friends online who can give me ideas and help and hope but that all amounts to sweet bugger all if we don’t take all of that wonderful “stuff” and use it…”DO” it. We look at each other sometimes like we are both thinking “paper, rock, scissors…YOU DO IT!” but it needs both of us to work together and I can’t help thinking that there is some kind of life lesson here. We are at least planning the work and I guess that is a start but Steve and I take dragging our feet to a new level. I guess we just have to keep our eyes on the big picture and not the nitty-gritty stuff that we have to do to get there. The initial start-up capital in a permaculture garden and food forest is the work that you have to do to observe, to plan, to implement and to work out how you are going to do what you want to do with your property. Part of the problem is that we have to do what we can with a very small budget. One could almost say a minuscule budget. What the hell, “No budget at all folks!” This results in a lot of frustration and a lot of invention. In the process we learn a lot and you can’t really ask for more than that…aside from a ready-made permaculture garden and food forest I guess 😉

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This is a HDR rendered image. Please don’t ask me what that means. The net was down this morning and I couldn’t find out so you might have to do a bit of detective work yourself on this one. All I know is that you end up with something a whole lot brighter than the original 3 photos that you use to compile the shot, you have to take a normal an underexposed and an overexposed photo using a tripod so that you don’t get any movement and then Photoshop does its magic on them and turns them into this.

We are off to our friend in the witness protections home today for a visit. We hermitage dwellers very rarely deal with humankind. Aside from blogging and sharing online, I probably go to town once in a blue moon…make that every second blue moon but today we visit and we talk garden and we reinvigorate ourselves and our friend back into all things horticulture. It’s a kind of tribal thing. You start to lose perspective and purpose and one or other of us pulls in the reigns. This time our friend wants to start making some spiral gardens. She is a victim of Tassie’s treacherous native animals as much as we are but add rabbits and bush rats into the equation and even her unmitigated optimism is starting to flag. She no sooner plants things than they get eaten. She has been growing hardy pentstemons on her property for years. NOTHING touches them folks. They must be poison on a stick for these creatures because they will scarf potato and rhubarb leaves with glee and live to tell the tale. She bought a lovely white pentstemon and low and behold, it got scarfed! It gets hard to keep yourself buoyed when you read other people saying “just plant LOTS of things” and you know that if you do that, you are going to have lots of sticks in the ground :o(. Everything has to be fenced off or protected in some way or it gets inhaled and digested by something out there.

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This looks a whole lot like photos that were hand painted in the early part of the 20th century.

Today we regroup…if only to revive our flagging spirits and pass on some info on keyhole gardens, spiral gardens and other permaculture processes to take our mind off our dry dead stick gardens. After a couple of cups of tea anything is possible! I might take a bit of my latest sourdough carrot cake with chocolate icing for her and we can plot our plans of our own little world’s domination. “We are the top of the food chain damnit! We DEMAND you stop eating our plants!”… Yeah… that’ll work! ;). After we visit our friend we will head into Launceston. We will drop off some eggplants and dehydrated bananas for our daughters. Dehydrated bananas are THE BOMB people. They look like something that Earl just deposited high in a shrub (he is weird with where he will “deposit”…) but taste like heaven. After Steve picks up some thick dowel from the shed in town, we will head to the city and will take some photos of “stuff” for our course. I will hold (read get dragged around the park Willy-nilly by…) the boys while Steve sets up the tripod and camera. After that we head off to Bunning’s (hardware heaven to you Northerner’s…) to pick up some plywood to make a better dog door. Bezial is having problems going through our limbo inducing door and we are tired of getting up and opening up the sliding doors onto the deck for him to go out and join Earl in his nightly forays into possum heckling.

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This last HDR shot really shows you the dramatic look you can get when you use this technique. It looks more painted than real and I really quite like how it looks. What do you think?

I have been promised the lure of a few thrift shop hunts if I hold the dogs in the park (you can read me SO well Stevey boy! 😉 ) and after we tussle our way around the city with two very boisterous country dogs hell bent on peeing on every single lamppost, phone booth, sign, traffic light and anything else that stands still long enough to be considered as a perfect place to scribble “Earl woz ere’” in pee… we will allow them to drag us back to the car and will head home. I have 2 mature coconuts to crack and deal with. Not sure what I am going to do with them but Steve bought them for me on shopping day and I will probably make some coconut kefir out of them. I want to try souring some cream with kefir for making Steve nachos. I am drinking my second fermented date sweetened alcoholic non-dairy milk kefir daily now. It’s great stuff! Who’d-a thunk that chickpeas could be milked let along turned into kefir? The curious thing is that rather than curling up their little brainiac like curds and croaking in the weird things I am trying to culture them in, Kid Creole’s coconuts are thriving and breeding exponentially! What have I done! I am starting to feel like Frankenstein with his monsters…how far can a vegan go before she is entering territory too strange for even we crazy plant based fools?!

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(Bugger…I just ran out of photos for this post…do you think they will notice I am using an old photo? Did I mention that a possum ate all of the foliage off that lovely begonia? Do they know that I gave that leather chair to the girls? Can they see a slightly more rotund me taking a photo of herself accidentally in the kitchen window? Nah… I think I got away with it 😉 )

It’s just hit 6am. Time to wrap this post up for the press tomorrow. Are they easier to read divided up into smaller paragraphs? I hope so ;). I am only here because my RSS Feed Reader threw a tantrum and decided not to work from 5am onwards so I am taking advantage of my spare time and value adding it. See you all on Saturday folks…hopefully you spring living folk in the North can post something other than salads and smoothies for us poor autumn dwelling folk here in the South ;). See you then :o)

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http://www.notquitenigella.com/2012/11/02/sketti-with-buttered-ketchup/

I am driving this image like I stole it alright? I didn’t have time to make a batch of sketti and butter BUT this wonderful lady did! Not only did she make this fine upstanding recipe but she wrote a post about it AND she is a food snob! Go check out her wonderful post (not that I did but hey…I owe her SOMETHING for the lend of her photo!) and marvel at how delicious 2 meals for $4 can look…Steve…you have a foodie future 😉 now I just need to find Honey Boo-boo’s mum June’s email address and beg forgiveness for pinching her families secret recipe…

Just a very quick post script here…Steve wants to add something to the post. He was watching Curtis Stone who shamelessly went to the U.S. and traded on his “Aussieness” to get himself a television show and is now back in Australia flogging Coles supermarket and his “feed your family for under $10 a meal” deal. Steve says that anyone out there who needs to fill up on less than $3 to feed the family should use his “Skettie” recipe that he borrowed from Honey Boo-boo’s mum June a few posts ago. He also says that the first “Skettie” meal would cost you $3. The second one you would only have to pay $1 for the packet of pasta as you would still have half a bottle of tomato sauce and half a container of margarine left. That’s 2 meals for $4 Curtis…Steve says “BEAT THAT!” 😉 Just a note to Woolworths…Steve is waiting for your call…

“I’m not dead…I’m just busy!”

Hi All,

I feel like copying and pasting that sentence into several emails to friends and family and using it as my Facebook epitaph. I have decided not to use Facebook any more. It sucks time and energy out of you and it is totally addictive. I don’t want to waste valuable time sitting on my bum indoors when I could be outside in the sunshine (albeit the cold sunshine) facilitating change on Serendipity Farm along with my dear long suffering husband who might be dragging his feet, but he is still coming along for the ride. We have enormous gardens to build. Yesterday, when I was picking the last of the tomatoes and some ripe red chillies for The Virtual Vegan Potluck entry that is now all done and dusted and ready for posting in early May, Steve was planning aloud. That was difficult because Earl was on the end of a lead, Bezial was frolicking free and was up for a game with his harnessed kennel mate and when 2 American Staffies want to play, it’s not so much fun to be the man on the end of the rope! He was planning (while he was being pulled from pillar to post, spun around in circles and was anchoring himself to the nearest sheoak tree…) our plan of attack.

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This is Gok…prior to his recent cooking television series I had nothing but derision for this man-Gumby hybrid. I would see adverts for his television show about making naked women feel good about themselves and would cringe…one of those “empowering the people” shows that was really all about self denial and delusion but then I had nothing to do one evening and decided to watch television and was too lazy to get up when Gok’s Chinese cooking show came on. Truth be told my interest was piqued and I am now a complete convert of Gumby-Gok. I love the man. He has elevated himself into the stratosphere and I totally “get” why hundreds of women would strip for him and parade themselves naked around on television…Gok is the new Nigel Slater and he is the hipster king of U.K. cookery that this wonderful book was sent to me by the wonderful Tanya from http://chicaandaluza.wordpress.com/ a wonderful blog that I have been following for quite a while now. Tanya and I share an ethos, a sense of humour and a deep love for frugality and for living our lives to the fullest and Tanya decided that she wanted to send me a copy of Gok’s Chinese cookbook and I am absolutely rapt :). There are so many recipes that I want to make but the very first one is going to be congee. After that there is an amazing Chinese rice wrapped in dried lotus roots and after that the sky is the limit! I love you Gumby-Gok and I love  Tanya and Toli’s generosity as well 🙂

Steve is the heavy duty practical side of the equation…I am the numbers “man”. Together we figure it out and we put it into play and we usually end up with what we were after. It’s a great result when we work together… the only problem is that we work in such different ways that most of the time we spend trying to figure out what the HECK the other person is doing at any given time. Steve has plans…”those trees there are in the way…they will have to come out (read Steve wants some firewood for next year)… and after that we will put some poles in (read dig holes, concrete poles into the ground where only days before there was a perfectly good tree that we could have used for the same purposes…sigh…) and we can stretch that netting tight between them and after that…” I wasn’t listening by then…I was bums up doing callisthenics in an attempt to try to source some tomatoes from the jungle that used to be a tomato bed. “Next year we stake!” I say loudly and Steve looks at me in a somewhat alarmed way…obviously I must have interjected at some crucial point that most certainly DIDN’T require staking!

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I took this book out of the library recently on a whim…looks like I am going to be exercising my brain for the foreseeable future…

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Here is the button box that I recently gave my friend Kym. We swapped that lovely doily book for buttons…a great swap! We both get something that we want for something that we don’t want…the best of frugality mixed with barter 🙂

Steve says the magic words “after this garden, we will take out those trees over there and will make another one…” and THAT is part of why I love you still you smelly footed, stubborn mule of a man… you feed me what I want and I WANT more gardens :o). I have big plans for the first paddock on Serendipity Farm. Most of it is going to be a fully enclosed series of walk in, walk out vegetable gardens. I want to be able to grow chickpeas, amaranth, chia and quinoa along with buckwheat and various other hardy grains and lots of dried beans. Protein and calories are the order of the day. I am even going to have a go at growing peanuts after Sarah from http://gardeningkiwi.wordpress.com/ fame (and she IS famous folks…she has written a book :o) ) said that she bought a packet off her supermarket shelf (the ones in shells) and is growing them! She said “I like to experiment”…so do I Sarah…so do I! So peanuts are on the cards.

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This is the front cover of a wonderful crochet doily book that my friend Kym from Western Australia sent me recently. I finally found where I hid these photos! Linne wanted to see the cover so here it is…

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And here is one of the lovely doilies inside that I am going to attempt to tackle in the near future

I was going to have a go at growing Brazil nuts but found out that they won’t fruit/nut anywhere other than Brazil because they need a specific and most endemic little pollinator before they will produce the nuts…but the tree looks lovely and I might just grow one…”because I can!” I dare say no-one else in Tassie has a Brazil nut tree growing in their garden and narf7 is bolshie enough to give it the old college try. I have grown mangoes, avocados, walnuts, hazelnuts, figs, carob trees and copious quantities of chestnut trees (easy peasy to grow folks, I just fished a forgotten bag of chestnuts out of the fridge and threw them into some moist coir peat in a plastic bag in a covered esky and almost all of them grew!) and love to grow something for free. It feeds the frugality in me and gives me a sense of purpose to produce things.

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These pumpkin vines are WAY too late in the season to survive the coming winter and were harbouring some small mango saplings that had grown in the compost, so I decided to sacrifice the pumpkins to save the mangoes

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This is what the compost heap looks like today and the sad withered greenery was once pumpkins…next season I am going to have amazing pumpkins that no native animal is going to have a chance to sniff let alone get close enough to taste!

I might have to have a stall somewhere to offload all of the excess food producing plants, however, because even though we have 4 acres, 20 walnut trees and 15 chestnut trees might just be a few too many for that kind of acreage if we want to have a hope in heck of planting anything else ;). That’s part of the problem. If we were rank amateurs we could head out with our heads full of hope and just “plant” but we aren’t…we are fully fledged, dyed in the wool, fully away horticulturalists and we KNOW how far apart we should space things, we KNOW how big they grow, we KNOW about forest plantings and pH and depth of planting and we just KNOW which makes it all the harder to plant out our wonderful free little babies. I might just go doorknocking in the neighbourhood and see if our long suffering neighbours would like some “excuse me…we live just down the road…you might have heard our dogs barking…here…have a tree for your suffering…” ;).

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There might not be many but these potatoes were found when we were digging up the mangoes from the compost bin…SCORE!

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The 2 mangoes in their overwintering palace, the glass house. Lets just hope they survive the winter

I need to self-flagellate…I missed Leonardo Da Vinci’s 561st birthday on April 15th! I also missed that crap mini-series that someone (trying to make a fast buck out of jumping on the bandwagon to link famous long dead (read “can’t sue me anymore”…) people with crappy vampire series…) made about him recently but unlike my sheer unmitigated glee at escaping that utter pile of dog excrement, I am a little bit sad that I missed giving this amazing man the kudos that he deserved. Some people deserve über kudos and Leonardo is one such man…let’s all give him a minute’s silence, heck, let’s give him 2! for being one über cool dude WAY back then that was likely to get you lynched, tarred and feathered or just plain tortured and dispatched. It just goes to show that the brain will out, no matter what is standing in the way (or how much armour or pointy weaponry they are carrying at the time…). I offer you the quintessential anthem to kudos that you deserve sir…ringing down through the ages you ARE remembered…you live on in so many people’s minds and as ACDC would sing, loudly and repeatedly…”for those about to rock…WE SALUTE YOU!”. We most certainly do Mr Da Vinci. :o)

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We didn’t think that these poor long suffering potted babies would survive the long, hot dry summer that we had, let alone live to give us any kind of winter display but here they are looking beautiful and begging us to plant them out this autumn…”I hear you babies…I HEAR YOU” 🙂

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We grew most of these small trees from seed. We aren’t too sure what we are going to do with them all but we might just find someone starting out anew and give them an unexpected bonus of some gorgeous trees 🙂

It’s just turned 3.29am Saturday 20th. Bezial turfed me out of bed because it’s COLD out here and he heard me telling Earl to stop shoving ;). I don’t mind, all the more time for me to tap away here and tie up online ends before my brain turns itself off early this evening. I am now the mother of a 23 year old youngest child. My daughter Bethany had her birthday yesterday and was celebrating with her sister Madeline (25) by having lunch at a new local Korean BBQ house. I hope they had a great time and I know that Bethany’s birthday cake will have been MOST interesting because they were using some purple bubble tea as the basis. They like to experiment with cooking and tend to only use recipes as a basis for their imaginative recipes and 9 times out of 10 they are successful. I tend not to be as inventive as they are but I am reasonably inventive and like to mess about with cultures and letting the cultures metabolise ingredients partially to see what happens to the end result.

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I COMPLETELY forgot to post this heart for valentine’s day! We noticed it when we were walking the dogs AGES ago in Launceston at the university campus…I heart trees 🙂

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This is a leaf hopper…usually leaf hoppers = BAD but this one is in someone else’s garden so he gets to be admired for his beauty and left to nibble another day 😉

I am going to be making more kimchi this weekend. I have a precious cup of kimchi left from my last batch that is going to culture my new batch. Steve rust treated and sprayed my new fire set black that I got for $1 from the tip shop and remembered a fire poker that we had inherited so that got the black spray treatment as well. The handle doesn’t exactly match the set we picked up but who cares? It pokes the fire and that’s fine by me! The best thing about that $1 fire set is that it is solid cast iron and was built to last. I don’t know why someone threw it out in the first place but I have noticed that garage sales are rich playgrounds for savvy people here in Tasmania. The average Tasmanian doesn’t like to get out into the world until around about 10am. We used to head off to the Evandale markets (when we lived in the city) nice and early at 8.30 and we would be finished and on our way home before the long lines of Tassie traffic were passing us in the other direction.

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This is the shop at Wychwood…isn’t it lovely?

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This is the family home at Wychwood but I couldn’t resist sharing this lovely trough of succulents with you all 🙂

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Just around the corner from that lovely trough of succulents is this lovely brick oven. I have a pile of used bricks in town with an oven just like this’s name on it…

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These are the sort of rocks that you find on the beaches around Tasmania. Beautiful weather worn, smoothed by the ocean rocks. It’s hard to leave them on the beach!

Steve shops at 7am in the supermarkets because there are only a few older people there at that time of day…he is usually finished shopping by about 10am and we only shop once a fortnight so these shopping forays take all different kinds of shops into account. We plan this once a fortnight shop meticulously and Steve has his plans of attack. Sometimes the plans of attack involve grabbing things off shelves without looking at them and then finding out when you get home that someone had decided to dump a more expensive product for a cheaper one on sale and Steve just so happened to have grabbed the more expensive product in his hast to be “OUTTA THERE” but that is happening more infrequently now that he is starting to realise that it just isn’t worth handing your tea addicted wife (since she was 2) a packet of über expensive teabags that don’t deliver that rich tannin flavour!  It takes me almost a whole day to do what Steve does in a couple of hours and even then I forget things and come home with heaps of other things that weren’t on the list. I did the shopping the last time that I stayed at my daughters. I did a GREAT job…I was very proud of myself for my efforts BUT (that year of living honestly has forced me to tell the truth 😉 ) I did have the entire weekend to chip away at the shopping list and stretched out the actual shopping over the 3 days that I was away. Some people are built for speed and Steve is one such person :o). Now he just has to allow the concept of “accuracy” to filter into his mindset 😉

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Who would like one of these gorgeous little birdhouses in their garden?

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I took a side view because I am going to have a go at making something approximating this birdhouse…wish me luck!

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I LERVE this chair folks…it is official. We have driftwood from the sea that washes down the river and onto the pebbly riverbank right in front of Serendipity Farm…we have Teatree saplings on the property that need thinning out that would be perfect to make something like this and we have lots of misshapen woody bits lying around from past thinning out ventures. This chair has my name all over it!

Remember how I was complaining about how hot it was in February and March? It WAS hot…it was dry…it was HORRIBLE and now it is cold…it went from 30+C temperatures down to 5C in a matter of weeks. My recent weight loss efforts have handed me energy to spare. It shielded me from our long hot summer and I certainly didn’t miss my extra layer of fat in summer. Everything has good and bad points right? That includes weight loss! Yeh, I might be able to power up our steep driveway in a wave of determination…yeh my knees might be happier than they have been in years…yeh I might almost have broken out into a run with Earl the other day and I might be able to keep up with Steve when we are walking the dogs and yeh I might be able to fit into clothes that I haven’t fitted into for years BUT then the frigid Antarctic autumn descends and suddenly my obsolete layer of fat has taken on a nostalgic quality in my mind…like a nice round nana (cheers for that analogy Jess 😉 ) that gives you a cuddle and a couple of her chockie bickies (that’s chocolate cookies to you Northerners) out of the biscuit barrel when you visit her and you KNOW that the roast dinner she is going to dish you up that night will have more than enough delicious roast potatoes AND there is desert!

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This is an avocado…it appears to be trying to sneak away because it is MORE than aware of it’s fate. Tonight…this avocado will be made into sushi. “Fear me avocado!” 😉

My 25 extra kilos cuddled me in winter. They wrapped themselves around me and insulated me from the worst of the cold and I KNOW WHY SEALS HAVE BLUBBER! I might be able to zip around the place like Speedy Gonzales on steroids…I might be constantly marvelling at how loose cloth feels on my legs and how I have so much energy now but I fear winter. I really do FEAR winter. I am sitting here wearing 2 jumpers, a pair of leg warmers (YES leg warmers 😉 ), my warm slippers and I am STILL cold. Is this what you “normal” people feel in winter? I am going to have to scratch a chalky little note on our shopping list…my chalky little note is going to read “dear Steve…could you please pick me up 14 hot water bottles from K-Mart this shopping…I KNOW 14 seems a little extreme but humour me… I am going to strap them to my body for winter…I am going to knit myself a full set of long john’s (brightly coloured with flares…CMON’! Would you expect any less of me?! 😉 with little flaps where the hot water bottle necks are situated…I am going to sew myself into the long john’s (cheers for that analogy Linnie 😉 ) and I am going to spend winter in my improvised suit of warmth to take the place of my fat. I can just do a few cartwheels to empty them each morning, shiver for a little while as I fill them all and sink into happy hot fugishness through my days. I don’t suggest anyone visits me over winter (bad luck Kymmy, you already booked!) as my new suit might start to reek a bit BUT them’s the breaks folks and you do what you have to do to keep yourself warm and sane 😉

DSCF0920Some of the fire utensils from the $1 tip shop bargain that I got recently. The poker and broom are still in the shed awaiting second coats but already it looks a whole lot better than $1 in my books 🙂

Bezial just got up. He who tossed me out of bed at 2.30 is lying in front of Brunhilda at 3.57am demanding that I poke her and get her going. I am starting to wonder just who is the boss around here… Apparently Bezial already knows! 😉 Bezial has been waiting for this…he and I share a winter tradition of getting up together and me waking Brunhilda up from her overnight slumber so that he can lay in front of her for the rest of the day. Bezial just decided that she wasn’t warming up quickly enough and has gone back to the comfort and warmth of being tucked under my feather doona next to Earl and Steve…sigh…that leaves Brunhilda and I to do the work of warming up the kitchen together…she is crackling into life as I tap this here and its WONDERFUL! :o).

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Still harvesting things from our veggie garden and the spinach is showing no signs of going to seed or giving up the ghost any day soon which is great because I pick it every day 🙂

Last year I got up a whole lot later than I do now…Steve tamps the fire down before he goes to bed at 11 and I will be waking her up again at 3…she seems pleased with the new routine…she  and I have lots of possibilities as the colder weather progresses. I can now add a few new routines of my own into the equation. Now that I am up 3 – 4 hours earlier than the rest of the household why not use some of this time with Brunhilda’s early morning warmth to good avail? Time to start factoring in the warmth of the bread proofer that Steve made for me, essentially a shelf a metre above Brunhilda with a metal mesh allowing the wafting heat to rise through and slowly warm whatever I choose to place up there…I could prove bread up there overnight. A nice slow proofing so that the next day I can get Brunhilda cranking and an hour later I could bake bread…fresh baked bread before the sun comes up? Now THAT is an interesting premise!

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A gratuitous bum shot…I still can’t get over where it went! I have lost more weight since this photo but you are looking at the part of me that was the most significant to say the least…now I know it was there to keep me warm in winter!

Steve recently received a gorgeous jar of Christi from Olalla’s jam. He allowed me a tiny taste but I know that this jam is precious to him. It’s a matter of supply and demand. No matter how much jam he demands, there is a very limited supply. Christi is one of the most generous and wonderful people that I know but it costs a FORTUNE to send things between Australia and the U.S. My daughters send a 4kg (that’s over 8lb) package to my son in a neighbouring state for his recent 31st birthday and it only cost them $17 to do so. I would have to SELL said 31 year old son to pay for the costs if I wanted to send the same parcel to Olalla…that should give you an idea about how expensive it is (AND he is a practicing accountant who won’t get out of bed for under $200/hour so factor that into the equation!). I am just going to have to try to get Christi’s jammy goodness recipes out of her. In the name of transcontinental happiness she just might grace me with the recipe to make Steve happy over his morning toast but the problem is that aside from not being able to get some of the more exotic ingredients, Christi has her own alchemy when it comes to jam. I have NEVER tasted better jam folks. This girl could jar it up and sell it, it is THAT good. I bow to her jammy genius and can only hope that my homemade spadle could do justice to one of her recipes. I have a couple of kilos of blackberries in the freezer…I have a homemade spadle that could stir for the queen and I have a 20 litre stainless steel pressure cooker base that doubles as an “Ace” jam pot…now all I need is that fairy dust that makes “jam”…something that Steve wants to dip his spoon into and eat from the jar 😉

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Who could resist these 2…butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths now would it? 😉

Another tome? “Et Tu Brute?!”…sigh…I guess some of you are still reading my posts and maybe I might be able to coax some strangers from the ether (via unusual tags 😉 ) to stray onto Serendipity Farm and spend the time it takes to get through a BIG mug of tea to read them. I told someone today that my blog is my way of allowing my muses to vent. I guess you, my dear constant readers, are starting to realise just how many muses this poor husk of humanity endures! Brunhilda has managed to heat a kettle of water from cold to just on the point of boiling in under 2 minutes…not bad old girl! She is in fine form and just the crackling is making me feel warmer. Apparently the roosters under the deck are feeling the love as well because they just started to crow…sigh…have a fantastic weekend folks…remember you only get 1 life and this is IT. Do something that makes you feel alive this weekend…bugger it…do something that makes you “SQUEE!” with delight :o). Have the best damned time that you can this weekend and when you have to trudge back to work they are going to wonder what that little smile of contentment is that  is hanging off the side of your mouth…don’t tell them, it’s all yours. See you Wednesday :o)

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