No Sticks today, the sticks have gone away…

Hi All

Well maybe there is room for one special guest stick from the lovely Nat at Polytechnic…she would like it to be known that this is a self-stickature  and that she is amazing at growing flowers (and apparently teaching Horticulture at the Alanvale Polytechnic is a hair raising experience!…;) ).

With the last few sunny days I can feel the earth waking up on Serendipity Farm. I can feel it yawning and stretching and basking in the new warmth and light and everything is starting to turn green and burst into leaf and flower. The birds are pairing up and we get a little scraggy blue wren and his partner on our kitchen window looking for cheese along with the cuckoo shrikes and sparrows. Our chickens are determined to go clucky and Bezial discovered a nest with 26 eggs in it yesterday when I was out pulling the nodding blue forget-me-nots out of the garden and reminding myself about how I had left a stand of them in the lawn where my dad couldn’t see them when I mowed the lawn for him a few years ago because “they are so pretty”…talk about make your bed and at a later day having to lay there covered in sticky forget-me-not seeds! Consider lesson learned God…I won’t be making that mistake again! ;). Steve and I have been venturing out into the garden and tentatively touching things, looking at things and feeling our way back into the outside world of Serendipity Farm. Glad and her daughter Wendy next door have spent most of winter burning off their debris and yesterday, when we were out raking, they were burning off the long grass before it becomes a fire risk and we had a chat over the fence. It’s nice knowing and liking your neighbours.

Things are starting to green up in the side garden…sort of Armageddon with hope

After we removed all the sticks from the lawn, raked all of the leaves up and Steve whipper snipped

We also did the small grassed area in front of this side garden

AND the garden in front of the deck…

Aside from the stair rails needing a bit of TLC, the garden area is starting to look pretty good

We spent the day raking the lawns to remove the sticks dropped from the large eucalyptus trees above. We collected them all and burned them on a small fire site next to the house. I pulled out forget-me-nots while Steve whipper snipped the Vinca major that has had too long ruling the garden and whose days are numbered. We took stock of where our efforts from earlier in the year had left us and took up where we left off. I can honestly say that there is no more solid sleep than that which comes from a hard day’s work where you get your hands immersed in the warm soil. I slept like a log last night. Today we are going to burn off a pile of dead blackberries and some debris left over from an earlier wood collection run that litters the second smaller garden down from the house. It’s not visible from the house so it’s easy to just forgedaboudit BUT should someone venture down into the second garden they would see carnage.  Why are we tidying up like maniacs? Because the son and heir is bringing his new partner back to Serendipity Farm to meet us. Someday this will all be his and perhaps hers.  I want them to see beyond the piles of their parent’s debris and see the wonderful possibilities that Serendipity Farm holds and I want them to love this little piece of land stuck out in the boondocks on a river somewhere at the end of the earth like we do.

(I wish Steve had been out in the boat and caught some fish BEFORE he smoked it…)

Just a little whipper snip and everything starts to look a whole lot tidier

Some of the greenery that we uncovered in our recent assault on the side garden

Where we pulled all of the weeds out and replanted with dwarf conifers, grasses etc. is starting to look lovely, mostly thanks to the arrival of a host of spring bulbs

The Japanese maple above the steps is just starting to come into leaf. All we have to do now is find a way to stop the possums from scarfing the tender new leaves and everything will be fine!

The Blackwood trees are all out in bloom and there is a stark difference between their hard toughness and their soft fluffy lemon yellow blooms. It’s almost as if God gave them something soft to balance out their hardness. The more I look at nature the more I see these patterns of balance and the more I learn about life in general. One of the trees that we cleared out underneath has apparently succumbed to the chickens nefarious scratching’s and endless dust bathing under its canopy and is starting to die. We will remove it and store it for next year’s firewood and will plant something a bit more water and chook wise in its place.  The chickens don’t know it yet but their reign of terror over Serendipity Farm may soon be a twinkle in Big Yins memory. We have plans for a deep litter chook pen based on this wonderful idea at Milkwood Permaculture my “go to” place for all things regarding applicable permaculture that can be used on Serendipity Farm. This set up got my brain churning and the fact that it relies on a sloped site and the chickens doing the work to fertilise straw for future composting really struck a chord with me. They called it a “Gravity Chicken Run” and as gravity is always trying to grab whatever it can on its swift decent down to the gate at the bottom of Serendipity Farm I figure why not get it to work for us?

http://milkwood.net/2012/06/13/meanwhile-in-the-gravity-chicken-run/

Bezial allowed me to take this shot so long as I included telling you that he is the rightful dog on Serendipitiy Farm and that all other canine creatures are facimilies rather than having any claim to the throne.

The third pile of blackberries that we threw onto day 2’s fire BEFORE I realised that I was wasting photo opportunities and raced to grab it

The second small lawned area down from the house. As you can see we may have left some of this debris here for a little while…

This was after we removed the three loads of blackberries so imagine this heap about 3 times bigger and you can start to get a picture of why we procrastinated about dealing with the second lawn

Ok, I am starting to twitch!

I get very excited whenever I go to Milkwood.net and I end up spending ages there. It’s my own private permaculture porn site where I can fantasise my brains out about how we can change our land to give it the best possible chance of surviving and flourishing into the future. This post has been pinched. Don’t bother to sue me Nick and Kirsten as penniless student hippies have nothing that you want. Just be happy in the knowledge that what you put out there into the ether is taking root down south and growing. We have decided to use the 9 old railway sleepers that we were given by a fellow penniless hippy in exchange for a bit of work that we did for him to make ourselves a polytunnel up next to where we are going to build our gravity fed chook run. The only thing stopping us from doing what we want is a severe lack of the folding green stuff but my last month and a half of sustainable learning (thanks to the free lectures from Tamar NRM) has given me all sorts of ideas for how to deal with a lack of money by using our smarts to give us what we need. No seeds…go to the seed swap day and swap some of those plants that you no longer have a use for…no materials? Do some work for fellow penniless hippies and suddenly “stuff” may just be a possibility. We are taking up Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s creed and bartering our services for “stuff”.

The garden might be a bit chaotic but that lawn is starting to look alright…

That dead looking tree actually has a path leading down to it that will have to be cleared out in the coming weeks

Looking back towards the house…we might grow some kiwifruit over this arch in the near future

This pathway leads down to a pond that we are going to resurrect and use as part of our edible food forest. We have some blue bamboo that needs to be planted in water and this might be just the place to put it. As you can see we have some serious clearing and replanting to do on Serendipity Farm but this year might just be the turning point (I certainly hope so!)

This is a Serendipity Farm “Where’s Wally”…find a chicken, a duck and a cat

I sent off a missive to the dear Amanda, the unseen, unthanked backbone of the Tamar NRM team who intercepts the emails, caters for the “do’s” and hovers about in the background just waiting for someone to ask for something. She once sent an email saying “I sleep here in the office and I never go home” and I am starting to think that might not be too far from the truth! My missive was effusive, ecstatic and most generous in thanking the Tamar NRM for the amazing series of free lectures and wonderfully catered lunches that I have just attended and I felt that she deserved some of the credit for the smooth progression from one event to the next. She sent back her own missive asking me to write an article for the next Tamar NRM newsletter so stay tuned folks…narf7 is going postal!

It doesn’t take our hoards long to find a patch that was previously occupied by debris, currently occupied by thin air and scuttling, startled insectivourous life

Duckies new best mate Yin who has had to adapt to being tailed by Ducky or suffer the quacks of outrageous fortune

A rare case of afternoon sunshine on Serendipity Farm

One thing that we can’t swap is our weather here on Serendipity Farm. We are situated in a zone where rainfall tends to be somewhat sparse. We need to get rainwater tanks from somewhere but rainwater tanks are one of those things that need to be put into the “future” basket because the moth eaten sock won’t run to rain water tanks. Neither will it run to the small personal wind turbine that wants to be built here either and as serious as I am about doing things myself, the instructable that I downloaded for how to build your own wind turbine may as well be written in Japanese because my technical ability runs to zilch and none. Who knows where the future will take us but one thing is for sure…we are at least taking hold of the reigns and trying to direct the workhorse in the direction that we want to go.

“Anyone for a Melaleuca Chuppa Chup?”

Henny Penny is NOT amused! “Put me down you blighter!” How ungrateful after Steve just saved you from the lusty intentions of “Chicken” or “Stock”!

I am in the process of learning to write smaller posts. I am a naturally generous person and cutting my posts down feels like not giving you bang for your mental buck but I realise that most people don’t have an hour to read a post and that my posts are definitely off the chart when it comes to average post lengths.  After all of these years of mangling the English vernacular I have decided to attempt to harness my verbosity and like Serendipity Farm, direct it where I want it to go. I can’t promise you that I won’t fall back into my large post ways especially when I have a lot to share with you. Enthusiasm…thy name is Fran! BUT I can promise you that my posts will be pared down a bit. I can nibble off the bampf and I can actually read them and edit them a bit and see if that enthusiasm can be channelled into some sort of directional flow. I am looking at the word count at the bottom of the page and it says 1343. That’s roughly half that of my usual posts. My brain is champing at the bit to flow where it will like a meandering stream but I am going to nip it in the bud today. I think I will give you all a hug (we all need a hug when we break bad habits) and love you and leave you there! I know! I did it! See you on Saturday when Stewart and Kelsey are rocking up to Serendipity Farm and I may be allowed to take some photos to share with you…then again…I might not 😉 Keep your fingers crossed that the son and heir is feeling magnanimous about the world and willing to allow me to snap him for posterity. Wish me luck! (He hates his photo being taken so I am certainly going to need it ;))

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Don’t sweat the processes

Hi All

We have been so very clever at sidelining life’s “Processes” as time wasters, energy robbers and too menial for our consideration that we have failed to notice that life is IN the processes. We have fallen victim to the hype and the advertising blurb and we have handed over huge chunks of experience and understanding and knowledge for something with an electrical plug and food prepared beyond its nutritional capabilities on a dyspeptic plastic wrapper and we actually believed that it would give us back something that we were missing…the ironic thing is that what is missing in all of our lives is the process that takes us from A to B to C and back again…the cycles that make up our birth, our life and our death are all interconnected and designed to teach us vital lessons so that we can live each precious moment of whatever time we have here on earth. I realised this when I was walking from my daughter’s home to where the Food Sustainability day was being held. I had an umbrella clutched in my hand to shore myself against the rain and soon fell into a regular gait that matched my thoughts. Where do we think we are going in such an almighty rush and what are we expecting to find at the end of it? Are we all losing our happiness in simple moments thanks to an exponential expectation of needs that we are assured are not (are NEVER) being met? I backed out like a hermit crab on steroids of mainstream treadmill hell quite a few years ago. I gave away my right to be a supermodel (an obvious choice), a superlative career on the stage (my 2 years of Speech and Drama assured me of something akin to acting Nirvana…) and any claim to being the most popular person in the world, a lesson learned way back at the age of 4 when Chad Johnson assured me of my position in the pack by telling me I was fat. I pushed Chad Johnson in the pond and was severely chastised for my efforts (but MAN it felt good to show him that assholes don’t always win and set me up for a lifetime of truth, justice and the Aussie way! 😉 ). I gave it all up folks for a chance to live a “real” life. To be able to take the time to bumble my way through my own personal experiences in my own good time and find out just what this life actually means to “me”.

Steve’s clever idea for how to achieve extra space on our countertops

Bags of mushroom compost waiting to be unloaded and stored for future use and for garnering a crop or two of mushrooms before that.

Glad (ys) next door is turning 90 on Saturday. We bought her a card with an elderly (no doubt younger than her but you wouldn’t know it!) lady with her bloomers in the air on the ascent of a ride on a swing. I dare say she will get her fill of flowery, sentimental cards. From her reprobate neighbours she will get her card with “Happy 22nd” written inside it, she will get a spongecake with some precious elixir jam from Olalla so that she can taste Olalla heaven at least once in her life and she will get a dozen Serendipity Farm eggs. I would give her 4 dozen but she doesn’t eat many eggs and my gift would end up a hindrance. Glad has taught me about resilience, about how living out in the bush all by yourself is not something to be feared. This 90 year old lady (and I use the word “lady” without hesitation!) heads out into her garden and walks around the block every day. She is as quick as a whippet and twice as fast in a verbal relay and if I wasn’t worried that she was thinking that I was “in her pocket” I would visit her more often. She grows vegetables every year, she laughs like a stevedore (I haven’t heard her swear but I dare say if she did, it would be with gusto) and she gives me the hope that old age isn’t all it’s made out to be. On the pointy end of 49 I am putting out my mental tendrils and am tentatively touching “aging” as one of my new parameters. Glad has shown me that it’s nothing to fear. That is something special and precious Glad, thank you for being our neighbour :o).

Spring comes to Serendipity Farm along with some purest green

I am relishing my penniless student hippy requirement to be thrust right back into the dreaded “Life Processes”. I am apparently a loser…someone who doesn’t consume much and thus a burden on society. The last sentence is not my personal view but that of any advertising agency in the world. I won’t be buying a new car any day soon…I don’t want to buy the latest shoes, makeup or haute couture…I am trying to minimise my spending and my carbon footprint down as far as I can and in the process I am automatically negated entirely in their eyes and I couldn’t be happier! I am really enjoying learning how to make sourdough and am bucking the trend for needing “more time for ME” in my life. I am starting to discover that “ME” is in the processes as well…I am finding my own personal rhythm, my own personal pace and mental alacrity as I tend the chickens, feed the sourdough starter every two days, fetch wood for the fire and I am finding a sense of peace, happiness and direction that only appeared when I gave up trying to keep up on that societal treadmill to nowhere. I like “wasting my time” for 3 days to bake a loaf of sourdough bread that is going to feed more than my body. I like pulling time out of my day to read…to research…to learn…to take my mind where it hasn’t been before. I might not be able to ever set foot on the moon (if, indeed ANYONE ever has…) BUT I am able to land my own personal mindspace craft on a new planet of information each and every day. What’s not to love about that? “Swings and roundabouts”…we make trades every day of our lives and how many of us actually think about the consequences of those trades that we make mindlessly and assisted only by someone with profit margins and not our own interests at heart?

Herman safely in his fruit pot. Note the bent lid…he has been forcing his way out!

Herman doing his best baby bird impression to get me to feed him

I am slowly (and admittedly fearfully) making my way through my rss feed reader that becomes packed to the back gills if I leave it for a single day, let alone a week. I love all of the blogs that I have crammed into my overworked reader and always greedy for something, I have stuffed my mind full of their delicious contents…can your mind get obese? I think mine is approaching Jabber the Hutt status as I type this. Hopefully I don’t have a mental coronary and end up sitting halfway through a post with far-away eyes (cheers for that one Mr Jagger 😉 ) and drool running down my chin but that’s the risk I take…”someone has to do it!” I absorbed so much information when I went to the Food Sustainability day run by the Tamar NRM that my brain got tired. Even with a few beige speakers who were intent on elevating themselves to some personal Nirvana by educating we lesser human beings (yeh like we NEED to know about pressure cookers or how little we know about soils actual chemical composition and how f@#*ing fantastic your own soil is!) that I could tune out and allow my overly excited brain a bit of a rest in-between the quality stuff, this little black duck wanted it all! I got all sorts of websites (curiously, the link to the techy beige persons amazing you beaut PDF for we mere mortals to gain his quality information from didn’t work 😉 ) to eke out my need to find out more. Some might call it nosey; I choose to think of myself as “pro knowledge”. I have been researching pyrolysis, biochar, permaculture and all things to do with food sustainability in our local environment and have discovered hectares of precious information for the taking. I feel like a rat let loose in a cereal factory and I can feel my brain swelling with each and every delicious morsel.

Herman and “the others” on the proving rack over Brunhilda

A quick hunt online and we suddenly had a solution for what to do with “The Others”

In the dehydrator soon to be joined by 8 more trays that after a day are just about dehydrated and tomorrow will be nice and crispy and dry and ready to crumble up and store away “just in case” or for any friends wanting a starter

I don’t think that I could ever be a “real” writer. I love words too much. I couldn’t cull them and cut them and my natural verbosity comes from a desire to cloth myself in description. I wouldn’t be able to keep an editor long because of my passionate desire to pad out life with descriptions. I don’t work well with others, ask poor Steve  ;).  It’s a glorious day outside! Who would have thought that the weather man could be so heinously wrong? I could have washed my blankets today…I could have planned a day out in the garden…I could have stood on my head in the sunshine and performed some complicated yoga move (I am sure I could find one online) but NO…I believed the weather man again and made plans for a wet day holed up inside. “Fool me once, shame on you…fool me twice, shame on ME!” No more Mr Weatherman! You have fooled me once too often and it will be a cold day in purgatory before I believe your silver tongue again! I am just waiting for Steve to make one of his new signature Serendipity 4Q hangers. He got the idea from a photo on Facebook and he has been ruminating about them ever since. He is sending one of them down the road to our friend’s house where I am just about to deliver 1 dozen eggs and a banksia that we grew from seed. At least ONE of our potted plants will find a happy forever home out in the soil. Our friend asked us if we would like any old rope net because he has been getting heaps of it from the local fish farm. Yes PLEASE! I can see vegetable gardens free of possum invasion in our collective near future! Generosity breeds generosity and I fully believe that if you are a generous spirit, when you need something, the universe will find a way to give it to you. That’s always been my creed and I am not going to stop thinking like that any day soon. It helps when you don’t have a whole lot of anything to be free with though ;). I love the bartering process. I love slicing the middle man neatly from the entire transaction and going straight to the source. I used to like watching Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall barter for what he wanted by working or cooking or doing other strange things to enable him to gain what he needed. I think he has underlings bartering for him now but more credit to him; he certainly puts his money where his ethics are so he is still my numero uno sustainability television hero of choice. I am a frivolous creature though, fickle to the core so don’t get too comfortable in your esteemed position sunshine…I am likely to dump you like a hotcake should you ever turn tail and head down the mass consumerist road like several of my past heroes have done!

I think I am going to enter Steve in the local Agricultural Show this year in the “Spongecake” class…I think he has a chance don’t you?

Herman after his measuring out and feeding this morning. Hopefully he doesn’t mind his new glass container (kids can be so tempermental!)

I have inherited a monster! I should have known when my new sourdough turned up smelling like booze and he had escaped his container that he was going to be a handful. I have the sourdough starter equivalent of Earl running amok on Serendipity Farm. 1 became 2 that became 4 that became 8 that went back to 5 because I gave 3 of them to new homes. Then we turned 2 into the 3 day project known as “sourdough bread manufacture”. Today we fed them and they took so much flour that I ended up with 2 large casserole dishes full of dough and a very large ceramic bowl overflowing with manic frothing vinegar hell bent on taking over the kitchen. I just threw every last skerrick of flour that we have left in the house into the bubbling cauldron and hopefully the inclusion of the remains of a forgotten packet of wholemeal flour might just suck up some of its enthusiasm. I feel like we are living on borrowed time and tomorrow…we bake! I am off for our first meeting of the Tamar Permaculture Permablitz Society. I just made that up. Really, we are just a motley crew of passionate misfits with a desire to change the world, one property at a time. I think I just created our advertising blurb! I have no idea who is going to turn up to this first meeting aside from me and Frances. Me because I need this and Frances because it’s her house so she doesn’t get a say in it. Again I find myself tapping away late at night after realising that I will be away most of the day tomorrow and when I get back I will be held in slavetude by at least 4 sourdough loaves that will be barking at their container rims and demanding that they be baked. I baked off some roasted veggies today including some lovely small parsnips, some carrots, sweet potatoes (both orange and white) and the remains of a pumpkin just about to turn various mouldy shades of the rainbow before I halted it in its descent into madness. I used some garlic oil that I found in the fridge that had a curious scent of cinnamon until I realised that I had omitted to wash the cinnamon out of the jar before I grabbed it to store the oil so I decided to balance the flavour/scent with cumin and coriander. I used some of the roasted veggies to line some miniature vegan tartlets that I made for tomorrows “do” and I made a batch of borlotti bean hummus to spread under the veggies. I made another batch of small tarts with some home-made roasted cashew cheese and asparagus, artichoke, grilled capsicum and mushroom and black olive. The remainder of the roasted veggies are going to be tossed into tomorrow night’s barley risotto, a nice easy meal after what promises to be a long and exciting day. I will take as many photos as my shutterbug fingers will let me as I want to share this process with you all. As we progress through our understanding of Permaculture and how to apply it to our requirements. In the meantime, I will be shackled to the kitchen counter feeding and baking sourdough bread. I half expected my sourdough experience to be a brief and sad affair resulting in something akin to a brick on a plate that I would put aside and rarely speak of again in anything but a derisory manner, however I was wrong! This sourdough starter doesn’t want to die; indeed it appears to have a very Napoleonic view of Serendipity Farm. Bring it on you sour froggie… the offspring of Attila the Hun is waiting for you! (Well…I DO have Germanic heritage 😉 ).

Steve picked me this bunch of free range daffies and in our recycled cut blue wine bottle who could ask for a prettier kitchen window? 🙂

Another manic week comes to a close. What is it about spring that seems to turbo-charge the environment and makes everything go so much faster? “I” don’t go any faster! I have a degree of internal excitement that would like me to go faster but I am doing my best to quash it before it erupts and causes me to do something that I may regret at a later date like order some kefir milk grains or start making sauerkraut. I think I will trundle my way into spring this time and remain aware, lucid and able to make credible judgement calls. The blackbirds, wattle birds, sparrows, wrens, Cuckoo Shrikes and every single hen on Serendipity Farm are on a fast track to crazy land but this little black duck is marching to the beat of her own drum this time! See you all on Wednesday and stand steadfast and take the change of seasons in your own good time :o).