Up in sustainable lights

Hi All,

 

Yeah…I know I only just posted yesterday but you know what? This tiny little post is to share another Serendipity Farm post that has gone overseas. This one has nestled at an amazing blog called Wodara.org where there are some completely amazing stories about how people live their lives productively and choose to make the most of what they have and do with what they are given. A while ago Krista, the owner of the blog contacted me about having our humble little story be part of this wonderful tangle of enlightening and uplifting stories. To say that I was chuffed was an understatement! Since Kym went back we have been “flat out like a lizard drinking” getting a backlog of horrendous studies out of the way and when I say “flat out” I am talking 4am starts and finishing at 2pm. No time for anything fun but I must admit I have been ducking off to pin a few surreptitious pins as a tiny aside to bolshiness but not for long! I completely forgot about Krista’s request and when I got a reminder email I knew that I was going to have to write this post. I spent my day off (Sunday) writing it and finding images and sent it off to her on Monday amid researching for media marketing information. Can there BE anything more boring than media marketing?! (Forget I said that…there is always quantum physics and economics to fall back on if my boredom quotient isn’t quite piqued 😉 ). So here we are, almost at the end of our hard slog of a unit and there is light at the end of the tunnel and I might just get to take another peek at my RSS Feed Reader. I miss you all! I haven’t had this long away from my RSS Feed Reader in ages and to say that I am missing you all is an understatement! I feel like I have lost a leg but the internet surgeons are just about to start sewing it back on and by this weekend (fingers crossed) Steve and I should have managed to knock these studies out of the ballpark. Till I am able to re-join the online community, please accept my apologies for neglecting you all but you do what you have to do and we are doing what we do best…bulldozering something difficult and turning it into a new pathway. Here’s the post at Wodara.org if you would like to head over and check it out along with all of the other amazing, inspiring and just plain great stories that Krista is collecting and collating…

http://wodara.org/2013/08/25/how-two-penniless-hippies-are-creating-serendipity-farm/

Till we step back on the online social media platform again…HUGS!

narf7 🙂

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Inspiration

Hi All,

What inspires you? What makes your heart sing and ignites your soul? Forgive me for waxing myself lyrically there but at 4.44am this morning (Sunday) I read a blog post that completely inspired me. I will post a link here so that you can all check out this amazing story and marvel at the level of dedication that one man was able to muster against a wealth of odds to create something amazing out of refuse and rubble and at 88, is still working on. Have you got an opus? Something that makes you get up every morning and that sends you to bed tired but completely content? Neither have I, but we are getting there 🙂

http://landscapelover.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/the-rock-garden-chandigarh/#comment-5338

I spend a lot of time getting inspired by amazing people out there. I can’t get over how clever and creative some people are! We all have something that we are good at but some people seem to be amazingly gifted and I am only wonder at the creative processes going on in their minds. Since we started working on design we have been learning all sorts of things about the creative process. Here I was just thinking that you slap a bit of paint on something or drew a picture freehand or just messed about a bit with some sort of medium but apparently there is a lot of thought that goes into art, design, music etc. The creative process usually has to follow an ordered process no matter how chaotic it may want to be…even anarchy needs to conform when it comes to web design ;). There are so many rules that you have to follow and it requires a degree of mathematics…thank goodness I covered rudimentary maths last year with landscape design and won’t have to bang my head on the wall this year trying to make it all come back from last century when I went to school…

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This nice foggy bank heralded a week of overly warm weather here in tassie that culminated in the second hottest day that we have had here this summer. The poor garden is on it’s last legs and I can’t wait for autumn!

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“NO PRISONER’S!” 😉

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Someone REALLY hates having his photo taken 😉

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It really pelted down raining today (cheers Port Hedland for that lovely cyclone that you are currently hosting 😉 ) and you can almost see the garden sighing with relief…you can also almost hear Steve and I sighing and doing “Paper, rock, scissors…” because we remembered that the guttering needs to be cleaned 😉

I have been trying to work out why cooking gives me so much more satisfaction than it should. I get the feeling that condensing your efforts down into creating things is immensely satisfying beyond the sum of the result. I think it’s another “living through the processes” moment and after reading Lynda Wallace’s small book “A Short Course in Happiness” I realised that a lot of the reasons why I feel inordinately happy for a middle aged penniless student hippy is that I am finding my happiness in simple processes. When we condense our thought processes and actions down into using what we have and our own mental alacrity in order to create something (especially if it is an original idea) we are giving ourselves a chance to explore the road to happiness. Making something is an outward expression of what makes us “us”. It is 5.59am and either “Stock” or “Pot” is crowing lustily underneath the deck just to my left. His processes are automatic and start as soon as his tiny little brain senses the dawn. My processes are often as a result of a desire. I want something, for whatever reason I can’t just go out and get something and so I have to work through a series of processes to give myself what I desire in a lateral way. I wouldn’t have ever thought that making things yourself, growing, cultivating, culturing, preparing and all of the other processes that begin with an idea/ideal and end in a satisfying dusting off of hands could give so much satisfaction, so much “happiness”.

I remember my grandmother doing all different kinds of unusual things. Back in the 70’s when I was a small child she always had something interesting for us to do when we got to her home. She had a large tin box with strange things in it. What was in the box on one day wasn’t necessarily in it when we next went. I remember a plastic spinning top, a box of dominoes, cards and my memories start to dim up a bit…it WAS last century folks! 😉 What I remember was that there were LOTS of things in that box. I also remember grandma making us small nets out of twisted repurposed (back then it was called “making do”…) coat hangers with some of her ex pantyhose stretched over the wire so that we could go fishing for the tiny shrimp in the inlet at the bottom of her property. I remember my sister and I arrived one day to new home made wooden looms that had silky smooth wood and my carpenter grandfather must have worked hard to make them. I often wonder if my grandmother was the instigator of this deep and most earnest desire to seek out and understand things. Perhaps my mum was right when she said that I always reminded her of my grandmother…perhaps I can see that now as a compliment :o). All I know is that if I am ever given the grace to become a grandparent, I, too, will have a large box that will change on a visit by visit basis. I will teach my grandchildren all kinds of things especially the incredible value of books and libraries and I will attempt to give them a deep passion for learning.

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Kefir production on target for Wednesday…we will soon be drowning in the stuff! 😉

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A nice pot of delicious rich pasta sauce made with local onions, our own tomatoes, some olive oil, herbs and lots and LOTS of garlic.

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Soon to be frozen ready for lasagne, spaghetti bolognaise and other tasty future tomato rich meals

Its amazing how fast habits, things that you do on a regular basis, become ways of life. It must be part of our human psyche to follow pathways of regularity. I have been eating a different way now for just on 7 weeks and in that time I have completely changed the way that I eat, the size of my meals, the content of my food and I actually have breakfast and have lost a fair amount of weight. It wasn’t hard, it was all just following little pathways that were initially new and that are now well worn grooves in my day. The same goes for getting up early. Anyone who knows me knows that I was a true died in the wool night person. I loved staying up late and would spend hours trawling the net hunting for information etc. and would go to bed between 12 and 1.30am most nights. Now I can’t make it past 8.30pm and as soon as my head hits that pillow I am gone! I sleep like a baby (unless Earl decides to sleep “on” me…) and wake up refreshed and raring to get up. The strange thing is that my initial reason for getting up early was to be bolshie! I didn’t want to be a hostage to feeling like a zombie for a fortnight after daylight savings crashed onto our doorstep last October so I decided that for the month before I would wake up a bit earlier in increments…15 minutes earlier each week, to allow me to make a steady transference to the hour block that they shave off in a day. I arrived at the day triumphant in the knowledge that my usual 7am wake-up was now 6am and they weren’t going to phase me THIS year! I then did what I usually do and thought “ok, so what if I keep getting up an hour earlier? Then I won’t have to do Daylight Savings ever…EVER…again!” And suddenly I went from being a night person to a morning person over a matter of months. I discovered the joys of those few quiet dark hours before Steve and the boys get up and all of that amazing time in the morning when my brain is raring to go and eager to take up new ideas. I now get up at 4am! YES 4am! I love it :o). I put the kettle on, I turn on the computer and cuddle Bezial who bravely stands guard all night on the sofa (Earl shamelessly takes the day watch and sleeps all night in the bed) and give him his early morning scratches and hugs. He shakes himself off and heads into bed and then the early morning is all MINE! I check emails and reply first, and then I head off here and check comments. I am a prolific commenter on other people’s blogs. If someone has put the effort in to share something precious with me, to give me one of their amazing recipes or tell me something that I didn’t know and am excited about finding out I want to thank them. I get a lot of replies from other blogs in the morning and its fun to read and reply to them first up. After that I head straight to my RSS Feed Reader and start wading through my morning’s blog posts. I have umpteen-eleventy-squillion blogs that I now follow and a 4am rising usually gives me enough time to deal with most of the posts for the day unless I get side-tracked by links in posts and then it might take a bit of night time reading to complete the deal. I have an eclectic mix of vegan food blogs, heavenly food porn (gorgeous photos and amazing recipes) that aren’t vegan, philosophical blogs, instructive blogs and blogs about sustainability that feed my mind and get it positively charged for the day. By the time 7am rocks up and Earl is prodding me with his nose to start the processes that eventuate at him getting a walk, I am fully charged, extremely happy (usually) and Steve gets his 7am cup of coffee and a wife who is raring to go for the day. I used to be the one lying in bed waiting for my cup of tea and stretching out the “getting up” process but no more… I am a changed woman and the possibilities of “Early Morning” only came about because I was being bolshie and wanted to take control of the situation…I wonder what you could do with your life if you tried? Do you have any habits that are dragging you down? If I can change my way of thinking, doing things then so can you. It really isn’t hard, its just a matter of starting. “Start where you mean to finish up”, another one of my grandmothers sayings and a most pertinent one for habit breaking and starting :o).

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Last minute ideas for how to use up some spare sourdough ended up with this interesting version of cinnamon rolls with a filling of chopped dates, grated left over hard caramel sauce from a sticky date pudding and lots of cinnamon

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After they were rolled up like a Swiss roll and cut I put them to prove in a greased and lined round cake tin until they increased in size a bit

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The finished results that are apparently very tasty 🙂

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Sourdough pizza prior to baking…

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And after…also, apparently, tasty 🙂

Does anyone else out there venture far and wide in their hunts for new and interesting food ingredients, how to use them and authentic recipes and cooking methods that contain them? Well I do! I love finding new things to do with previously unknown ingredients. It really excites me to delve into other countries cuisines, especially in the frugal ingredients that most of us wouldn’t think of using or don’t even know about. It’s nothing to do with elitism and everything to do with learning more about what is out there and available to eat. It’s the same thing that has me reverently placing foraging food blogs in my rss feed reader side by side with gorgeous food porn sites. When you love something you want to explore it all! ;). In my food travels I find a lot of recipes and links taking me to sites with recipes galore but all in languages that I can’t understand. A recipe that you can’t understand is an abject fail…UNLESS…you use your gourd and head on over to Google Translate and use it to translate the recipe for you. I must admit that sometimes the results are hilarious and totally incomprehensible BUT you at least have to try don’t you? And the worst you can get it a really funny read ;). I love finding blogs that skate along the fine line between Western cookery and their own culinary genius being applied to it. I found just such a site this morning and eagerly stuffed it into my Rss feed reader after exploring it for a bit to make sure that it was worth the stuffing. It most certainly was! Check it out if you would like to see some very interesting Asian takes on common recipes… http://ellenaguan.blogspot.sg/2013/02/longan-and-cranberry-yogurt-cake.html .

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The only eggs that we have had in a fortnight and all apparently laid by the same hen (the only one that has a free ticket to the next round!)

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One of our tasks for our course had us finding advertisments in various kinds of media that used “White space” to highlight and reinforce the subject matter and here is one of my examples…

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What do you do when it’s hot, you don’t want to pay “The Man” for his rubbish cordial and you have a freezer full of frozen fruit…you make your own cordial! This amazingly coloured variety is the result of a recipe for Lemon and Lime cordial that I messed around with so much that it hardly even resembles the original recipe. I used oranges instead of the lemons, I added a ziploc bag of frozen lemon juice, about 2 cups of frozen ripe mangos, the zest of the 3 oranges and about a cup full of ripe strawberries. These were all processed until smooth in my Vitamix blender and were added to 2 1/2 cups of sugar and then I added a tsp of citric acid and as much boiling water as I felt it needed to render it to “cordial” thickness. Steve is enjoying it whenever he feels the need for something other than coffee to drink and again, has pronounced it “tasty” 😉

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I needed to clarify just how “MASSIVE our harvest of potatoes actually was that I mentioned in the last post. Here you see the full extent of them being eaten by Steve for his tea last night…note the size comparison between the potato on his fork and the green pea next to it… I rest my case! 😉

Well we had a hard day today trying to find examples of design that doesn’t contain guide lines. And are planning on resting our poor addled brains this evening with a nice easy meal and an early night for me, and most probably some horror movies for Steve (his favourite genre). I am actually really enjoying this course (so far…) and we are learning an enormous amount. Steve will hopefully be picking up a copy of the student edition of the Adobe CS6 Design & Web Premium Student and Teacher edition so that we can start getting serious with Photoshop. So it’s all go around here at the moment. See you all on Saturday :o)

Forget “Seize the Day”…SEE the day is a good start…

Hi All,

It’s Sunday early evening and we are just about to dispatch another couple of roosters. We have been putting it off for a while because apart from being softies at heart, killing animals doesn’t give us any sort of satisfaction. The roosters have forced our hands this time as they are starting to crow at strange times of night and right through the day and our neighbours are starting to twitch. Steve has been working on turning an old heavy wire crate into a cat trap for catching Felix and then some of the other ferals. Felix is first because she is showing signs of being pregnant again. This would have been her 4th litter and again, our hands are being forced because we can’t let the cat population explode exponentially and so we have to sort the problem now. Well…its Monday morning and I will spare you the gory details, but needless to say, Frank had 2 less roosters crowing over his early morning mutterings and we have 4.5kg of dressed chicken in our fridge waiting to be turned into mince (to ensure its tenderness).

“I am invisible…you can’t see me…”

It would appear that the desire to lick the wooden spoon is not purely a human tendency…

Steve’s amazing spongecake made with our own homemade caster (well…icing) sugar

I realised that living in the country, especially if you get up early enough to see the sun rise (even if it IS only in your enormous monitor reflected from the window behind you ;)) is very different to living in an urban environment. When I used to live 4km from the city centre I would get up…put on the kettle…look outside my kitchen window at the neighbour’s yard and think to myself “Hmmm…I wonder if Margaret is going to use ALL of those oranges?”… Then I would return to my head and start planning out my day. Now I get up before the sun rises. Not because I have to milk any mental cows mind you…country living isn’t THAT different to my previous urban/e existence…now I CHOOSE to get up early because we have the luxury of being able to enjoy our time rather than cram it full of all sorts of side issues. I get up…I turn on the light…I head to the lounge room and feel for the black dog in the dark who is wagging his tail to direct me to him…we share a few private moments of interspecies happiness where he gets his ears scratched away from the prying eyes of Earl and I get to feel the joy of being someone who is wholly and totally loved by something who could care less whether I have wrinkles or have a spare tyre I could balance a cup of tea on. I must admit that he then sloops off the couch…pitty-pats his way into our bedroom where he jumps straight into the warm patch that I just left, lays his big black boofy head on my pillow and luxuriates in my exit.  I slip on my slippers…bought for me by my son and aside from a few early nibbling’s when Earl was a pup, have survived admirably to do what their name would suggest that they do. I can walk to the kitchen in the dark…I pride myself on knowing exactly where everything is and aside from the odd dog toy left on the ground as a reminder that pride comes before a (literal) fall…I can manoeuvre around Serendipity Farms interior in pitch darkness surprisingly well. The reason I mentioned that was because my traverse from the lounge room to the kitchen is usually done with my eyes shut yawning. I head over to the fire where I can tell simply by resting my hand on the firebox door whether or not I am going to be able to get it to go without the aid of my grandads patented method of fire ignition…

1. Get yourself some sticks. Some of them will need to be bigger than others…

2. Get yourself a good fire lighter (Grandad would have used something more organic but we cheat and use a patented block…we are working on our own sustainable variety but for now it come from Chicken Feed…to the felt hatted poncho wearing brigade “Wachagonnadoaboudit eh?!”… 3. Lay 4 of the thickest sticks (substantial enough to ignite without going up in a “POOF” of smoke and lending a flamey base to the proceedings) in a square on the base of the firebox

4. Next, lay 4 more sticks slightly inside the perimeter of the base 4 sticks…we want to make a sort of Scottish/Australian grandad stick pyramid here…carry on until you have created a stick pyramid to be proud of

5. Drop your firelighter of choice (I think Grandad would have used a ball of newspaper with a bit of kero or metho on it…don’t quote me on that!) into the centre

6. Take a moment to survey your tower of sticks…may as well enjoy the process…

7. Light your incendiary of choice (I tend to use matches but feel free to rub 2 sticks together et al…) and drop it directly onto your fire starter (feel free at this point to drop it onto Keith Flint of the Prodigy should he be hovering near by…I NEVER liked that man much! “I’ll show you bloody firestarter sonny…)

8. Watch as your precision built grandad tower slowly ignites and gives you the satisfaction of hundreds of thousands of years of primal human existence thanks to the glory of fire…

It’s no wonder there are so many pyromaniacs!

Now, once the fire is crackling and I have filled the kettle up just enough for my first cup of tea of the day. Depending on whether the fire was still hot or not I put the kettle on to hum on the stove top or on our little gas stovetop (prospective problem solving 101) …I sit down here and after checking my now sad inboxes (everything goes to rss feed reader now) for the odd Telstra bill I settle down to just on an hour of uninterrupted interaction with my brain and some very interesting and clever people out there. I owe Rhianna so much for putting me onto reading my favourite web pages via rss feed reader. It’s like being handed the key to the online cities of the world. Whenever I find a delicious website…I whack it into my feed and suddenly it’s like Christmas with a new jewel in my crown. Some websites don’t have rss feed readers…I have to whack their site addresses into my patented “favourites” word document where I can head to whenever I want to find some of my more obscure (read “conspiracy theory” and “plain mental”) blogs where technology is to be feared and put under a degree of suspicion, but by and large most websites are coming to the party with rss feed.

Can you guess what the weather is going to be like today?

As the sun rises slowly and is up enough to give me an idea of just what the day holds (weather wise at least…) I realised that I no longer wonder how long Margaret is going to wait before she pays the boy next door to mow her back lawn…I don’t have to think about my neighbour (apart from Frank who might be planning a night time raid on the bastions of Little Red to make him “disappear” before he starts his 5am crowing in earnest). I get to look out over the river and really see it…allow it to bleed and blend into me and form the beginning of my new day. I have never had that luxury before. Now I can delight my soul with sunshine, I can feel the weight of the grey day and I can adjust my sensibilities accordingly because what is happening outside is extremely pertinent to what I am going to do with my day. I can’t just phase it out as I hurriedly cram a bit of toast into my mouth “bugger! Butter on the floor…never mind the dog will eat it!”… as I race out the door and into the car with my mind full of what I have to do and driving while under the influence of heavy thought. Now I can feel my day…I am totally aware of the weather, the colour and timbre of my mornings and most poignantly, I am really starting to understand how important it is that we are able to soak up and absorb, indeed submerge, ourselves in the real, natural world out there because we have removed ourselves so very far from what is real that modern society is like an ants nest built in an apartment building…it’s out of place and totally wrong. It’s no wonder so very many of us get up and feel like we are out of sync. It’s also no wonder that we have distanced ourselves from nature and have allowed big business to desecrate our environment in the name of “progress”. We can’t all move to the country and have Narf77 epiphanies on a regular basis, but we can stop what we are doing and turn our minds inwards and slowly start our days actually thinking about what matters rather than what routine and society has lead us to believe is normal.

Here is an interesting situation…these bales of cardboard used to be picked up by a man who the IGA paid to remove their waste…now, some bright spark has decided that they don’t want to pay for this removal any more…that they might even be able to make some money and these bales of cardboard are for sale to anyone willing to part with $20 a bale…this fenceline used to be clear of bales of cardboard…I think that the economy in Beaconsfield might just be echoing the economy in Spain and Italy!

A lovely sight to a horticulturalist…a nice big steaming pile of fresh woodchips in the local nursery.

Earl listening most intently to Steve’s new ring tone “Bad to the Bone”…

 

There is some sick dark part of me that keeps doing this to Bezial, just because I can…

That sick dark part of me has to remain latent whenever dealing with Earl because where “I can” with Bezial…”I most definately CAN’T” with Earl…

How could you be scared of this rambunctious little tyke? Well for some reason, he and his big brother terrified the electricity meter reader today…must admit to not caring much! Sorry dude…you want kudos, go get yourself a better job! 😉

Today’s post is somewhat experimental. Nothing unusual in the content but we are posting it to both of our blogs. We want to transition “The Road to Serendipity” to “The Odo Life” smoothly and with minimum hassle to you all. I would love you all to come with us over to BlogSpot where we are setting down roots towards a greener and happier future. The writing has been on the wall at WordPress for quite some time now and they finally pushed too many of my buttons at once and much like Mary Poppins, I have packed my suitcase and I am off. I have more than a sneaking suspicion that free blogging will one day be something that we remember wistfully along with free internet but until the day that the noose closes on our current freedom, I will be taking full advantage of the ability to hunt, find and share information on these amazing world-wide highways of knowledge.

This is an egg. Nothing special about eggs you might say…but this one IS special. You see this egg is the very first egg that our little rescue chook Pingu has laid us. We know she laid it for us because it was laid on her own personal heat bed in the shed where she sleeps at night (she can’t be doing with “chooks”…they scare her). Thank you Pingu. You might not be going to ever be completely normal as a chicken, but we don’t care. None of us can lay claim to normality and you fit on Serendipity Farm like a hand in a glove 🙂

The new blog will be a bit more eclectic than this one. I wanted to be able to share all sorts of things with you and along with my rambling posts; I would love to be able to share recipes with you. Not Master Chef type recipes for food snobs, but foundation recipes for various items that you might not think possible to be made at home. Sharing knowledge is an incredible way to learn more than you could ever think possible. I don’t have time for selfish people. I love to share and I love to find out how to make and do things. My most prized websites are places where people share their ideas freely and close behind them are my weird and wonderful sites where I get to see things that I might otherwise never see. We have a pot of stock slowly bubbling on the stovetop…we made it with 2 of our rooster carcasses that we dispatched last night. We got the recipe from someone kind enough to share it with us online. Steve made a tiny little magnetic planter out of an expired driver’s license. He planted a tiny succulent in it and has it on the filing cabinet in his music room. We found out how to do it from someone online. Sharing makes everyone’s lives richer and it’s about time it made a comeback in our societal desires. The 80’s were a decade of “ME” and “Greed is good”. Who could forget Gordon Gecko? Since then we have had to absorb certain truths about our human footprint on the earth. No-one likes to have unpleasant things happen to them and we have to take our heads out of the sand and deal with these environmental issues before they come back to bite us. In saying that, we are trying our hardest to find ways to simplify our lives and minimise our carbon footprint. We may have downsized our desires in the process but we have come out of is curiously lighter and even more curiously happier. We occasionally feel like we are dancing on the edge of some fundamental majestic truth when we are working with the earth rather than fighting it. These moments are few and far between to be honest. The more we transition Serendipity Farm to a sustainable environment the happier we get. Needless to say, the more we clear out the dense overgrowth of weeds the happier we get. It really doesn’t take much to make us happy these days!

It is amazing what a bit of regular rain will do to a vista…only a month ago this area was dry earth and from “somewhere” the grass has appeared. If you look closely you will see a Tree Dahlia (Dahlia imperialis) an herbaceous perennial that we almost removed without knowing that the dead bamboo like stick that remained after we removed all of the debris around those 5 tree trunks would ever grow back. There is something to be said for “We will pull that stick out another day” sometimes when you don’t know what you are dealing with! 😉

Again, this area looks much MUCH nicer since the rain softened the hard bare earth and gave everything a lovely hint of verdant green. I love watching the seasons take the palette of Serendipity Farm and change the hues, textures and colours accordingly

I managed to take these 3 photos in the space of 20 minutes in between grey rainy showers. The area with the 2 bird baths is where Steve is itching to get into and plant some of his weeping maples. Every time he heads for the door the rain starts again. Oh well…at least when he DOES get out there the soil will be nice and damp and easy to dig…if he can get through all of the rocks that is! Might be time to use our problem solving, lateral thinking skills and use some of the prodigious amount of rocks all over the place to mound up this area…import some good topsoil from Exeter Landscape Supplies and give the maples the free draining soil that they want…at least we learned SOMETHING in our past 3 years worth of horticultural adventures! 🙂

Part of living with nature rather than fighting it is that we are much more aware of our place in the world. The weather has been changing rapidly and it already feels like winter here in Tasmania. We have had our wood fire ticking over for about 2 weeks now and are finally starting to learn its intricacies. Steve made a heavenly light sponge cake on Sunday that we baked in the wood stove. When we first had the stove installed it was very different to baking in a “normal” stove. The stove reacts to wood being added more slowly than turning a dial to a temperature…once it builds up it quickly overshoots your desired temperature if you are not monitoring it carefully and what was previously ideal for cake baking, can soon turn into a blackened burnt sugary smouldering mass that even the possums reject as inedible. Last year we had all sorts of problems with the ovens being too hot. This year we have learned how to trickle the heat and keep the stove in a lower heating range, saving on fuel as well as rendering the house a nice ambient temperature rather than hotter than the Sahara on a mid-summers day. The benefit is that a lower temperature enables us to cook pretty much anything that we want to.  Steve’s sponge cake is a perfect example of that. They are notoriously hard to get right and his example was (dare I say it) as close to perfect as I have seen. The cake made a delicious “Whoosh” sound when it was cut as all of the air escaped from the millions of tiny bubbles and both Steve and the dogs appreciated a large slice of creamy jam filled heaven. I didn’t have any caster sugar for the cake and decided to make my own. I have talked previously about my “you beaut” $1200 blender that I bought in a richer time. I must admit that aside from being appalled that I spent so much on an electrical appliance this blender is a stayer and was probably worth the price I paid for it. It turned regular sugar into icing sugar in 5 seconds flat. We decided to use the icing sugar as caster sugar and the sponge cake of incredible lightness became a reality. I guess that is how new recipes are made and people get to try new things. When someone is willing to take a risk that something that they are just about to attempt might go horribly wrong. I took that risk…I learned

1. 2 seconds is enough in my Vitamix blender to turn regular sugar to caster sugar

2. 5 seconds gives me icing sugar so I no longer have to buy icing or caster sugar only the cheaper regular cane sugar

3. $1200 might be a HECK of a lot to spend on a blender but sometimes when you want something that is going to last, AND be consistently reliable, you might just have to dig a bit deeper into your pocket

4. Don’t be afraid to experiment. You might just get some fantastic results and at worst, you learn a good life lesson

5. Share what you find out with everyone else. Your success might be someone else’s salvation

There you go…Narf77’s secrets of success…or Fran’s ramblings…your choice :o). BlogSpot is very different to WordPress…the jury is still out as to which format I am going to stay with/go to. I love the sharing on WordPress even though it seems to be going to the dogs and BlogSpot is still the great unknown and doesn’t appear to have much in the way of allowing people to find your blog…I assure you that I will let you know well in advance if we decide to abandon this blog and head over to the bright side at The Odo Life. See you all on Serendipity Farm on Saturday night. We will be watching Sherlock Holmes – A Game of Shadows with popcorn, our feet up and our pyjamas on. Hopefully Saturday will find you as happy as we will be. See you then :o)

Holy Crap Batman…they’re effecting change on Serendipity Farm!

Hi All,

We all have them and April is one of our birthday months on Serendipity Farm. My oldest child turns 30 and my youngest turns 22. Don’t feel left out Madeline, you already had your birthday (24). Since we moved to Serendipity Farm we no longer spend a large amount of money on people for birthdays. This came about due to us considering how much money we had, and how much money they had and working out that we were the lowest common denominator in the money chain so we now give gifts rather than moola. No doubt my son is racing out to take up bungie jumping, sky diving and anything else that he can to deny his descent into 30 and my daughters will spend the day together celebrating with an amazing feast revolving around gourmet products. Since we moved out, the girls have become gourmands. I talked to them yesterday and was informed that they had just been shopping and purchased goat shanks…GOAT SHANKS! What on earth does one do with the shanks of a goat? No idea, but the girls saw merit in them and purchased them along with a dozen oysters, a kilo of mussels and various weird and wonderful varieties of sausage that they bought from a tiny local smallgoods firm directly opposite where Bethany attends Polytechnic as an art student. Their fridge is like Aladdin’s cave and always contains something new and most interesting. Their shelves are full of weird and wonderful Korean concoctions along with various weird grains, strange brands of noodle and couscous and all sorts of unusual sweets and biscuits. I now have to think of what to get someone who lives in the “Paris” sector of Melbourne for his birthday and what to get my gourmet daughter for her birthday 7 days after my son’s. I have a week or so to think about it but the clock is ticking…

Steve was determined to not miss getting a home grown tomato this year. We started late…VERY late and this is the sum of our most delicious tomatoes that have been raised in the glasshouse.

Stretch was complaining about how cold it is moving from Western Australia (hot) to Tasmania (cold) when you are a stretchy bean filled naked rubber chicken. Apparently Stretch is working on it…

Figs and Juglans regia (English walnuts…even though they come from Persia…go figure!) collected in Beaconsfield and subsequently eaten (figs) and stratified (walnuts…apart from 1 that Earl decided to crack and sample and find wanting…)

Hi guys! It’s Monday and Steve is racing around town having a wonderful time on his own. Steve likes to establish, maintain and keep up an alarming pace whenever confronted with shopping and town and despite my best efforts I am totally unable to keep up with him. Aside from my 2 steps to his 1, I have a “curious mind” and need to pick things up…turn them over…sniff them (which has gotten me into trouble more than once I can tell you!) and generally savour this new and unfamiliar product where Steve grabs it, bungs it into the trolley on the run, pausing only to pay the checkout chick before they arrest him for motorised shoplifting. He will be munching his way through a couple of Macca’s sausage Mcmuffins (both held in one hand) and slurping noisily on a boiling hot beverage (most probably Gloria Jeans…) with the other hand…driving with his knees in the expert way that only someone who has lived most of his life in enormous cities knows how to do. I panic at the first sign of a brake light, but he lives vicariously enjoying every thrilling heart stopping minute (of our 100 000 odd population teeny tiny city) of the chase. He phoned me about 30 minutes ago (I have been commenting on some great blog posts that I got in my inbox today) at 7.30am to tell me that he had done all of the shopping and was just waiting (Mcmuffins in hand) to get the dogs meat, my stuff (can you hear the impatient sigh?) at the health food shop and then he is off to get a brand spanking new razzmatazz phone from the Telstra shop. Our 24 month contract is up and he has the desire for a smart phone burning a hole in his psyche at the moment. After doing some research we found the perfect phone for regional use (most important) to get coverage out here and that will allow him to play “Need for Speed” whenever he wants (no doubt with Mcmuffins in the other hand and driving with one foot…). I could care less about mobile phones…so long as they are able to be used for the purpose of “Phone” (obviously hidden under all of the aps, games, music etc.) and have nice easy steps to get there I am happy. Steve is a techno geek and loves new things and will be messing about with whatever he ends up getting for hours muttering under his breath at regular intervals about GPS…MP4 etc. and speaking that foreign language that people who love technology attempt to pass off as normal conversation. Have fun babe…just make sure that I can press something to phone a friend should the need ever arise!

I would like to call this photo “What you lookin at Willis!” for all of you who are older than 10 and remember the sitcom Different Strokes. Pingu could have gone one of two ways after her last attempt at scaling the Pearly Gates. The first time Earl broke her leg and left her for dead (although she was very much alive and only playing possum…) the second time she was standing at the gate waiting to be let back in to her rightful home or be fed a piece of bread, whichever came first when she made the mistake of getting a teensy bit too close. Earl seized the day/moment and pulled her under the gate and Steve came out to find feathers all over the deck…Pingu coloured feathers! We thought for sure that she was dead and were not at all surprised as she liked to stare through the gate at a slavering Earl on a regular basis. She was, in fact, relatively unharmed after her plucking as Earl had stupidly taken his mouth off her and she ran and then flew straight off the 3 metre drop from the deck to the ground. She was waiting for her bit of bread at the bottom of the steps! Now, as previously mentioned, this would leave you one of two ways…scared witless and terrified of EVERYTHING or…in no mood whatsoever to tolerate any sort of aggressive behaviour and with a massive chip on your shoulder…Pingu chose the latter. She can now be found terrorising the feral cats and stealing food out of their mouths. She runs at them full pelt with her wings out and pecks any part of animal that she can. Bezial is now allowed out to wander around with impunity as he totally ignores the cats and the hens (with age comes wisdom…) but Pingu ran up to him and decided to check him out tempting fate severely. She has decided that he might be alright and didn’t actually attack him but she follows Earl (on the lead) at a safe distance now… watching and waiting for her chance to pounce! That’s one ANGRY little bird!

I love finding like-minded souls on the other side of the world. Back in the olden days (20 years ago) when I was actually alive (shock HORROR!) I didn’t even think about the “other side of the world”. It was like thinking about the moon and anything “American” or “English” was consigned to history, newspapers or social studies in school. Now, with technology (specifically the internet) making the world a much smaller and more immediate environment, I am able to wake up, settle down in front of my PC in the wee small dark hours of the morning and slowly wake up with a cup of tea nestled lovingly in one hand and the other one caressing the mouse. Do I love my newfound “overseas” friends? Damned right I do! I don’t know these people who share their passion, humour and essence across the miles but I consider them soul buddies (as wanky and hippy as that sounds) because whenever I get one of their carefully considered (although some of you might want to consider using the spellcheck every now and then!) content rich posts I am getting a little glimpse of their lives way over there in the U.S.A. or the U.K. or Canada or any of the other places that I regularly poke my nose into to have a careful sniff around. I found a really great blog when I was nosing around at The Soulsby Farm. A fantastic blog in its own right and a great source of information and cheap makes for we homesteading pioneers (read poor sad fools who have fallen prey to weed infestation and under the spell of animals en masse) and right there on the blogroll (some people actually do look at them you know…) I discovered Hanna and her wonderfully honest blog “This Garden is Illegal”. I will give you a little soupçon of Hanna’s fantastic way of looking at things and her great writing skills here in her latest post…

http://www.thisgardenisillegal.com/

Not only is she informative, money wise and clever (all A+ features of a blog that I want to read) but she is funny, wry and honest and this elevates her right up there with the best. Go check out her blog and you tell me that she hasn’t got an edge on writing about gardening and its foibles. I could most probably write all of this post today if I wanted to but we are planning on being bums up in the garden for the rest of the week and so I would no doubt miss out on telling you about how one of our new roosters has turned into a rapist and is just about to say hello to God, I will no doubt be covered in leech bites and will resemble something out of a John Carpenter movie by the end of the week (bring on the Jehovah’s Witnesses then!) and we will hopefully have had many opportunities to take interesting photos for you to ooo and ahhh over. Welcome to everyone who has recently subscribed to the blog by the way. Cheers for your faith that I will be able to amuse you and inform you whilst performing acts of super human strength out there in the jungle of a garden that we call Serendipity Farm. Someone on the road to Beaconsfield got pigs. Now I know that it isn’t like “got nits” or “got worms” but for me it is almost as contagious because I WANT PIGS. I love them. They are most probably the closest animal to my own personal state. Pigs are smart (tick) they are funny (tick) they tend to run to seed (tick…tick…tick…) they spend their lives looking for somewhere to wallow and cool down (oh MAN that’s a tick!) and love nothing better than standing next to a tree rubbing their large expanse and grunting in extreme satisfaction. I figure I must have been a pig in my past life. Steve wants goats and in particular miniature goats. My daughters ate goat shanks the other day and have been lauding the delights of said goaty meat ever since so you might want to think about those goats VERY carefully Stevey boy… Harvey (The Tassie Farmer) thrust pigs into my semi-awake mind this morning and coupled them with Eliza Wood who is a country livestock morning presenter on our local ABC who has rare Essex saddleback’s on a property up in Penguin (YES we have a town named penguin…sigh…) and who recently had an open day on her and her partners farm. Lots of rare breeds of things and all no doubt VERY exciting but you lost me at pigs Harvey. I sat there daydreaming about how Brian up the back (the tree felling neighbour with the sanctimonious wife) would LOVE to have pigs living in the bush block adjacent to his property (who wouldn’t?) and how they would fit in most incredibly well with the rest of us here on Serendipity Farm. Indeed…should I ever want to head off into town on secret nefarious business I could just put a pair of my jeans and a sun hat on one of the larger ones, plonk it down into the middle garden and let it do what it did best and Steve would never know the difference! It is with regret that I stop typing here and leave some space for future “events” to occur. When I get on a roll it is like a wellspring opening and the words just want to keep tumbling out. See you later on in the week 🙂

I allow my mind to be gloriously and most vicariously innovative and exciting. I try to learn all sorts of new and interesting things and tend to slide right off the Richter scale when it comes to weird and wonderful “stuff” to cram in the few spaces left in my mental capacity but as chaotic and exciting as my mind is, the rest of me is the exact antithesis of chaos and I love nothing more than to be soothed by routine and a dearth of change going on at any given time. I mentioned this only because I have just gotten hungry and have ventured into the previously foreign territory known to others as “Breakfast” recently. Working hard in the garden needs a degree of staying power and last night’s tea simply doesn’t cut the mustard when you need to lift, heft and hack on a massive scale especially if you intend on carrying on the process rather than making one fell swoop at glory. Staying power aka “energy” has been an elusive dream of mine for quite some time. Since I started eating something in the morning I have had energy for the first time in many years. Coupled with eating nutritious food and totally knocking out sugar and white refined products I have suddenly developed a new spring in my step and have lost 6kg without even trying. I think I have discovered a precious secret here about “weight loss” but at the moment I am still in familiar territory and when I have lost 10kg I will let you know about the true nature of my new eating regime. My breakfast this morning (and every morning if the truth be known) is “some minute oats”, “some dates cut up with a pair of scissors” with boiling water poured over them and set aside to absorb said boiling water all topped off with a finely chopped apple. Might sound boring but it tastes lovely and keeps me going till mid-afternoon when I have my main meal. I used to eat 1 enormous meal in the evening but now I eat 2 meals and something nutritious if I get hungry in between. I use olive oil in my cooking and I eat however much I want to. I am a big eater and so if anything is going to make me fall off the wagon it is portion control. I can live on broccoli and carrots (and have done so before) but if you make me weigh them out I am outta there! Gone are the days where I would get “funny” and start minimising my portion sizes, cutting out entire food groups and trying to scrape every last skerrick of fat out of my diet. It’s there because we need it folks to metabolise some of our most important vitamins and minerals and without it we look like deflated balloons (skin etc.) and apart from working hard in the garden we are walking the dogs 5km a day. Easy ways to lose weight and get healthy without even trying. I added some ground cloves and a pinch of ground cinnamon to my breakfast today and it tastes lovely. I know that at some day in the future even I, with my endless need to categorise and follow a nice sensible routine, am going to get a tad bored with this meal and so I am already looking out for interesting nutritious alternatives. In my travels I found a recipe for fermented muesli (An Instructable) which really caught my eye. I love the idea of using my dehydrator (second in cost and lack of use only to the “you-beaut” $1200 blender) to make this amazing healthy looking muesli containing equally amazing probiotics. I am a sucker for a bacterium, and even found an instructable for harnessing your own little greeblies to work for you (isolated from buttermilk should I ever find a live source in Australia that is…). This brings me back to my life’s work. I have a fever… A FEVER I TELLS YA for hunting out how to make basic things and compiling them. Recipes for healthy home-made margarine, baking powder, sourdough starter, potato yeast as well as how to make just about everything that you could possibly need/want yourself. Bugger the middle man (my arch nemesis…) bring on “do it yourself” in a way that it actually relates to our inner need to feel competent rather than societies need to foist all kinds of consumerist goods that we don’t need and can’t afford in the name of D.I.Y. Does anyone else get “Better Homes and Gardens” magazine? Has anyone else noticed how it is just an enormous advertisement from cover to cover? D.I.Y. sells BIGTIME people and don’t think it took the middle man long to work that one out and harness themselves to all of our grindstones as we did the work and they flogged the products. I have dabbled in all sorts of weird and wonderful food rituals over the past few decades and was originally one of those poor lost souls that bought each and every new super food and gadget that popped up promising eternal life. With age comes wisdom and I would like to think, a healthy degree of cynicism for these sorts of claims and products. I would even join a sceptics society for new food fads should they ever develop one. I do, however, make sure to check out as many informative food blogs as I can and use bits and pieces, recipes, hints, tips and anything of worth. A good magpie never wastes information and I would classify myself as a “Top Bird” in the magpie confraternity :). Here is a link to a PDF template of home-made seed packets. Only a “Top Bird” would find and share this sort of thing (can you see me preening my feathers?). I plan on using this template a lot and working out how to print some pretty (also pilfered) images on the front of my packets to enable me to both use collected seed and be delighted by the process. Take your own delight and get printing! (And when you do…could you let me know how you did it…sigh…). The link below also gives you a few predesigned templates to get you started (guess I had best only save tomato, sunflower and pea seeds eh?)

http://www.finegardening.com/how-to/articles/make-your-own-seed-packets.aspx

Here’s another great blog just waiting for you all to trundle over there, find a few minutes peace and quiet to have a little look-see over a nice beverage of your choice (chocolate biscuit optional but preferable). All sorts of lovely crafts and fun things to do all revolving around “Gardens”. Love it, just subscribed to it and will be going there often.

http://gardentherapy.ca/diy-rock-spiders/comment-page-1/

Veggie burgers waiting to go into the oven and Copycat (I will take the secret to the grave!) Hobnob (U.K.) biscuits fresh out of the oven. Even when we couldn’t climb the stairs we still managed to eat…

In one of the videos about permaculture that I found online (somewhere in the ether) I was made aware of (discovery was “mine” they already knew about it…) a most interesting premise about soil. Topsoil is precious. I already knew that…I had it drummed into my head by my poor long suffering lecturer James when I was completing certificates 2 & 3 in horticulture. I dare say he was quite glad to see the back of me because I was one of those students who always wanted to know “why?” and “how?” thus making him have to come up with answers. Usually I had found my own answer by the time he gave them to me so I stopped asking after a while but the value of topsoil was one thing that we learned very early on in the piece. Australia is known for being an inhospitable arid place populated by a highly poisonous population of just about everything and what isn’t poisonous wants to kill you anyway. We get hot dry conditions and our soils are ancient and can’t afford the extreme weather events that we are starting to see as a result of our continued pillaging of natural resources at our own detriment (anyone outside looking down might just be wondering why the human race has suicidal tendencies…I know I am!) and as such we all need to be building our topsoil for future generations. Preventing it from drying up and blowing away is a good start so incorporating organic matter and mulching and getting decent soil holding root systems (preferably arboreal) into place are not a bad start. I watched a most intense, passionate thin man telling me about how the most amazing soil is produced underwater every day. Leaves, twigs, insects, anything organic falling into water and becoming subject to anaerobic bacterial activity forms amazing soil much more quickly. I must admit to being a little bit sceptical about this. Scepticism is a very healthy thing. It allows you to exercise your right to choose what you believe in and gives you the impetus to go searching for proof and information to back up said claims. I promptly forgodaboudit as is my usual way when confronted with information for more than 10 minutes…too much knowledge…such a little brain… something’s gotta give!  I was reminded of this interesting piece of information when Steve was fixing the guttering and drain system on the side of our new wood shed. We had removed a massive ancient blackberry shrub that was reclining all over the surrounding area and that had a really REALLY bad attitude. Deprivation had made it hard and lean and it really didn’t want to give up its position of power. Once we had put paid to its sequel by grubbing it out of the ground Steve headed up the ladder to clean out the slurry in the guttering. He called me over to take a look at the “amazing soil” that was coming out of the guttering. I have no idea how long the leaves and twigs had been falling onto the wood shed roof and into the guttering but they had rotted down in a puddle of stored water to a rich, dark wonderful smelling soil. I wonder if we can “make” our own soil by using water to facilitate a speedier process (waiting several millennia is a little out of my ability to wait…) and if that sludge in the bottom of the duck pond/boat could be put to good use somewhere in the garden? Having little money to spend on luxuries like additional soil I am starting to turn to more adventurous ways to get what we want around here and thanks to the internet, there is no shortage of wild eyed, hirsute, dreadlocked thin people lining up to tell me how to effect change on a shoestring budget.

Ok…time to bite the bullet! The weed species that have been allowed to run rampant for 20 years need to be taught that they have a new master and his name is pain! Here we go…

 Take that Elisha’s Tears! (Leycesteria formosa, follow suit blackberries, osteospermum daisies and twitch grass and you can just about forgedaboudit Rosa canina your asses are MINE!…

The first person to comment on how that “crown lifted” conifer looks now is going to have said comment inserted where the sun don’t shine… just a warning folks! Apart from the Truffula Tree, this area can now be considered cleansed brethren! Do I hear an AMEN?!

While I was wading through the blackberries, Steve was pruning, raking and generally clearing out the first garden “grassed” (HA) area. It now doubles as a lovely sandbath for the hens

What do you think? Not too bad for a water stressed garden at the end of summer

The view now from the stair end of our deck

If you haven’t yet gone to check out the blogs on my new blogroll more fool you! I am not going to force you to go there but it’s you that are missing out. I am anything but magnanimous in my desire to spread the word about sustainability and one of my favourite sites “Permaculture Power” had a most interesting full length documentary called “Garbage Warrior” about “The epic story of radical Earthship eco architect Michael Reynolds, and his fight to build off-the-grid self-sufficient communities.” I watched most of this video tongue in cheek because this man is a typical 60’s hippy with accompanying utopian dreams and some of his “Earthships” were bizarre to say the least. In saying that, I was totally engrossed with what he and his friends were and are trying to do. Using garbage like old tyres, beer cans and rock hard New Mexican soil baked under the sun for 9/10’s of the year and frozen solid for the remainder removed from the ground with brute force and inserted unceremoniously into the tyre walls to create thermal mass. They used different coloured bottles to give jewel coloured stained glass effect to their buildings and despite taking years to build, they were very cheaply constructed and totally off the grid. Wouldn’t you like to be totally off the grid? So would I! Now I just have to learn how to make my own composting toilet (I have actual plans…), plumb that sucker in (might have to take a plumbing course at Polytechnic in my gap year 😉 and get Steve drinking again except using cans rather than bottles…”it’s for the sake of the earth Steve…GET DRINKING!” If you would like to check out this bit of hippy environmental history and you can turn a blind eye to the architects annoying accent and outbursts of manic enlightenment, Harley Davidson and enormous F200 SUV while he is spouting all about how the earth is going to hell in a hand basket because of humanities actions (apparently it is “do what I say…not what I do” in this man’s case or perhaps he has bought some trees in Guatemala and is therefore allowed to produce as much carbon dioxide as he wants…hmm) this is a really informative documentary and no doubt it will spur you on (like me) to continue saving your bottles (I have 2 wheelbarrows full already), aluminium cans (NOT aluminum…) and heck…after watching the poor sods try to remove some of that hard baked New Mexican soil to fill their tyres I feel positively decadent about our rock filled clay bollocks soil! I feel a garden shed constructed out of tyres (on the property…dad was too tight to pay the $5 each to throw them out so we got them left to us along with Serendipity Farm), beer cans and Serendipity Clay. Who knows where this will end? Most probably with Steve in the mental asylum, but at least we will have lots of “Thermal Mass” in all sorts of unexpected places on Serendipity Farm… Might have to rename it “Earthship Farm”! Here’s that link…

http://permaculturepower.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/garbage-warrior-full-length-documentary/

I think this post is going to be gargantuan. I have SO much to share! I went hunting on some of my friends Facebook pages to see if they were all doing well (as none of them post regularly and I just wanted to see if they were doing alright) and on Florida’s page I found a link to a “Britain’s got talent” entrant called Jonathan Antoine. This 17 year old boy was wearing a Jimi Hendrix tee-shirt, a pair of track pants and had long curly hair and was very large. The girl that accompanied him was very pretty and well dressed. As they came out onto the stage you could see Simon Cowell (the chief judge) mouth to the judge sitting next to him “and you didn’t think it could get worse”…You could feel the lack of interest and disdain dripping from every word that Simon uttered and it was almost as if he wanted the act over and done with before it started. “Do you think that you can win?” he asked them somewhat incredulously and only the girl answered. The boy fumbled a little bit at the beginning of the song and started a teeny bit early but after glancing at the girl they started to sing and it was the most amazing sensation to be listening to someone who at 17 rivalled Pavarotti. This kid, shy, grossly overweight and bullied who had suffered a nervous breakdown and was no longer able to go to school thanks to “normal society” and its need to be perfect, wiped the floor (and Simon Cowells gaping maw) and had everyone giving him a standing ovation. Simon had to eat his words (once he found them again) and admitted that they were listening to a future star. Thank you so much Florida for sharing that with me. Now we just have to hope that “normal society” don’t stuff this amazingly talented kid up by “grooming” him to within an inch of his life and turning him into a money making machine to his detriment. If you haven’t watched this amazing performance I urge you to check it out here.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kt3Utn4mjeg

Awesome eh? Good luck Jonathan, although with that incredible natural talent I doubt that you are going to need it!

Look at this lovely little Cercis canadensis (Judas Tree) that we discovered hiding underneath a mountain of blackberries alongside the driveway. We also found a lovely weeping camellia, lots and LOTS of weird and wonderful bulbs all in the first flushes of growing and all sorts of foundation plants just waiting to be given a helping hand after we weeded all of the invasive species from over the top of them.

Can you see that nice camellia to the right of this picture? Can you see the Clivea miniata? Nope?…neither could we till we liberated them from underneath this mass of blackberries  and (I am guessing) Brachycome Iberidifolia or Swan river daisies that have taken over every available bit of space that the Erigeron karvinskianus (seaside daisies) have left vacant. We also discovered under this mass a Daphne odora, a dead specimen of Cistus ladaniferus and an almost alive one that I don’t know why I am mentioning because in my frenzied secateur offensive I clipped off the only piece of shrub that remained alive…sigh…

Here we have a wider shot of this area. It’s cram packed full of blackberries and Vinca major (Periwinkle) and any other invasive species that could take advantage of 20 years of freedom to explore their natural surrounds.

This shot was taken just around the corner from the last shot and shows that this area is indeed somewhat overgrown and in serious need of attention by two penniless horticultural student hippies who have been avoiding this mess like the plague! Can you see 2 specimens of Brachychiton populneus in this shot? Neither can I and I know they are in there!

There one is! These poor sorry suffering specimens of Brachychiton populneus have done their level best to survive in less than sterling conditions for a very long time. One of them is stunted and on its last legs and the other is weeping sap at an alarming rate. Even though we have cleared out under them and have given them back their sunlight we severely doubt that they will make it. We have been growing Brachychiton populneus from some locally sourced seed for a few years now and we can replace them should they die, but I feel an incredible camaraderie with all of the long suffering plants that survived their 20 years in the wilderness with my horticulturally challenged dad and to arrive where they are now and die is incredibly sad to me

We are always accompanied by our feathered friends whenever we venture out into the garden in any capacity. Here, we have Big Yin and his girls clearing an area of newly exposed insect life and injecting their own special brand of highly nitrogenous fertiliser onto this poor denuded soil.

Remember what this area looked like only a few hours prior to Steve and I launching our offensive? Go back a few photos and check again… After a bums up, secateurs flying, whipper snipping marathon that ended with us sitting on the deck being slobbered on with impunity by happy pooches because we were too tired to defend ourselves. The sense of accomplishment is what is keeping this old hippy chick going and it would seem that hard work and great results are somewhat addictive…you are going to be seeing some interesting things happening on Serendipity Farm, fueled by some newly invigorated hope filled land carers :o)

We have been laying low like Brer Rabbit around here for a while. It’s lucky we have only just started on the briar patches in that case isn’t it? Steve and I spent Wednesday and Thursday of this week totally changing our aspect. We have been collecting wood, removing blackberries from the poor long suffering plants along the driveway and generally skirting all around the outside of having to deal with the massive problem of the overtaking blackberries. We have been working really hard and over the last 2 days we most certainly effected change! We started in the enormous conifer on the driveway and removed a massive clump of wild briar roses that had been growing there for as long as I had known this place (2004) and got stuck into removing the weedy species from the garden next to the conifer. We fully intended on “bumbling around” which is our way of saying “taking it easy” for the day as we had really done a lot of work the week before and were just going to work to rule for a few days to recover. In the end we did a solid days work and totally changed this area. We had to remodel a tall thin conifer that now looks somewhat like a weird helter skelter lollypop but we can plant things underneath it and make it look less like something out of Dr Seuss. We then decided to tackle an area of the garden that I doubt dad had ever bothered to deal with. It was absolutely cram packed full of blackberries, Periwinkle, dead shrubs and trees and a massive tangle of dodder (a native mistletoe species) that was threatening to take over the entire area. In the process we found a nest with 4 eggs in it. Speckled Bob (one of our original hens) had been felled out of her last nest by Steve dropping a tree right where she used to lay her eggs and had only just made this nest and it was plundered. We know it was Bob because she headed straight to the nest and looked into it to check her eggs were still there thus allowing us to spot the culprit! Steve pruned the trees in the area and crown lifted as we proceeded and I waded in with my trusty secateurs and dealt with the blackberry invasion. They were none too happy with my efforts and despite vanquishing my arch nemesis (for now…) I am covered in blackberry bites…so much so that the mosquitoes left me alone last night as they couldn’t find a bit of me that hadn’t already been punctured.

It’s Good Friday today as I type out this bit of my post and last night, after working hard in the garden and being almost incapable of moving due to extreme fatigue, I set myself the task of making hot cross buns for the occasion. We don’t like shop bought hot cross buns. They always let you down by being stale and tasteless and so last year we made our own. Mum was here at the time and we set about making what ended up being stodgy and heavy buns that although Steve and mum ate them stoically, I just knew that they were being polite when they muttered encouraging words about them. As someone who earned her living from cooking before we moved here I figured I could do better and so last night, scratched, knackered and resilient I set about melding 2 recipes that I had found to make 1 successful recipe and hopefully at least a few buns that would be edible and in fact, tasty, today. I made the dough and set it to prove and then noticed that the buns took 12 hours to rise! It was 6pm at the time and so I decided to form the buns into their bunescent shape, put them onto a buttered baking tray and after buttering the tops of the buns, slid the entire kit and caboodle into a massive big black garbage bag (sans garbage) and shoved them into the fridge till today. I got up early this morning and removed the bag of buns from the fridge and put it up on the bread warmer to sit while we walked the dogs. When we got back I made up the cross mix and did my best to put the crosses on and we then cooked them on the bbq (our old work-horse oven that we used for a year when we first moved here and the stove was broken). Steve, and the dogs, pronounced them delicious and light and fruity and full of flavour which made me very happy. Sorry I couldn’t give you light fluffy hot cross buns when you were here mum but I dare say you are smiling wherever you are that I at least got to make 1 batch well :o)

Here we have our newly crossed buns after they emerged from their enormous black garbage bag to be baked in the outside bbq because it was early and we couldn’t be bothered lighting the fire…

Here they are, fresh out of the bbq (oven?) and glazed with a tasty mix of brown sugar and jam melted in a saucepan (Simon Rimmer style)

The proof is in the eating and these babies were delicious! Full of cinnamon, ground ginger, cardamom and ground cloves (who would remember to buy mixed spice when it was coming up to Easter?) they were a very interesting mix of whatever “sweet spice” I had in the cupboard. Steve had some toasted today and apart from me forgetting a batch and setting off the fire alarm they were, apparently, delicious!

We walked the dogs in Beaconsfield the other day and I collected a lot of fallen walnuts from a Juglans regia tree. My motto is “Waste not want not” and as no-one was collecting these fallen nuts I decided to take avail of their tasty neglect and they are now stratifying in peat in the shed ready to spring to life (hopefully) in spring. I also collected some lovely ripe figs that I had for my lunch later on. Nothing like figs picked perfectly ripe from the tree to make you know the full meaning of happiness. I had to wonder if the pairing for figs and walnuts was merely a culinary thing as they are both ripe at the same time so that would make them seasonally available at the same time as well. I managed to collect some more walnuts (also regia) from another tree on our walk around Bonnie Beach yesterday so we have a decent representation of local specimens of walnut so hopefully choosing nuts from trees growing well in the local area I will get a good germination rate and they will be adapted to the local growing conditions. We also collected some Washington Hawthorn berries to stratify and grow as well. They have really beautiful autumn colouration and edible berries and massive thorns making them a really good choice for using for hedging around Serendipity Farm. The native birds will love them for habitat and for food. The specimen that we got the seed grew from seed spread by birds so it shouldn’t be all that hard to get ours to grow. We can also take cuttings (hard and semi-ripe) in winter and summer respectively. With our hard work in the garden, Steve and I are both starting to get a bit of hope that we can make this garden ours.

I celebrate Easter in my own way. Steve was looking up why Easter is at different times every year. This came about because Easter fell on April 24th last year and this year it is April 8th…that is quite a variance! It turns out it is to do with the Vernal (lunar) equinox and that it is all about plastering religious ceremonies over the top of pagan ceremonies. Easter, Eostre, oestrus Esther and symbolic fertility all linked to the moon and tangled into each other in a melding of religious beliefs. I actually believe that Jesus died for humanity. I also believe that he rose from the dead. That is about where my actual beliefs veer massively from those of most common religious teachings. My dad was an atheist and mum was “Church of England” whatever that meant to mum I don’t know as we were never privy to her understanding of “church” in any way other than a vague need to adhere to it’s guidelines. My aunty used to drop by and pick my sister and I up to take us to Sunday school and we both fell into attending church. We had some interesting times and far from falling away from God, he has always been part of my life. I look back on my earlier understanding and cringe. Church isn’t where God is, he is everywhere and in everything. I once explained my concept of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit to my daughters. I need to explain here that none of my children are mindless vacuous shallow creatures and every single one of them has an excellent brain that they occasionally use when promoted. They all have some very interesting ideas about “things” in general and after I explained my concept my 2 girls both told me that I was mad and most probably would be stoned by the members of the Auld Kirk church for my beliefs. I guess my children are not the only unconventional thinkers in our family! I don’t think it’s all that hard to digest, but it has taken me a fair while to arrive at this point and I have had to sift through a fair amount of life and literature to get to where I am happy to be. Whatever you believe let Easter be a time of contemplation, gratefulness and thankfulness for your life and everything that you have and are.

We left Earl and Bezial on the deck watching us as we worked in the garden. Earl likes to keep us guessing and has a most chaotic way of acting so that he just lures us into thinking that he is a “good dog” and suddenly he strikes like a canine viper. Earl mastered table jumping at an Olympic level not so long ago and so we really should have been more sensible leaving things on the table when we headed out to work in the garden for hours on end. Steve headed up to the house yesterday to get us a cold drink and noticed Earl eating something on the floor. Earl was halfway through chewing and digesting his large leather collar that we had bought from a man at the markets especially for him. He had eaten past the tightest hole on his “Shackles of oppression” and there was no point in attempting to remove the collar from him as he had done his worst with it and rendered it useless. Earl is going to have to wear a large black heavily studded collar that we used to have for Bezial until we realised the effect that it had on passers-by when we walked him. Earl had not only eaten his Shackles of oppression, but he had sampled a walnut (only 1) and found it lacking. He had selected a walnut, cracked it and had a taste of the nut and the remains were left on the rug under the table which is where Earl strews his spoils of war (and their remains). I guess we were very lucky that he didn’t decide to eat Steve’s new mobile phone, but perhaps he was warming up to tackling it. Luckily we will never know because Steve arrived to stop him from sampling anything else on the table.

I have been doing online surveys for a few years now. I started off with 1 group in answer to a referral from my son (for which he got 200 points) and just kept going. I am now doing surveys for 4 survey groups and have received $170 up until now for my efforts. I just got $140 of gift cards in the mail from one of my survey groups and have $130 to be claimed in another group. It’s actually good to be able to have a say in consumer goods manufacture and make my opinion heard whilst gaining some kind of reward for my efforts. I am going to stop dealing with one group because they make it incredibly hard to claim rewards whereas the other groups are much easier to deal with. Here’s a shot of my latest haul and also of what I am going to spend $100 (the Bunning’s vouchers) on.

Here’s my “winnings” from my reward surveys

And we are going to buy one of these D.I.Y. 3 spotlights for the lounge room with the Bunnings cards. Gotta love the barter system eh? I give them every tiny little bit of information about myself including my underpants size and they give me a loungeroom light a win-win situation!

I had to pay the library $1 for an overdue book on Wednesday. I hate forgetting to take library books back to the library and incurring fees and most begrudgingly paid the library the money in 5c pieces. It’s MY protest and I can be as petty as I like thank you very much! I picked up my next book from Mary Anne Schaffer’s list and it is going to be a doozie of a book to read by the look of it. It is called “Covenant with Death” by John Harris and is “the tremendous story that traces the fate of one battalion of men from the time they obeyed Kitchener’s pointing finger until the morning they ‘climbed over the top’ to meet their baptism of fire – and death”. Ok, so that is pretty intense isn’t it! I am a sooky la-la (thanks for that Kym, it suits me down to the ground :o) when it comes to things like that and couldn’t bring myself to watch the final episode of Black Adder thanks to it being about just this topic. I took back my copy of “Under the Tuscan Sun” due to its boring, shallow and most uninspiring of content even though I had been waiting for it for months and ended up coercing the librarian into ordering the large print copy for me. Nothing is worse than anticipating a great read and being sorely let down. I am still waiting on Flaubert’s parrot to arrive. I was assured by T.A.L.I.S. (online library site) that it was “in transit” on Tuesday which meant that it should have been there on Wednesday to pick up but it wasn’t so I guess I am meant to read “Covenant with Death” at this point in time. How coincidental that I am to read this just before ANZAC Day eh? I am obviously meant to be digesting this book while I remember the lives that were senselessly lost to humanities need to elevate themselves to a position of power above the masses. What a total waste of life that we most certainly didn’t learn enough from. I am really starting to get a feeling for what made Mary Anne Schaffer tick and what moved her and filled her with compassion and the desire to put pen to paper. Each one of these “favourite books” that I read gives me a little taste of what she felt when she read them. Apart from 1 shameless romance novel and one that I can’t get because it isn’t in the library thanks to being banned because it explained how to make a bomb, the majority of books on her list are soul feeding comfort food that are leaving an indelible mark on me as much as they apparently did on her. My favourite to date has been Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. I loved this book and I loved how it was written and can’t wait to get stuck into my secondary list (other books by the authors that I enjoyed from the initial list…I LOVE my lists ;o) when I can read the rest of Louis de Bernieres no doubt wonderful books. If you like to read,  this man is a true story teller.

We have been “Flat out like a lizard drinking” (a little tip of my hat to our Forefathers colloquialisms… in fact forget forefathers, my father was a great one for colloquialisms “stone the crows!”…”Stiffen the bandicoots!”) This week and I have had to really drag myself tiredly to the computer to tap out these faint pathetic utterings this week. So tired…so little sleep thanks to Earl shoving us off the bed most nights and acting as a thermo-nuclear heat device. We have done so much this week that I can’t even begin to fathom it all and I love it! I haven’t had time to miss sitting about doing nothing because we have been busy cleaning out forgotten corners of Serendipity Farm and tackling the big issues rather than sliding them under the mat for another year. We have actually effected change this week and I am so very proud of we two penniless hippies for our dedication in crawling out of bed each morning to walk the dogs and iron out our spines as we walk from the day befores hard slog. Hard work is addictive. We had a day off and I wanted to get back outside and into changing our vista. We did heaps today as well but I am going to use what we did today to start next week’s blog. I don’t think I have room for any more photos do you? Have a fantastic week this week and remember not to sweat the small stuff that’s what we are doing so you may as well put your feet up and enjoy the sweat free ride!

To bee or not 2 bee gnat is the question

Hi All,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fibonacci numbers or proof that God exists

Hi All,

I get regular updates of posts from a site called Permaculture Power. Now that I am not only researching about Permaculture for my own personal interest but actively using it for our Diploma studies this blog has become an even more valuable resource to me. I decided to go for a bit of a look-see of some past posts and ended up finding some information about Fibonacci numbers. Nature is cram packed full of them and most of our seeds, flowers, trees and just about EVERYTHING has series of them. If you want to know what a Fibonacci number is (my head is STILL hurting from watching the videos that I am going to share with you but maths has always been foreign to my brain…) check it out here

http://www.maths.surrey.ac.uk/hosted-sites/R.Knott/Fibonacci/fibnat.html

Or here (which is a prettier site with more pictures)…

http://britton.disted.camosun.bc.ca/fibslide/jbfibslide.htm

And here are the videos made by what looks like a 15 year old mathematical girl genius who is hell bent on making me insane…

http://permaculturepower.wordpress.com/2012/01/13/nature-by-numbers/

(Yes…that comment that says “my head hurts” is me…). Math’s is an anathema to me. I don’t understand it and even when it is carefully explained to me it seems to spill out of my head like stormwater running off into the Tamar. I can’t retain mathematical concepts and while the Fibonacci number series thingo impresses the heck out of me and makes the hair stick up on the back of my inner neck where incredible truths hit home…I just know that the thing that the girl said about the angle of 137.5 (Or “Phi” angle) is one of the most important things that I really should know and that thing about “Irrational numbers” is also very important I just know that the minute I get up from here to go make a cup of tea or head off to feed the dogs it is going to slosh out of my brain so I am documenting it here for posterity, your education and ultimately for me to find again. I figured that because everything has these numbers and angles that our random existence can finally be squashed and all of you atheist’s, non-believers and nay sayers can just get over yourselves and finally see that there had to be an ultimate creator to get these amazing number sequences over…and over…and over…and over again. If you don’t believe in an ultimate creator, that is your choice…me…I am no fool and when I am constantly being made aware of these repetitive patterns, natures constant desire to reach equilibrium and cycles in all walks of life that revolve around order I find it mind blowing to note that people are out there toting chaos theories and that we arrived at this point from a random chaos event. Check out fractals and you know what? Chaos is striving to achieve order…I REST MY CASE. Perhaps I am being too simplistic there but you know what? It is really easy to complicate everything and bamboozle people and get them to agree with you because they really don’t understand a word of what you are saying and don’t want to appear numnuts, but if you postulate something simply THEN you are really open to people understanding what you have said and challenging your theorem. Fractals + Fibonacci = God. Nice and simple and my meaning of life… (I wonder if 42 is a Fibonacci number?)

Just quickly, I went hunting and found out that the girl that made those videos has her own site and it is mind blowing involving maths, music and all sorts of cool mathematical things and I, for one, am going to be bookmarking this site to revisit in small bites so that my head doesn’t explode. It is like sucking on a sore tooth…you just KNOW that it is going to hurt like heck but you still can’t help doing it…

http://vihart.com/

This was the foggy sunrise that we got this morning. I love watching the fog roll down the river (and then back to the sea)

On our way to walking the dogs in Gravelly Beach (it was hot today) I spotted this lovely garden almost completely consisting of conifers. The owner had no problem with me posting photos of her garden so take a look…I think its lovely

Nice use of buxus all over the place to tie all of the conifers in as well as the mulch

I wouldn’t have all that grass but it takes all kinds to make a world

This little courtyard has a real Mexican or Spanish look to it and the structured formality of the conifers, buxus and dry stone walls help the image

I really like this garden. It makes a statement.

The world is a very small pace thanks to technology. Not 50 years ago each country had a physical presence of its own in the scheme of things. Without the internet you had to send letters and parcels to your relatives and friends in other countries and I remember sending letters to a distant relative in the U.K. when I was a girl. Now we are all interconnected. If we want to find out something we no longer have to wait for a letter and with Skype we can talk to relatives in real time as well as using webcam’s. An email travels incredibly fast for free and we have become so very used to being able to keep in touch and make contact with people on the other side of the earth that we take it for granted now. I sit here in Tasmania Australia at the derrière of the world typing posts that are read in the U.S.A., Canada, the U.K. and various other countries that I haven’t ever set foot on, let alone thought much about. How small is this earth of ours now when a total stranger can sit down with a cup of tea and we can share a brief moment in time together with the probability that we will never meet. One really good thing about making the world a smaller place is that it is so much more difficult to hide things now. Governments can’t lie about what is going on and news of atrocities and civil unrest are beamed around the world as they happen thanks to youtube and Facebook and various other social sites. We can connect with people that think like us. We might not have ever had the chance to form large communities online that hold similar values, ethics and beliefs but now we are able to share a wealth of information and make the world a richer place in the giving. I love the internet as it stands at the moment. I love how I can find things out for the cost of my small monthly payment to my internet provider. I love how I can isolate and access an incredible wealth of information from all over the world and store it for later use. To me, the internet has opened up a whole new world of possibilities and windows of opportunity and as a quintessential magpie for knowledge and information I am swooping in and carrying away as much as I can to feather my nest for a rainy day. I really hope that “The Cloud” doesn’t eventuate. I have a sneaking suspicion that there are secret deals being done with entire governments as we speak but that makes me sound a bit like a loopy survivalist and despite me being suspicious of the motives of any big business or government, I haven’t quite sunk to the need to hoard and lose faith in society quite yet. I prefer to remain optimistic about our chances because the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.

This photo was taken in Beaconsfield at the mine museum. This is for all of my subscribers and readers who are Certificate 3 students who can’t for the life of them find Ageratum houstonianum (like we couldn’t).

Lots of flowers Harvey…that would be 1 less than 80 plants to collect…let us know if you want us to get you some when we are next there

That’s why I want to learn about sustainability. Not to hoard my cabbages and set up electric fortresses around Serendipity Farm but because I want to engage with other like-minded people and see what we can’t do when we put our minds and our efforts together to create a new sense of importance about local communities and how they are going to become so much more important as our resources start to run out. I get so excited when I read about entire communities saving up and purchasing wind turbines that will power their entire community. I love reading about finding alternative ways to get what you want, often bypassing the need for money at all. It gives me hope that with the shared power of knowledge and a sustainable based plan that the world might be able to get back on track albeit a changed direction, and that humanity will adapt to this total change of mind set. We can’t keep using resources like we have been. Steve, our lecturer and I were talking the other day about what might happen should governments decide to ignore the warning signs and carry on regardless and these non-renewable resources start to run out…we most probably won’t be around to see that happen but as our lecturer said “It would be chaos and devastation and a fair proportion of the world’s population would die”. It doesn’t have to be like that. We already have the knowledge and understanding to facilitate change…it’s just no-one has worked out how to make a profit out of it yet. Consumerism is the reason for everything that is happening to us and first we need to dismantle the power of the media and the middle men in society. We also need to remove the power of supermarkets and start funding some sort of system for primary producers to sell their produce direct to the public. I realise that I am no marketing executive but for too long we have allowed people who are solely profit based to make our decisions for us regarding our future. Society can’t carry on as it is and it will be most interesting to see how it changes to facilitate the necessary changes. I would imagine they won’t go quietly…

This looks a whole lot like a possum but it’s actually one of the feral cats getting a drink from the bird bath…take note birds!

Steve and I got heartily sick of EVERYONE with a horticultural blog of any kind (ESPECIALLY sustainable blogs) using that little picture of a small green plant in soil in a pair of hands. We know that someone out there is hunting scalps and that one day that little picture is going to net some copyright troll a whole lot of moola but you know what? Bring it on troll! We made our own picture…

It’s actually Sunday when I am typing this post. I am very thoughtful today and since adding a few tags and changing when I post I have noticed that Serendipity Farm is starting to go global. That is why I have been talking about distance, technology and change. We are all in this together. I might not know you personally but we all live on this blue planet together. We all have the same basic needs and no matter what colour, creed or nationality we are we have a common bond in our humanity and everything that we do as nations, countries, communities and individuals does make a difference. It is so easy to put everything in the “too hard” basket. It’s not easy to make changes and looking at the big picture you might be forgiven for having a panic attack and needing a large supply of brown paper bags to hide in and breathe deeply. We can all do something, no matter how poor we are or how small our living space is. I think what has deeply wounded society more than anything is fragmentation and disassociation of individuals and communities. Most of us live in enormous cities surrounded by a seething mass of commerce and humanity but how many people do we really know? How can you get a sense of purpose and direction when life seems to be streaking past you faster than you can keep pace with and consumerism has an incredibly short lifespan… what is going to happen when this all has to stop? Where is that going to leave each one of us and how are we going to adapt to living a sustainable life? That’s why we are trying to learn all that we can and implement as much as we can here on our little 4 acres of “home”. I have gone from idealistic misty eyed visions of a life spent with a lovely reed basket (most probably made by “me”) filled with eggs wandering between scented meadow flowers watching the bumble bees with the dappled sunlight on my face as I look out over the beautiful Tamar River to sometimes having to drag my sorry ass out of bed before dawn has even woken up, being dragged around the dusty back roads of Sidmouth by overenthusiastic dogs and returning to an ever lengthening list of “chores” that seem to be growing exponentially each time we try to affect any sort of change on Serendipity Farm. My confidence in my own abilities has taken a severe dent to it’s bumper as I try to work out how to deal with not being able to dig in the soil (too many rocks), living on the side of a steeply sloped block (the water runs straight down and out into the Tamar) and coping with the most amazingly over-run tangle of weeds that I could have imagined and sometimes being so shell-shocked that I just didn’t have the will to even head outside because I would see the huge piles of debris generated by any sort of effort to clear the place up. Country life isn’t idyllic people. I occasionally buy Grassroots magazine, a fantastic publication for homesteaders in Australia produced sustainably and by a little home printing press and an icon of the Australian green movement. I love this magazine because it links people with very little money (as most of us are these days) with other people to barter goods, services and anything else that you can possibly imagine and people help each other through the question and answer pages, letters sent in with “How do I do this?” and Answers in the next edition and it feels like an amazingly homespun community that is all held together by a family working to facilitate this priceless magazine. That’s what got me thinking about communities. Online communities, communities that we live in, communities of likeminded people all over the world getting together and sharing what they know, how they do things and how to get the best results for whatever they are doing. Grassroots magazine tries to take the rose coloured glasses from people’s eyes about life in the country and homesteading. It is far from easy. It isn’t sitting about on hay bales around lovely crackling fires in the winter time roasting marshmallows but that can be part of it. Mr. Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall does no favours in portraying his countryside idyll as something next to perfect. It all looks so “marvelous darling” but in reality it is a very hard way to live. In saying that it gives you a sense of connectedness that you simply cannot get when living in the city and I dare say that is why so many people harbour a secret closet desire to move out to the country.

Its most definately a cat’s life on Serendipity Farm

Jacko is one of our feral cats and spends most of his days laying like this on the driveway underneath the deck. Not a bad life I guess and he seems to be enjoying it

Now that Serendipity Farm has gone global, I would like to inform you all about a little known fact about Australia that you might never have known. We make AMAZING chocolate biscuits called “Tim-tams”. Forget shrimps on the Barbie and crocodile Dundee, we Aussies are not like that. We are laid back and humorous people because you have to be when you live in a country that contains so many poisonous things that are all out to kill you and that was founded on Irish convict labour. I get the feeling that the rest of the world sees us as harmless larrikins who inhabit the pubs of the world as waiters, cooks and travelling backpackers and our image is of youth, excitement, adventure and a reckless abandon for our own lives. We don’t take ourselves very seriously and tend to put people down who think of themselves as better than anyone else. In fact we actively “take the piss out of them”. Forget a class system…that is what sent our forefathers here in the first place! We most CERTAINLY don’t want that to take affect here and we would like to remain relatively free of guns and antiballistic missiles please. We have a sense of humour that sometimes goes over the rest of the world’s heads and that comes from deprivation and hardship that would only be understood by other wandering pioneers of desert wasteland. Australia is not an easy place to tame. It was here before humanity and I dare say it will be here after the last man drops and so we Aussies have learned to adapt, overcome and cling on tenaciously to our little dry arid rocky clump of desert in the junction of the Southern, Pacific and Indian oceans. Our laconic good humour makes us appear to be harmless but our tenacity is boundless and when you come from a hard place you most certainly know how to carry on. It’s built into us and is part of our ethos and I am proud to be adapting my heritage to the task at hand here on Serendipity Farm. I wonder why I occasionally get these sorts of posts flowing out of me. No idea really but they are quite cathartic! I will try to keep them to a minimum but I can’t promise anything. My muse is no delicate fairy, she is made of sterner stuff and swears like a trouper, she can drink you under the table and she is just waiting for someone to make the first move before she jumps right into the thick of it. You see I can’t help these posts…See you all tomorrow when it is back to work as usual on Serendipity Farm…it’s just funny that we did more work on Labour Day than we have all week?