Looks like a plan

I know that I have asked you to indulge me a bit over the last few weeks with posting links to other people’s posts. I swore that I wasn’t going to do any more re-posting but then Steve found this today and I just HAD to share it. This is where the cutting edge of necessity meets the determination of the poor…THAT is where true creativity lives . I LOVE this. Steve is off into the recycling bin to make himself a land fill-harmonic guitar and I am going to recycle this years hot water bottle and some old irrigation pipe into bagpipes…

 

http://www.upworthy.com/watch-the-first-54-seconds-that-s-all-i-ask-you-ll-be-hooked-after-that-i-swear?g=2

 

Thank you for indulging me. If you head to that link you will see why I feel extremely grateful and thankful this morning 🙂 Hugs to you all 🙂

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When chaos comes to town

Hi All,

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

Sketti Doritos

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

Tamar NRM Bush Tucker Gardening Workshop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Preparing the fruit to be washed ready to turn into jam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Steve using a romantic fuzzy halo around his Monte Carlos

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

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

Anzac Day lest I forgot

Hi All,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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