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…

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The Mis en Place of life

Hi All,

This is post number 3 that I have up my sleeve…what a luxury! I have been guilty of only having about a quarter of a post ready to post on the day that I am due to post it. Not only that, but I have also been guilty of realising that the day got away from me and that I have 1 hour to post…as a natural processes person I take great delight in the deliciousness of order and progression and I try to do as many things as I can to smooth the way through our days. I love prep. I love to get things ready and sort things out and am a maestro of mis en place when it comes to recipes. I learned it the hard way and getting everything that you need ready before you start something is a wise lesson to learn. Another wise lesson is to clean up your previous mess before you start a new task. My grandmother always pushed “Clean up as you go along” as her mantra. It stuck. I hate a great pile of dishes to do after I cook so as I cook I wash dishes and wipe them at the same time. At the end of the process there may be some dinner dishes to do but not many. I hate waking up to dishes, or a messy kitchen. It’s a new day after all and a new day deserves a clean start. I know that some of my processes annoy Steve. I can only imagine what his flat in the U.K. looked like but I have a good idea ;). Steve lived on his own and was able to drag a doona out to the couch whilst watching television. He could leave his guitar and amp in the lounge room where it would remain (un-chewed by Earl) until he felt like playing it next. He could dump his clothes on the floor until he ran out of them and could head down to the Laundromat just around the corner to throw a load of washing into the machine and the pace of his life was completely centred on his own processes. We have been together for 14 years now (16 if you count the 2 years we spent in an extremely long distance online relationship) and he still doesn’t get why he can’t just throw his clothes on the floor by the bed when he wants to sleep…”it’s not like I am dropping them in the lounge is it?”…but for once, Earl is coming to my rescue. Earl has started to invade Steve’s deftly dropped clothing…I have an early morning disclaimer here…I did NOT train Earl to demolish any of Steve’s carelessly dumped items…he learned how to do it all by himself! ;). Earl has started pulling things out of Steve’s pockets. Steve really only has himself to blame because he leaves bags of dog treats in his pockets and Earl is always ready to find food. Earl is also ready to extract anything else out of pockets that have been carelessly left at Earl’s beak level and he is VERY good at it. Steve wakes up to find chewed up sweet wrappers (minus the sweets 😉 ), dog poo bags that have been deftly rendered useless (Earl has a problem with us picking up his deposits…he deposited them for a reason and is annoyed and somewhat disgusted that we pick them up after he carefully places them at the topmost point of grass clumps and bushes and low walls…) and obviously the dog treats disappear (that goes without saying) and Steve has a habit of cramming his pockets with all sorts of bits and pieces and Earl has now taken to bypassing sticking his nose into Steve’s pockets and just chews right through till he gets what he wants to amuse him. You can’t blame Earl, you have to look squarely at the person dumping their clothes on the floor and you REALLY have to wonder why this person is STILL DOING IT AFTER EARL ATE HIS PANTS!…stubborn willfulness won’t put the ass back in your pants Steve 😉

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I LOVE having a post up my sleeve 🙂 Here is a photo up my sleeve to match the post up my sleeve. We think that this is some kind of funky ferry but whatever float-a-ma-jig it is, it’s most certainly interesting

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We took the dogs to the dog park today. We took a tennis ball and a rope ring and all the good intentions in the world. Earl tried to slip under the gate and run away and Bezial stood still for 15 minutes sniffing the same blade of grass for the entire time…After we got disgusted with them (the YOUTH OF TODAY!) we got back in the car and noticed this pretty picture so the effort wasn’t entirely wasted on our plebian dogs! 😉

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Check out the olde worlde last century chalk folks! I am getting school memories just looking at it 😉

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May as well stick with the boaty theme of this first set of photos and post a pic of the tug that zooms up and down the river. I say “zooms”, it actually “Chugs” very VERY loudly

Ok, fingers crossed…I am just about to turn the modem back on after a 20 minute hiatus. If it is stuffed we are going to have to head into town soon and get another one because our studies demand that we have an online connection. I will let it do its thing (blinky blinky green lights blinky blinky and a bit more blinking) for a while and will then test and see if I have the net back. This could change our plans for the day and we might have to take an emergency trip into the city to buy a new modem. I hope not, we are saving at the moment. We want to get ahead with our bills and save some money for emergencies and for when bills that are unexpected come in. Penniless student hippies live pretty close to the breadline…in fact; most of us live UNDER the breadline. We are not complaining, we choose this life and are prepared to bypass all sorts of wants and desires in order to keep living the way that we live BUT “The Man” demands a pound of flesh on a regular basis and we don’t have much choice but to pay at the moment. That means “money” and even though we don’t receive a lot of money as students (we get even less than people bumming around doing nothing on the dole) we are still able to save up and we found a plan that if we stick to it, we should arrive at the other end of it with a significant amount of savings for a “rainy day”. Like most other things in life I have a “better safe than sorry”. For a girl who rebelled against her grandmothers “tyrannical rule” on a constant basis, I think I am starting to turn into her! Those early lessons keep coming back “better safe than sorry”, “clean up as you go along”, “don’t put your shoes on the table or you will never be able…” (“Able” to what gran? I had 3 kids after loading up the table with shoes and your method of birth control SUCKS! 😉 )…all sorts of little wisdoms that annoyed the heck out of me when I was forced to comply but that keep coming back to me now as solid proof that my grandmother was a wise and wonderful soul. I didn’t appreciate you enough gran, you really knew your stuff! I think I might be like her…It has only taken me almost 50 years to admit that and she died last century (makes it sound like a lifetime ago doesn’t it? 😉 ). Time to test that connection… (Fingers crossed… 😉 ….

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Here’s the nectarine tree at my daughters house in town AFTER I spent 2 hours removing blackberries from it’s protective circle

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Here is the pile of blackberries removed and on a tarpaulin so that the rotten things don’t invade Poland and start growing from pieces. “Fool me ONCE!” 🙂

Well it looks like it’s either the modem has died or Google has decided to deposit one of Earls mighty dumps on my head for daring to use a tag in last night’s post called “Better than Google Reader” ;). Either way it’s just you and me this morning and those 300+ blog posts are just going to have to wait. I made a wonderful sourdough carrot cake last night. I have made it 2 times now and both times it was amazing. The funny thing about it is that the recipe states that the cake is “nothing special, just a wholesome cake to eat with a cup of tea”… I have never made a carrot cake (before this) that worked. My carrot cakes were always too moist and gluggy and the texture was wrong. This cake has consistently given excellent results and has Steve actually asking me to make it. I threw some ground ginger into the mix along with lots of cinnamon last night and Steve tasted it and pronounced it wonderful (even though he doesn’t like ginger and has NO idea it is in there 😉 ). I love experimenting with recipes and this one is a completely different recipe to the sourdough chocolate cake recipe that I have been baking. In last night’s version I cut the oil back to ½ cup and upped the amount of kefir (not actually called for in the recipe) and added 2 tsp of organic vanilla extract to the mix. I think the trick is in grating the carrots very finely and squeezing them out to get a dry pulp to add to the mix. Whatever the processes, the end results are stellar and my new go-to snacking cake for Steve to have with a coffee. The dogs love it as well and actually beg for it. I took my desire to offload the enormous quantity of mature kefir that I have been amassing of late to a new level. I used a cup and a half (I still have over 2 litres to use up) of very thick mature kefir (it looked like very thick sour cream or Greek yoghurt) in Steve’s quiche last night. I was prepared for a backlash because Steve is VERY suspicious of new things in his favourite recipes but he said that he couldn’t taste anything different and kefir has just elevated itself into a usable commodity on Serendipity Farm…”YIPEE!” I can now add it to all sorts of things with impunity :o). That means that if I want to make a creamy potato bake with bacon, capsicum, caramelised onions, garlic and cheese, I can opt out of paying for sour cream and can use copious quantities of kefir in its place. My little grains work overtime to produce this unctuous thick rich probiotic stuffed product and I owe it to them to use it in abundance. Unlike Jess (Rabid from www.rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com ) I don’t have 3 kefir loving mouths to consume my kefir as soon as the grains produce it and I have to think how I am going to use it. With Steve’s newfound acceptance I can use it with impunity and might even make some kefir icecream after I toss the icecream base into the freezer overnight. The amazing thing about kefir is that it doesn’t go off. It contains in excess of 60 different probiotics and seems to be able to ward off any other invaders so long as I keep it in the fridge it is fine. My stockpile is going to disappear rapidly now that I know I can use it and Steve won’t reject the results with suspicion.

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We decided to open up the computer desk to get maximum space today and ended up making room for a large pine box that we can store things in as well as dealing with the cables that were snaking out all over the place behind the P.C. and making a haven for dust. Much better 🙂

I think I need 10 points and maybe a factotum gold star for not hyperventilating about my inability to use the net today. My early mornings are actually tied up in online use and this morning I am sitting here in the dark tapping blog posts to my dear constant readers rather than expunge my readers exponentially increasing backlog of posts (just typing that made me think I need a paper bag!). I guess Steve is going to have to use his techy skills when he gets up. My instinct is to give it a whack but I will curb that instinct because technology and “bashing” tend to result in dollar signs ;). We have been working a bit ahead of our course because we finished and handed in all of our work early (can anyone say “big fat factotums!” 😉 ) and rather than sit here twiddling our thumbs we are working through our next unit. I know we aren’t meant to be doing this till next term and that we have an assessment that we have to complete on this Design unit but we haven’t been given it yet and so we will continue to work through our next unit on Photoshop. We are enjoying it immensely and are learning a lot about digital manipulation of images. Yesterday Steve was able to help my brother sort out a problem using what we have learned so far. My brother is going to attempt to sell some of his lovely photos at the local markets where he lives on the weekend. He has been paying a premium to print out A0 poster sized prints at the printers but couldn’t work out how to get more than 1 panorama on an A0 sheet and was only using ¼ of the sheet in the process. Steve sorted it out for him yesterday and now he can get 4 panoramas on an A0 sheet and is saving himself $90 a sheet. It’s great to be able to put what you are learning into practical use and help people at the same time.

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Looks like it’s gutter cleaning time again… 😦

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“Hmmm How did you get up that ladder eh?”

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“It certainly looks like a lot of fun…”

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“Ok, I recon I could handle it…”

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He didn’t manage to climb the ladder but Steve did along with his trusty muck bucket and blow-a-ma-jig

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Isn’t it funny how last year this was disgusting to me and this year I see it as a precious resource? It’s all a matter of how you look at things :). Notice that black “thing” (that’s about all it could still be called…) on the right hand side of the bucket? It is one of a pair of “black things” that Steve fished out of the gutter and then was able to identify as some of his socks that he obviously put up on the gutter in order to prevent Earl from predating them…the problem with that very clever idea sir, is that you forgot about them and they got blown into the gutter where they have been mouldering for the best part of 8 months 😉 Needless to say they now reside in the bin! That bucket was a “found thing” that we discovered on our walk discarded amongst the bushes today. It’s an old oil bucket that blew over from the Exeter Show recently and that Steve eagerly took receipt of and will be stowing in the Mumbly Cumumbus as his new bailing/fish bucket

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Apparently the roof is Steve’s domain and this mess blown down onto the deck is mine…funny how no-one talked about this “Domain” stuff prior to Steve heading up the ladder with his blow-a-ma-jig eh 😉

When we were at our graduation ceremony last week, we had a chat to Meg, the team leader of another course who was helping out on the night to take registrations and direct graduates in the right direction when they arrived at the ceremony. Meg is a wonderful generous person who works with disabled and indigenous people to teach them how to create horticultural spaces. She specialises in environmental science and is perfect for the job. She is eminently qualified and her caring nature makes her ideal for helping people to use what they have to facilitate positive changes in their lives and make the most of their situation. Meg loves Steve and I and we love her right back. I think Meg has romantic goggles on and thinks that it would be wonderful to work with your partner and study/learn together. That might be the case if you weren’t exact opposites and had NO idea how the other person can even function with brain/thought processes like that! Steve and I are slowly learning to adapt to each other’s processes but they are as foreign and alien to each other as to be bordering on crazy and as we both think that we are right in our own processes, it can sometimes be a difficult process in itself to unite and learn anything together. We have learned to break down the task into what Steve does best and what I do best. I research best…I type best…I am good at problem solving and Steve is technical and stubbornly keeps going till he works it out. Together we are formidable in both the French meaning of the word AND the English version ;). If we can’t get the net back today we are going to have to find a solution for this problem. Hopefully it is just the network and isn’t anything to do with our connection per-se but it’s been a long time since we had to phone up Dodo and try to wade through those Indian accents to get to someone who isn’t in automatic damage control and who insists that the problem doesn’t lie with them…let’s just hope that the problem can bypass the need to phone Dodo. I feel a headache brewing if it can’t…

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The meat and onions and garlic cooking for Steve’s “BEST EVER” chilli recipe just before the red wine goes in…

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Some of the other ingredients and the recipe. This chilli is truly unctuous and gorgeous and we haven’t met anyone who doesn’t like it yet. We used to make this in HUGE vats when we volunteered at the local Salvation Army kitchen to help feed the homeless. Steve’s chilli is still talked about long after we stopped working there (and they have probably forgotten who we are but that chilli speaks for itself 🙂 ). We will make you some when you come Kymmy 🙂

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Not the greatest photo but this chilli bubbles away to an unctuous thick delicious flavoursome pot of heaven and served with some steamed rice and some oven wedges (home made of course) it will be Steve’s happiness tonight 🙂

It is 6.10am and I have managed to write 3 posts all bordering on the gargantuan this morning. I could keep typing posts but I fear they would be obsolete before I posted them! So I am not too sure what I am going to do now with the next hour before I wake Steve with a cup of coffee and wait 30 minutes while he wakes up slowly before I dump the problem with the net on him. I have lots of things that I can do today that don’t involve the net. We have the lizard piles of wood to collect up (and maybe a lizard rescue might be on the cards) and deposit under the deck and out of the weather (should “the weather” ever decide to come that is 😉 ), I have plans to use as much of my kefir in cooking today as I can. I need my fridge back! Kefir and sourdough starters don’t mix well. I only found out the other day that kefir makes a perfectly good starter all by itself! I didn’t realise that kefir has lots of yeast and that it can be used to raise a loaf of bread and might test it out one day. I know that when I add it to sourdough cakes in place of milk, the cakes always rise well and have an excellent flavour so perhaps I can take advantage of this in some of my recipes. I want to get hold of some water kefir grains in the near future and will be converting half of Kid Creole’s coconuts into true coconut milk loving babies. If they die I will just keep trying to convert more as Kid produces them. He seems content to repopulate the earth with his progeny at the moment so that isn’t an issue. I have been researching and it is entirely possible to convert kefir milk grains to coconut milk grains or soymilk grains… it just takes persistence and a slow progression. I make my own coconut milk (out of coconuts…what a coincidence! 😉 ) and as such, I end up with coconut water as part of the equation. I would like to use it productively to make water kefir and so I might have to send a quick missive with accompanying moola off to Dom in South Australia to avail myself of some of his amazing water kefir grains. I want to experiment with various juices (including the über sweet carrot juice I squeeze from the carrots that I use to make Steve’s sourdough carrot cake staple) and fermenting them.

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On one side we have Steves oven wedges marinating in olive oil, chilli, pepper and salt and ready to go onto the bbq after the dessert on the other side is cooked

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This is the way that I cook apples now. I prefer it to using water or juice. I thinly slice the apples and fry them gently in butter, cinnamon, mixed spice and a tsp of organic vanilla extract till they are tender and then I add 1/2 cup of sugar (you could use rapadura or coconut sugar or honey or whatever you like here) and after a few minutes cooking in the resulting syrup I remove the apples and reduce the syrup to a thick caramel that I then pour over the apples. The results are superb and so far removed from apples stewed in water they could hardly be considered the same thing. I call them my “toffee apples” and use them as a base for my crumbles and for tonights dessert which will be covered in a light vanilla sponge and served with custard. Steve has earned his chilli and dessert tonight with his antics on the roof 🙂

I have been stretching out my posts in order to ignore having to deal with the fact that the modem is not working properly. It might be something to do with the weather (although I am bordering on my mother’s steadfast desire to cling to superstition there! Whoa neddy! 😉 ) but my guess is that our network is down and that an unmarked white van will turn up at the little wooden box up the road that is ostensibly Telstra’s and that Dodo has to share with them and will do a bit of fiddling around and hopefully the problem will be solved. I dare say you will know if we get back online by the presence or absence of posts ;). I am going to leave it there for today folks. It’s now 6.21am and the rubbish truck just took our rubbish and soon the recycling truck will be rumbling past to collect our recycling as well. It is still dark but I can spend the next 30 minutes getting ahead of my processes thus allowing us to launch into our day a bit earlier than we normally would. I hope you all have a wonderful day and weekend ahead of you and that you are able to spend some quality time doing what you truly love to do. See you all on Saturday  :o)

A new pope is elected on Serendipity Farm and this one is for Bev…

Hi All,

This is going to be a first…more pictures than words! I decided that it was a lovely rainy day and that we would celebrate by taking photo’s of our morning and our processes to celebrate the very first lighting of Brunhilda this autumn…

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Saturday is cleaning day…you can see the dogs are delighted…

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Steve just cleaned the loungeroom and the boys just put their seal of approval (or is that disapproval?) on it…

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Steve putting the firebox door back on Brunhilda after oiling the catch

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Earl thinks that he isn’t getting his fair share of attention…

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Steve talking to Earl about dogs that demand attention…

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Earl thinking about what Steve just said to him whilst maintaining his position…

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And completely disregarding what he has just been told. Earl had to be physically removed from his new preferred spot (and yes, I will be washing that cake rack before I use it again 😉 )

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Steve feeding Brunhilda after her long hibernation

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Steve just about to close the firebox door on Brunhilda after giving her a degustation platter of treats to keep her happy

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The dogs have just realised that Steve is lighting the fire!!!

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The kettle goes on IMMEDIATELY and the dogs couches are all ready for their inhabitants for the next 8 or so months

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Proof that it has actually been raining and I am not just fibbing

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Every year this Clematis vitalba grows back from a large old stump that I think I have hacked to death the previous year and has gorgeously scented flowers that are perfect for the bees

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According to Brunhilda the new pope has been elected…Pope Frances the first… I RULE! 😉

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What happens when possums are robbed of their stolen nightly bird cheese by the wrens having a late evening snack…revenge is terrible 😦

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Brunhilda’s food of choice

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Various jars of “flours” that I have made after making almond, coconut and soy milk and dehydrating the pulp. I make my soymilk with organic Aussie beans and will be growing my own next year. I have 1 cup of tea a day with soymilk in and don’t consume it at any other time so I figure it won’t be something that I have to worry about 😉

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The lower portion of one of our pantries. The noodles were an added bonus (along with 2litres of whole milk) when Steve got home and unpacked the groceries and found them. He didn’t buy them so I guess someone left them behind and we were not going to take them on a 100km round trip back to the city. We have lost groceries before, I guess this time was our bonus but neither of us want to eat those noodles!

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The shelf groaning with grub…better than being empty I say! 😉

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My soymilk maker, lots of empty jars and herbs in the spare pantry in the middle room and all of those paper bags are packed to the gills with dried seeds ready for next springs planting events

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Dehydrated okara in the foreground and on the left Kid Creole and on the right, his coconuts getting used to homemade coconut milk and doing a very good job now that they understand that they won’t be getting cows milk any more 😉

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A Grey Shrike Thrush waiting for me to move away from the window with the camera to come and get some tiny cheese cubes from the windowsill

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The view out my kitchen window and the only safe place that I could put my shoes away from the weather and Earl, twin problems for shoes on Serendipity Farm 😉

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Earl attempting to play ball. For a dog, he is considerably unco!

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I swear I saw Brigadoon!

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More proof of rain and don’t the trees look happy 🙂

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The tree that fell down reasonably close to the house in the wind and rain on Thursday. Now we just have to work out how to get it safely onto the ground!

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Bezial showing his appreciation to Steve for lighting the fire for his basking pleasure 😉

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Pretty much where you are going to find the dogs for the next 8 months 😉

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Steve says “there’s no use crying over spilt milk”…

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Fair enough…but this is kefir! 😦

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Draining kefir to make it as thick as Greek yoghurt to use in recipes

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Still raining…the feral cats live underneath that large conifer

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A bit more rain (that last nude rain dance that I did at midnight appears to have done the trick 😉 ) and the nerines are loving it although Steve is muttering about having to bail out The Mumbley Cumumbus tomorrow 😉

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Steve and I are officially genius’s now. We took this panoramic shot with a camera that doesn’t take panorama’s. We are learning so much about photoshop and pretty soon will be selling our own BigFoot, Alien sighting and Tasmanian Tiger photographs…autographed for the tourists ;). Let us know if you want any terrible photos doctored, we HAVE THE POWER! 😉

Well that’s it, that’s all folks…not quite wordless but for me, it’s a miracle. Enjoy your weekend and see you on Wednesday when words will return (sorry Bev 😉 )

A confraturnity of early morning bloggers

Hi All,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This is OFFICIALLY “Me” 🙂

When more isn’t the answer

Hi All,

Writing is a struggle against silence.

Carlos Fuentes

Isn’t that lovely? I hasten to add that I hardly need to worry about the silence because whenever I get 2 minutes to myself the silence suddenly disappears into a frolicking dog, a husband who needs a hand with something or I fall asleep…hardly time to worry myself about silence but let’s just start tapping away to make sure that it doesn’t invade our psyche and do some sort of Freudian damage. I wasn’t sure what I was going to type today. We have been pretty full on with our studies this week and it is somewhat difficult to get back into the study habit when you have been luxuriating in all the free time in the world and being able to do whatever you want with said time. The course isn’t difficult but it is making us think a lot and is pulling us into a more creative frame of mind which suits both of us just fine. We learn something every day and Steve is picking up a copy of the student version of Adobe C.S.6 on Monday when he heads in to do the shopping so that we can launch ourselves into Photoshop 6. My wonderful kind younger brother bought himself a new camera not so long ago and gave us the perfectly good camera that he already had. This works out wonderfully because we really need a camera each for this course and now we are able to head off in different directions and take lots of photos for the course requirement. Steve is really interested in using Photoshop etc. and there are some very interesting programs in this package for writers as well. At least we are gaining a lot of information that is helping me, especially, to learn more about technology.

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The camera that my brother gave us. If you are reading “Cheers Jim! :)”

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On wednesday Serendipity Farm was dripping wet…today it’s sunny again

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The vacancy rate might not be anything to write home about but at least 1 wasp lived here over the summer season 🙂

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Serendipity Farms view of the Tamar River this afternoon

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A panorama taken with the new camera…not bad! 🙂

I pulled up the older corn and stripped the few cobs of corn from it. It wasn’t a huge success but at least we got some corn. The tomatoes, on the other hand, are going great guns. I just picked another large basin full of them and there are plenty still on the bushes. I picked lots of eggplants and I am tossing up what to do with them. I will give some of the tomatoes and eggplants to my daughters along with some zucchini and their creative minds can come up with something that they would like to do with them. No doubt it will be something Korean and delicious. Our chickens are still on strike and I am getting tired of “no eggs” as their mantra. I know that they are moulting but surely someone could lay an egg?! We are giving 6 away on Monday to minimise the flock a bit and we are also giving away some of Kid Creole’s coconuts (excess kefir grains) and I am feeding up Audrey to donate some of her to our local health food shop. David and Lee are lovely people who are very knowledgeable about health and when I asked them if they would like some excess kefir spotted an opportunity. I dare say they will be able to share it with customers who would like some. I love the way that generosity flows around. You pass something on to someone else, and they share with someone else and pretty soon everyone is sharing. I saw a really great idea on one of the blogs that I follow the other day. It was about a new system at the library where if you hold a library card you can take a packet of saved seeds to grow in your garden. Once you grow your seed and bring back seed to swap you can swap it for another packet of seed. I love the idea of using a library for more than just books. Libraries are hubs of knowledge for the common man. You don’t need the internet to take out a book and as your library card is free, the knowledge is also free…how precious is that? :o). I have been formulating my seed swap network along with designing a web page for the course we are doing. Steve is working on his spoon website to sell wooden spoons and I figured I may as well start where I meant to finish up and so will be working on designing and planning how to go about swapping seed in Tasmania. Firstly I need to get a network of people who are interested in saving and swapping seed and I might have to pick the lady who blogs at http://ediblethings.net/ mind regarding her seedy pen pal swaps and see what kind of swaps can be made. It’s an entirely exciting proposition and one that would develop a network of like-minded people and a virtual seed bank of possibilities for many others.

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Apparently my kitchen is part of the arch nemisis of Batman confraturnity  but even though I was on a considerable lean, you can see some of the harvest from this morning along with Kid Creole and his erstwhile coconuts awaiting their morning bath in fresh milk

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We seem to have a decidedly orange theme going on in the last 2 photos. I keep throwing found road things into that brass hanging pot and the blue thing on the top is my latest find. We discovered it on one of our daily walks and it’s the brass nozzle of a spray painting unit.

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I was testing out the new camera…Bernard and Manny our Java finches say “Hi” 🙂

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Still a bit orange but that’s mostly to do with the Western Red Cedar cladding. This photo was to show you how happy the yellow banksia rose is now that I have tipped a heady mass of mulch over its previously parched roots…it wants to repay me by taking over the house. Join the queue rose, Earl is first in line…

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I have just snuck this shot in as Steve found it and said “This is genius food!” He is going to buy some frankfurters and spaghetti on Monday in the shopping and is going to reproduce this amazing food. He also said “No kid would be able to resist these!”…obviously not… 😉

It’s the second day of autumn but you wouldn’t know it here in Tasmania. We have the promise of 27C today, 27C tomorrow and 30C on Monday. I am starting to wonder if summer is going to be the new black! I still have a big heap of mulch that I might start wheelbarrowing around to the side garden to try to give it a bit of relief from the long dry season that we have just had. I heard on the weather report that we have broken all of the records for temperature and for dryness in Australia this year and that’s not something to be proud of. They were saying that if you are 27 years or younger, you have no idea of what Australia’s “average” temperature for summer is because for the last 27 years we have exceeded it. I am not a fear monger and I am not in the business of trying to scare people but this long extended dry season is starting to make me twitch. I know that we aren’t the only people sick of summer. I read blogs about the flip side and how people can’t wait for summer. If I could bag it up and send it off to you I would folks! Most Australians would love to deliver a big bag of summer right to your doorstep for a bit of rain and a few days indoors near the fire. I am trying to work out what we are going to plant for winter crops this year. I haven’t ever grown a winter crop before and it’s a complete unknown quantity to me. I have been shamelessly pilfering information from wonderful gardeners like Sarah from the wonderful blog http://gardeningkiwi.wordpress.com/ because New Zealand is just a hop-step and jump from us here in Tassie and so what she is doing, I can surreptitiously pinch and do here. Sorry Sarah, remember that they DO say that copying is the sincerest form of flattery ;). There are some amazing gardening blogs out there and one of my favourites is http://www.sgaonline.org.au/ and I certainly get heaps of ideas from this blog but I like the personal touch of checking out what other people are doing just like me. I can learn so much from these more experienced gardeners and even though they might be on the other side of the world I also follow Margaret at http://awaytogarden.com/ that has a fantastic blog with amazing information. Her back posts are the stuff that this penniless hippies dreams are made of and she shares her knowledge so readily. Her friend Gayla is also amazing and has a fantastic blog called http://www.yougrowgirl.com/about/ all of these gardeners are our kind of gardeners…real people with real problems and solutions for what happens from day to day in their gardens. We might not have some of the pests and diseases that they have and they might not have some of the imported weeds that we suffer with but the online gardening community is an incredibly vibrant place to be and in sharing what we learn, we are giving someone else the chance to get down and dirty and fall totally and utterly in love with this big wide beautiful world. Getting your hands dirty is tantamount to a serious sensual awakening folks…you can’t help but gain something from the experience :o)

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Flower number 1. I found this nice little geranium, that has the added benefit of being scented, on one of our walks and took a piece to grow. Geraniums are incredibly hardy, waterwise and very easy to grow for those of you who aren’t gardeners and I plan on sourcing lots of lovely specimens for Serendipity Farm

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This pretty Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed Susan) is thriving in Steve’s shed. It is too hot to plant it out yet and once it cools down a bit and we get some rain I will be planting it somewhere in the side garden

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The Mondarda that I bought when I went to Wychwood has finally flowered. It too lives in the shed for now, but will be planted out in the side garden as well.

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I had just watered our potted plants and noticed this most interesting effect on a small Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ears) in a pot. I liked how the hairy leaves had held onto the water droplets

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My small potted fig tree has produced tiny figlets for the last 2 years but they dropped and nothing eventuated. This year it has 2 large figs… maybe I will get to try one? It all depends on whether the possums learn to fly… 😉

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One of the Nerine bowdenii that are flowering like crazy in the front garden and are making a lovely splash of autumn promise

It is getting hard to find nice pictures to share with you all. The garden has had enough of summer and we don’t have to worry about pulling weeds or mowing lawns in 2013 because they are all officially deceased. Brown is the new green in our neck of the woods and Tasmania is wet compared to most of the rest of Australia. Where I come from in Western Australia the vegetation is brown for most of the year as millennia of low rainfall has taught it not to trust dark clouds. You would be surprised just what grows in arid areas though and Western Australia has some of the most beautiful plants and wildflowers in all of Australia. I have one little bit of hope that at least nature thinks that it is autumn. The nerines are all flowering. It’s hard to believe that anything would have the will to flower when the soil it is growing in is little more than transient dust but flower they are and most beautifully as well. I have a cunning plan. I am going to formulate a list of very hardy arid waterwise plants (preferably perennials and shrubs) that I am going to source next spring to plant on Serendipity Farm. I am tired of planting things that need extra care when what we need are hardy plants that are just happy to be in the ground. No more mollycoddling plants and anything that doesn’t like living here won’t be getting any preferential treatment any more. We have been amazed at being able to grow plants like cardamom and turmeric and even if we have to resort to doing something like this…

http://permaculturenews.org/2010/01/11/free-hot-water-from-compost-wheelie-bin/

to keep our glasshouse warmer in winter and grow happy tropical rhizomes we will. Isn’t that a good idea by the way? The West Tamar council are trialling giving ratepayers a compost bin each to see if it doesn’t cut down green waste. At the moment the scheme is only available to the residents of Gravelly Beach but hopefully it will expand and we will all get one. Ratepayers can choose to use it as a compost bin or to put all of their green waste into it and wheel it out once a month to the curb to be collected by a council truck that will haul it off to be composted en masse.  I think it’s a great idea and if we do get one, I will make a hot water glasshouse heater with ours :o)

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We went to Deviot to walk the boys today and Steve liked the look of this shot…I like the look of it as well 🙂

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An Echinacea angustifolia growing inside the heritage apple and pear covered garden at Deviot. I am waiting for the seed to dry and will shake a few into a paper bag for Serendipity Farm

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The toilet block at the back of the Deviot Hall. I like these donated white tiles that were painted by the local children and their parents and that now grace the loo.

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Just to show you how dry our soil is here at the moment. This large crack was spotted on our walk this morning

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A ricketty jetty leading out into the river.

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Looks like Italy doesn’t it?

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Its been a really good blackberry season this year so far. I am doing my best to collect as many as I can to use my alchemy and turn into blackberry wine

It certainly took me a long time to get around to talking about the title of the post today didn’t it? Anyone who has been reading my blog for more than a few posts knows that I have been attempting to get healthier since my mum died last year in January. I took a long hard look at my relationship with food and decided that my 40 year love/hate relationship with food was officially OVER. I stopped dieting because you would think that if something was going to work it would have done so in the previous 40 years so I figured that dieting wasn’t working for me (or anyone for that matter) and started to eat healthy food, to exercise daily and to start coming to grips with severing the link between my emotions and my mouth. I weighed in at 90kg when I headed over for mum’s funeral. Not lightweight by anyone’s ideals and I had a lot of problems with my knees and was starting to think that I might actually need surgery on them in the near future. Since mum died I have lost 23kg. I now weigh 67kg, which might not be light by some people’s reckoning but that, is the lightest that I have been since I was 12 years old. I no longer have pain in my knees and although my left knee is stiff, it isn’t sore. When I gave up dieting I gave up so much more than an unhealthy relationship with food. I gave up the need to legitimise myself through food and my excuses for why I wasn’t a capable person. After just over a year, food is just that…”Food”. I no longer think about it every waking hour and that is possibly one of the most liberating things that has ever happened to me. I love to walk now and actually volunteer to walk Earl when Bezial has a sore leg. I have heaps of energy and have discovered that getting up early gives me some precious “Me” time every single day. I think there comes a time when we all have to question our bad habits and see if they are worth our support. My emotional need to overeat was holding me back from living. I can do what I need to do now. The only problem that I have is when Steve wants me to hold both dogs’ leads when he wants to take a photograph because now, their combined weight exceeds mine :o). The best thing of all is that I haven’t felt like I have been deprived of anything whilst I have been steadily losing weight. I plateaued at 76kg for about 4 months but then started having green smoothies for breakfast and suddenly I started to lose weight all over again. I don’t eat any less, I just eat what my body needs me to eat and I make sure to include healthy fats because despite what modern society might preach, we NEED fat folks. Fat is incredibly important for metabolism and for our ability to absorb certain vitamins. If you want nice skin, you need to eat the right kind of fats. I no longer have to starve myself, I no longer have to count calories, I no longer have to weigh myself morning and night and I certainly don’t have to strip down to my undies to try to eke out the best result. I am left lighter in body but more importantly, in mind, spirit and soul. I have been given a second chance while I still have time to enjoy it and I will make sure not to abuse this privilege

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This poor Stewartia pseudocamellia was on its last legs in the ground but we dug it up, repotted it and left it to soak in this container of water and look at it now! Plants are very resiliant things 🙂

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Some of the grape vine cuttings that struck…all of them will be planted out around the circumference of our large fully enclosed veggie patch

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These potted plants don’t get hit so hard by the direct sun because they are on the South side of Steve’s shed but they are still showing signs of being completely OVER summer

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The sole artichoke plant that survived. I think its simply because it is right near the deck in a semi enclosed area and the wallabies are too scared to get too close to the deck because the silent marauder lives on the deck (One of Earl’s pseudonyms…)

I am going to head off now and spend the rest of today hunting for recipes for ways to use up kefir. Kid Creole and all of his coconutty babies have been going nuts and producing a steady stream of yoghurt like kefir that I don’t consume and that Steve is wary of. I include it in Steve’s favourite sourdough chocolate cake now but 1 cup once a week isn’t going to empty my fridge of kefir and as self-appointed “house researcher” it is my duty to find useful and tasty ways to use it up. Wish me luck folks or we might drown in the stuff! See you all on Wednesday and make sure to take a moment out of your day to be grateful for everything in your life, It is a most rewarding practice and apparently, according to scientific research, it makes you a happier person and who wouldn’t love to be a little bit happier for free? :o)

The saga of the factotum and the printer

Hi All,

Steve and I have finally started our online course in web design! We headed over to check out what we had to do and ended up signing up for a new WordPress blog each (part of the course requirements) and doing the equivalent of an online introduction. Reading the other participants intro’s was a bit like waving at the other inmates from your cell when the other inmates are from a different planet to you and you hope to goodness that you never have to come out of your cell and mingle any day soon… Did anyone see “School of Rock”? I did…lots of times. I love “School of Rock” and if those of you who did watch School of Rock cast your mind back to the part where Ned Schneebly (don’t ask me to spell that correctly, it AIN’T gonna happen folks! 😉 ) first comes up against “Summer”…the class “Factotum”. We have our own Summer. She has not only done everything on the list that we are supposed to do, but she has completed the first assessment (only an hour after it was posted) that is due next Monday. We also have an anti-social member of the class whose only threat, as outlined in his S.W.A.T. was that he didn’t want to invade Russia in the winter. This person bears a distinct similarity to my daughters in his view of the world and our class in general and if I didn’t know better, I would say that one of them has decided to crash the class. After reading the credentials of the remainder of the class, my natural instinct is to run screaming but if you ignore the other class members (not too hard to do when you are studying from home) the course content is very interesting. If you play your cards right, you might get lucky and get to see some of our work 😉

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An early morning picking for my daughters in the city

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Earl bagses the eggplant…

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Steve’s tea last night…homemade sourdough bruschetta liberally slathered with garlic butter and with home grown tomatoes, some bought avocados, spring onions and chilli topping. It was DELICIOUS (apparently) and the sourdough had a gorgeous crunchy crust :). Audry is now part of our Serendipity Farm family forever 🙂 (just don’t turn orange Audrey…orange is the blue screen of death for sourdough starters! 😉 )

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Free white nectarines from Roxie and blackberries from the hedgerows on our walk with the dogs this morning. The seeds will be planted and the tomatoes were also from Roxie. The tomatoes behind the fruit are the beginning of our tomato harvest and are left over from last nights bruschetta feast

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Aren’t these blackberries in the height of ripeness (and heady sweetness) gorgeous? I froze the tray with the chopped white nectarines and these blackberries to use in my breakfast green smoothies

Jessie a.k.a. “Rabid” of http://rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com/  sent me instructions for how to knit a dishcloth out of cotton. She made me a lovely black one from some organic cotton that she had and I had mentioned that I had some bright yellow (almost mustard to be honest) cotton that I had picked up from the Beaconsfield op-shop a while ago and thus began our discourse regarding knitting and its foibles. I must admit at this stage, I am NO knitter. I can knit a scarf…bits of a jumper (no cuffs, no collar and DEFINITELY no cable!) and generic squares and after perusing the pattern I decided to hide my knitting needles and go back into my comfort zone and crochet a dishcloth. The progress is slow because I have to work between the hours where Earl is active (approximately 7am to 6pm) and nightfall (at the moment about 9pm). Earl is unpredictable and can suddenly launch into action when an interesting mustard yellow ball rolls past his nose where it just dislodged itself from my knee and aside from being unpredictable, he is quick. He is a master of the grab and run attack because if you grab and “stay” whatever interesting thing you have appropriated tends to get taken off you so running is your best bet. At least you get to chew whatever it is a bit before your humans (arms waving and yelling) catch you and retrieve said item. I have crocheted half of a dishcloth and Earl has been eyeballing me out of the corner of his eyes as I crochet…he is waiting for me to drop off to sleep (highly likely) and he will be on my cotton like a tick on a dog!

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I had to race out with the camera last night because the sky was the weirdest colour! I didn’t think I would catch the weird lighting but I sort of did.

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This was taken a few moments later and you can see a rainbow over the river…Steve has pinpointed where it was pointing as that is his leprachaun pot of fish 😉

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A nice thick layer of free mulch has made the garden under the deck a MUCH happier place to reside for our poor long suffering parched plants

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One of the large enclosed compost heaps that I planted potatoes in and a single sweet potato that is growing! The white patch is a species of fungus known as a “dogs vomit” fungus…it is harmless but as you can imagine, it isn’t all that aesthetically pleasing 😉

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Another one of the large enclosed compost heaps full of pumpkins and a few potatoes that the slugs haven’t managed to scarf (yet)

I have been inundated with kefir. I have at least a litre of it in the fridge and am scratching my head how to use it. I have decided to bake a chocolate sourdough cake with kefir and a large tray bake spice cake with kefir to replace the milk. I am also going to make the kefired equivalent of labneh so that I can make small balls of extra thick kefired labneh and preserve them in herbed olive oil with chillies. Our jalapeno chillies are doing amazingly well and it looks like we might have a bumper crop of them this year along with the small fingerling eggplants. I am so glad that we decided to go with the smaller eggplants to make sure that they had the best chance of ripening fully before the cold season sets in. The excess kefir grains (that are growing exponentially on plain old “ordinary milk” Jessie 😉 ) are going to be given to customers who would like some at our local health food shop. I believe in sharing excesses and David can pass them on to interested customers. I have also offered him the same deal with excess sourdough if he gets customers asking about it. I am starting to get into the flow of feeding and working with my small batch of homely cultures. Now I need to find a kombucha Scoby and some water kefir grains and after that the sky is the limit! I will be spending a lot of time reading my fermentation books this winter and learning all about just what I can, and can’t culture here on Serendipity Farm.

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Not sure if we can use this photos but I liked it. Nice and clean and isn’t that sky a gorgeous colour?

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This old ramshackle building is right in the middle of the city. It has stood, unthreatened, for years and is situated between a boutique pub and our local Centrelink office. Considered an eyesore for years, developers have just obtained permission to remove it. I just wanted to remember it in a photo and I quite liked how this one turned out

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These buildings all belong to Boag’s brewery (including the grain silo’s in the background) and are part of the inner city industrial area. I love how they have restored the older buildings and made this a really attractive part of the city

I noticed some unusual small black pods on the side of a tiger lily in the side garden. It has ceased flowering a long time ago and has seed pods on top of it. I know that they form bulbs that spread under the ground but on closer inspection, the little pod-like thingo’s had small leaves growing out of them…I headed inside to check out my good friend “Google” and discovered that these pods are called bulbils and not all lilies produce them. Tiger lilies are well known for producing them and they are another form of plant division. Each little black bulbil is an entire new little lily. After a while, the bulbils will form leaves (as mine are currently doing) and will eventually form roots and will push themselves off the stem of the spent lily flower and will drop onto the ground where they will take root and start growing. After 3 years they will start flowering and you have a plethora of new lilies for free to either plant out or give to your friends. Aren’t plants the bomb? :o). I will need to collect all of the little wandering bulbils to pot them up so that I can find them in spring when they start growing again but for now I will let them cling tenaciously to their mum for as long as they see fit. I also discovered that lilies are extremely hardy belying their delicate appearance. Many plants that we might think are tender or delicate are actually incredibly hardy and I am in the process of compiling a list of incredibly hardy plants for Serendipity Farm. A friend from down the road (Boof’s owner) gave me a bag of fragrant ripe white nectarines and tomatoes today as we walked past her house when we were walking the dogs this morning. She also gave me a bag of curly leafed parsley seed to plant out. We swap all sorts of things and have a really good bartering system going. Roxy is a very resilient lady and knows a whole lot about growing vegetables, keeping goat’s etc. and how to do just about everything herself. I love sharing knowledge and “stuff” with her because it is a win-win situation for us all. We are just about to give her one of our feral roosters as she doesn’t have a rooster and is tired of having to ask for fertile eggs from friends. This way she will have all of the fertile eggs that she likes to put under her clucky chooks and can have lots of hens to sell her excess eggs from the roadside. The value of community and individual knowledge when combined with others is priceless…the resilience of a community is only as strong as the individual members that group together to share. I love forging community here in Sidmouth :o)

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My gorgeous chooky potmits that are WAY too nice to use with Brunhilda 🙂

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These are cuttings of Tagetes lucida, Mexican marigold or Texas tarragon were sourced from a local plant and are apparently easy to grow so I am letting them get legs in this mug of water.

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This long suffering philodendron had been almost on the brink of extinction for years before we inherited him and decided to release him out into the wild. He had bright yellow leaves and only had 1 leaf and now he is happy in his new environment

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A nice new stem on a lovely orchid that we inherited that dad only watered with beer. He said that the beer made it flower and maybe he was right because it hasn’t flowered this year on its new regime of water…might be time to reintroduce that vitamin B quotient to make it happy 🙂

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Look what the wallabies did to my Loquat japonica’s :(. They had been growing completely untouched for months and suddenly the wallabies decided to eat all of their leaves. They are incredibly hardy small trees and will grow more leaves but the wallabies are skating on very VERY thin ice! It just goes to show that you can’t take it for granted that ANYTHING is safe on Serendipity Farm

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This little fig tree has some figs on this year. We grew it from a cutting and this year it just might keep those figs to full term 🙂

We had to go to Launceston this morning because as we were reading up about our course and our very first assignment we realised that we were going to need printer ink and our printer was out of ink. We had already walked the dogs and I had already watered the veggie garden and released the baying hens so we hurled the eager dogs into the car and set off for an adventure to buy printer ink. We checked out what we needed to accomplish for our second assignment (technically “Assignment 3” but it’s the second one that we have to hand in…already they are trying to trick us! Not WE wily black ducks! 😉 ) and realised that we needed photos of billboards, advertising signs and road signs and we threw the camera into my bag so that we could take as many artistic shots as we could. We hadn’t read up on what we actually needed but we took all kinds of photos so hopefully we can use some of them for our assignment. We then headed off to pick up some printer ink, only to find that the shop that sold us the printer had just superseded it and were no longer stocking the ink! They recommended K-Mart but Steve knows that K-Mart don’t sell the ink either so we looked at each other and decided to buy a new printer. We managed to buy a printer with ink for less than we were going to have to pay for the ink alone on our old all-in-one printer. I can’t believe that this sort of equipment is so “throw-away” these days! How can they justify selling something if they are not going to stock the peripherals for any length of time? We have 2 of the printers that we can’t get ink for…one was ours and one we inherited from my dad when he died…what to do with them? I am NOT going to throw them into landfill and am going to be spending some ingenious time finding ways to use them rather than disposing of them. Perhaps I need to cram them full of cacti and succulents and sell them at the market? ;). We got back to discover that my bestie, Kymmy from Norseman Western Australia had sent me 2 absolutely gorgeous pot holders that she had quilted. What a doll! Kymmy, you are so talented! I am refusing to use them till you get here and we can cook up a storm on Brunhilda because they are too pretty to use and get grotty :o). I might even have to frame them and put them on the wall as I can’t bear the thought of Brunhilda and her messy ways turning them into sad representations of the lovely things that they are today :o). Your gooseberry seed is drying nicely and will be ready to send to you soon…bartering is SO sweet :o)… oh, and Bev from http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/ has offered to send me some leaf AND seed amaranth! I love you guys! Along with Jessie and a plethora of people I have yet to meet and barter/swap with in various seed swap meets etc. this bartering thing is absolutely ripe with mutual possibilities :o).

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Bulbils! Note the leaves growing out of the bulbils…each one of these dark coloured “pods” has the propensity to become a new lily

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A native hibiscus (Alyogyne huegelii) flower on a crown lifted tree that is much happier since we started giving it a helping hand

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Finally I get a cornflower! The wallabies have been snipping the tops off them as they protrude from the top of the ex-fish farm netting but this one escaped to flower 🙂

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This Aquilegia vulgaris (Grannies bonnet) grew right next to the back door…note the dandelion…I would have normally removed it but now that I know how amazing they are (and how much Bernard and Manny our Java Finches LOVE them) I leave them to carry on regardless 🙂

I think that might be all for tonight folks…I have to race out waving my arms around now to find you some photos to decorate this post and I will be starting with the bulbil’s so that you can see what I am talking about. Tomorrow we will be juggling with the new course and tap-dancing on unfamiliar territory all over again. I can’t count the amount of times that we have gone back to kindergarten with new areas of study and it’s all in the processes…my favourite place of all! :o)

Processes and possibilities

Hi All,

It’s Tuesday and we are heading into Launceston for the day. We decided to go today because we received a “power outage” forecast in the mailbox for today promising us a day without power so we decided to kill 2 birds with one stone and go in to pay off our Polytechnic fees for the year and sign up for our course. Since I last posted we have been beavering away in the garden and bumbling around Serendipity Farm in general. Steve has been out fishing and caught a few that he felt sorry for and put back and he went to town to help a friends mum remove a pile of debris that came from an old carpet warehouse that was in the upstairs building of an inner city shop that she purchased and is going to renovate the top part as her home and have a shop underneath. The warehouse contained lots of long steel poles that go in the middle of display rolls of carpet and Steve’s friend told him that he could have as many as he liked. Steve had the brilliant idea that they could be used when we make our enormous edifice to human ingenuity of a vegetable garden and a morning helping a friend has given us another cornerstone to our ethos :o). I learned from Jessie/Rabid that I had to feed Audrey (soon to be renamed) directly before I put her into the fridge for her sourdough hiatus so that she could languish in style whilst feeding on her bounty. I had fed her, but about 8 hours earlier so I pulled her out of the fridge and fed her up and she rose up beautifully…is there nothing that this lovely and most gracious lady can’t do? Rabid shared about how she and Bertha (Audrey’s mum) are harnessed together and work as a team. I am still learning all about the team work and am having to do a lot more forward planning because you can’t just grab a jar of dried yeast from the cupboard and “bake”. You have to nurture the sourdough back to a happy state after feeding it and you have to plan your prospective baking event in advance because just about everything that involves cooking with sourdough takes more time. I am a processes girl and love the new routines but am still learning my timing. Last night Steve was running a diagnostic on the computer that took a LONG time and I didn’t get access to my sourdough information until 9.30pm. I was tired and crabby and poor Audrey needed feeding, dividing and putting back to bed in the fridge. I managed to grump my way through making the pizza dough for Steve’s tea tonight and what seemed like an ENORMOUS quantity of bread dough for baking later on today when we get back in and ended up with a kitchen full of flour, a bad temper, a twitching husband and poor Audrey being subject to being harnessed to a cranky cow rather than a willing helper. Once I learn the processes I love to refine and hone…I am always carving and grooming my processes and making them run like a well-oiled machine and someday, hopefully soon, this new baking friend and I will share some amazing adventures :o)

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This is what we feed our chooks and it is fortified with calcium (in the form of shellgrit) and has lots of grains and seeds. They seem to like it and when we discovered the 3 newly hatched chicks the other day we turned this into…

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This with the aid of my trusty Vitamix high speed blender.

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Here’s 1 of the babies, the rest are underneath “Blondie” our silver laced Wyandotte hen

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Steve made another thin spoon out of golden sassafrass…the metal teaspoon is for size comparison…Steve isn’t quite up to forging his own steel just yet 😉

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What’s left of my most comfortable early morning slippers…If you are reading this Stewart (oh dearest son of mine kissy kissy)…you know what to get your dear old Mam for this mother’s day! (Cheers Earl…sigh…)

We are still going through troubled times with the dogs refusing their food on days when it isn’t straight meat. Bezial is the worst culprit. We know that dogs need more than just meat for their health. They aren’t straight carnivores like cat’s are and need fibre and vegetables etc. for their internal health. Bezial and Earl are both good representatives of what is known as a very strong willed dog breed and Bezial is up there with the most stubborn of dogs. He has been refusing to eat for 2 days now and Earl has just been skimming the meaty lure off the top of his fibrous ingredients. They have a bone stash outside that Bezial has been living off and he even ate a few of the despised dog biscuits last night whilst looking at me piteously as if to say “you are starving me woman!” I can’t back down on this issue because it is what is best for the 2 of them but ignoring those pathetic eyes is very hard! Bezial is chief manipulator and attempts to get Earl to join him on his hunger strikes but Earl’s hunger is more important than Bezials need to be the boss and get his way and Earl has yielded to the foodie lure much to Bezials disgust so he is standing stolid on his high moral ground and I can hear his stomach creaking…good luck with that Bezial! If my children couldn’t make me give in to their foodie whims, you have NO chance! 😉

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Mum and baby kookaburra having a drink and a bath in some of the water baths that we keep topped up with fresh water. We have had a lot of babies born on Serendipity Farm including baby cuckoo shrikes, baby black cockatoo’s, baby butcher birds and baby kookaburras.

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Mum on watch while her baby splashes about in the bird bath

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An oak sapling takes 10 years to produce its first acorn…I think this might well be Serendipity Farms very first acorn! It grew on an oak tree that grew from mulched oak leaves taken from the front of the property

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There isn’t much flowering on Serendipity Farm at the moment…everything is on heat watch and is just marking time till we get some rain but this little nigella proves that if you pick the right plant for your situation, you can still have colour in an arid place

I have been following a lot of blogs that share how to do all kinds of things for yourself from foraging from weeds through to building your own wind turbines. I am up for the weeds but not quite ready for the turbine yet! I knew that you can make kefir with coconut milk and so decided to make my own coconut milk from dried coconut in the pantry. I found a good recipe, I whizzed up the soaked coconut with its soaking water and strained it all through a clean cotton pillow case (gotta get me a nut bag…). I took the remaining pulp out to the food dehydrator to make coconut flour and smugly placed Kid Creole (my kefir grains…newly named from the 80’s band “Kid Creole and the Coconut’s”…) into about a cup full of my coconut milk. My coconut milk separated into cream on top and whey underneath and I didn’t care…my kefir grains sat there…and sat there… and sat there…and nothing happened. I got a bit concerned when the next day the milk was still watery and the kefir grains hadn’t set the milk and I decided to take mercy on Kid Creole and clean him off and put him into a glass of regular milk where he is fermenting to his heart’s content. I blame Rabid and her organic milk…she has spoiled Kid for anything other than pure dairy! ;). When we were in town on Tuesday we headed to the fruit and veggie shop and I found 8 mangoes for $4. I thought that was a pretty good deal and bought them along with half a rockmelon for $1.50 and when I got home I cut them up and froze them for my morning green smoothies. I also found passionfruit with lovely wrinkled skins that were fragrant and promising so I bought 2 and when we got home I sieved the pulp and juice from the seeds and poured it into Steve’s home-made orange and lemon cordial that I made the other day. It was already delicious but the addition of 2 passionfruit made it heavenly and after I picked some of our fragrant ripe ex-tip strawberries and pureed them up with about 500ml of the orange and passionfruit cordial the results both smelled and tasted amazing. Homemade isn’t second best folks…it’s the bomb!

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Passionfruit seed from 2 passionfruit drying out on a coffee filter ready for me to have a go at growing them from seed

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Same goes for rockmelon 🙂

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Here we have a plethora of seed etc. all waiting it’s day in potting mix. The bags are full of fermenting fruit. I am doing experiments and am trying to echo nature to get the best germination rates. I figure that plums and fleshy fruited plants would drop their seed and it would either go through an animal or would ferment on the floor and so I am prefermenting the fruit in it’s parental juices to see if it doesn’t grow better. Might work…might not. Thats the beauty of experimentation and if it grows “Good oh!” if it doesn’t “Them’s the breaks” and I will put it into the compost bin 😉

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Coconut milk on the left and coconut pulp on the right. The pulp is now dehydrated and in a jar in the pantry waiting to be used in recipes. I might even start fermenting the pulp before I dehydrate it for better digestion…so many experiments…so little time in the day! 😉

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Those large leaves are my turmeric that finally started to grow. I bought organic turmeric from a local health food shop and it loves the conditions in the glasshouse, which is lucky, because that is where it is going to have to live if it wants to survive on Serendipity Farm! 😉

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The last of the turmeric taking its time…pay NO attention to the Oxalis…I don’t! 😉

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A pot full of Oxalis and Discorea elephantipes developing their basal cordex amazingly well…nice and corky and round, my favourite kind 🙂

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One of my cardamom plants that seems to be loving the conditions in the glasshouse. I might get Steve to make me a big raised planter box that we can plant the turmeric and the cardamom in as a more permenant fixture in the glasshouse

Before we headed into Launceston to sign up and pay for our new course at Polytechnic yesterday, I took out the sourdough pizza dough that I had mixed up the night before from the fridge where it had been sitting in stasis. I left it on the counter because the recipe called for it to ferment 8 hours so I figured that it would be ready to turn into pizza when we got home. I eyeballed it when we got home and gave it a suspicious sniff and it smelled lovely and had risen to double its size.  We had more than enough for a large pizza tray and so I rolled some very thin and put it on another tray along with some thinly rolled out dough with some cheese pressed into it. We baked it in the bbq while we were topping Steve’s pizza and when we were ready to put the pizza in the oven Steve got to taste the results. He was more than happy with the flavour and how crunchy the thin dough was and the cheesy twisty thing’s tasted great as well…I was starting to get excited by now because the sourdough was actually rising, rolling and behaving like real bread dough! Steve pulled his pizza out of the oven after 15 minutes and ate the entire thing and pronounced it “delicious”. We have a large bowl of sourdough bread in the fridge rising slowly and tomorrow we will bake 2 loaves. If the loaves turn out, I am going to pronounce this sourdough experiment completely and utterly successful and will start baking in earnest (or Brunhilda…whichever one comes first 😉 ). I checked Audrey and found that she had escaped her container and was spilling down the side so rehoused her in a larger taller container to allow her to slowly grow and eat her organic rye flour at her leisure. It is going to take me a little while getting used to having to plan so far ahead when baking but I love processes and so am enjoying the learning experience and the possibilities that sourdough baking bring to Serendipity Farm.

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Isn’t this baby gorgeous?! I had to take a photo of it and share it with you 🙂

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The possums have been restless…sigh…note the complete lack of leafy greens on the top of this bean cube? They don’t eat the bean pods so I guess I shouldn’t complain too much…mutter…mutter…

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Eggplant futures!

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Mulch futures soon to be seen to migrate about a metre to the left…

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The last of the mulch futures…not sure where this is going but if we don’t need it in the front garden it can go into the stockpile ready for using in our new enormous enclosed vegetable garden…I love saying that “ENORMOUS ENCLOSED VEGETABLE GARDEN”! I am going to yell it tonight at the top of my lungs when I go outside at about 10pm before I head off to bed and I can hear the possums fighting over my bean bed… sigh…

I was thinking about processes while I was making my coconut milk (which I am going to have to think of something to do with now that Kid Creole has refused to work with it 😉 ) and how we can choose to pick up something ready made from the supermarket OR we can choose to have a go at making it ourselves. When you buy a product from the shelves it has “cost effectiveness” embedded into its ethos. The product is there because someone wants to make a profit out of it and you can rest assured that its flavour profile has been compromised in order to give it an extended shelf life and keep the cost down. When you make things yourself you might have to factor in the cost of making the item (electricity, personal effort etc.) BUT you get so much more out of the process. You get to learn the process of how to actually make the item, you get various items through the process, i.e. When I made Steve his homemade cordial I got orange skins to preserve and some for the compost, I got passionfruit shells for the compost and I got passionfruit seed that I am going to attempt to grow. When I bought rockmelon to put into my green smoothies I got the shells to put into my compost and the seed to attempt to grow as well as the frozen rockmelon pulp to add amazing flavour to my drink…we can customise what we make to our own personal tastes…too much sugar? Add some lemon juice…not enough sugar, add some more. It might take more time to make something yourself than it takes to grab something from the supermarket but there is an amazing depth of satisfaction to be gained from making your own and cutting out that insidious middle man who thrives on the profits of others. You can also take advantage of what is in season and preserve it for later and again, the satisfaction of shoring up your supplies for another time and giving yourself a degree of food security is immeasurable. There is another benefit to doing things yourself…in my case it results in my efforts to collect and save fruit seeds makes the kitchen smell AMAZING! :o)

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More pumpkin futures…another experiment. This is inside one of the compost heaps and aside from a few manky potatoes that get regularly stripped of leaves by either possums reaching in, wallabies waiting for the potatoes to (stupidly) poke out or slugs just slithering about at their leisure picking the tastiest bits to chew…they don’t like pumpkin leaves but they DO love the young fruit :(. Again, I see it as another way to learn how to be clever…I figure by the time I am laid 6 ft under I will be the cleverest woman in Sidmouth! 😉

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The chives are so happy they are flowering…wallabies LOVE the allium family, the chives close cousins, the garlic, have all had their tops munched down by the wallabies that parade around the outside of the veggie garden at night looking for anything poking out

The more you pare back from your life the more beautiful the simple things you retain become. I am enjoying my early morning wake-up cup of tea SO much more now that it is my only cup of tea. It tastes amazing and I fully appreciate it accompanying me as I read my rss feed reader blogs. I always have my eyes open for opportunities to collect plan material on our early morning walks with the dogs and have a large pile of all different kinds of seeds collected locally from perennials, trees and shrubs that are doing particularly well in our area. I collected some seed from a shrub at the Polytechnic where we signed up that appears to be a type of hawthorn with large panicles of white flowers and very large red fruit. It has enormous thorns and was growing in a very arid part of the garden all of which make it an excellent choice for growing on Serendipity Farm. Thorny plants are great habitat for small birds as are shrubs that are tall enough to make it difficult for predators to climb. Fruit and flowers are a bonus for bees and food for birds and it appears to be hardy enough to grow in very dry conditions making it ideal for our area. I phoned up the West Tamar Council and asked them about a large pile of wood chips that I have been eyeing off for about 9 months now. The parks and wildlife resources manager phoned me back and told me that if the pile had been there that long without being used that they obviously didn’t want it and that I was welcome to it! Steve and I spent 1 ¾ incredibly well spent hour’s today collecting 4 trailer loads of free mulch. It is rotting down nicely and is a good combination of leaves and bark and was nice and damp which shows how good it is at retaining moisture because we haven’t had a lot of rain for the whole summer. We left some around the base of a large liquidambar so that it wouldn’t be compromised by our removal of its windfall mulch and I am going to spend most of tomorrow shovelling it all over the garden under the deck and along the driveway to cover the exposed and parched soil.

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The tomato jungle…all the fruit is contained in this jungle…I am going to have to be narf7 the explorer and go hunting in here one day soon (or try to con Steve into doing it for me 😉 )

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My spinach beds, plundered on a daily basis for my morning green smoothie habit but it seems to have made them stronger and they haven’t wanted to go to seed so far…maybe pinching leaves all of the time is a good thing for a plant? The little beetroot haven’t amounted to much (they were the teeny ones left over when we harvested the bigger ones) but I figure I can eat the leaves if they don’t form roots so they have earned their place in the garden…note the numpty who’s shadow is included in this shot 😉

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Our corn bed with rocket going mental/to seed. I am allowing the rocket and lettuces to go to seed now so that I can collect seed for next years crops 🙂

I had best stop waxing lyrical and head off to sort out some photos to accompany this post. No Bev… it aint short! ;). I just have to hope that my enthusiasm for life is infectious and that my happiness in the simple processes bleeds through to you my dear constant readers and gives you your own simple enthusiasm for your own lives…at the end of the day…what more can we really hope for? See you on Saturday when I may, or may not have made some lovely yellow dishcloths with the pattern that Rabid sent to me…more like I have knitted a few rows…Earl has pounced on my most interesting moving yarn and either grabbed it and run, rendering the square suddenly puckered and decidedly unsquarelike or snicker snacked off the wool and run off with the ball…either of these 2 eventualities are highly likely! 😉

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