Brunhilda feeds tonight…

Hi All,

You can’t stop a behemoth. By its sheer solidity of purpose it has a primal desire to flow from one state to another and good luck stopping it. Brunhilda is one such behemoth. She affects a type of reverse hibernation where she sleeps all through the bustling summer months when everything else is up, procreating and turning green. Brunhilda settles down into her long slumber in mid-October when the frosts officially cease but I have my suspicions that it might be slightly later this year. The berries on the cotoneaster and the hollies are both copious and incredibly bright red so I think we might be in for a long winter. Brunhilda rises to the call of the cold. She opens her door and yawns for the first taste of kindling and the behemoth awakes. From that first flickering flame Brunhilda is constantly in a state of fire. She “ticks over” or she burns like a funeral pyre and in between she gives us something that money just can’t buy, she makes our cold winter house a home. Brunhilda has been going since early May and aside from a few hairy moments when one or other of us forgot to add her fuel of choice and she threatened to go on strike she hasn’t gone out. After you set a behemoth on its way you have to step back and let it do its thing. We put in the fuel and she walks her primal pathway. We reap so long as we pay. It’s a pure case of symbiosis and I love it!

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I am not the only one that has complete and utter adoration for Brunhilda and all that she stands for…meet her humble servant Bezial…

Brunhilda prefers nice dry wood. She is a creature of comfort, much like Bezial who prefers steak and butter and like Bezial we have to temper her desires and she gets her version of broccoli in wood that might not be completely dry. We know that so long as we mix the slightly damp wood with lots of dry we won’t have any problems and it is amazing to see Brunhilda and her tongue of flames turn something that was a tree last year into ashes. You learn a lot about life if you observe its cycles and fire is no exception. I love my winter cycles. They seem so much more real because the cold hones your perception and forces you to focus. We collect our wood like squirrels and we stack it in well-ordered piles on the deck and we slowly feed it into Brunhilda as she works her way through the pile. When we bought this particular model of Aussie made oven I wasn’t sure whether we had done the right thing. Aside from being very expensive (although nowhere NEAR as expensive as her imported brethren) we were going out on a limb to try and support an Aussie business and there wasn’t a whole lot of information out there about their range. It would seem that people like imported Aga’s and Rayburn’s. Brunhilda is not related and where her imported cousins can be colour coordinated with your kitchen there is a degree of bolshiness about her little black attire that reminds you that a stove is supposed to heat, cook and maybe heat your water if you thought about it in advance and decided to spring for the hot water jacket…

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Steve bought these 2 filters and 3 in that little wallet underneath the box at the rear for $15 total. No postage and they got here in just over a week from Hong Kong. Steve has been buying online camera equipment now for a couple of months and so far everything that he has purchased has been a lot cheaper and a lot better than he would have imagined.

From the moment we lit Brunhilda she has been reliable and frugal with her appetite. We feed her, she burns. Because of the unique firebox position in the middle of the 4 ovens, the heat gets retained better and so long as Steve stokes her up before he goes to bed she is waiting for me to give her breakfast when I get up at 3am and open her up. We don’t need firelighters, she just keeps going and my first cup of tea is in line with the first cuppa’s that our pioneering women drew their daily strength from in the past. When you bypass the instantaneous ability to flick a switch or click a gas jet you take on a role in the processes that requires you to keep up your end of the bargain or the cycles stop. You can’t be lazy and take a holiday from hauling wood or stoking Brunhilda because you won’t be able to heat the house and fuel yourself with those soul warming cups of tea and so we become part of the cycle and the process and there is a wonderful degree of fulfilment that comes with stepping in and taking up that yoke.

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I think I might just have to buy this book. It is excellent. James Wong shows us all how to grow some pretty amazing edibles and 3 weeks worth of reading has made me want to own this book.

Yesterday we put up 2 more nets around our huge enclosed garden. We can see the scope of the area that we chose now and I am getting really excited about the possibilities. Where before it was all in my mind, now my idea is coming into fruition. It might not be pretty but it will stop the native wildlife from scarfing our precious food crops and what price that? Again we come back to cycles and our part in those cycles. How can we appreciate what we get if we haven’t had to take part in the process? Handing over a few dollars for a whisk from Shiploads (our equivalent to Wal-Mart apparently…) doesn’t give us the satisfaction of being part of the process. Some poor worker slaved on a factory line in China to make that whisk and its $1.97 price is completely unrepresentative of the true cost of its manufacture. I didn’t just pull “whisk” out of the atmospheric dictionary dear constant readers, I just bought one. I know…”SHAME ON YOU NARF7!”. I supported slave trade… I consumed… I did a bad thing…did it count that I thought about what I was doing?

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This book was in the car ready to be taken back to the library (unread…we have been VERY busy…) when I had to wait in the car for Steve to pick up some plumbing gear from the Beaconsfield hardware shop and so I started to read it and decided to take it out again. It’s a very interesting subject…not sure I would be willing to leave my body to Mr Bass when I die after reading what they do to human remains but kudos to the people that do, a lot of crimes have been solved thanks to the research and macabre generosity of people with their earthly remains after they no longer inhabit them…

While I was twitching that whisk around in a bowl of homemade soymilk and some homemade date paste that I was turning into food for my kefir I was thinking about how we really don’t appreciate the things that are available to us because we really don’t know what cost they truly represent to us. The up-front $1.97 is just a fraction of what any of us earns. Even penniless student hippies that get paid by the state to pretend that they are not actually unemployed, but are productive members of society get more than enough money to justify paying out $1.97 for a whisk but behind that heavily subsidised miniscule price there is an incredible price to pay for the ability to stir some soymilk. Raw resources are being taken from the ground in alarming rates so that we can have whisks, plastic funnels for $1.76 (a set of 2 folks…who WOULDN’T want them…), 3 sieves that fit neatly inside each other for a bargain $1.52 and more…who cares that they are flimsy and will fall apart…just throw them into the rubbish bin and buy another one! That’s the cycle of consumption folks and narf7 doesn’t want to support it. That’s why we spend our days lugging wood and feeding it into Brunhilda. For our part of the equation/cycle we get so much more than a heated house, 8 months of free hot water on tap, 4 ovens to cook just about anything we want to at the same time and our knickers dried in front of the fire, we get the exercise of cutting the firewood and carting it from its resting place to Brunhilda. We get the incomparable joy of waking up knowing that all we have to do to make our home cosy is to take our place in the cycle again and there is something truly primally satisfying in taking up that yoke

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See that “pile” just behind those white poles there? That’s narf7’s hard slog from 8.30am till 1pm. As you can see it’s a large pile of horse dung and it was in mid compost when I hauled it to it’s new residence (inside the structure). Note we have covered it with some ex fish farm netting in a vain attempt to stop the chooks from moving the entire pile back outside the fence perimeter. Lets just say that I wouldn’t be pleased if they did!

Today I take on another process. This one will give me more exercise than I could hope to get in a single day but I am less inclined to yoke myself to this process than I am to stuffing some wood into Brunhilda’s gaping maw. Today I shovel 6 trailer loads of composted horse poo from one pile to another pile 2 metres away. I need to do this so that when we put up our final net wall for our fully enclosed garden the enormous pile of dung won’t need to be manually barrowed all the way around to the other side of the enclosure where the gate is going to be situated. There are benefits to shovelling dung. Exercise is the predominate benefit (although 2 days later when I am aching from my efforts and my lats are reminding me of my impending 50ness I won’t be so chipper about the whole thing) closely followed by job satisfaction and the equal satisfaction that I am going to get from stopping the chooks from spreading the 6 trailer loads of manure to the 4 winds. They have taken their task most seriously and the pile has been somewhat levelled by their determination. Once inside the enclosure the chooks will have to stand around outside and look in as wistfully as I hope the possums will be looking in come spring.

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This is a native Tasmanian Grey Shrike Thrush. He decided to check Steve out when he was testing his new filters on the deck. This particular Shrike Thrush comes on a regular basis for small cubes of cheese that we leave out for the wrens and Shrike Thrushes. The sparrows weren’t invited but gate crash on a regular basis

After shovelling the dung I have another mammoth task that needs to be taken on before I can start creating the garden beds that will give us a huge degree of food choice this growing season. I have to chop up the branches and leaves from the sheoak and wattle trees that we had to remove to create the garden. Trees are clever things folks. Never let it be said that they are just “vegetables” in disguise. They have a primal need much like Brunhilda does and if you allow them to coexist with your vegetable garden they are going to take as much advantage of your tender loving care for your vegetables as they can. You are going to water your veggies and the surrounding trees are going to respond like ferals and send all of their available roots over to freeload. Fertilising your garden? “Cheers!” say the trees and promptly pinch your soil ameliorations before they get a chance to settle. Trees are most adventitious at surviving against the odds and if you turn the odds in their favour they are going to take whatever you give them. I am all for the trees. I love trees and Steve and I plan on populating Serendipity Farm with a plethora of them BUT to get the productive and useful trees that we want we are going to have to sacrifice some of the hardier foundation trees that have sprung up on Serendipity Farm

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This is our back block. It was cleared back when Ida owned the property and all of the trees that you see here have grown over the last 20 years. Most of them are wattles and sheoaks with the odd young eucalyptus

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Here’s where some trees have decided to die in the back block and are being harvested for their tasty firewood…Brunhilda approves

When I say foundation tree I am talking about seral behaviour. “Seral” is like viral folks. They just take off running and when we humans do our thing and clear huge tracts of land the seral community starts right back in where we left off and the earth tries to heal itself. Have you ever wondered why all of those pesky weeds spring up whenever there is a bare patch of earth or why your outdoor fire patch seems to grow the best weeds? Nature hates bare earth. It is foreign to survival and needs to be covered and so she allows those little freeloading weeds to get active for a season. What makes them pests is also what allows quick ground cover and their short lived vigour (thanks to huge amounts of available sunlight caused by a sudden lack of trees) allows some of the smaller shrub species to get a foothold in the soil amongst them. Once the shrubs start to grow some of the trees on the periphery of the area can shed some seed inside the weedy vacant lot. Once a few small trees start to populate the area nature is back on track to regaining control of her cycles. We just don’t see that these “weeds”, those ugly native shrubs, that prickly ground cover and those boring sheoak’s that shed their needles on anything that walks past them are doing an amazing job at keeping the moisture in the soil, nitrogenising the soil (sheoak’s and fast growing wattles are all nitrogen fixers) and are doing it extremely tough so that those tender useful species that we humans so covet for their ability to feed us can survive in the cycle of events.

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The branches you can see on the ground are part of Steve’s latest barrow load of wood. Today has been particularly lovely. Sunny with gorgeous blue skies but nice and cool, perfect for a shovelling narf. The lovely manicured lawn with the pretty orange coloured tree in the rear of the shot is our neighbours to the back. They would like us to clear our entire back block so that they have a better view of the water. We would like for the back block to not slide down the steep slope in the next rains so we tend to ignore them much to their disgust. It must be difficult to have awful penniless student hippies living in front of your prospective perfect view… 😉

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These little shrooms were sheltering underneath this spiders web underneath where Steve was chainsawing tonight’s firewood and they managed to survive the onslaught…kudos shrooms!

I love to learn. Shovelling horse poo and manually cutting up entire trees to line raised garden beds might not be everyone’s idea of a school room but to narf7 it is a precious opportunity to learn at the coalface. Yesterday while we were hauling ex fish farm netting from where we had stored it under the deck after cutting it in half for our purposes I noticed that the ground was unusually damp next to our glasshouse. It might be winter here in Tasmania but we haven’t had much rain over the last few days and this was more than dew…it was positively squishy. I mentioned it in passing to Steve on our first trip up and he muttered something about a tap and we didn’t think any more of it. On our second trip up to the garden hauling a larger net we were going slower and Steve looked down at the tap that he had been muttering about and was somewhat alarmed to notice that the large piece of white polypipe that surrounded it was half full of water and I was positively duck like in my squishing around the area and suddenly Steve had one of those forced life lessons that no-one really wants to take hold of…it was time to dig up the pipes.

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Check out Steve’s fixing job with assistance from some wayfaring plumbers. He hasn’t filled the assembly back in yet as we are waiting to see if it leaks…fool us once!

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Here is my choko. If you check the end it is starting to sprout and after some research that took us to permies.com (one of my go-to places to find “stuff” out) we found out that after it shoots we can plant it out. We will have to protect it from the marauding possums (remember the top of the fully enclosed gardens won’t be put on till spring) by covering it with some ex fish farm netting but this little baby is going to love climbing up and going nuts. Lets see if we can keep the choko cycle going 🙂

Serendipity Farm has been home to 3 “families”. None of them has had children living with them. The first family was an elderly couple who bought the land from their friends (Glad and her deceased husband Ted) and who lived in a caravan in the shed until the house was built. They are the creators of the gardens here and apparently the gardens were something to see back when they owned the place. The husband sadly died a month after the house was built but Ida lived here for many years and it was her love of interesting plants that forged the remnants of garden that Steve and I spend our days trying to find. Next came my father and his partner Val. They fell in love with the property and bought it from Ida and promptly realised that gardening was NOT their forte. By the time Steve and I inherited Serendipity Farm, the once delightful terraced gardens were jungles of overgrown struggling survivors and adventitious weeds.

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In my last post I talked about dehydrating kefir grains. I have way too many to keep using and don’t want to euthanise them so I decided to dry them (according to Dom’s instructions here… http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/sharing-kefir-grains.htm ) and I just wanted to show you how my experiment went. Wendy, you will get your grains soon. We went to Beaconsfield yesterday with the duel purpose to post your grains and return my library books but in the rush to get out of the door I completely forgot to bring the grains! The very next time we are someplace with a post office we will post your grains 🙂

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The image above and this image show what the excess grains looked like after washing them carefully in rainwater (I actually HAD rainwater… “Squee!” 😉 ). I decided to put a bit of baking paper onto the mesh screen from my dehydrator as the grains were still wet and dripping. In the end I didn’t even use my dehydrator I just dried them out on the bread proofing rack above Brunhilda

The property is littered with taps. I have NEVER seen anything like it. Ida must have never wanted to be more than 20 metres away from a tap because for some reason, the entire property has been dug up and black irrigation pipe laid down in the past. The problem is that around about now, that pipe is rapidly starting to degrade. If the pipe had degraded when my well-heeled fathers partner Val was still alive, it might have been replaced but once we penniless student hippies inherited, we suddenly became the keepers of the pipes. Steve has already had to do some serious digging to fix a pipe that decided to explode down in the garden in front of the house. Aside from being somewhat annoying (more so for Steve who actually had to do all of the digging and fixing bit) we were able to fix it quite quickly. The problem comes from the fact that the water mains is right up at the top of the property, up a steep hill and at least an acre and a half away from the house…a heck of a long walk to turn the tap off…then back on…and then off…and then back on again and just that bit too far away for anyone to hear what the other person is yelling to them. It is one of the ONLY times that I am glad we have a mobile phone!

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You can see that the smaller grains have dried out quicker than the bigger grains. As the grains dried out I put them into a small bowl that contains some organic milk powder that I purchased a while ago and keep in the fridge.

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A closer shot to show you how the grains look as they dry out. They get very yellow and start to smell vinegary

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Most of the grains had dried out enough to be put into the milk powder by this stage. Only a few of the larger grains were still slightly soft and needed a bit more dehydrating. You can see how much smaller the grains are now that they have shed their moisture

Today I shovel poo…yesterday Steve had to mend a pipe. We took my overdue library books back to Beaconsfield and we paid out for overpriced plumbing equipment from the local hardware store. We might have paid more than we would have at the large hardware behemoth (my word of the week… you aren’t the only one who has Wednesday words Linnie! 😉 ) Bunning’s that we Aussies are completely and utterly addicted to BUT we supported a small business and while Steve was wandering aimlessly up and down the plumbing resources section with his out-dated tap assembly in hand he met up with 2 plumbers collecting a few doodads and doohickies that they needed for a local job. They noticed his furrowed brow and his damp appearance and decided to help a poor (obviously clueless) hippy. After asking Steve what he was after they quickly ascertained what he needed with a few questions and set about assembling the puzzle of components that Steve needed for his job. Within 5 minutes the 2 of them did what would have taken Steve about 30 minutes of frustration to do and he is eternally grateful to them. That small section of tangled pipes and brass and pressure valves is now safe and updated but there are thousands of metres of aging pipe that still remain and we are afraid…we are VERY afraid…

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Here’s the finished kefir grains in stasis in their milk powder. Wendy will get most of these and if anyone else is curious about kefir or would like to try some please let me know. From now on my excess grains will be “free to a good home” anywhere in the world 🙂

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This last photo for my post is to show you my 5kg sack of “juicing apples”. Can you see anything wrong with them? Neither can I! I have eaten quite a few already and still nothing to show me why they were separated for different treatment aside from them being somewhat smaller than what you would expect. For $5 for 5kg I will take small thankyou! You can also see the kefir grains and my enormous glass jar that I was given by a previous employer along with many more. I worked in a deli and they got lots of huge glass jars containing antipasto ingredients and didn’t want them. I got a lot of lovely big jars and still have some to this day. I can’t remember what was in this jar but pretty soon it will be full to the brim with 2 enormous cabbages and 1.5kg of shredded carrots worth of kimchi. The folded blanket to the rear was a gift from my wonderful daughters. I wrap it around me every morning while I am waiting for Brunhilda to heat up the kitchen after her overnight slumber. It is MOST appreciated and Bezial says that if I put it down anywhere lower than the table he is going to steal it 😉

Bezial just got up and decided to take advantage of his sofa in the prime position right next to Brunhilda. Her balmy warmth is his until Earl decides to brave the day and shoves him from his lofty position. Today I shovel poo and I make kimchi in a huge jar that I forgot I owned till I went hunting in the empty granny flat behind our daughters home that is littered with leftover “stuff” from our moving here and our emptying out dads “stuff”. I carried the jar reverently home and pulled my precious cup of remaining kimchi out of the fridge ready to inoculate my new batch. I have to chop up 2 large cabbages, about 1 ½ kilos of carrots need to be shredded and a whole lot of garlic needs to be crushed to be added with lots of chilli and ginger to form the basis for what is going to ferment and bubble away in Steve’s shed for the next few months. Steve won’t let me keep my kimchi in the house after I added sea vegetables (for added nutrition) to my first batch and it smelled like a dead fish on a hot tin roof. Sadly it will fester away in the shed but I am happy in the knowledge that no matter where it rests, it will do its thing and I will someday take my place in the process and reap the benefits of being part of another small cycle of life. See you all Saturday when that pile of hard work will be merely a muscle memory and where my kimchi will already be starting to “BLOOP” its first fermented sea scented burps of life…aren’t cycles wonderful? :o)

Finally here is Steve’s latest animation complete with sound. We have certainly come a long way with Flash ;). Hopefully you can all see this, Steve is rightfully very proud of his little project 🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocA6y8O3Dlg&feature=youtu.be

 

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“I’m not dead…I’m just busy!”

Hi All,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Day that the Underpants Gnomes invaded Sidmouth

Hi All,

The nefarious Underpants Gnomes wallowing in a pile of pilfered underpants

I think that the underpants gnomes have invaded Serendipity Farm. There I said it! If you are not aware of the underpants gnomes (and that’s EXACTLY what they want you to be…) here’s a bit of background information about what they do…

We don’t just have ordinary underpants gnomes here (is ANYTHING normal on Serendipity Farm?!), we have the kind that sabotages your underpants to ensure that you are effectively nobbled. How do I know this? Because my underpants have suddenly all sprung their elastic and spend their time avoiding the task that they were designed to perform and avoiding my ample hips and choosing to attempt to cover my knees. Some of them are now a collection of holes being held together by a bit of cloth. I have 2 options at this point…I can start wearing Steve’s boxers OR I can use some of the bits of string in the back of the cupboard that I used to wear in a past life that were perpetually heading on an expedition to find my appendix that are waiting in solitary confinement to be used to tie up the tomatoes this summer. Neither solution appeals to me so I am going to have to bite the bullet and go underpants shopping because underpants and socks are NOT something that I will buy from a thrift shop. At least I am in the “normal” underpants range now and can have a bit of a choice other than enormous cotton nana knickers that go up to my armpits. I just want some serviceable underpants that stay up (preferably). I don’t need Hello Kitty represented on my nether regions and am more than happy to wear plain undies.  Does this say anything about me? I hope so!

Working on our model that we have FINALLY finished! You can see me measuring the place that we have to drill holes to nail in 1/5th scale nails that are TEENY!

Photo’s being taken of us having to use a punch to enable us to hammer (yes…that small silver thing is a hammer!) in the miniscule nails that we needed to use to achieve a true 1/5th scale. (Note to self…best get that bleach out pretty soon…)

The finished pergola…”Noice”! Seeing as this was a 1/5th scale model and it took us 6 weeks to complete (3 fortnightly visits)…if anyone wants us to build a full scale pergola it should take us approximately 3 years to complete…but it will be FANTASTIC! 😉

I discovered today, while Steve and I were looking for which saints were born on our birthdays (As you do…Steve has several and I have NONE!)…that there have been some semi famous people born on the day that I came into the world. The most famous of which was Neil Armstrong who professed to walk on the moon but many people would deny that. It’s all downhill after that…here’s the list…

  1. Neil Armstrong
  2. Marcia from the Brady Bunch
  3. The guy who wrote Hulk Hogan’s theme tune
  4. Pete Burns from Dead or Alive (we share a birthday AND???!!!)
  5. Evil Jared Hasselhoff from the band The Bloodhound Gang (Google it…apparently the roof is on fire…)
  6. Funkmaster Flex…

And last, but by no means least, someone who has 184 years to go till he is born…

Kevin Thomas Riley from Tarsus IV (Star Trek)

Now wasn’t that a good way to waste some of the time that I have left here on earth? I don’t THINK so! I shared this with you to show you that normal people are NOT born on the day that I was born… something happens in the time space continuum on this day every year to ensure that normality isn’t going to be an issue. (Pete Burns…REALLY?!!!). One of my dearest constant readers is also having her birthday soon. Kym has been one of my closest friends and was my best friend in high school. She shared her passion of Linda Ronstadt and John Denver with me and I shared my participation in drama class with her. We drifted away when we both headed to our capital city and headed off into different directions but met again not so long ago and now we have started back where we left off. Have a fantastic birthday Kymmy

This must be quite an old fashioned greeny/butter yellow grevillea because it was planted more than 20 years ago on Serendipity Farm. It must also be a very hardy grevillea because it has survived a total lack of water aside from natural rainfall along with a tree falling across it…not bad you tough little Aussie battler you and despite me not liking Australian natives much…this one gets to stay right where it is for as long as it wants to stay here.

As sad and slippy and ruinous as the gardens look at the moment there are little touches of colour and small waftings of heady scent drifting about in random corners of Serendipity Farm. This little patch of jonquils has decided to grow in the middle of the small second lawned area surrounded by overgrown hedges and the untamed heart of the garden. It’s hopeful little plants like this that keep me hurling myself into what is rapidly descending into a silty mire of mangled looking plants.

I am in love with kimchi. I made some the other day and placed it reverently on my bread proofing rack above Brunhilda and with the addition of miso and heat the fermentation process was speedier than usual and resulted in a nice quick kimchi with amazing flavour. I had some with rice tonight for my tea and I feel suitably chuffed with myself to add another skill to my bow. As you all know I LOVE being able to make things for myself and aside from my kimchi having quite a strong smell (it has a LOT of garlic in it…) I have a large jar of it in the fridge ready to consume at my every whim. Apparently a great way to speed up the process the next time I want to make it is to add a little of the old kimchi to the new batch (much like I added the miso knowing that it is cultured also). When looking for recipes to utilise my newfound kimchi wealth I found a recipe for Korean plain rice cakes that are actually little tubes of cooked rice flour that are used somewhat like noodles with kimchi. I have an interesting machine in the top of my pantry that was purchased years ago on one of my health kicks to make cold pressed juice. I call the machine “Little Pig” and to date it has made 1 batch of fruit mince, 1 batch of vegetarian sausages and about 1/16th of a glass of carrot juice and about 2 Supermarket bags worth of pulp in the process. This machine would be amazing for making these rice cakes. My daughters are way ahead of me with Korean food. They have been frequenting a little Korean grocery shop in Mowbray and are well versed in the delights of Korean food. I have limited myself to Korean red chilli paste and their amazing miso pastes that are delicious and I use like stock pastes. It’s about time I headed back and perused this amazing shop again. I have learned not to bother much with trying to work out what is contained inside these packages with Korean writing only and to head to the counter and show the Korean gentleman who shakes his head or smiles and nods as he knows that I am a vegetarian and don’t eat meat. He doesn’t understand much English and I don’t understand much Korean but we seem to have a good system going and I will continue to shop at this man’s shop because of the amazing array of products that pique my interest.

This protea is one of the shrubs that has survived on Serendipity Farm that seems to constantly flower throughout the year. Even the spent flowers are somewhat attractive, which is lucky because they are in NO hurry to evacuate their position on the shrub any day soon. They make lovely cut flowers if you are that way inclined but I would rather that they spent their days on their parent shrub feeling the sun and the rain on their upturned petals.

A small azalea that was, prior to a manic stint of vicious weeding, covered in blackberries and overgrown by ivy geraniums appears to be quite happy with its newfound ability to wave in the breeze

It’s now Saturday and I am sitting here wondering why anyone would pay for a weather service that doesn’t actually accurately predict the weather? A lot of taxpayer money goes to funding weather bureau’s and if you want an accurate idea of what the weather is going to be…in my opinion, it’s probably a good idea to stick your head out of the window. The weather report (last night) said “frosty mornings and 0C over night with fine weather for the next 3 – 4 days”…”All RIGHTY then!” says I and heads to the washing machine this morning before we set our on our walk with the dogs. 2 loads of washing later and all hung up nice and neatly on the line waiting for the sunshine and immediately after I put the last load of washing on to wash I headed out to try and get a little bit of early spring happening on Serendipity Farm for your voyeuristic enjoyment and what did I spy meandering down the river in a slow sprinkling deluge? RAIN! Not enough to totally saturate my washing but enough to set itself in, stop me from mucking out the chicken yard like I intended and too much to give me time race back and get the washing off the line…IF I paid tax I would be sorely tempted to contact the weather department and ask them for my money back! I raced my bale of hay into Steve’s shed in a wheelbarrow and could at least take some comfort that it remains snug and dry and ready to spread into the chook run after I remove the last nitrogen sodden tenant from its position under the perches. Yin is starting to spread out into some of the lower and upper regions of Serendipity Farm in search of human proof nesting sites. We found a nice little hen shaped nest tunnelled into a wild patch of Erigeron glaucus (seaside daisy) and upon closer inspection discovered a tell-tale white feather. Good try Yin…we are onto this one! I didn’t realise that seaside daisy’s other name was seaside fleabane? Perhaps that is why our dogs haven’t ever had a single flea since we moved here? Not that Bezial has EVER had a flea but if someone was going to pick up a nefarious hopper it would be Earl and he hasn’t ever had them either.

This little clump of Helleborus x hybridus (Winter Rose) has grown back most stubbornly amongst a pile of sticks that were left behind after a session in the garden. The same is happening all over Serendipity Farm as bulbs start to send their leaves up to the light and are having to detour around piles of debris and other things that weren’t there when they died back last year. I have to give them points for their persistence

Here’s a close up of these hardy little stayers that keep on coming back for more punishment

This lovely perennial goes by the name of “Stinking Hellebore”…I can’t for the life of me work out why because as far as my nose goes…and it’s a very well honed nose…it has no scent at all. Its one of the most hardy plants that I have seen around the property and will grow in places that look about as close to “Desert” as Tasmania can produce. I can only imagine that it likes the cold as otherwise it would run rampant everywhere it is so hardy.

Aside from being hardy and having striking leaves, Helleborus foetidus has very interesting flowers and is well worth growing in your garden if you want to ensure a year round supply of these attractive flowers

The tall tree-like Buddleia that I talked about wanting to identify in a past post is covered in flowers. I still don’t know what species it is but at least I can share a couple of photos with you. It has the most intense perfume somewhat like a Daphne odora but more citrusy. The wattle birds and other nectar feeders are all over it fighting for its fragrant elixir and I also discovered a Lonicera fragrantissima (lovely shrub honeysuckle) that has the most amazing scent growing in one of the lower gardens. I took some photos to share with you but mainly to remind myself that this sodden mass of broken twigs, mangled undergrowth and hacked vegetation has some promise for the future. I guess the saying “You have to break a few eggs to make an omelette” is there to remind me that it’s got to get worse before it gets better. The tiny little camellia that had been languishing underneath a pile of blackberries and a long dead tree that had fallen into the middle of it has finally flowered. I tried to take cuttings from this tiny little camellia when I was staying here a long time ago when dad was alive. I felt so sorry for this poor little plant that was surely on its last legs and it is certainly repaying me for its liberation from blackberry hell with its ongoing survival and it’s lovely flowers. We walked the dogs along the highway today for a bit of a change and headed down a side road and found a stall selling apples and Beurre Bosc pears. The pears were on special and after we got back to the car we headed back and picked up 2kg for $2. I love Beurre Bosc pears and these are particularly fragrant and taste like honey. I think I might make some pear muffins so that Steve can enjoy the flavour as he doesn’t generally eat fruit unless it is heavily disguised as “cake”. He doesn’t mind strawberries, however, which is just as well because almost every single tip rescued strawberry plant has grown. I was very surprised at how the tiny little budded bits have taken off but I must have found them at exactly the right time and now they are happily putting all of their energy into growing. I noticed that the 2 small pots of Australian native dendrobium orchids have both got flower spikes on this year. One of them, dad claimed to have climbed up a rock on an island in New South Wales and removed and transported to Tasmania. He said that it had a small blue flower so I will take some photos if it manages to produce a flower. The other one could be anything and was picked up from a small nursery in the states north for $2.

This Buddleia is situated in the middle of the untamed part of the lower garden. I know that it isn’t a regular Davidii and would love to know what it actually is. I think it might be an alternifolia. Let me know if you know what it is as it will definately make me a happy camper

Aside from being most happy to grow and flower in this tangled bit of wasteland in the middle of the garden this species is HUGE for a shrub. You can see the tops of the Eucalyptus in the background that should give you an idea that this is more tree than shrub

These little Bergenia’s are situated all over Serendipity Farm and a hardier little flowering ground cover would be difficult to find. The leaves are like cabbages and until I knew their botanical name I called them “The Cabbage Plant”…how horticultural eh? 🙂

A most hardy specimen of an unusual bush honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) that has a most delicious scent reminiscent of Daphne odora and well worth getting hold of for your garden

One of the small camellia’s that are starting to emerge in various parts of the garden all around Serendipity Farm

The little camellia that I had previously tried to take cuttings from that appears to be not only alive, but happy now that it has been liberated from its weedy prison

The little camellia in the previous photo has a lovely weeping habit and is certainly rewarding us with lots of flowers. 2 other small standard weeping camellias that I found under a large conifer are just about to start flowering and it will be interesting to see what their flowers are like.

I have been hunting out some recipes in which to use the kimchi that I made last week. Steve is NOT a fan of the product or the delightful garlicky scent that has started to emanate from the fridge whenever he heads there but I love it. I discovered that Sandor Ellix Katz, the author of the book that I found the recipe for my kimchi has 2 other books and have added all 3 books to my birthday list. The first of his books is more mainstream and talks about harnessing cultures to use in making bread, cheese, beer and wine. The second is the “Wild Fermentation” book that I have from the library and this one delves slightly more into the world of weird fermentation. His latest book called “The Art of Fermentation” heads all over the place and doesn’t actually give recipes but more guidelines to using ferments to create and experiment with. I think that where you live can often have a direct impact on how successful your ferments are. If you live in San Francisco, you can pretty much guarantee that you are going to grow yourself a hearty and most delicious sourdough starter whereas you may not have all of the luck in the world in Antarctica. Sometimes you have to find a source of your desired culturing agent like kefir grains or a kombucha Scoby (mother) but occasionally you can just rely on the wild yeasts and bacteria that are just floating around adventitiously waiting to predate your unsuspecting foodstuff if you give them the right conditions.  One problem with using cultures to change raw foodstuffs into fermented goodies is that they tend to get very happy with their new environmental conditions and start to breed their numbers up. You only need a certain amount of sourdough, kombucha and kefir (for example) and once you get more you either give it to someone else who wants it or you throw it away. I hate wasting things and Sandor has given those of us frugal magpies out here an out. He has shown how to turn Scoby mothers (kombucha) into the equivalent of glace fruit! What an interesting idea? Not only do you not have to drop your faithful servant into the toilet and give them a nautical funeral whilst feeling as guilty as heck as you flush, BUT you are able to repurpose it into something that is not only good for you, but that you can add into cakes. The end result looks a whole lot like glace mango and apparently tastes like lemony apple pie. You can’t go wrong with that! When I get my books I will be concocting all sorts of interesting ferments. I want to make some beer from wort and make good use of cheap fruit and vegetables in the coming productive seasons and turn them into all sorts of fermented goodies and wine.

It’s 2.30pm and Bezial is barking furiously at me to make his dinner. The day that you get your dinner at 2.30 is the day that I become a mindless dog zombie servant and that day isn’t approaching any time soon meladdy! The trouble with having dogs that are used to living the high life is that they tend to keep pushing their boundaries. Earl has a problem staying in the back seat of the car and can be relied upon to inch his way slowly further and further into the front in his excitement to plank like a hood ornament on the bonnet of the car…Bezial has a similar mentality when it comes to food and will push his luck if he thinks that he can. Steve is constantly subject to seal eyes whenever he starts to eat anything. They tend to leave me alone as parsnip soup and steamed veggies don’t seem to have the same appeal as cheese sandwiches and chicken pies so vegetarians have SOMETHING going for them ;). I just finished hanging up my washing on the washing line and the rain has started again. I don’t really mind as I know that my washing will smell lovely when it does eventually dry. I haven’t played Zelda for 2 days (I sound like a recovering alcoholic!) now and am planning on going on a Zelda bender later on tonight (yup…game-aholic alright 😉 ). Steve has been messing about with his new phone and has discovered that aside from taking a halfway decent photograph, it can do some funky things whilst taking said halfway decent photograph. I will leave you to enjoy the rest of your weekend (some of you have more of it left than the rest of us…) with a few of Steve’s experimentations with his phone…

It would seem that an American African woman has stolen our dogs! A photo of yours truly in negative…not too sure…I might actually prefer myself in negative…

The entrance way to the Alanvale Polytechnic Block G (Horticulture) taken in “Solarise” mode

A similar photo taken in the same area using “negative” showing that even mobile phones can take a pretty interesting photo…at least it kept Steve from dying of boredom in the 5 minutes that it took our lecturer to get to our early morning lecture.

The Sidmouth Kimchi Queen

Hi All,

Well its official…I just fell under the spell of fermented foods all over again. My daughters will be grimacing as they read that sentence because I have been known to dabble in the fermentative arts on past occasions. I had a failed crafts cupboard for all of the crafts that I started and then my interest dwindled and slowly died for the evidence to be placed into storage in said cupboard. It’s just lucky that I don’t have a failed fermentation cupboard or the contents would be heinous to say the least! I made yoghurt, kefir (both milk and water) and let’s not forget the contents of my fridge crisper that must surely contain some long established microbial/fungi symbiosis that could split the atom. I have had a brief hiatus dabbling only in the more acceptable art of yeasty goodness of late but always…fermenting and brewing (forgive me…I couldn’t resist…) in the back of my magpie homesteading brain the desire to create bubbling pots of strange smelling creations lays latent and smouldering…I dare say it’s something primal from the beginnings of food storage. I dare say our ancestors learned to eat things that had turned to the dark and fuzzy side as they didn’t really have any alternatives and after a while decided that green and fuzzy or bubbly and even solidified and stinky wasn’t half as bad as it could have been and thus began humanities quest for preservation utilising our teeny little mates bacteria and fungi. Many times they form a little partnership to share the raw ingredients and occasionally one will start the project, and then they will hand the half-finished result over to their industrious little mate to finish it off. Without this active desire to change ingredients into other ingredients through the digestive systems of miniscule creatures we would have no alcohol, no cheese, no bread and umami would not exist.

With the crisp cold mornings that we have been having lately we headed off to walk at the boys favourite spot for their morning trot “Bonnie Beach”. We saw this pair of birds as we got out of the car.

I went off road with Earl and didn’t heed the warning signs with this (now obviously…) strange patch of ground. Steve made me keep my foot in so that he could first laugh, and then take photos to put on Facebook…

The end result was a shoe full of wet ash and clay that I stoically decided to ignore and carry on with our walk. The further we walked…the squishier the action of my feet made the new contents of my shoe and when I got home it took AGES to get the emulsified mass washed and scrubbed out of my trainer

I have been ruminating about making some generic “fermented things” for a while now and up until I actively took out Sandor Elix Katz book “Wild Fermentation” from the library (again…) it had stayed on the backburner raising its head occasionally as I muttered about “Must get some more kefir grains” and Steve would nod his head absently pretending not to hear me because most of the time my mutterings rarely amount to much but this time I decided to do something about it. I made Kimchi. I had a large quarter of a cabbage sitting in the fridge that was calling out for me to do something with it. I usually let cabbage take its natural course and turn into liquid plant fertiliser in my vegetable crisper (don’t you all say EWW! You KNOW you do the same!) But this cabbage kept lightly touching my hand as I delved beyond it to grasp the more familiar and desirable paper bag of mushrooms…red capsicums…spring onions…It must have felt so rejected :o(. I decided to use this small chunk of cabbage and what better to make of it than kimchi so that I could kill 2 birds with one stone. I collected together all of the ingredients along with my old standby sprouting jar that Steve had doctored for me in the past (another fad…) with metal mesh on the top so that the sprouts could simply be rinsed through the top of the jar. It was sitting on the top shelf of the pantry (along with the soy milk maker…the pasta maker…the mandoline and the high rise electric sprouter…I guess you could call it my failed fad cupboard: o) and was ideal for making kimchi. I will let the photos tell the story…

Garlic, ginger and Korean red chilli paste (no added preservatives) and a bit of white miso to help the flavour and the bacterial development

Hey…lets have a really CLOSE look at the resulting paste. This is the part that makes the cabbage kimchi and not sauerkraut…

This is my salting station. The veggies have to be soaked in quite a strong brine made from water and seasalt and here you can see the salt being weighed out before adding to the bowl

The salt needs to be totally dissolved and if you look carefully you can see the undissolved salt in the bottom of the bowl. I like to use a whisk to do this as it seems to take less time

The main reason for the recipe…here is the sliced up quarter of cabbage that I decided to use. The recipe called for Chinese cabbage but I didn’t actually HAVE Chinese cabbage and I am NO racist…so here we have common English cabbage and the kimchi is just going to have to live with it!

The recipe called for cabbage and carrot and radishes (which I also didn’t have…it being the middle of winter here in Tasmania made that somewhat difficult…) but it did say that you could put pretty much whatever you liked in it so I put some red capsicum…will I?…should I?…Yeh! Why not…

At the risk of ending up with Barbie pink kimchi I decided to add some purple carrot that had been languishing alongside the cabbage for more time than I would like to admit to the mix and it certainly perked up the colour a bit.

The vegetables needed to be submerged under the brine and this was the only plate that sit low enough in the bowl so I had to wing it…I added a bit more brine to make sure that all of the veggies were covered

The recipe said that you could add fish sauce (nope) and seaweed…NOW your talking Mr Katz! I knew that I had some seaweed in one of my ethnic food storage bins and went hunting through and found these 2. The lower seaweed was kelp (for my vegan sushi efforts) and as always the top packet was in an Asian language which I can’t understand so lets go with that one eh?

Hmmm…I wonder what kind of seaweed it is? They have kindly added “Dried Seaweed” to the top so that I know its not loose leaf tea but the actual variety remains a mystery…

After some further inspection I noticed the above directions and was able to identify the seaweed…WAKAME! My favourite seaweed and most DEFINATELY going into my Kimchi 😉

Aside from being the tastiest of all seaweedy comestibles, this particular brand is actually Korean which is the birthplace of Kimchi so its doubley fitting. This is what Wakame looks like when you first put it into water…

and this is how much wakame eventuates after a very short soak…BONUS!

Next we need to get some onion chopped up finely to add to the paste…

Heres the wakame, the onion and the paste ready for the vegetables when they have finished their stint in the brine.

Here they are mixed together ready to add to the soaked veggies when they come out of the brine.

I decided to warm the large repurposed jar that was once an ex delicatesen jar of Sundried Tomatoes in a past life to discourage any existing greeblies that might take up residence unheeded in my precious kimchi experiment…if it goes bottom up I want it to at least be because of something quantifiable so that I can work on it next time…

Steve used silicone to fix this bit of metal gauze to the top of the jar so that sprouts could be rinsed in situ and this makes a perfect non airtight jar to make kimchi and other fermented things in to stop the risk of the jar exploding…never a good thing!

Here’s the finished result with 2 small ziplock bags filled with water weighting the kimchi vegetables down underneath their resulting brine. This book has now become a “must buy” book and the more I look at the amazing fermented things inside it, the more I want to make them. I can actually feel Steve twitching as I type that :o). The small pot covered in the background with another little ziplock bag contains little cubes of cheese that we give to the Cuckoo Shrikes that come on a regular basis throughout winter to supplement their diet when the insects are conspicuous by their absence.

The kimchi’s current residence on my custom bread proving rack above Brunhilda where it sits snuggly festering in its own little warm haven… hopefully by the time I post again I will be able to use some of it

After making the kimchi I blended up my soaked (overnight) almonds to make the almond milk for my tea for the next few days and the sesame seeds to make the sesame milk for my morning porridge. I then put the left over ground up nuts/seeds individually into a baking paper lined tray and slid them into Brunhilda’s coolest drying oven to sit overnight and dry out slowly. Tomorrow I will remove them and will grind them individually in my Vitamix blender and turn them both into flour to be used in a future baking project. I like being able to make my own staple foods, it makes me feel sufficient. That’s NOT self-sufficient…just “sufficient”.  It’s now Wednesday evening and I have to post this post. “EEK!”…where did our week go? It went the same place that last week went…into the fervent world of AutoCAD and plan production and we arrive at this point tired but very happy with our progression from hair pulling incomprehension to actual understanding and utilising the potential of this difficult program to give us some pretty classy results. Our latest planting plan looks like something that we would see in a magazine and that, my dear constant readers, is what it’s all about :o). I would also like to thank Spencer from the amazing blog Anthropogen (Check on my blogroll as it’s one of my must read blogs) for sharing some quality precious information with us here on Serendipity Farm. Spencer has been dabbling in growing some of the trees that I lust after here on Serendipity Farm and I am watching the progress most carefully as Spencer lives in Greece and Greece and Australia are not all that far apart in their temperature variations. I have met some really amazing people through blogging that I would never have met if not for learning how to blog. My life would have been less rich and most definitely the poorer for not having met you all. Cheers for inspiring me to blog in the first place and for giving me the will to carry on. If you guys can do it…I can! :o)

We use the coolest of Brunhilda’s warming ovens to thaw the dogs meat from frozen and to dehydrate things overnight like this pulp left over from making the almond (on the left…I leave the skins on so its darker than it could be) and sesame (on the right) milk. The next day its dry and has a decidedly malty smell. I store them in separate jars in the pantry for future use. Dehydrating things allows you to extend their storage period and I love not having to waste the pulp from nuts and seeds as they are not cheap and using everything involved in the process is a much more sustainable outcome

Here is what Earl thinks of my kimchi making exercise…

And if Bezial’s expression here is anything to go by he would rather have been left asleep than forced to share his disdain with the world…

The sun was just coming up and Steve took this interesting shot on one of our early morning dog walks

We took this photo of a little native fern ensconced between 2 lichen covered rocks along the way on our walk

One of the old dead trees along the Auld Kirk dirt road on the way home from our walk that possums use for habitat. You can see the river down the steep bank in the background

Another cold morning on the river. This shot was taken just over from our front gate and shows you how pretty where we live actually is

The view back down Auld Kirk Road towards where we live gives you a good idea about where we head off to in the mornings when I say that we are walking the dogs.

My kimchi is sitting up above Brunhilda as I type this on the comparative warm haven of my customised bread proofing rack. I have tasted it daily as instructed by Mr Katz and have really noticed the flavour changing from predominately “salty” to a more complex mix of salty and tangy. I don’t like buying things that I can’t make myself and probiotics are one thing that I refuse to pay money for when they can be produced at home. Kimchi promises to satisfy my desire for savoury flavours whilst giving me the added bonus of being actually good for me. Next step is the more down to earth Sauerkraut to see if my German heritage emerges with a “Wunderbar!” It remains to be seen… Again I think that I will let the multitude of photos tell you a bit more about the last few days as I have over 30 photos to share with you. We seem to spend our days walking the dogs and studying in between rain showers and the odd bit of Zelda (me) and television (Steve) but they say that a photo can speak 1000 words…I am sure that you will be glad of the opportunity to see if they do :o) so I will finish up here for today and leave you all with this little reminder of why I love Brunhilda so VERY much…

Lastly…heres another great reason why I love the multifunctionality of Brunhilda. This coolest warming oven is perfect for drying off wet items without heating them too much…its perfect for dehydrating and in this case…for making “Shoe” pastry 😉 Oh go ON! You know you liked it :o)