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! 😉

The confessions of a self-absorbed hierophant

Hi All,

I made it! I managed to stay up till after 12 for the very first time in years! Steve and I stumbled out of bed at 5am so that he could go fishing and I could get my very first post of 2013 up and running. It’s amazing how hung over you can feel without even having a drink ;). I have had a most interesting few days. In preparation for my 2013 ethos (I like to have a goal and a theme 😉 ) I have been “doing” lots of things. I want to be a better (read less lazy) cook this year and create a lot more “from scratch” things. I want to hone my skills this year so you can expect a lot more tutorial type posts and interesting recipes…at least photos of what we cooked. I made Steve a savoury pithivier the other day and rather than use milk to make the base sauce, I used white wine. It was delicious apparently and the leftovers got recycled into a huge quiche the next day using zucchini, our own eggs (14 of them…we have 9 dozen to get through and rising!) and some of our spinach. I want to become more organised and condense my processes down and get Serendipity Farms cycles integrated better this year. We are composting everything that can possibly be composted and it is amazing how something turns from a problem into an asset with a little bit of knowledge. Finding ways to effect positive change on a shoestring is what warms the cockles of my little penniless hippy heart. I found out an incredible amount of information last year and stashed it away for future use. I learned how to make hugelkultur gardens, how to ferment, how to grow a sourdough (even though Herman is still in cryogenic stasis as I type those words…) and how to do all sorts of things from scratch bypassing the consumer dollar in the process. We spend our money locally as much as we can and have stopped buying supermarket meat in favour of our local butcher Nigel from “Nigel’s gourmet on Tamar”…he didn’t give me anything to plug his business there folks…his quality produce was all that needed me to laud him and there are so many small primary businesses out there that could use a bit of a capital injection from we the public. The supermarkets are insidiously replacing all of the branded products on their shelves with their “own labels” to maximise their profit margins. Check out the back of these products and take note that they are not supporting Aussie farmers in their endeavour to rule the Australian consumer dollar…they are importing cheap foods from goodness only knows where and packaging them here in Australia to try to make them look better. Don’t support them if you have any other option…even penniless student hippies can choose to shake their moth eaten sock into their open hands to the benefit of Australian producers.

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The quiche of a million eggs for your perusal!

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Here is a photo that Steve took from his aluminium coracle whilst pootling around on the river the other day. If you look REALLY closely (or if you click the photo and make it bigger…) you might just be able to make out what that red blob is up on that deck…its me! Our house is only really visible from this position in the river and from here you can see The Auld Kirk Church, Steve’s shed and our house and those rocks in the foreground actually belong to Redwood island which Steve is conveniently anchored near to give you a bit of perspective. All of those trees are pretty much ours and the area in front of the house used to be landscaped and terraced garden…not any MORE it isn’t! 😉

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These tyres contain the entirety of a packet of seed that we were given to us by the funeral directors back in 2010 at my fathers funeral. At the time Serendipity Farm was in no condition to broadcaste seed around but we found this packet the other day and decided that our veggie garden needed some flowers to confuse the predatory insects and so Steve built this little tyre garden while I was away at my daughters house. As you can see there is a plethora of possibility here in this tyre…not being an annual person myself, I have no idea what these little green babies are (hopefully not weeds!) but whatever they are they can at least get to see the light of day from their packet and act as little first defence soldiers in the war of integrated pest management

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My little Moringa oleifera that I have been gestating in the glasshouse that will eventually be planted on Serendipity Farm

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The fecundity of the well fortified old compost heap…

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This is an old beer can…one of the cluckies who had been hunkering down for over a month in the new chook pen (before it was a new chook pen to be exact!) was actually sitting on it. I bravely checked under her and was duly repelled with great gusto and all for this remnant of my dad and his drinking buddies…sigh…

I have some dried fruit soaking in the last of the Christmas rum ready to make boozy Eccles cakes for Steve today. Steve has been steadily working his way through the Christmas booze because he wants to give his liver a bit of a rest for lent this year and wanted to start early ;). When we were taking the dogs for a walk up the highway the other day I found a tiny little metal spoon bowl that had become separated from its handle. I have NO idea how it got to be on the side of the road but I picked it up and we brought it back home and Steve make it a handle out of a Serendipitous twig and took a bit of adventitious rust off it and now it sits proudly in the cutlery draw, given a new life by someone who saw it’s intrinsic value. Steve has managed to get on top of the list of spoons that needed to be made and I even got a massive great Spoondle (a cross between a spoon and a ladle). He got creative for Roz’s spoon and decided to make a cross between a wooden spoon and a spatula…the Spatuloon is born! I love that we can both make spoons. The end results are startlingly different and entirely personalised to our own view of the wood that we are working with. I also love that the small pieces of wood that Steve cuts his spoons out of get recycled into small spoons and the remainder get bagged up ready for fire lighting futures. The sawdust gets swept up and bagged as well to use for odour control in my indoor compost bucket and for increasing the suite of organisms in our compost heap. By the way folks…add all sorts of things to your compost…add leaves and broken up twigs from all sorts of plants and trees and tip your beer can dregs into your compost bucket… they all add something exciting and new to your compost brew and make for adventurous growing seasons and who doesn’t love to see what amazing fungi grow out of their compost heap! I know that composting will never be the same for me after opening up the compost bin at Polytechnic in my very first compost turning event and seeing fungi mycelium threaded right down through the compost pile…the fecundity of it all excited me along with the cycles and processes that were initiated by what went into that compost and got me wanting to grow my own fungus…I LOVE fungi :o).  Earl has been getting restless whenever his snout manages to get within sniffing distance of the bowl of walnuts in Steve’s music room…he has personally asked us to do another spoon draw so that he can reintroduce his questing nose into that bowl full of walnuts as he loves to crack them in half and leave them lying around for foolish barefoot hippies to find… another spoon draw is on the horizon folks :o)

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Pinky my dear younger sister’s new spoon in its finished but raw state…

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If you can take your eyes off that spiders web in the top left hand corner for a bit, you will notice that the spoon is now a different colour. It has been rubbed with Eco-oil, a natural food safe blend of orange and tung oil that gives wood a lovely lustre and enhances its natural beauty

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You can tell that these hands belong to Steve…firstly by the hairy arms and secondly by the long fingernails…murphy’s law states that all guitarists must grow their fingernails at an exponential rate because fingernails get in the way of playing…

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This is my Spadle…its huge and pot ready and I can’t wait to wave it about like excalibur over my head when diving into cauldrons of bubbling harvest futures

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A selection of wooden spoons that Steve has made since he decided to become “The Spoonman”

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Earl wistfully prodding the walnuts with his nose

Not long after I found the little spoon bowl on our recent walk I noticed a large tree growing on the road verge and my horticultural bones started to twitch…”Steve…I think that might be a chestnut tree!”…my horticulture spidey senses were on full alert and indeed it WAS a chestnut tree! I haven’t seen an adult chestnut tree in flower and it was a very interesting thing to behold. The flowers are long and pendulous and have a very “interesting” fragrance…not entirely pleasant but my guess is (assisted by the clouds of flies and beetles covering the tree) that they are not aiming at bees and butterflies to pollinate them. I could see tiny chestnuts forming on the ends of the branches and another free food source has been isolated. I am definitely going to plant some chestnut trees out now. If they will grow on a road verge with no outside source of irrigation they are definitely a tree for Serendipity Farm. As we were walking back to our car I noticed a red clover (Trifolium pratense) plant growing in the gravel on the side of the road…again my horticultural senses twitched because deep in the over clogged information highway of my mind something put 2 and 2 together and came up with “bonus!”…I did a bit of research when I got home about red clover because I hauled the red clover plant out of its desert gravel pit and put it into one of our incredibly useful dog dung bags (we use them for horticultural purposes more than their intended use!) and it is sitting in the laundry sink happily bathing its toes in fresh water as I type this. My ethos is “never let a chance go by” and I am glad that I didn’t because this baby had a HUGE root system and because it was covered in seed ready to broadcast if it was worth cultivating. It’s always a good sign if your query results in 2 results lauding the health benefits of said red clover before you get to the Wikipedia entry and apparently I learned something in my horticultural endeavours because I found out that red clover has been used for centuries as a metabolic diuretic, an expectorant and a blood purifier. It contains lots of nutrients and phytoestrogens to balance hormonal activities and is being researched for its uses as a natural treatment for cancer, menopausal symptoms and skin disorders. It makes a pleasant cup of herbal tea and 1 – 2 tsp of dried flowers infused in 1 cup of boiling water for 15 – 30 minutes is all it takes to add this delightful natural remedy into your diet. See what a bit of knowledge can give you? I am going to spread the clover all over the place on Serendipity Farm…I am going to infuse the “lawn” with it, I hope to attract bees from all over the place by having a lot of it growing here. Knowledge is power of the highest degree and the kind of power that this freely sourced knowledge can give you is immensely empowering to those of us living on a shoestring

Trifolium pratense red clover

This is a lovely stock photo of red clover…MUCH better than I could take for you so you can acutally identify it in the wild using this shot

Pirate Ship

I am hoping that I can sneak this photo by the internet trolls… I am going to give full kudos to The Examiner our local rag for this shot. Its of the pirate ship that I talked about not so long ago and a Melbourne man built it from scratch and has been sailing it around since Christmas… I don’t know about pirate but at $5 a person to take a sneak peak on board, he might just be rolling in dubloons by the end of the season!

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Here is what the little found spoon looked like after I extracted it from the pocket of my jeans

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Here it is resting on the twig that I picked to be its new handle

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And here is what it looks like now after a bit of a clean up and a nice new twiggy handle 🙂

We are off to take some rubbish to the tip tomorrow. I have a plethora of amazing books to pick up from the local library as it opens again on January 2nd and Nigel slaters complete back catalogue appears to have landed in my request box ;). We try to combine as many things as we can into a single trip and tomorrow (today really but I typed this yesterday 😉 ) we will be walking the boys in Exeter, heading up to the tip and perusing the tip shop for any hardwood that we can find including floor boards to make spoons and spatulas with, going to the local op shop to see if anything new has arrived and picking up my weights worth of free books from the library. I don’t know why more people don’t take advantage of the library. I know it is easier to just buy a book but when funds are tight, it’s not an option and when time is an asset that you have plenty of, typing out the best recipes from a good cookbook isn’t an issue and if you run out of time you can just request it again :o). I have a wonderful selection of books at the moment ranging from vegan cookbooks by the iconic Isa Chandra Moskowitz, a vegan pioneer who has, along with her good friend Terry Hope Romero, dragged vegan food kicking and screaming out of the “too hard” box and directly into the oncoming path of mainstream society. I purchased “Vegan cupcakes take over the world” in a selection of vegan cookbooks from the U.S. a few years ago and now we have “Vegan pie in the sky” (on my desk waiting to be typed out) and “Vegan cookies invade your cookie jar” is waiting for me to pick it up tomorrow…I get very excited whenever I get near the library. It’s a knowledge thing…a fundamental ingredient in my makeup that gives me a “good dog!” pat on the head whenever I head into that hallowed hall of literature and I never cease to amaze myself at how greedy I can be when it comes to books. I never have a spare space on my library card of 15 allowed books and regularly use my dear non-literary husband’s library card to shamelessly hog 15 more books. I can never hope to get through all of them in my allotted 3 weeks but whatchagonnado eh? 😉

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You wanted pictures of the veggie garden…you GET pictures of the veggie garden…this is the view from the house side of the veggie gardens…

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And this is the view from the other side…that blue tarpaulin still has some of the organic compost underneath it waiting to be used to fill duckies old boatpond and used as a raised herb garden

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Some of the rainbow chard that I cut to give to the chooks surrounded by sage and cucumbers and snow peas

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3 different kinds of zucchini, some chives, some snow peas, some cucumbers and a rustic attempt at allowing the cucumbers to go viral

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English spinach, beetroot, sage, cucumbers and those exponentially grow-before-your-eyes zucchini plants

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The spinach and beetroot bed…beetroot leaves are delicious by the way and every bit as good as silverbeet

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Looking back towards the corn and silverbeet

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Tomato mania! I am standing up taking this photo and you can see how crazy they have gone!

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A bed full of lettuce, rocket (going to seed but still tasty), capsicums (peppers), jalapeno chilli’s and more! I think you will all agree that our summer veggie garden experiment appears to be paying off 🙂

I think I may have stumbled onto the next greatest thing in vegan cooking…I am saying this because I know that Hannah, the vegan degustatory equivalent of Albert Einstein reads my blog posts…I hope you are reading this one Hannah because I am sharing my new found secret passion with you right here…right now. I LOVE cheese…I love it with a passion rivalled only by my love for potatoes (and butter…and bread…and…well you get the picture!) and I have sorely missed that cheesy flavour since I went over to the bright side of the street where the vegans hang out in the hipster side of town… it was one of the main reasons that I stuck steadfastly to my vegetarian past and stubbornly refused to cross that dairy free line. Eggs…no problem…cheese and butter “NOOOO!” but cross I did for health reasons and here I am still lusting after that deep cheesy flavour that comes from well-aged cheddar and I haven’t found a vegan alternative yet. I do love the taste of aged nut cheeses and I like vegan homemade yoghurt but the nut cheeses are expensive to make and while I was staying with my daughters they introduced me to something revolutionary that gave me back my cheesy hit without any effort on my part…magic! We had a complete weekend of cooking; we made homemade pizza and 12 different Korean recipes and Asian sago pudding and delicious icecream and all sorts of things. The girls had cheese on their pizza along with all sorts of weird things. They like to experiment with their food and often take recipes to their limits in the process. They have all sorts of unusual multicultural ingredients in their home and as they are going through an Asian phase at the moment they had purchased lots of Asian products in tins and jars to experiment with. Apparently my youngest daughter Bethany had bought a jar of Chilli bamboo shoots on a whim and after opening the jar and trying them she didn’t like them and the jar had remained on their fridge shelf gathering the fridge equivalent of dust for a while. When we were considering what to put on my vegan pizza Madeline (my eldest daughter) said “why don’t you put some of those chilli bamboo shoots on it?”…never one to shirk my duty to try new things I agreed and thus was born my newfound addiction to these wonderful fermented little shreds of vegan cheesy happiness. They taste almost identical to aged vintage cheese. If you don’t believe me Hannah, head down to your nearest Asian food store and buy a jar of Double Coins Chili Bamboo Shoots and see for yourself. I know you are a very innovative girl and are not averse to trying new things and I am sure that you will be able to integrate them into some of your wonderful vegan recipes…time to start a new trend Hannah and you will be right there at the beginning :o). Don’t say that I am not a generous blogger :o). I just let Earl (who likes to stand up and give me a kiss when I am typing on a regular basis) a sniff of the chili bamboo shoots and he started licking his lips and attempting to insert his doggy tongue into my precious jar of cheesy vegetable goodness…Earl is a cheese fan of old…I rest my case!

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Here it is Hannah…it might not look very promising but these fermented little strips of pure cheesy flavoured goodness were enough to lure Earl to attempt to stick his nose into the top of the jar and Earl is a true cheese afficionado of old! Check them out and let me know if you don’t agree that these shards of vegetabley goodness are not a craze waiting to happen 🙂

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We sprayed the roosters past wishbones and were going to thread them together to make a garland for the Christmas Tree but completely forgot them and so they will have to be this year’s project. We are going to spray some of them red and some gold over the top of the green but we only had green spray paint at the time…

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The end result of an experiment to see what happens if you dehydrate a whole raw egg…what happens is that you get something surreal that the dogs ate with gusto!

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A quick mercy trip to deliver a fridge to my daughters resulted in an impromptu trip to Launceston. I took lots of photos and will share them with you over the next few posts as this post is crammed to bursting! I just wanted to share this one with you to show you how pretty Launceston is 🙂

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The genius of street art…what is it? Not sure, but it does resemble my 5am face should I ever be foolish enough to look in the mirror at that unGodly hour!

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This is OBVIOUSLY the next fashion trend for the season…Steve and I will be sure to embrace it fully the next time that we visit…

So much for me cutting my post size down for 2013! I guess you have to work at “resolutions” don’t you? You can’t just expect to go cold turkey on your muses right up…I hereby give you 300 less words this post! I expect lavish applause and multiple congratulations for that… (Good luck getting me to repeat it 😉 ). See you on Saturday and have an amazing rest of the week my wonderful dear constant readers :o)

Earl is my Muse….

Hi All,

Our 4 years of horticulture have just flown past. In 4 years we have managed to pack in Certificates 2 and 3 in horticulture and a Diploma of horticulture with a soon to be Diploma of Landscape Design following suit. It’s amazing how much information can be crammed into your head before it bursts. I still haven’t reached bursting point but I sometimes thing I am getting close. You NEVER stop learning when it comes to gardening and nature. All of these (usually self-proclaimed) garden equivalents to Gordon Ramsey who easily impressed gardeners aspire to be are merely skating on the surface and tend to be more marketing tools than true information highways. I tend to head over to the alternative side whenever I want to find out truly useful information but am as prone to envy as anyone when it comes to a really spanky garden. Steve and I are not natural gardeners. I shared Nat’s little piece of heaven with you all on Saturday and our garden will NEVER be like hers. We are too lazy and our sentiments and aspirations lie elsewhere (predominately in the gastronomical arena of edible plants). Whenever I drop in to Nat’s house I can spot something desirable in one of its stages of envy inducement glory. I gave up long ago with my aspirations to a gorgeous cottage garden cram packed with glorious perennials BUT I can use some of the principals of cottage gardens to help us get what we want on Serendipity Farm. Cottage gardens are mass planted. Cottage gardens have tiers and levels and borders…cottage gardens mass all different kinds of flowers together and in so doing they promote natural pest control and the massing minimises the weeds. There are many incredibly self-sufficient perennials that truly deserve a place here… I just have to sift them out of the hard work basket and work out where I can put them (most likely the side garden) so that they are close to the house so I won’t forget about them. The Catalpa bignonioides (try saying that with a cold 😉 ) or Indian Bean Tree that we bought 2 years ago from our fellow horticultural lefty mate Andrew at Red Dragon Nursery that has been only barely hanging on to life in its too small pot and its regular water stressed environment got planted out a few months back and is leafing up now. We planted it on the fenceline between our place and Glads as one day it’s going to be a gorgeous tree and it can get full sun where it is. Just a quick aside, I just checked how to spell “bignonioides” and found out that the leaves secrete extrafloral nectar as well as regular nectar in the flower in an effort to attract pollinators. What a clever plant! We have decided that we are going to plant a row of Brachychitons down the fenceline from the top of the property down to our woodshed. I can only imagine some future visitor to Serendipity Farm marvelling at the eclectic mass/tangle of plants and wondering at the minds that decided to use the eclectic selections of plants that we are choosing and what was in our minds to do so.

We took the boys to Paper Beach on a lovely cool still day and Steve took some lovely photo’s with his phone

I love the round stones on the riverbank and covet them beyond belief. It’s just lucky that I am aware of how unsustainable it is to pinch river stones or I might bring a rucksack with me every time that we visit this lovely beach

So we are plant rebels! Who cares! Someone has to be :o). Most Brachychiton species have edible seed. They thrive in dry conditions and you won’t get much drier than our back block. They were grown in Tasmania and some of the seed was collected in Tasmania so it is from established stock that has acclimatised itself to our conditions, in other words, it has provenance. Something with provenance has been grown in local conditions and is more than happy to survive and flourish. They are the perfect plants to grow in your garden or on your property because they have a proven track record. I like to check out peoples gardens in the local area. I am naturally nosy but that isn’t why I wrangle Earl in from his rabbit hunts and his sniff fests to crane over someone’s fence to attempt to see what they have thriving in their garden. I do it because if it’s happy on my neighbours property there is a good chance that it may be happy on ours.

River grass contrasting with the pure still river in the background and the 2 black swans made this a nice photo

I really liked this persons fence. The gates appear to be hand made

This photo is to give you some idea of how massive this oak tree was. The house is underneath it and is totally swamped by this enormous specimen. We couldn’t even fit it all in the shot as we would have had to back up into the river to get it all

I want to trade this wonderful man for our stupid prime minister. He is living a sustainable life by choice not postulating about it and doing deals with China behind her back to sell us and keep our economy afloat on the books. Check out this inspirational article about the President of Uraguay. This is one politician that I would actually invite into my home to share a meal. Bravo Jose Mujica you might be “The world’s poorest President” but you are one of the richest in human spirit :o).

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20243493

It’s a pity Jose isn’t the president of the United States of America isn’t it? Imagine how easy it would be to change over to sustainable ways of doing things with someone who lives it every day as his creed in the top seat? Oh well…we live in hope :0).

I am SO envious of this little segment of wasteland between a house and a shed that we spotted in Exeter today. Obviously the home owner used this area to throw their green waste that obviously consisted of a proportion of potato. Isn’t it both amazing and ironic how well vegetable grow when you could care less about them? 😉

If a boat wants to head down the river into Launceston we get to see it heading past Serendipity Farm. This little tug boat is off to be serviced in Launceston. We also get to see the Astralobe, the boat that goes to Antarctica, when it comes in to be serviced. Life on the river is never boring 🙂

I just got another example of how life can give you a belly laugh when you least expect it. “Aubergine”…for 1, we don’t use that word here in Australia. We call them eggplants…but I was trying to find a really delicious looking recipe that I saw on an episode of “Andy Bates Street Feasts” last night. The recipe was for a vegan burger that started by cooking all sorts of curried things in a large pot and then adding coconut cream and THEN adding polenta to soak up all of the liquid and the resulting burgers were shaped and fried and looked scrumptious. They then kicked it up a notch by using Khobz flatbreads instead of burger buns, adding all sorts of delicious chutneys and salads and folding them up into a nice neat envelope shape that was open at the top and eating them. My kind of grub! Anyway…I was hunting for the recipe and after finding it, I copied and pasted it into a word doc and as usual Word took offence to some of the spelling. It usually takes offence to Americanisations where the words have been changed but this time it wanted me to change “aubergine”. Fair enough…I don’t use the word aubergine so lets just change it to eggplant and be done with it. I clicked on Words suggestion and it wanted me to change aubergine to aborigine! That might not have been such a terrible swap apart from the context of the recipe that wanted me to take said aubergine/aborigine and peel and dice it! I had to laugh…I guess you had to be there 😉

It may not be the most beautiful of gates but I love my new rustic garden gate :). It has given me the ability to head out to the vegetable garden whenever I like and it has given Earl the newfound joy of being able to lay in wait and terrorise passing chooks

This photo is looking back towards the new gate. The star pickets and white bird netting contain the first of the little figs that we planted out. He will soon be joined by his 3 siblings because he has responded so well to his new home.

It’s suddenly time to post my hump day post and we have been flat out fixing up things in our designs. It would seem that we raised the bar in our designs and our dear esteemed lecturer Nick has raised his expectations right along with them…sigh…oh well…I guess we were back to the drawing board on a few things! We have just finished off the work and hopefully Nick will be happy with what we have changed and added and our next meeting might be our penultimate meeting. I plan on making a celebratory cake…maybe a nice orange and almond flourless cake with an orange glaze? Who knows…maybe a coffee and chocolate spongecake…whatever we make it usually goes down well for morning tea. I have really enjoyed studying the way that Steve and I have been studying over the last few years. Studying online gives you the freedom to work at your own pace and so long as you are disciplined, it’s the best way to study. There have been times that we kept going long into the night to finish something off and there have been times that we haven’t laid eyes on a book for months. Flexible delivery is the best of all worlds. It doesn’t use precious physical resources in a classroom situation and it allows people to work at their own pace and effectively receive 1 on 1 tutelage. Steve and I attend our meetings together and poor Nick has to juggle us both but I think that it really works well because we have different strengths and weaknesses and we are able to work well together once we know what is expected of us. Nick has always expected our very best and we have always strived to give it to him…plus 10% 😉

Earl in his element. As you can see, this is the part of the loungeroom that we have given up on and have allowed Earl to systematically disassemble whatever he finds in his mouth at any given time. He is munching on one of Steve’s t-shirts that he stole this morning…sometimes Earl’s games start a little bit too early for us and racing about the house after Earl with an “I am the Stig” t-shirt in his mouth is too hard for us at 7.30am

A man and his buddha

Earl has been helping me to write this post. He wants it known that he is my muse. This morning he was trying to sing something to me and I am obviously pretty stupid because I didn’t get it. I can see him staring at me sometimes as if I am brain dead. I know that I am not very good at my doganese but I have come to it fairly late in life and can’t be expected to learn new tricks all that fast. Earl spends most of his days trying to get one or the other of us to let him out of the gate…preferably unleashed but if he MUST he will wear a collar. Due to his penchance for attempting to ethnically cleanse Serendipity Farm of all domesticated and wildlife, his days unleashed have been few and far between and usually as a result of some bloody idiot forgetting to shut one of the gates before releasing the hounds after their walk. Earl is part alien part feral and part ADHD dog. He spends his life actively pursuing life on the other side of the fence and apparently I am the weakest link in the chain and as such his telekinetic powers of persuasion should be able to get me to do his bidding. As a muse Earl sucks. The “music” that comes from within is manic. The creative thoughts are terrifying and the literature pure horror. When Earl gets bored he eats things. His latest trick is to sneak into the spare/middle room when I am stupid enough to go in without shutting the door behind me (which is all the time…) and pinching walnuts out of a large container of them that I didn’t get around to stratifying this year. Once he gets the walnut it’s game on until one of us gets bored and then its a quick “crunch” and the walnut falls neatly in half suddenly becoming a very boring game and something to be shunned. I get to pick up the slobbery bits and deposit the walnut into the compost bin. Good try Earl…today isn’t your lucky day…I am wearing my tinfoil hat! Alien BEGONE!

A newly thin Fatty after recently giving birth…sigh…we now really REALLY have to deal with the exponentially exploding cat population on Serendipity Farm

This is Steve’s favourite little female feral that he has called “little pig”…don’t ask me why but she is very tame and may just end up being caught, sterilised at the vets and become part of life here on Serendipity Farm 🙂

I don’t usually type my post straight into the wordpress arena. I might actually save it before I hit “publish” because wordpress has a habit of losing entire sentences of prose and rendering the author hair free and rabid. I have cooked Steve some interesting curried pasties with home made curry paste, mashed potato, onion and cheese to be wrapped in puff pastry later on. I have been on a roll this week with making tasty meals and hopefully this one will fit the bill tonight. We finished off our studies at 4pm and after racing about to feed the seal eyed dogs (who want their evening meal at 3pm promptly and BOLLOCKS to daylight savings…) and sorting out what has to be done at the end of the day I find myself running short of time. Its that springtime thing again combined with it being the end of the year very soon. I am slowly getting used to waking up at 5am aside from my brains attempt to sabotage me into sleeping in by having me in deep dream sleep mode right when the alarm goes off. I have learned that precisely as the alarm goes off the automatic radio track has the “good” song on. If I lay in bed too long I end up with the “bad” song…good song = creedence…bad song = katie Perry…The first song that I hear in the morning usually stays with me all day and I have learned to quickly get up in the throws of the good song and turn off the radio before the bad song starts playing and sticks in my head to torture me for the rest of the day. I guess the universe is telling me that old adage “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”…it might make a “man” all of those things but it makes me “sleepy, dopey and grumpy” and as all of you know, that’s just on half of the 7 dwarves! Talk about a weird way to start the day! Ok, you get off lightly in the posting stakes again. If Nick gives us the OK it will be back to having the time to actually contemplate our navels whilst choosing what to do with our days rather than study…Study… STUDY as our sole option. See you Saturday when we may have started our big chook run thanks to Steve picking up some ex fish farm netting with a promise of more to come. Once those ninja chooks are behind bars where they belong we can mulch the poor long scratched and suffering garden and cover it up to minimise water loss. Once that happens we can install some irrigation to keep everything (mostly us) happy and we can then start to do a few more pressing things around Serendipity Farm. Have a great rest of the week and remember…it’s just on a month till Christmas (just thought you might like to know 😉

Living simply on Serendipity Farm

Hi All

I sometimes wonder if “living simply” is an oxymoron because in our efforts to live a simple life, we seem to be doing a whole lot! The old saying “before you can make an omelette, you have to break some eggs” is particularly pertinent to our situation. I dare say we are going to break quite a few eggs as we accidentally discover hidden feral chook nests all over the place in the spring and that fact that most of them will be found via the whipper snipper AND that most of those eggs will be teetering on the verge of disgusting by then will no doubt be fuel for a future post. Life is starting to speed up on Serendipity Farm. Big Yin is spending his days ensuring that every single adult female chook is “his” (nudge-nudge wink-wink say no more!) in no uncertain terms and so we have a new flourish of pre-spring eggs but they are all covered by determined fluffy derrières that are intent on hatching out more of Big Yins progeny. It’s a spiralling decent into chicken domination that we have decided to harness for the good of all mankind. WE may not be able to use all of the eggs that our chickens produce but our long suffering neighbours should at least be able to share in the reason for all of those early morning crows and clucks and their occasional invasion by our ninja chook squad. We are past being terrified of dispatching roosters and now that we have come to terms with our rights and responsibilities with living with chooks en masse, Steve is actually looking forwards to chicken stock futures and knowing where the meat portion on his plate is coming from and how it was raised with food miles measured in minutiae. I can’t help but get excited whenever I add a new tree that promises to give us a greater ability to live on this hilly outcrop on a river leading out to the sea. My daughters are giving me a couple of almond trees (yes I know I will have to choose them and pick them up girls BUT the thought is there :o) ) and I am in the process of buying Miyoko Schinner’s amazing new vegan cheese book “Artisan Vegan Cheeses” so that someday I will be able to use the nuts from my almond, walnut (already on the property but not utilised), hazelnuts (we are growing walnuts and hazelnuts at the moment), chestnuts (again, growing HEAPS of them) and avocados (yup…we got some!) to produce our own vegan cheeses and non-dairy produce. I know that avocados are not nuts by the way folks…I just got excited by the fact that we grew them and had to include them for bragging rights 😉

Here’s a bunch of spring daffodils for you 🙂

Aren’t Daffodils pretty? That bright yellow colour and their unobtrusive scent positively scream “SPRING IS COMING” 🙂

Check out what happened to the end of the daffodils when I put them into cold water on the windowsill…this should give you an idea of how cold it is in Tasmania at the moment…who needs icewater! I get a daffy at one end and a shamrock at the other! 😉

The “Chosen One’s” from the borlotti selection that I shelled. The unchosen ones are ruminating in my stomach as I type this and these fortunate embryo’s are being dried out on my kitchen windowsill to plant in the spring

Hopefully I am not sounding like a zealot there. My new found zeal comes less from a divine intervention and more from a personal awakening to the possibilities. So many of us, me included, feel like we are drifting along like flotsam on a sea of change. I, personally, suck at change. I am one of life’s “baulkers”… you throw me a curve ball…I tend to duck…I like finding my own way and HATE things being forced on me. I like to let all of the knowledge and information that I find (and as a quintessential magpie I am CONSTANTLY bathed in it from many different sources…) ruminate around inside me and if some sticks, so be it…if it’s not important or pertinent to what we are doing or who we are it just flies out of my other ear and into the ether so that someone else can pick it up and use it if they see fit. Knowledge is indeed power in my situation and it’s precious to me. I have learned so much since I first picked up a mouse (upside down) and attempted to turn the magic of the internet to my own use.  Some of my most prized websites and blogs are those that deal with living simply and putting thoughts and words into alternative action. I just wanted to say that often, when we blog, we don’t realise how our own personal sharing can help or enlighten someone else. Bev, from the wonderfully helpful and enlightening (and funny folks) blog “FoodnStuff” has NO idea how valuable her site is to me. It’s one of my “can’t miss” reads from my early morning RSS Feed Reads and if I was forced to narrow them down (NOOOO!) you would be in the top 10 Bev. I learned about water wicking beds…I learned about Hugelkultur gardening, making compost in rows and all sorts of fantastic permaculture ideas that are entirely transferable to Serendipity Farm from Bev and she doesn’t even realise how valuable that is to me! It’s past valuable when I can take that information and apply it to our property to our advantage and I got that information for free! It didn’t cost me a cent and gave us back a degree of sanity with trying to work out what to do with our piles of debris and fallen rotten trees. Cheers to everyone who shares online and gives part of themselves over to typing up regular posts. No doubt most of you don’t have verbal diarrhoea like I do and the words don’t just come flying out of your fingers and sometimes posting must seem like a chore. Even I have thought “who the heck is going to read this stuff? Is it worth my efforts?” and you know what? It IS worth our efforts. We are the means for millions of people to get something worthwhile from the internet. They sifted through the garbage and found us and ticked “like” and gave us hope that what we are saying, doing and trying to do makes sense and they gave us a little validation for our efforts.  So to all of my dear constant readers AND my wonderful blog writing friends who really don’t realise how important their efforts are, a hearty and most magnificent CHEERS! :o)

With spring comes sunbeams…second only to Brunhilda in Bezial’s heirachy of desire

“Excuse me Steve…can you see where my nose it pointing?…It’s pointing at that tin there…inside that tin is the object of my desire…thanks to a freak accident of nature I appear to be missing my opposible thumb and as such I am unable to reach for or open this tin…could you do us a favour and reach in…pick it up and open the lid for me?”…

“ah go on! It never is too close to dinner time!”

How can people living in poverty in India be happier than we are? Scientific studies prove that they are. They are happier than we are because they are aligned with what humans are meant to be doing. They get up early, they work in the fields, they eat simply and they come home and share their days before they head to bed. No endless hours in front of the television, the computer, on their phone texting, no money to buy these things so they are freed by their poverty from alienation from their families. Perhaps God is telling us that we need to stop trying to find happiness in “stuff” and turn back to our families and friends and see our happiness reflected in their eyes? I don’t know the answers, but I DO know that whenever I am close to the sea, to the soil, whenever I am sharing music, a laugh, something that makes me smile with my friends and family I am the most centred and alive as I can be. I think it will be good to lose some of our luxuries…it will be good for us to learn to work with the soil again. To have less choice in our grocery stores…and those choices to be locally available and seasonal. Would you really mind if you had to go to the butchers, the bakers, and the hardware shop separately? I remember living in a small town with all of these shops and no supermarket at all. Do we need to hand our choices over to middle men who dictate just what and when we get our goods? I would rather live simply and employ more people in the process. If we have to remove machines from our lives (when fuel prices itself out of the water…) that means more jobs for us all. We might not have as specialised jobs but we all need to eat, to learn, to be entertained and as some jobs go, others will open up. I choose to see change as being positive in this case and that is why Steve and I are learning everything that we can about soil, gardening, growing our own food, planning gardens and alternative organic growing practices. We want to be able to share what we are learning and apply it directly to our own and to other people’s needs.

Steve teaching Earl how to use the keyboard

Sunbeams are a dogs best friend

The first of my new books to arrive!

Doesn’t this look like a little dog hiding in the sofa? It’s actually one of the boys toys that I probably sat on and saved from imminent gutting by the boys (for now)

Apparently Mark Knopflers wistful music has me philosophising today…I wonder if I had left Steve’s Iron Maiden on how this post would have panned out? I plan on spending the rest of the afternoon listening to Ben Folds 5 and mellowing out. I love weekends. Not because they are particularly different to the rest of our week but they just feel more relaxed and easier to wear. We tend to be more adventurous with what we cook for our meals, we tend to listen to music more and “do” things other than study. I love creating things and making things. I sorted through some seeds to plant in the near future. We ARE going to have a few veggie gardens this year and I have some organic red flowering broad beans from our friend in the witness protection, some saved scarlet runner beans from Glad’s daughter Wendy (next door), some Barbara pumpkins from Bev in Victoria that can take over the outside chook yard with impunity (pre fertilised and full of oak leaves and hay) and we have some fresh local borlotti beans that Steve bought the other day that I chose the best and brightest to dry out and use for growing. I LOVE the possibilities of gardening. I LOVE that we can save seeds and that they will grow next season and give us food and more seed in perpetuity. To put a small dry seed into the ground and wait for it to awaken and unfurl when the time is right is the ultimate in hopefulness. I sometimes wonder why I was born so enthusiastic. I know that it irritated my father no end. I can’t help my natural delight with simple things. It streams through me and I can’t help wanting to share my simple little “finds”. Thank you for all wanting to share them too :o). I think I might leave this post here for today…as philosophical as it has been it has meandered around a bit and has reflected my mellow mood today. Take it easy folks and remember to focus on what matters today. Take a look at how amazing your life is and try to phase out all of the bampf that our competitive distracting lives keep tossing at us and look underneath it…there are cobwebs there…there are the dusty husks of what our lives could be clinging tenaciously deep down inside and just like those dried up dead looking seeds…you too can slowly unfurl if the conditions are right :o)

Before shot of Steve’s music room today…

Steve’s music room AFTER…doesn’t look like the same room does it! 😉

R.I.P. Reprobate

Hi All,

“Stone the crows” it’s Saturday already and I haven’t started this post. It would seem that life has again trotted away from my Zelda red eyes and found me wanting in the posting department. I have gamers droop…but because I love you all so much I am back to share our latest adventures on Serendipity Farm (if you could call the last 3 days “adventures” that is). Steve is off taking photos for me to use in this post and Bezial and Earl are sighing heavily despite going for an extra-long walk this morning and it being a cold drizzly day so the BEST place is right in front of the fire sighing with contentment.

A gray midwinters day in Sidmouth Tasmania

Still pretty gray after our walk but at least the garden will enjoy the rain

One benefit of cold winter days is that they burn off extra calories through shivering…that allows you to eat copious quantities of delicious carbs and a large helping of Steve’s amazing chilli

Its 2 years to the day since my dad died and life turned upside down for us and started the adventure that we now know as life on Serendipity Farm.  The first year was chaos and more life lessons than I could ever have thought possible or have wanted if I am being honest. At the end of the first year we were all frazzled, fried and exhausted with the process that goes with death in the family. Dad would not mind me calling him a reprobate by the way. He absolutely delighted in wayward behaviour and was a quintessential Aussie Larrikin to say the least. He was once dared to ride a circus elephant down the main street of town and hopped up without a second thought to the cheers of the locals. When my working class dad inherited a large sum of money and property from his long-time partner Val his spiel went something like this…

“The working class can kiss my arse…I’ve got a bludgers life at last!”…

“The Foreman’s Song” is a somewhat bastardised version of “The Red Flag” a union song intended to unite the working classes to rise above the oppression of the class systems. I come from a long line of union representatives and members and am most certainly proud of my working class heritage. Dad enjoyed the privileges of his newfound wealth but at a bipartisan cost to his working class roots. Here’s Billy Bragg sharing a bit of my dad’s ethos with you all…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obpd9uc5HVg

Dad was fiercely passionate about his history and with my son Stewart in Ireland at the moment; it is only fitting to remember that Ireland was one of the initiators of the trade union movement for change and equality back in the 1800’s. Australia was founded by Irish convicts. The English sent them as far away as they possibly could so that they wouldn’t find their way back to spread their political poison and many of them were exiled from their homeland through their political liens rather than any crimes that they committed. We don’t treat Ireland like the American’s do…it’s not our “Old Country”…it’s part of what makes us what we are. We share a working class history and a classless (supposedly lol) society with Ireland and a sense of humour that could only have come from a shared hard existence in a hard land. Life goes on (certainly Shane MacGowan does despite his obvious excesses) and our quiet understanding of our historical link with Ireland is apparently mutual…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZqN1glz4JY

Here’s to the working class dad and to the ongoing struggle for equality that carries on today.

Back in dad’s early school days that name would have been a decided disadvantage to have to write in copperplate with ink. I never would have thought that I would find this many flowers mid winter in Tasmania. I didn’t kill all of them dad now can you PLEASE get your present crow incarnation to stop telling me off from that big Eucalyptus viminallis branch?

Dad and Val’s graves and in the close background you can see the jungle presently known as “Serendipity Farm”. I dare say dad is keeping his eye on what we are doing and its very easy to believe that the crow venting his spleen most passionately overhead as we work is his reprobate spirit.

I drop in a few times a day to visit my Facebook page. It’s somewhat compelling to see what my friends and “liked” pages are up to. Apparently it’s been 25 years since the movie “The Princess Bride” was unleashed onto an unsuspecting world and if I was asked “what is your favourite movie of all time?” it would have to be this amazing, beautiful and thoroughly enjoyable treatise to love. Call me an old romantic fool but this movie makes you glad to be soppy :o). Guess what I am going to watch tonight? “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” I also saw a post by Milkwood permaculture about a low cost aquaponics system consisting of a pond and a bathtub (low cost excellent for any sized property) and allowing you to grow herbs/vegetables or even flowers, should you see fit, in an integrated closed system involving the processing of fish waste via plant roots and involving a few strains of microbes in the process. You can be as base or as creative with this setup as you like and you can also run it in a tiny little flat or spread it out as big as your imagination (and your plot of land) will allow. Talk about creative license!

http://milkwoodpermaculture.com.au/courses/details/109-aquaponics-workshop-812-sydney

I would love to attend some of Milkwood Permaculture’s tutorials but aside from the cost…Tasmania is to Mainland Australia as Ireland is to the U.K. so unless I learn to swim MUCH better than my present doggy paddle I will not be attending a Permaculture course any day soon…

As an “almost vegan” (I still have milk in my tea “institution”) I subscribe to many vegan cooking blogs. Vegan is now mainstream and has been subsequently deserted by the trendy set for greener (literally lol) pastures. That leaves vegans to be able to carry on doing what they do best in relative peace and quiet with a greater degree of mainstream acceptance thanks to the fruitcake fruitarians and radical raw adherents making veganism look positively tame in comparison. Bryanna Clark Grogan is a vegan authoress and daytime librarian which sounds a bit like a comparison with Superman and to be honest, she could be called a vegan Superwoman of sorts. She is one of the most selfless people in the promotion of vegan eating and shares her amazing recipes for meat free food with anyone who is interested. Her generosity is amazing and she allows people who change their diets for ethical reasons to continue to eat delicious food whilst learning to adapt their ingredients with no loss of taste and a major boost to health and our environment in the process. She shares how to make mainstream staples vegan from scratch and has taken the reins firmly back from the extremists who would have us believe that unless you are using freaky ingredients with exorbitant price tags that you are simply not vegan. Bollocks to that! Cheers Bryanna for your services to vegan kind and for your generous spirit. We all thank you from the bottom of our hearts :o). Here’s an example of Bryanna’s recipes…you can be vegan AND gourmet…

http://veganfeastkitchen.blogspot.ca/2007/07/update-on-mushroom-leek-gourmet-tofu.html

Whether you like tofu or not this is a very clever recipe for how to make gourmet tofu. I no longer eat soybeans because I don’t want to develop any problems associated with the mimic oestrogen that soybeans produce but tofu can be made with various other beans including chickpeas and so I might give some gourmet chickpea tofu a whirl around the dance floor and see if we can Charleston. Or perhaps I will run its red flag up the flagpole and let’s see if it salutes? ;). I love experimenting with new recipes, especially when they originate anywhere other than mainstream cultures and even more so when I can try something right out of my comfort zone and can make it myself. I also like to mess about with regular recipes and tweak them with more interesting ingredients to see if I can’t invent myself something better. Call it “Magpie’s licence” and you are about where I go with food and cooking. I don’t want to perfectly replicate a recipe; I want to make it taste great for me. Who could care less if something looks perfect if it tastes like cardboard? I am all for “Real food” and bollocks to fake replication. I like to make as many of my ingredients myself aside from base things that is. I enjoy the process and the feeling of developing a pioneering spirit. I come from a long line of pioneering women and love that it lives on in my desire to learn how to do things for myself.

One of Steve’s bonsais in mid moult in sympathy with the chickens

This maple bonsai has been carefully pruned on a periodic basis by our local possum bonsai group. They are very vigilant in their pruning. This stumpy looking almost dead stick will turn into a beautiful maple in spring…at the moment it looks like a walking stick that sprouted

We had another meeting with our long suffering lecturer in a vain effort to complete our 1/5th scale pergola. Making a model is MUCH harder than a full scale pergola because any slight aberration (and I am prone to the spectrum of aberration thanks to a complete dearth of prior experience or ability in the “building” game…) becomes a major problem. A tiny miscalculation is very obvious and so you have to be precise to the nth degree or your small indiscretions are most definitely found out! So far so good but it’s taken us 2 meetings to progress to this somewhat underwhelming structure…

We had to brace the pergola for hampsters with what turned out to be a dismembered warning sign purloined by the ever errant sensei groundsman Cory. The problem was that these strips of ex-sign were not able to brace the poles while they were setting and so a lesson is learned for the next lot of bleary eyed students that stumble into the model making unit…

As you can see our structure was being built in the propagation shed at the Alanvale Polytechnic campus. The big green bin contains perlite used for ammending soil to make it drain more freely. The potting mixtures are concocted in this building as are the practical lessons in everything from cutting taking right through to grafting and specialised methods of pruning. We spent a lot of hours inside this building on the coalface of horticultural practice and it would seem that we are never going to be allowed out of this building any day soon!

A closeup of our amazing craftmanship…”marvel at the straight lines… delight at the symetry…try not to notice that this looks more like a set of balance bars for gymnasts or a ladder that someone forgot wasn’t supposed to have a solid side panel on rather than a pergola…sigh…”

At least its straight Nick…surely that counts for something? We learned a new word in our Landscape vocabulary the other day…”Eye Sweet”. It denotes that proportion of a landscape construction phase where you reveal what you have done and the person paying you the big bickies says “SWEET!”…(well that’s how I remember it Nick lol 😉 )

To all of you snickering behind your hands at this point I concede it doesn’t look like much, but I have certainly learned a whole lot of “process” to carry me through to this result and it might not look all that much but I am as proud of this little baby as I would be of many of my more attractive accomplishments. Talk about pioneering…we are forging ahead with this new Diploma, offered this year for the very first time, and are no doubt acting as guinea pigs for future students. I dare say our lecturer is ironing out the kinks on “The Pimblett’s” before he unleashes these units on his other unsuspecting students who are still slaving their way through the intricacies and various minefields of AutoCAD. Hopefully none of them have been blown up yet…I know I came close to blowing up several times whilst negotiating its processes and pathways. It’s only because of Steve and his inherent ability with technology and subsequent ability to translate what he had found out to me that I actually completed the course last year at all! After we finish this structure (we still have to install the crossbeams) we have to build a 1/5th scale model from a plan that our lecturer will give us all by ourselves. How much fun is that? Terror and fun run hand in hand whenever I think about that prospect so I will stop talking about it for now!

2 chickens underneath a tree…”noice”…

Wait a minute…those chickens are on the other side of the fence to us…

“STEVE THE BLOODY CHOOKS ARE IN GLAD’S PROPERTY!”…Oh well… Glad was only just telling us yesterday that she loved the sounds of the country. Perhaps we can toss Big Yin over the fence to round them up and she can revel in his dulcet tones over a cup of tea

I keep trying to pare back the blogs that I subscribe to in my rss feed reader as I have spent the moments since I discovered Rss Feed Readers (cheers Rhianna ;)) positively stuffing myself with wonderful blogs in an unmitigated display of blog gluttony the likes of which shall not be seen again. I just went hunting for the correct spelling of Angophora costata (Sydney Red Gum) and ended up subscribing to ANOTHER one…sigh…it would seem that life imitates nature in my case and my online desire for knowledge can only be quenched by MORE blogs and more information. The truth of the matter with my blog hoarding (like Daffy Duck when he finds treasure and utters the words “MINE MINE MINE”…) is that I rarely get to actually read posts now thanks to the exponentially growing outpouring of other people’s minds that assails me whenever I dare to head over to read a few posts on my rss feed reader. Gluttony…thy name is Fran! I will attempt to suffer in silence from now on but can’t promise not to throw in the odd whinge in future posts. This Angophora costata is a magnificent member of a very small Tasmanian clan of 2 that we know of in Northern Tasmania… the other one is situated about 3 metres away from the 1st one and also lives on Serendipity Farm. We also have a few Brachychitons growing here that have suffered in silence for quite some time in terrible conditions. We freed them up recently and they are starting to reward our valiant attempts to minimise the weeds in this area by looking positively healthy which is a far cry from what we thought when we initially uncovered them. It’s situations like this that keep us forging ahead with our efforts on Serendipity Farm. Sometimes we non-natural-gardeners are completely overwhelmed by the scope of works that need to be undertaken and completed here without the added time greaser of money to ease our efforts. We get challenged…we find a solution. We come up against a brick wall…we find a BIG hammer to knock it down. In the process we learn more about life than we could have ever imagined and that makes it all worthwhile…along with the positive beaming delight of the newly liberated plants once they get back on their feet again.

Gnarley old Angophora number 1 in mid winter moult…

“Son of Angophora”…coming to a cinema near you…

One of the now happy Brachychitons no longer suffering from crowded root syndrome thanks to a mass infestation of weeds.

I am attempting to multitask and type this post while I am eating my lunch. I Made pumpkin and potato soup for my tea the other night. The recipe consisted of peeling some pumpkin, peeling some potatoes (about equal quantities of both), peeling 2 medium onions and half a head of garlic. Steve sautéed the chopped onions and garlic (pulverised within an inch of its life in my pestle and mortar) in some olive oil and when arrived just this side of caramelisation I threw in my roughly cubed pumpkin and potatoes and Topped the stockpot up with water and deposited an appropriate amount of Massell Chicken (vegan) stock powder and let Brunhilda turn it into liquid heaven. I have NO idea how you could take 5 ingredients and tap water and turn them into something that tastes this good. After reading recently about the health benefits of soup (a scientific study showed that men who eat soup once a week live 7 years longer than men who don’t…) and being more than aware of how economical a recipe soup can be (one of the earlier lessons in how to dupe the paying restaurant customer into parting with their hard earned readies for minimal output in my commercial cookery classes) and with winter mid buffet soup is the thinking cooks choice for soul food. Steve has a newfound delight in all things liquid gold since we made our first batch of chicken noodle soup with our own ex-rooster stock. We then condensed the stock down to a dark brown replication of beef stock and he made another pot of soup that was the pure essence of “chook”. So many soups…so little time!

A Luculia pinceana shrub, one of my prized cold climate species that now graces the side garden on Serendipity Farm. As you can see it’s flowering and aside from Daphne odora (also flowering en mass in Tasmania at the moment) it has the most amazing scent of any flower that I know. We have several Daphne odora to plant in amongst this garden and one day in the future this garden will deliver the most incredibly heady scent sensation directly in through our bedroom window.

Our plants that we deposited into the side garden are showing no signs of being unhappy with their placement and indeed the Luculia pinceana, that has just started to indulge us with most deliciously scented pink flowers that we most sensibly planted near our bedroom window, is flowering on regardless. Luculia’s are supposed to be some of the most “precious” of plants when it comes to their growing conditions. We bought this specimen a long time ago and to date it has stayed in the very same pot under the very same conditions and should it choose to turn its toes up and die, at least it died a free shrub! Now that the shrubs have been planted it’s time to fill in the dots with the smaller shrubs, perennials and bulbs that are littered all over the place in pots. We will be kept busy for the next few weeks finalising the plans, job specifications, planting plans and detailed drawings of our Sustainable Landscape Plan until we next see our lecturer. I will no doubt spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to collect my weights worth of virtual reality gems in Zelda with no real net worth aside from some seriously red eyes. Come rain or shine we will walk the dogs and our ongoing indentured slavery to the chickens goes without saying. Aside from that, Serendipity Farm will carry on regardless, wending its way through the time space continuum in perpetuity albeit a somewhat chaotic careening rather than an ordered and organised pathway. Earl just disdainfully judged my pumpkin soup bowl “unfood” and (at the moment) politely requested that I remove myself from my computer addiction and head on over to his food bowl and feed him. He already ran amok with one of my badly placed socks and enticed Steve, Bezial and I into the ensuing chase but now that the excitement is over, he is going to start applying his willpower into effecting a result that eventuates in his being fed come hell or high water. I will end this post by saying that no matter how dysfunctional my relationship was with my dad…leaving me Serendipity Farm made up for all of the shortcomings that went beforehand. Cheers dad for my new life. No hard feelings. So long and thanks for all the fish :o).

Even on a dreary drizzly rainy mid winters day you can see why we have fallen in love with our little patch of Tasmanian ground. This photo was taken from the doorway leading out onto the deck as its too cold to keep wandering in and out taking photos even if you ARE my dear constant readers