Add a liberal dash of humour to life and let the flavour energise your outlook

Hi All,

Have any of you wandered far away from home on the search for a good recipe? I am not talking physical miles here folks…I am talking ether miles…a long hard slog to find a rare and precious gem of a recipe that will serve as a holy grail in your degustory repertoire. I am at all times a magpie. I have beady little eyes that seek out precious shiny things in all aspects of my life and recipe hunting isn’t immune to my scavenger hunts. I head all over the place hunting for these shiny little tasty morsels and usually I find what I am looking for. I found a recipe for Korean rice cake noodles…I found a recipe for how to make home-made healthy margarine…if it’s out there I will find it BUT…the downside is that it usually comes wrapped in someone else’s language that doesn’t quite compute with my own. What’s a girl to do but head on over to Google Translate, copy and paste and spend some quality time falling off my chair laughing at the translation. I found a fantastic recipe for butter cookies via another website via another site via a link that showed a wonderful picture of a pig bun. Yes folks… I ended up finding a recipe for butter cookies written in Spanish after seeing a picture on a non-food blog for little pigs made out of bread. This brings me to humour, and where we put it in our lives. I would equate humour to being the salt in life’s recipe. Without it, life is just a pale representation of what it could be. Pepper might be passion but my mind isn’t made up on that one yet…maybe chilli for passion? Perhaps I could write a translation for human emotions using spices and herbs! I have always prized a good sense of humour over all else. I figure it can get you through some really tough times. It can also get you into trouble but you just have to learn where and when to burst out laughing …that and the ability to stifle yourself in both job, and police interviews 😉

We recently headed into town for a lecture with our illustrious leader and after our lecture we dropped off what was left of our hosta’s to live at their new “forever home” (until the snails and slugs find them here that is!) at Nat’s. I got Steve to take some photos with his phone because Nat’s garden is gorgeous. I want to lay down amongst all of the beauty and just absorb it like mushrooms absorb horse manure…deep into my soul. This garden has been created by a TRUE natural landscape designer. Nat just has “It”…I, sadly, don’t. The photos in today’s post are garden porn…enjoy my friends…enjoy 🙂

Everywhere you look in Nat’s amazing garden there is something special. It doesn’t hurt that you have the old quarter of Launceston as your view…

Even a gratuitous clothes line shot can’t take away from Nat’s gorgeous garden

I must admit to being drawn to a good sense of humour like a moth to a flame. My rss feed reader is stuffed equally well with amazing food blogs and well written blogs tempered with humour and insight into our common condition…life. I think we all take ourselves too seriously. So we have a wrinkle! Who really cares…the only ones making money out of them are the plastic surgeons and mirror salesmen. Who wants to decompose in a coffin with only their botoxed foreheads and silicone implants remaining for some poor future archaeologist to discover and wonder “WHY?!” Now I am laughing! I just made myself laugh…I had best put myself in my rss feed reader ;). You see? It’s easy to not take yourself seriously. It puts a bit of a barrier between you and the rest of the world. To give yourself a little space and permission to be yourself. Life wasn’t meant to be easy but it was also meant to be bearable. Humour gives us the edge to counteract many of the little irritations that life brings and tempers our days. I love nothing more than immersing myself in some well-honed comedy programs on television like Black Books…Futurama…My Name is Earl… there are some really amazing and funny shows out there…how about Third rock from the sun? Hilarious! We Aussies haven’t contributed much in the way of hilarious television comedy BUT we tend to live our lives in a humorous manner so perhaps we don’t need to manufacture it wholesale. The very best humour…the crème de la crème comes from working class front line communities. It comes from places where life is close to the edge and where people meld together in rows of terraced communion and are forced to wake up together, to empty their bins together and to live side by side no matter how much they don’t get along…comedy was born of salving the seething mass of variety that humanity breeds and giving us a way to all laugh together…healing the gaps and making us whole again. When you stop taking yourself so seriously you are allowing yourself to see someone else’s point of view and you are giving yourself permission to just be “you”.

Every available space has been loving stuffed with something gorgeous. This garden is only 4 years old (barely) and as Nat said the other day “It’s just starting to look how I saw it when I planted everything”

Isn’t this clematis growing on an archway with a gorgeous Pierre de Ronsard rose absolutely beautiful?

This beautiful Sambucus nigra “purpurea” (black elderberry) is just starting to flower and the wonderful dark purple complements the Cercis canadensis or forest pansy and on the left of this shot you can just about see a wonderful Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Lace Lady”. Nat most certainly knows how to use beautiful, special plants in a reasonably small space

It’s Thursday and in between the sun shining and then clouds zooming over and threatening to rain Serendipity Farm is basking in the spring weather and everything is blooming. Steve and I have been working incredibly hard on our final design plans to ensure that everything is as perfect as we can get it. We have the gift of a lecturer who expects our best and we have the ability to realise that this is indeed something precious. Nick is one of those true teachers who actually love learning and knowledge. The acquisition of knowledge is probably one of my most base desires and I spend a lot of time trying to learn things to salve my way along my chosen life path. We are going to miss Nick and that incredibly high benchmark that kept moving to accommodate our new found skills. I, especially, truly appreciate where your expectations took us Nick and although you will most probably never read this, I am indebted to you for your dedication and your desire to teach. You gave me the confidence and the sheer pig headed will to succeed where I would usually have thrown in the towel and I have learned to never give in when something becomes hard work and THAT is a precious thing to learn. We have both completed online forms where we had to support our applications to study graphic design and printing next year…I HATE blowing my own trumpet. It goes against every single tall poppy slaying oath that an Aussie born in the 60’s was subject to by their parents…”Don’t get up yourself” was our parents creed and any early attempts to elevate yourself above your common brethren was dealt a squashing blow and you returned to the fold both chastened and knowing that no matter how “special” you were…you were part of a familial machine and that machine wasn’t going to work if you decided that you were too special to take your place and do your bit. As such, I had to gild the lily and wax lyrical and point out how amazing both Steve and I were and at the end of it I felt much like I would imagine a prostitute feels after her first mark…a fair bit dirty and feeling like something was not right in the state of Denmark. Hopefully the artistic temperament’s that decided that we nameless faceless applicants should fight it out using our literary and physical accomplishments will appreciate a few diplomas and a desire to use their services as a springboard to better graphics in our concept plans and a springboard to university. We can only hope that they believed my pained and plaintive outpourings and that they don’t see through to the squirming middle aged hippy below who just wanted to tell them to shove it!

A better shot of that wonderful tree pansy complemented by the lime green of the Cotinus behind it and the darker purple of the succulents in pots

Another Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Lace Lady” and a maple with some more lovely things massed in the foreground.

Isn’t this border wonderful? Nat is a natural with roses. Every single rose in her garden is spectacular and complemented by salvias and all sorts of other perennials that set of the roses to a “T”

Histrionics aside…we really both want to do this course. We have decided that it’s “one in…all in” and if only one of us gets in, we will both pass. We have other ideas for how to pass a year…who knows…we might even have to fall on the “Work for the Dole” that so terrifies Steve as a brief hiatus until we can reunite ourselves with higher education…we might even throw ourselves into the job market for a year and see if we can’t “mow ya lawn guvnna…” it all remains to be seen and all we are assured of as I type this is that we have about 8 weeks off where we are going to make hay, compost, vegetables, eggs, propagate seeds, take cuttings, graft while the sun shines and enjoy all of the processes along the way. We have reached a point where we can start to really make some changes here now and we are going to have to sit down and use some of our newfound landscape design skills coupled with some hard grafted permaculture material online to change the sustainability contours of Serendipity Farm. We are on a hill…the top of the hill is very dry…the bottom of the hill…not so dry. We have the knowledge and the will to apply the knowledge needed to be resourceful about doing what we need to do to improve our land and give it back a sense of identity other than the sad Madge, Dame Edna’s bridesmaid, which she has become.

This garden is true eye candy that is backed up with a solid background in hard slog gardening. It’s a real tribute to Nat as a gardener and she was married in this garden…

Isn’t Nat’s house lovely? Note the colour scheme repeated throughout the garden. Nat is a big fan of blues, purples and dark reds and uses the palette to the max. I am in awe of Nats design skills 🙂

I just noticed that this photo is pretty similar to another one but whatchagonna do eh? It’s magnificent!

It never ceases to amaze me how many answers and ways to do things there are out there when money is conspicuous by its absence. There are so many ways to get what you need if you really want it and forging a sense of generosity within your community is a good start. As I type this I am eating my breakfast. I only mention this because I am attempting to meld health with satisfaction and have ended up with a very strange brew indeed! I started with rolled oats…I added a teaspoon of dried ginger…I then added some chopped almonds and some chopped dried dates…no problem there…I poured over boiling water and allowed it to steep BUT then I added a teaspoon of turmeric powder. It’s supposed to be amazing stuff and no doubt it is but when you add it to my first set of ingredients you get a really strange tasting result. I think I might just stick to putting turmeric in my savoury dishes, especially dhal, because it tastes best there. I have curried oatmeal at the moment and I am not sure how I like it. That doesn’t mean I won’t eat it…just I won’t enjoy it ;). I found some more amazing food blogs this morning. I subscribe to the amazing “Vivian Pang Kitchen” blog and with amazing recipes like this I feel like I won recipe lotto whenever she posts…

http://vivianpangkitchen.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/vanilla-steamed-bunsmantou-straight.html

I have found all sorts of amazing Chinese recipe blogs out there and using Google Translate to give me both a hilarious interlude AND some amazing recipes I am a much richer person for subscribing to this blog. The only problem is that I keep stuffing more and more wonderful food blogs into my rss feed reader. I had only just flensed the dross from it when I padded it right back out again. I guess I am a blog glutton (this curry porridge is growing on me…still metaphorically but you never know!). I have a recipe for making curry puffs with interesting home-made spiral flaky dough that I am going to trial tonight for Steve’s tea. I also have some great steamed bun recipes with all kinds of flour. I love messing about with the road less travelled and I might not be dabbling in gluten free or paleo but I like to find out how to use different flours like rice, potato, tapioca and chickpea to give interesting flavour and variations to my recipes. You never know when you are going to have to change what you use and if you already have a wide variety of alternatives you are less likely to come unstuck.

I really like this photo…I think I might sell it to a garden magazine…or use it to run paying tours to Nat’s garden when she is at work 😉

There are some truly special plants in this part of the garden

More of that gorgeous view and Nat’s gorgeous garden

I am waiting till Steve gets back to plant out a punnet of bicolour sweet corn. It’s apparently a fast growing quick cobbing variety which is lucky because we are behind the 8 ball on this season. I read “Sarah the Gardener’s” blog and feel a compelling need to expand and grow more. Perhaps it is my natural competitive streak and a little dash of over the Tasman rivalry but I get this desire to compete whenever I read Sarah’s wonderful posts. You can check her out here if you would like to see how a real home gardener does it…

http://gardeningkiwi.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/there-are-only-16-days-left-in-spring/

Sarah has been some of my inspiration for cobbling together veggie gardens and is one of those amazing “propagate your own” people that I so aspire to be. Next year I want to be able to grow our own seeds for our own vegetables and keep saving seed and growing it year after year. Sarah gives me hope that despite the local wildlife having degustory desires firmly aimed at mass consumption of our hard work, there IS a light at the end of the vegetable slavery tunnel and it does taste incredibly good. I want to go a whole lot further than vegetables though. I want edible fruit, nut and “other” trees, shrubs, vines, ground covers etc. all over Serendipity Farm. When we got here I realised that I should be careful about what I wished for because indeed…Serendipity Farm was totally covered in edibles…blackberries and banana passionfruit prevailed so I am glad that at least SOME of the edible species are under control!

The only bit of this garden that doesn’t have anything in it is under the clothes line and Nat had just been working in this space removing some enormous herbs that had gone feral

This small collection of conifers are all very special conifers and a source of great envy with both Steve and I…hey Nat…we might have time to do whatever we want whenever we want…we might have HEAPS of land to plant anything we want and we might be living the life of student hippies BUT you have the most GORGEOUS home and garden. I think we can call it even 🙂

Steve just made a whirlwind return and has unloaded the pile of grass clippings that we got from Glad’s place the other day and will be loading up our little trailer with as many bolts of ex fish farm rope as he can fit. They have lots of it and just put it out into a paddock for anyone to take. We have first dibs and a good free source of good quality ex fish farm netting is top of our priorities at the moment so he has raced back out to ensure that we don’t miss out. He has been sharing a cup of tea with an elderly German gentleman called albert who makes his own everything and who, along with his elderly wife are entirely resilient. Albert, up until this year, made all of his own wine. He had put in a series of grape vines and this year he decided that it was all too much for him. We all volunteered to pick his grapes for him but he isn’t willing to pay for the fertiliser that he says he needs to keep them going so he is going to pull them out. Methinks it’s an opportunity to gain some productive plants if he wants us to tow them for him. In return we can help him if he needs anything in the future…the building and forging of communities only happens when people are willing to share the love and the work around. We met a young couple with a young family last year when we attended one of the Tamar NRM’s seed collecting days. At the time we were not interested in the native seed that we collected and gave it back to Tamar NRM to propagate for field work. We met Tod and Shelley who are building their own home not too far away from Serendipity Farm and who are completely smitten with permaculture, homesteading and sustainability. I loved their ethos but we haven’t kept in touch. We wave to Todd as he drives past and he does the same with us but methinks it’s time to get back in touch again and add another community bow to our communal strings. I want to delve into the Deviot community basket as well. The community over there is resilient and self-sufficient and most determined. It’s hardly surprising that they are go-getters with most of the population comprising doctors, lawyers, architects and artists and I would like to put out my feelers whilst working with them to find ways to extend that sense of community and communal commitment to our own little local borough to see if we can’t get a few things going around here. Why can’t we have a community garden? Why not a farmers market? How about using the Rowella hall to get some homesteading or sustainability meetings of like-minded people going. Let’s reinstate the Country Women’s Association and the injection of community and family spirit that comes with it. It would seem like everyone is too busy to put anything into their community and we have the Madge communities that we deserve. I get the feeling that if we were able to get a few passionate people together and head off with purpose to various local government authorities we may just be able to get our community back.

A while ago I took the time to complete a submission towards allowing hemp seed to be considered as a viable and legal crop in Tasmania. I got an email saying that my submission had been accepted and the other day I got an update on the proposal and they are actually looking into it and it looks favourable that someday soon we will join the rest of the world in being able to take advantage of this crop that will give us an amazing food source full of omega 3’s and 6’s. As a vegan I would LOVE to take advantage of this amazingly healthy food on a regular basis. In the U.S. you can buy hemp seed milk like you can buy soymilk here and it would be fantastic to be able to produce my own hemp seed milk. It would also be a boost to farmers because this is one of those crops with a large demand and very little supply in Australia. It’s good to know that when you take the time to put an effort in, sometimes you DO get rewarded :o). I will keep you in the loop about hemp and one day we may be able to grow our own on Serendipity Farm :o)

Oops! I got so excited about hemp I almost overshot the mark and hit 3000 words! I had better stop there so I don’t. Have a great weekend and see you all back here same time, same place on Wednesday :o).

Advertisements

The Al Pacino Chook

Hi All,

It’s 5am and I am peering myopically at the monitor on a sort of manic sleep deprived bender. I am not quite sure who I am, where I am or where I am going and to be honest, I’m not all that sure about you either! What has happened to bring about this alarming transformation? Was my grandad right about aliens preferring to hover around inlets (of which I conveniently live right next to one) and take sleeping bloggers on midnight joy rides? Possibly, but that’s another story and not entirely in the same direction as today’s post. The reason why I am a spaced out twitching early riser is simple…it’s daylight savings again. “But!” I hear you say…”But…didn’t she say that she was getting up an hour earlier a day for the past fortnight to ward off the dreaded daylight savings?”…well…yes indeed I did say that. I said it and I meant it and I adhered to my earlier rising and you know what? I liked having 2 hours all to myself and today my brain told me to wake up at 5am…only recently 4am and read my rss feed reader till my brain caught up with the day. That took a good 3 hours and despite feeling entirely elated (a very short lived feeling thanks to having to then walk an irascible pair of enthusiastic driven dogs) I was floating in a sort of Mr Burns like state in the episode of the Simpsons where they thought that they saw aliens in the woods. It was really Mr Burns spaced out on his drugs but I digress…that’s what I was like this morning and will be like for the next few days till I get used to waking up at the equivalent of 4am in old school (real) time. For a non-morning person I think I am doing pretty well.

The beginnings of our spring roll Chinese aniversary feast…note the madonna cone of noodles gracing the top. We figured you only live once!

One of the Clematis montana climbers on the deck just starting to flower

What happens when your camera decides to overexpose a shot AND what happens when you are too busy to keep an eye on your asparagus futures…they turn into extra big futures that may self seed and provide MORE futures…there are no losers in this story 😉

It’s Monday and today we spent our remaining sunny day this week (as promised by the weather men) sorting through our plants and being ruthless with separating those that we want to keep from those that we wanted to give away. We loaded up our trailer after tidying up the area and minimising our potted babies and shortening the overhead watering system that we had to use last year by half and took the plants that we didn’t want to keep down to a friend’s place to give them a bit of work to do on their property. They had only just finished planting out the last (much smaller) few pots that we gave them and today they got about 50 pots containing everything from Mock Orange (Philadelphus) to apple trees (no good here, the possums hoover the leaves from the trees before they grow!) through to several types of large conifer that we had dug up from under their parents 3 years ago when we were horticulturally “young” and everything green and plant-like was fair game for our trusty trowels. It’s just lucky that our friends are trying to line their creek with trees as we gave them a golden willow that will love living knee deep in a creek. We also have a black willow that they might get in the next trip. Not enough water here to make willows happy chappies so we may as well bite the bullet and give generously. Our friends were overjoyed and very happy with their haul and we were equally happy because we know that these plants that we have tended for the last 2 – 3 years are going to a loving home.

It might just be wishful thinking but these poor possum munched maples do seem to have more leaves since we erected our pseudofence around them

My little string leaved maple that got hit really hard by the marauders…yeh…I know…a horticulturalist should know the botanical name of her plant but whatchagonnadoeh?

Peaches and cream and the 5 leaves that the possums left on this gorgeous maple

Brunhilda lives! The amazing thing is that despite being damped down last night and us not bothering to fire her up all day she is still ready to burst into flame at a moment’s notice and apparently just did. Talk about a loyal kitchen appliance! I read a wonderful blog called “Baking Stuff, Mostly Averagely” (how could you possibly not love a blog called that, especially when she lies and is actually much more than an average baker) who is an expat Aussie living in Old Blighty with a fantastic sense of the vernacular and who has retained her sardonic Aussie wit. This is one of those blogs that I really don’t want to share. I want to keep it all to myself and await new posts eagerly because bursting out into spontaneous laughter at 5.30am doesn’t come naturally to me and anyone who can generate a belly laugh in someone who swore off mornings years ago is a blog to be treasured. I only give you her blog site now because I know she reads my blog and she will take me to task if I omit to share it with you all…don’t be greedy…just 1 suck you guys…the rest is mine! 😉 I mention it because her resident oven is called “Shit oven”. Brunhilda is the polar opposite of shit oven and shall be called “Saint Oven” or as my sister wants to call her when she steals her and ships her over to Western Australia “Black Betty”. Seriously, for a moment, check out this website if you are up for a laugh, a good recipe and a feel good moment to grace your day :o)

http://averagebaker.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/lamb-shanked/

Doesn’t the archway between the first and second gardens look pretty when the choisya ternata comes out. Pretty soon it will be joined by the snowball tree above it and the whole archway will be white

The flowering quince in fine fettle this year

Lots of maples and a few podophyllum

It’s been a weird old week so far. Warm and busy on Monday we planted out all sorts of things, Tuesday brought the ubiquitous return to study and brain melting mathematics as did today. We costed out our entire job and arrived at an unholy sum of $52723.60 and a whole lot of sustainable gardening including water wicking garden beds, a completely water free xeriscape garden planted for habitat and food for native animals and birds, food gardens complete with water tanks to water a xeriscape potager mixed in with some xeriscape perennials to attract beneficials and provide habitat for them. A massive project with an earthbag construction (a bench) alongside a wood fired pizza oven and we could have added MUCH more but a $50 000 budget doesn’t really go all that far when you factor in labour and materials for over half an acre of solid gardening! Mainstream sustainable ISN’T cheap. We are learning so much about planning and what it takes to create and stay in budget. There are 2 sides to every coin and as usual, Steve and I represent both of them. I tend to be the side of the coin that deals with the processes and Steve is the creative side and together we managed to slide through keyholes and out the other side into the secret gardens behind. We now have a unit on drainage to complete and a unit involving each of us creating our own show garden. We are going completely different pathways and Steve’s idea is very different to mine. I am excited that we are going to be able to use what we have learned coupled with our ideals and creative natures to arrive at a garden with a theme. Who knows, one day we might do something like this but I severely doubt it. I can’t see the point of exhibiting yourself when you could be bum’s up in the garden actually effecting change. I did some hunting yesterday and found a pdf about water wicking garden beds that excited me so much that after I had a very impassioned chat with Steve (who knows better than to play devil’s advocate when I am on a roll…) we are going to retrospectively work some water wicking garden beds alongside our fruit trees and into our poly tunnels and outside garden beds. A 50% saving in water is a mighty fine goal to aim for and water wicking promises to cut the cost of water AND give a better result. What’s not to like?

I liked this little design window so much I decided to share another aspect of it with you 🙂

Steve pruned this little Ceanothus last year and it is rewarding him with lots of flowers this year

Pots of redcurrants to plant out along the fencline as lures to the possums to bribe them away from our more precious foodstuffs. I intend on planting LOTS of lures to keep the possums content and fighting for their territory

I just stumbled around the garden taking some photos for you so that my rhetoric has some colour to it. Spring has most definitely sprung on Serendipity Farm and is dragging us kicking and screaming behind it. Earl and Bezial have started laying on the deck in the sunshine with intermittent stints of indoor cooling off before heading out again to bask like seals in the sunshine. Bezial, particularly, loves basking and all through summer he will lay upside down like a beached whale sunning his black belly and then trotting inside and flopping down with his head on the tiles to cool down before his next stint. Earl is a bit more cautious and as a dog with a semi pink nose, he needs to be. We have a tube of flesh coloured zinc that we apply to his pink little snout so that he doesn’t get it sunburned. Last year we also applied it to his pink little nether regions but as they are probably going to be leaving him sometime soon, it probably doesn’t matter too much if they swing about in the sunshine and breeze…let them enjoy themselves, for much like the roosters on Serendipity Farm…their days are numbered!

Earls nose stick and nether region stick when he lays on the deck too long…

The Al Pacino Chook! “Are you looking at me?…”

Talking about Earl, it’s his birthday next month and he will be 2 years old. He is settling down nicely and is actually starting to pay attention especially when I am yelling and my arms are cartwheeling. He has learned that this doesn’t necessarily mean “Game ON!” any more and that there might be bad consequences to these actions. He loves to play a game called “hunt the tiny shard of bone that you are NOT allowed to have in the house but love to bring in anyway as someone is usually going to chase you”. It’s a fun game until they catch you and hurl that shard of bone out onto the deck where you promptly trot outside, find it again and play the fun game all over again. The other night the fun wore off after about 5 times and Earl made a conscious decision NOT to bring the bone back into the house and got treats to reward him for actually using his brain rather than overriding his thought processes and just frolicking about regardless. Earl will get the standard birthday meal on Serendipity Farm. Homemade hamburgers with the lot including bacon, eggs, cheese and enormous burger patties on toast with lots of butter as the bread quotient is not really appreciated if it’s not toasted and slathered with butter. After that, he will get a large layered spongecake covered in cream and usually a few bags of toys to rip up and the odd balloon which in Earl’s case doesn’t last very long at all. 2 in dog years = 14…no WONDER you act the way that you do Earl! I am surprised that you haven’t pinched the car keys and driven off into the sunset with the 4 x 4. It’s also no wonder why Bezial would rather eat his own feet than romp around with Earl…on today’s equations (that might be somewhat off kilter thanks to a day spent mathematically ruminating…) that makes Bezial 35! He would rather be sitting on the couch with a beer watching the footy than running around trying to rid the world of cats.

A white lilac in bloom and a depleted stock of plants that still need to be planted out

One of Steve’s bonsai azaleas

Steve and Bezial are having a bonding day on Friday. Earl and I will be bonding but not by choice, more by necessity. If Steve and Bezial are gone, I had BETTER want to bond with Earl because otherwise he will eat my shoes in boredom. Bezial (apparently completely undirected by Steve) wants to go to the pub and have a beer. He also wants to have a hamburger of his own and go for a long walk in town. Steve has to have a haircut to stop him looking like a scruffy hippy and so it’s a good time for him to spend some quality one on one time with Bezial who has never stopped resenting the fact that he isn’t still numero uno and that we bought first Qi, and now Earl. If he was an only dog, he would get ALL the treats. He would be able to lay, unhindered, upside down on the deck whenever he liked without someone biting his fat belly or chewing his feet when he wasn’t expecting it (please note we are talking about Earl being the antagonist here not us!). He would not have to be shackled with oppression and would be allowed free reign on Serendipity Farm to come and go as he wanted because unlike another dog that shall remain nameless, he is completely trustworthy and doesn’t eat chooks, cats, wallabies, rabbits or anything else that he might sniff out. He is a GOOD DOG and he lets us know that we let him down badly by purchasing other dogs every single day. Seal eyes have nothing on Bezial. I think he was a martyr in a past life…a saint perhaps or someone used to the finer things in life. Aside from a good roll in swamp water, he is a very upper class dog with fine tastes that run to fussiness and manipulation. He refuses to be reminded of his wall eating, gear stick eating, window sill eating, power cord scarfing, and plant nibbling cat chasing ways. He says we are lying to try to bring him down to Earl’s level and that we are NOT to be believed. The day he caught a sparrow and ran around the garden with it sticking its terrified head out of his mouth eventually being caught and disenfranchised of his toy that was not only still alive, but that ran away soggy to the bone under our gas bottles is NEVER to be mentioned. He was merely a callow youth feeling his oats and entertaining a little light banter with the native creatures. No animals were hurt in his romp and he most CERTAINLY didn’t break his head halter and run maniacally after the neighbour’s pesky cat that stared at him incredibly cheekily from his own window. Telling you that he leapt out of our car and frolicked with a teeny little white fluffy dog and almost gave its owners a heart attack would be shameless and typical of the humans that this poor upstanding dog has to live with…time to go out on the deck and spend the rest of the afternoon sighing and remembering how life was before we lost our minds and bought Earl.

A Japanese star azalea just about to bloom en mass and all sorts of little pots of things coming waking up, stretching and coming to life after a long cold winter

My pots of native raspberries that I rescued from the garden under the deck before we replanted it…only thing is…they are all growing back under the deck as well! Oh well…more possum lures!

For the life of me I can’t remember the name of this weed but its prettier than the bare glasshous. We use a product called La Blanche to cover our glasshouse in summer to cut the glare from the bare glass and it cools the glasshouse significantly. Must get some more!

I want to get this post posted early tonight mainly because everything is earlier now that I wake up at 5am. I am hungry for my evening meal at 4pm and I start yawning at 7. I must admit to having more energy than I have had in years at the moment but that might just be the natural frolicking results of it being early spring and all of those little lamb vibes may just be assisting me to stride with purpose on our cold early morning walks. I like getting up earlier and I love being happy and looking forwards to our mornings walks with the dogs. I am not quite so happy by the time that we get home but I am hoping that those strange vitamins that I found in the back of the cupboard haven’t got a half-life and are actually assisting my newfound happy demeanour. Happy birthday to my niece Sabrina who is the baby of our immediate family. She moved to Perth and is working as a lab tech in one of the large hospitals up there. That makes you officially OLD now Pinky…Pinky is my sister who lives in Western Australia. We are only allowed to get together on rare occasions because the time space continuum couldn’t stand the pressure of our craziness. My daughters are creating Halloween costumes this year that require the use of a soldering iron so I might have some interesting photos to share with you someday soon! Till next post, I hope that your passions burn brightly and you spend your days doing something that feeds your mind. Too many of us forget our minds and they get left behind us in the rush to get through our days. Mine melted on Tuesday but I packed it back in and it seems to be holding (for now). See you on Saturday 😉

Listening to…

The Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Californication

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

Sunny side up please we are Rebels with a distinct cause!

Hi All

We rumbled you Yin! We have gotten tired of waiting for the hens to come to their senses and start laying in the nesting boxes again although after finding a couple of suspicious eggs in the corner under the hay yesterday (and disposing of them somewhat gingerly…) one of the first golden laced Wyandotte girls that we initially bought decided that after she laid her egg today that she would take advantage of the nice new scented hay and go clucky! After picking her up…liberating the egg and releasing her into the main body of the coop she trotted over to the communal food bowl and spent about 5 minutes eating and THEN came out and lamented the loss of her egg much to Yin’s chagrin. Yin is incredibly suspicious of Steve and I now. We spent the morning cutting back and removing the old tendrils of the clematis that covers the side of the deck in spring and summer and then dies back to look tatty in winter. Earl and Bezial love their new view from the deck and can keep an eye on the feral cats and the chickens. After we dumped the pile of dead tendrils over the deck and swept it, I headed out with a trusty wheelbarrow and secateurs to snip up the tendrils to throw back under the clematis as mulch. I dare say Pingu will spread it all over the place but at least I am trying to do the right thing for the garden. While we were outside, me with the clematis and Steve cleaning out his shed and evicting its new chicken residents, Big Yin was strutting around watching us. We discovered 2 nests today loaded with eggs that he had made away from the coop and will be keeping our ears open for that tell-tale “I laid an egg” song that all of the girls sing once they have deposited their egg in Yin’s latest camouflaged nest. Once we hear them we can at least isolate where on Serendipity Farm they are in from the deck and we can head out to find them. They stop clucking as soon as they see us but by then it’s too late! We know where they are so we know in what proximity the nest is and Big Yin is WELL aware of this. No doubt today’s nests will be abandoned tomorrow and we will have to listen very carefully for the new egg laying calls. Yin was trying to stop his girls clucking today and it was quite amazing to see the lengths that he was going to, to distract us from heading over and checking the nests for eggs. Steve had eggs on toast for breakfast today and Bezial and Earl had a large omelette of some of the older eggs.

This is to show you all what our soil is comprised of…clay and rocks. As you can see this eroded bit on the side of the road is being held together by a most tenacious tree and you can see why it’s hanging on so tightly…if YOU had to dig through all of that you would demand the right to stay put too!

Just off to the right of this dirt road (a.k.a. Auld Kirk Road, just up the way from our home…) there is a massive drop down to the Tamar River. Steve would like it to be known that he has called this area “Dead mans gulch”…why? NO idea.

True love is sharing your pair of fingerless gloves when its 0C and there’s a wind chill factor. The only hand that needs a glove is the one holding the lead 😉

I just made a “Date luncheon” from an old Australian staple cookbook The C.W.A. Cookbook.  It was a tossup between the “luncheon” and a “meltaway”. I am unsure what either of those descriptions brings to the party but a date slice is the end result. The C.W.A. is a group of women who get together to form community in their small Australian towns and give each other support and solidarity. It stands for “Country Women’s Association” and thanks to our small population and the massive distances between some of these tiny little outback towns, this group of women may have been the backbone of many a “do” in Australia and are still doing their bit (albeit sometimes from a backseat position nowadays) to help their towns and communities. A “do” is when most of the town get together for some sort of communal event that involves “bringing a plate” (each family brings some form of food on a plate to share…I think the American word for it is Potluck?) and there is usually music, dancing, eating, drinking and hangovers the next day). It was an Australian woman’s right of passage to get one of these cookbooks given to her by her mother or close woman family member back when I was younger. If you couldn’t find a recipe in the C.W.A. cookbook there was something wrong! The book that I have was my dad’s partner Val’s with no daughters to pass it onto I would like to think that at least it is being used again and not languishing in a tip shop somewhere. By obvious deduction because of the inscription it was given to her by her mother, as was my copy that I have since given to my daughters. This one is actually from back when ladies (women were actually called “ladies” back then…) used to submit recipes to be added to the book and it comes from Western Australia where I hail from. It’s somewhat nostalgic to open its well-thumbed pages and see a recipe from “Barbara of Merredin” and feel an instant camaraderie with her. I know where she was (as no doubt Barbara may no longer be with us due to the age of the cookbook and the average age of C.W.A. members) and I know how hot her summers were and how dry it was. I know that the blowflies were almost as bit as the sheep in summer and that they clung to the screen doors in droves waiting for you to head off running to get the washing off the line before it crisped like overdone toast in the heat. I know how precious that tiny little patch of grass and usually mint growing underneath the tap near the tank stand was to Barbara’s psyche. Nothing like a Western Australian summer to teach mint where to grow and where NOT to grow. I KNOW that place. I have been there and I have had its dust on my feet and I have wondered way down in my heart just what makes people want to stay in places like this…but stay they do and I have had to live in places like this on more than one occasion in a past life. The modern copies are more generic and give you less of a sense of place than these old ones but there are still all sorts of useful hints and tips and it gave me my recipe for mum’s “Date sloice” and for that I will be eternally grateful.

When we were in Launceston on monday Steve spotted these old appliances in an electrical retail shop and ran across 4 lanes of traffic for your entertainment so please at least pretend that you are interested in them…

Imagine how excited someone once was to get this amazing contraption to help them do one of the most mundane tasks that would have taken most of the day to accomplish pre-washing machine.

This was the deluxe version and who wouldn’t want this amazing piece of last century technology gracing their laundry!

Last but certainly not least, this fridge would have probably cost a small fortune back in the day. I bet it still goes though! No built in obsolescence at the turn of last century.

The sun is coming up on another Tuesday on Serendipity Farm. I see most mornings settle in these days but the sun is starting to come up earlier. It’s now peeking over the windowsill at 6.30 rather than the respectable hour of 7 which is causing me some consternation. Sometime soon it’s going to get up before me and I will miss that magical time sitting here with the light on peering myopically at the enormous computer screen in front of me (“I DON’T need glasses!” 😉 ) and pondering the meaning of life, the universe and everything on my own while I slowly wake up with my first bucket cup of tea. It will slither under the door jamb before I wake up and the chickens will be restless in their coop at 4.30am in the middle of summer. Good luck to them getting me out of bed at that time of the morning to let them out! Crow away Yin, I AIN’T coming! I have been contemplating giving Big Yin lessons in how to open the coop door himself to make life easier around here but I can’t help picturing in my mind (and you won’t believe how pictorial my mind can be at times!) a midnight out breaking of chickens who then head off with kerchiefs full of grain tied to sticks (no shortage of them around here) to greener pastures. Or in layman’s terms…they will all head over to Glad’s place and move in! We haven’t had the heart to head down to Glad’s place to tell her that our chickens find her place more attractive than ours at the moment. It’s a bit of a sore point as we give them the best grain, the freshest bedding hay and constantly toss goodies over the deck rail for them. I am trying to reconcile it in my head and have come valiantly up with the fact that they have most probably eaten every insect on our property and hers is humming with them, but it’s more a matter of “the grass is greener for ingrate chickens” if the truth be known and we have to wrangle their protesting fluffed up feathery bodies back over a sagging fence with numerous holes underneath that the wallabies keep making despite us shoving rocks into each hole as soon as we find them. The wallabies want in which facilitates our chickens breaking out! Perhaps they are laying eggs at Glads place? If so she is welcome to the eggs and I can negotiate that around my guilt at being bad chicken herders as payment for the odd deposit left in a tell-tale place on her side of the fence.

The sun is coming up on another Tuesday on Serendipity Farm. I see most mornings settle in these days but the sun is starting to come up earlier. It’s now peeking over the windowsill at 6.30 rather than the respectable hour of 7 which is causing me some consternation. Sometime soon it’s going to get up before me and I will miss that magical time sitting here with the light on peering myopically at the enormous computer screen in front of me (“I DON’T need glasses!” 😉 ) and pondering the meaning of life, the universe and everything on my own while I slowly wake up with my first bucket cup of tea. It will slither under the door jamb before I wake up and the chickens will be restless in their coop at 4.30am in the middle of summer. Good luck to them getting me out of bed at that time of the morning to let them out! Crow away Yin, I AIN’T coming! I have been contemplating giving Big Yin lessons in how to open the coop door himself to make life easier around here but I can’t help picturing in my mind (and you won’t believe how pictorial my mind can be at times!) a midnight out breaking of chickens who then head off with kerchiefs full of grain tied to sticks (no shortage of them around here) to greener pastures. Or in layman’s terms…they will all head over to Glad’s place and move in! We haven’t had the heart to head down to Glad’s place to tell her that our chickens find her place more attractive than ours at the moment. It’s a bit of a sore point as we give them the best grain, the freshest bedding hay and constantly toss goodies over the deck rail for them. I am trying to reconcile it in my head and have come valiantly up with the fact that they have most probably eaten every insect on our property and hers is humming with them, but it’s more a matter of “the grass is greener for ingrate chickens” if the truth be known and we have to wrangle their protesting fluffed up feathery bodies back over a sagging fence with numerous holes underneath that the wallabies keep making despite us shoving rocks into each hole as soon as we find them. The wallabies want in which facilitates our chickens breaking out! Perhaps they are laying eggs at Glads place? If so she is welcome to the eggs and I can negotiate that around my guilt at being bad chicken herders as payment for the odd deposit left in a tell-tale place on her side of the fence.

One of the pretty little streets that we walked down the other day with our overexcited dogs in Launceston

When life hands you lemons…head off to the internet to find out what the heck to do with them all! I now know how to make lemon furniture polish…lemon curd… lemon syrup…lemon barley water and something called “Skeeter Pee” that I will share with you all in a future post…

Aren’t these 2 little pony’s cute? No doubt the next time we walk around Kayena, Steve will have hidden a couple of apples cut up for them. People must think that Steve has some sort of allure with animals as they tend to come running whenever they see him…I know why 🙂

Well another post comes to a close and I still haven’t explained the “Rebel” in the title. Well, today is Tuesday. Most people work on Tuesday. Today Steve and I are NOT going to work. We are being rebels. We are going to head out and enjoy our day doing whatever we please as yesterday we had to put our plans on hold and head into town to get another car battery as ours was threatening to boycott Serendipity Farm completely and we need a reliable car out here in the sticks. We spent the day pounding the pavement, drinking white mocha’s (Steve) and soy chai lattes (me) with the boys and doing our bit to educate the public about how loving they can be. We didn’t get back till late and we decided that we wanted a day off today and as such we are rebelling against our indentured study slavetude. Sorry Nick…we usually work like Trojans but today is OURS! See you all on Saturday when I will be able to share a day spent in town submerged in a series of Tamar NRMA sustainable living lectures (the first of a series of them this month that I will be attending and sharing with you all) and hopefully some photos to boot. Wish me luck battling the felt hatted brigade who will be out in force and hope beyond hope that the valve that keeps my trap firmly shut whenever I am confronted by people speaking bollocks is able to withstand the welling tide of retribution that floods up demanding to be heard! 😉

We invented this pie last night when Steve decided that he wanted a “Cheese, potato and spinach pie with fetta and ricotta made with home made butter shortcrust”…doesn’t look bad if we say so ourselves 🙂

Nothing puts fear into Bezial faster than the removal of furniture from a hitherto fully furnished house and today we emptied the kitchen living area due to an impromptu bout of wooden floor mopping…

Bezial forgave us for removing the table and chairs (that’s Earls recliner in the shot) because he could bask in sunbeams.

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)

The day that I graduated from my sponge cake “L” plates

Hi All,

Is it just me or do your senses become more finely attuned in winter? Aside from the obvious “cold neurons” going off at random intervals everything seems to be condensed down and sharper. I guess it’s our traditional time when we hibernate. I am not averse to staying in bed for the winter but it would seem that “The Man” wants me out of bed and actively studying for the future. Its Thursday already and Steve and I are wading through the mire that accompanies a Landscape Design. As with most things…it’s an iceberg. That lovely plan that arrives on your desk (along with a not so lovely discrete bill that you probably (trust me) don’t want to open…) is the culmination of some poor sods hard mental labour. We really don’t think about how hard someone has to work to get something like that onto our desks until we actively try to do it ourselves. The same goes for the production of food…how hard is it to keep everything that wants an advance sample of our fruit, vegetables and grains away from our food without rendering said food inedible? A life of conundrums and questions besieges me and occasionally leaves me mentally exhausted. When Steve and I started out on our horticultural journey it was with very tentative feet. We were not entirely sure if our decision to work with plants was going to be wise. It was Steve’s first venture into even considering plants as anything within his peripheral view and he was a bit incredulous to say the least as to whether he could find much about them to keep his mind active. 2 months later this man planted a tiny Sequoia Gigantea seed that grew and the rest is history. Today both Steve and I have succumbed to our plant masters and are their willing and compliant slaves. We tend them…prune them…water them…sometimes mindlessly following their silent but endless requests but at all times rewarded generously for our servitude.  We have melded with the plants and it changed our lives.

What happens to Brunhilda with her first few chunks of wood…I call this “tea futures”! This is an amazingly good stove and I can’t praise it highly enough. We have had this stove burning now for about 4 months without stop and haven’t had to use that packet of late autumn firelighters that we bought aside from it’s initial lighting. It slowly simmers all night and rises like the sturdy, reliable, little black phoenix that it is every single morning no matter how many embers remain in its toasty little fire box…”I love you Brunhilda!”

Obviously I am not the only one who loves Brunhilda. After their morning walk the boys can usually be found (especially Bezial) in the positions that you see them here. Earl is only still because I bribed him by giving him Steve’s music room door wedge…Bezial is entirely content and when I think back to this time last year and remember the 2 of them huddling next to a teeny tiny little 1 bar gas heater that was our ONLY source of heat I can see why Bezial is luxuriating in Brunhilda’s heavenly wafting heat. By the way…the ONLY reason that lime green wood basket is still alive is because I cut off its handles and it’s full of wood. Earls inquisitive beak can’t get a grip on the sides and so it remains alive so long as we remember to fill it up with wood on a regular basis

This is the kind of photograph that you get when you have told a dog that he is too fat and that you are going to put him on a diet. A diet that doesn’t include fresh spongecake with cream.

Occasionally we find it necessary to poke Earl gently to ensure that he is still alive… does this look alive to you? “POKE POKE POKE!”

Bezial in the throws of Brunhilda love…we should leave them alone now to enjoy each others company…

We have a forecast of rain…rain and more rain for the next few days. The potted plants that we selected for rehousing last week are all still alive and the Luculia is positively glowing. It didn’t drop a single flower bud and is now a mass of soft pink tubular scented heaven right outside our bedroom window. The irony is that Luculia flowers in winter…and the likelihood of us having our bedroom window actually open in the middle of a Tasmanian winter is as slim as Posh Spice. The rest of our potted plants are sulking in their over cramped pots and wondering just what they have to do to get planted out. We have no inclination whatsoever to get out into the garden in the freezing cold and rain so it won’t be for at least a few days. Our studies have taken over from our plant overlords at the moment and I never would have thought that I would hear myself say this…but I am actually enjoying the process. Familiarity breeds more than contempt in my case…it breeds a rare form of happiness that comes with the ability to understand and actually follow the process. AutoCAD is a program full of landmines that are just waiting to pull the rug out from under any unsuspecting (read overconfident) person attempting to use it for any purpose other than a door stop (in its unopened package that is…). We learned early on that AutoCAD is a law unto itself. It will do what it wants…when it wants and our particular version appears to have a very strong will indeed. If we forget to save anything it WILL freeze and make us do it all over again. We have taken to kidding ourselves that we are grateful for the chance to do some more practice…remember “there are NO learning experiences in perfection…” that’s what we tell ourselves through gritted teeth in a vain effort to show AutoCAD that it can’t beat us and make us cry. This year these moments of confrontation have been few and far between because we no longer fear AutoCAD and are able to navigate our way through the endless seas of “process” to at least find the ballpark that we want to be in if not the actual fix for our problem. I guess we are learning and learning from home gives you the best opportunity to really learn because you have to sort things out for yourself for the most part. I mentioned in my last post that we had put in an expression of interest to undertake an Art course next year. We realised quite early on in the piece that AutoCAD is a fantastic program for creating exact plans but it is lacking creative flair and it’s difficult to create concept designs (the “sell” part of the equation) that are aesthetically pleasing. We therefore decided to learn how to turn our plans into eye candy and that’s why we are going to attempt to crash the Arts department next year. Do you think that they will be ready for the Pimblett’s? Probably not…but ready or not…here we come!

Proof that we do pound the pavements in order to give our dogs some form of exercise each day. Not that you would know it in Bezial’s case…

The boys eating their greens…when they find a good patch of grass it’s actually quite difficult to get them to stop eating. They are like mini cows

A nice shot taken from one side of Devil’s Elbow (the Rowella side) to the other (The Kayena side). We certainly live in a pretty place and are very spoiled with the scenery when we walk the boys

This photo was taken later in the day because in most photos you don’t get to see the detail of that bit of land covered in trees in the background but at a certain time of day in a certain light you can…I just wanted to share it with you all 🙂

We noticed (well Bezial the water dog noticed…) a little pathway down to the riverbank and decided to head down to see what there was at the end of the little track and found this delightful vista. Bezial proceeded to drag Steve into the water and Earl stood on the shore sniffing a dead oyster…dog heaven!

With the removal of the last 4 official roosters (I know that Effel has at least a couple overwintering in her flock) Big Yin has decided that he must have some sort of amazing powers as he just starts getting cranky at an emerging young rival and suddenly it’s gone. Using his amazing powers of chicken deduction 1 + 1 = KING OF THE WORLD and he has gone on an unprecedented nest building frenzy in a vain effort to increase the flock and fill it with little Yin’s. No doubt there are nests everywhere out there. We can hear chickens all over the place talking to each other in their nefarious chicken whispers. Big Yin can be heard making his “check THIS out baby…” sounds when he has rolled a bit of grass into a circle and thinks that it is nest worthy for his latest paramour. I must admit that having seen rooster activity on a somewhat large scale now Big Yin is an amazingly good rooster. He hunts for food for his flock, he warns them whenever there is danger and he gives the tasty morsels that he finds to his prize girls. He doesn’t hurt his girls either, unlike (tasty) roosters past and has earned his lifetime security here on Serendipity Farm. The problem that we now have is that our hens are getting wily. They no sooner start laying somewhere and we start collecting the eggs than they head off somewhere else and start laying there and Big Yin is ever ready to up sticks and make them another nest more remote and inaccessible than the last. I can see the day that we are actually overrun with chickens. Roosters will be crowing at all hours of the day and night and I will surreptitiously slip an anonymous note into Frank’s (who has been killing roosters since he was 10) mailbox saying “go nuts! You know you want to…”…until that day we will practice hunting eggs and will ready ourselves for spring and the oncoming onslaught of clucky chooks. I dare say most of our fecund flock will be laying low like brer rabbit in some form of briar patch but we clever humans have been active and have minimised those briar patches so that we can head straight to the remaining patches and be assured of at least 1 chicken occupant! We extracted Effel from her own personal briar patch just before winter set in and we can do it again chickens! Consider this war!

What to do with all those eggs? Make a sponge cake. The very first stage of making a spongecake…”First line your tin”…

At this stage I wanted to make sure that you got the gist that I am a darned good cake tin liner. This was to take your mind off the fact that I was, in fact, making an unassisted spongecake for the very first time…I have made spongecakes before and they have been sad sorry flat excuses for something edible that even the chooks refused. I wanted to break my losing streak and so put myself out there yet again to possibly fail…”Isn’t this tin lined beautifully?”…

These are the real reason why I decided to make a spongecake. 4 pristine duck eggs from our 2 girls given to us by Nat’s stepdaughter and suddenly starting to produce these. I know that duck eggs make amazing cakes because mum TOLD me that they did. I decided to find out for myself…

This mixer might be my handy dandy go to mixer that facilitates the manufacture of cakey goodness on Serendipity Farm but one day I am going to drop this thing on my head and kill myself! Perhaps a rethink of where we are currently storing this heavy metal mixer might be on the cards in the near future…

Notes about duck eggs…they are somewhat cloudier than hen eggs…the yolks aren’t quite as yellow…there were more whites in them and lastly the whites were harder to separate from the yolks but these eggs were uber fresh so perhaps that had something to do with it?

A juxtaposition in the cost of an item. The blender (admittedly only the base is present in this photo) cost just on $1300 and the packet of sugar was so cheap as to be negligable. Just a note to readers in the U.S. our sugar is manufactured from sugar cane where yours is mainly corn based or beet. The blender is amazing, high speed and can turn this sugar here into icing sugar in a matter of seconds. It can also (using the additional expensive goblet) turn grains into dust in a similar time frame. I bought this years ago and have only just started to use it to its full advantage. One of those “why on EARTH did I spend that…oh wait a minute THAT’S why!” moments. I also wanted to point out that buying sugar in a paper bag is better for the environment however the day that they make paper from bamboo is the day that I am going to be one happy camper…let’s all stop cutting down trees for newspapers eh?

This is the first sift of the dry ingredients (1 of 3) and has been undertaken using one of the sieves that I found in a cupboard after we moved in. I would like to continue using these older kitchen items as aside from being made to last, it gives a continuity to my dad’s partner Val who never had any children of her own.

If it acts like a spongecake…it sounds like a spongecake…it smells like a spongecake IT’S A SPONGECAKE! :)…Wait a minute…”thats not a spongecake…THAT’S a spongecake!…”

No words people…just get a fork!

By the way…the cake is curiously decorated because one half is Steve’s (thus the chocolately maltesers) and the other half has been designated “the dogs”

I was just thinking about winter again and how in winter we tend to become more insular along with better insulated. We look inside ourselves and the cold weather constricts our physical and mental boundaries. Come spring and everything starts to become active again and we look outside ourselves but in the middle of winter when it’s cold and rainy and bleak outside there is nothing so desirable as a nice warm spot and a good book. I have fallen by the reading wayside of late. I haven’t even finished my copy of “Tuesday’s with Morrie” and I have to take “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café” back on Friday unread. I am drawn more to homesteading books at the moment and a fantastic book that I discovered entirely by accident whilst reading a blog feed was “A Householder’s Guide to the Universe: A Calendar of Basics for the Home and Beyond”. By one “Harriet Fasenfest”. I have mentioned Harriet before albeit fleetingly and mostly because of her chuckle inducing name but this lady is no one trick pony and this book is gold! I have taken to channelling my envy and lust for buying books into a more productive (and less expensive) hobby of trying to gain access to these books through the library. Most of them soon lose that glittering “MUST HAVE” promise when you have waded through the bampf and found them more hype than hope. This book, however, is amazing. It’s one of those books that are actually worth lusting after and indeed pulling that moth eaten sock out from under the bed and extracting the readies to purchase this gem for yourselves. Aside from being one of the most elegant over 50’s women, Harriet has an amazing ability to write what we want to hear. No garbage…full of good humour and actual knowledge gold. What more could you want? (Take note girls who are reading this…my birthday IS coming up soon and aside from wanting a renewed subscription to “Feast” (cheers in advance Bethany…) this book would be most gratefully accepted as a token of your undying love Madeline. Go to “The Book Depository” as it ships fast, costs less and there is no shipping)…I love having adult children ;).

What do you do when you have been given a pile of lemons and you don’t actually use lemons for much and they have been sitting in a bowl for a week and are dangerously close to going over to the dark side…you preserve them for future lemony needs is what you do… first you get yourself a microplane and you remove the zest…

Aside from a boon for the compost heap, these lemon skins made the house smell amazing

Some more tools of the trade with the end results that I batched up into small bags and stored flat so I can chip some off whenever I need it. I love it when my practical side broadsides my lazy side and it is happening more and more often these days. The feeling of putting something aside for future use is exciting and hits just the right spot in this little black ducks homesteading heart 🙂

This was Steve’s tea last night…one home made chicken and mushroom pie in home made cheesy shortcrust pastry accompanied by oven fried chips in olive oil…all of the “Goldens” on one plate! Slather it with salt and vinegar and you have an expat’s chips shop dream on a stick 🙂

Ok it’s time to head out into the oncoming rain and possible hail, sleet and snow to walk the dogs. It’s not worth trying to reason with those seal eyes Steve…just get on your jacket and head outside.  It’s now Saturday so I guess you figured that we got back from our walk in one piece physically (but perhaps not always mentally). I am going to make this post a bit less wordy today because I have a lot of photos that require “ploise asplain” sotto voce Pauline Hanson style. To those of you who are not aware of who Pauline Hanson is (and let’s face it guys, most Aussies would rather forget her) she was a politician who was the face of a political party called One Nation. Her party was so popular because many Australians were feeling very frustrated about the liberal politics that were allowing Australia to be hurled down the politically correct line without thought of consequences but the party took it too far and ended up being more of a sad joke than a force to be reckoned with. Pauline was most noteable for her “Please explain” statements whenever she wasn’t quite up to scratch with what was being asked of her and she came off looking like a quintessential “Dumb Broad” and most certainly didn’t do women in politics ANY favours in their desire to be taken seriously. I have a sneaking suspicion that the reason that she was allowed to advance so far up the political ladder was so that she could be used as a reason why women shouldn’t be allowed into the upper echelons of politics…so…what have we done over the last few days?

  1. Walk the dogs…we ALWAYS walk the dogs…
  2. Study our brains out including plotting out a planting plan for our latest Diploma design that we are suitably proud of and will attempt to share with you AFTER our lecturer gets it first
  3. Cooking and preserving all sorts of things

That would be about it aside from playing Zelda (me) and watching horror movies on the television (Steve and Earl) and sulking (Bezial). We haven’t had time to solve world problems, find a solution for peace in the Middle East or re-inventing the wheel but we HAVE found a fix for Brunhilda’s metal firebox handle that has burned us for the LAST TIME! We have stayed cosy and warm through these short winter days and long winter nights and we have been industrious little beavers with all sorts of fixes etc. I have attempted to give my daughters strong mental and blog posty hints about my rapidly advancing birthday wish list and hopefully they have heard me…if they haven’t…here is a VERY good reason for you to get me the Harriet Hasenfest book “A Householders Guide to the Universe” from The Book Depository Madeline…Its under $20 with free postage and you can’t get a cheaper gift than that (aside from a bag of flour but you just KNOW which one I am actually going to like ;)).  Please feel free to ignore that bit of gratuitous gift wrangling…it’s one of the perks of being the mother of adult children…you get to give them a taste of what it was like when they were kids “MUUUM I NEED a Dr. Dreadful kit…I NEED a Stretch Armstrong…”… Cheers girls 😉

I think that making things for yourself is only hard until you get into the habit of doing it. Here we have the fixings for sesame milk (in the jug on the left) along with the wine bottle that I am storing it in until I can find a suitable container at the local thrift shop…almonds soaking for almond milk (my new tea topper of choice) and the container at the rear has the feral chooks bread cut up ready for early morning degustation and the crust free butter sandwich on the top is Pingu’s breakfast treat. They all get left overnight to be used and processed the next day…easy peasy!

2 of the “Must have” books on my list of “To Buy” books in the near future. I take them out of the library…I go through them with a fine toothed comb (my mind…razor sharp lol) and I ascertain whether or not the information contained within is valuable and precious enough for me to want to hock my right leg and if it is…I buy it…if it isn’t I take what I want (typing 101 and fast fingers Fran) or I just drop it back to the library with negligable cost to the moth filled sock under the bed. I have also found The Permaculture book of Ferment and Human Nutrition has been reprinted! No more lusting after this amazing tomb for me, I can buy myself one for my birthday…I LOVE books! 🙂

Even with his winter wool Steve’s large head is NO match for Earl and his enormous bonce. He accidentally headbutted me this morning…Earls love knows no bounds and he gives it generously…and I am lucky my nose wasn’t broken. Every single part of Earl is solid and weighs a tonne. Here you see him assuming his night time position on the back of Steve’s sofa unless he manages to wedge himself between Steve and the chair and lay full length between the two. Uncomfortable for Steve but HEAVEN for Earl 🙂

Well that’s it for today guys…we have some projects on the burner that I can maybe share with you on Wednesday but for today that’s all folks! Have a great weekend and I hope that Monday finds you

  1. Alive
  2. Happy
  3. Fully functional and able to get out of bed
  4. Finally and most importantly in a good mood and fine spirits ready for doing whatever it is that you are doing this week

I did tell you that this post was going to be photo intensive…I have 2 photos lastly that I would like to share with you. My mum died in January this year and it was particularly difficult to take in because she had just spent time with us over Christmas and then suddenly she was gone. She filled her suitcase up with home made Christmas cakes and preserves and when she died I didn’t have much of “mum” in my life any more. She had been my champion blog poster and is still the third highest on the list and loved all things Serendipity Farm. I had 2 little pots of jam that she had given us…1 she had made the week that she came over here that I couldn’t bring myself to use. I remembered them languishing on the back of the second shelf down in the fridge and decided that mum wouldn’t want that “sunshine in a jar” strawberry jam cram packed full of her own home grown strawberries and gelled to within an inch of its life (thanks to a batch that had been watery the attempt before…) to be stuffed to the back of the fridge…she would have wanted it out there on the counter top, slathered all over some heavily buttered toast and so today I let go of my need to keep my mum in a small jar and opened her memory up to be part of the day to day machinations of Serendipity Farm…welcome back mum…I missed you 🙂

Chicken whispering with an axe

Hi All,

It suddenly turned into Saturday afternoon and this is the first time I have sat down to post since Wednesday so let’s just see how verbose I can be in a couple of hours…my guess is my inner manic muse won’t let me down and before you know it I will be teetering on the edge of 3000 words trying to think of bits to leave out. This week the weather has finally decided to reflect the fact that we are now most of the way through autumn and I am only just thinking about putting on jumpers. It’s not because I have become accustomed to colder weather, it’s because we have had unseasonably warm weather…some might call it an Indian Summer which leads me to believe that this winter is going to be VERY cold. I don’t mind. We have been gathering acorns while the sun shines…translated (from manic inner muse to “normal” human terms) that means we have been collecting wood like crazy in an effort to have enough for winter. I love cold weather especially when you don’t have to be cold and you get to sit next to a lovely warm fire crackling away, cooking your meals and heating your water. I need to keep feeling grateful about all of this because it will be several years before I am able to feel guilt free for spending the better part of the price of a cheap small car on a static heat source.

“Would you like fries with that? Please drive through…”

I was hunting for fungi the other day (it’s best not to ask…) and found this pretty specimen that had grown over a clover leaf.

Yin has been hollowing out dead trunk bases again to try to lure his girls away from the nests that I know about…one day Yin…ONE DAY!.. sigh…

We had a meeting with our lecturer this week and spent the day learning how to measure elevations with a theodolite. A theodolite for those of you not in the know…and let’s face it…before I did this course I would have been right up there with you… is a piece of equipment that takes horizontal and vertical readings (after you spend most of the day setting it up accurately that is…) so that you can get someone to pay you for this information translated into some form of plans involving the great outdoors. Architects and draftsmen use them…builder’s use them…landscape designers and contractors use them and now, so do we! Apart from looking suspiciously like Cybermen (Dr Who people…get with the programme!) they are most useful things that allow the person using them to find out all sorts of information that then allows them to fill out sheets using trigonometry to arrive at angles, minutes and seconds. If you are confused, don’t worry, you are not the only one! Mathematics and I are NOT friends. I realised the other day when I was banging my head on the table over Cos, Sin and Tan, that something must have happened to me at some time in the past for me to have completely bypassed understanding maths at all. I decided to head back into the ether… back… WAY back to where I would have been learning my 6 times table (because that is about where maths and I parted company). I discovered that year 5 at school is approximately where you learn you’re 6 times table and you start to get familiar with simple fractions (the beginning of my mathematical mental breakdowns). I played around in my mind with what was going on when I was in year 5. In Western Australia, you are about 10 when you get to year 5…

I always thought that it would be nice to have a dress the colour of the sky when it was just about to drop a massive deluge of rain on the earth. Even when I was a child I was a mental hippy ;o)

Here is a midden of oyster shells. The good folk of Paper Beach have decided to eradicate these oysters (apparently “introduced pests”…not sure most people would think of oysters as pests but it takes all kinds to make up a world…) from their pristine chunk of riverbank and have erected a sign asking everyone who takes a stroll up the beach to take one of the buckets (conveniently located on nails sticking out of a pole in the ground) and fill it up with oysters. I get the sneaking suspicion that most of the locals like the odd free oyster or 2 (on months with or without “ber” on the end of them…or is it the other way around?) and that this enterprising idea will meet with a lukewarm welcome. I think I might start bringing buckets of these oyster shells home to crush up and use as  slug/snail/duck deterants around my succulents…

3 little sage plants and a healthy little chive plant picked up last week on the progressive garage sale

I thought more about any events that may have affected me and had one of those “Epiphany” moments. My parents split up when I was in year 5! We then proceeded to go through a pretty traumatic time being bundled from relative to relative until mum could find a place to live and despite me not having any bad memories about that time it obviously affected me more than I was aware. I didn’t think that I was too traumatised by this event and had a bit more of a think about my past and realised that year 5 was the year that I was taught by Mr Pages-Oliver…a thin dour man who spent his life frowning and sneaking up on unsuspecting students and slamming a metre ruler down on the desk to startle them. Mr Pages-Oliver who terrified the living daylights out of me, coupled with my parents’ marriage dissolving when no-one else’s parents were separated let alone divorced, must have had an educationally disastrous effect on my 10 year old virginal maths (and spelling) mind. You really don’t realise how important it is to have teachers who want to teach. I can count on one hand the teachers that I know who are passionate about teaching students the subject that they are employed to teach. Most of them see it as a job…you do it, you get paid, and you have more holidays than the average person. I can’t blame them. I was going to be a teacher and circumstances saved me from becoming the jaded, world weary English teacher that I could have become. As much as I love sharing knowledge with people, the school system is not set up to enable teachers to teach. It’s not only students that fall through the cracks…it’s a rare teacher who survives to long service still in possession of their early passion to teach. Mr Pages-Oliver couldn’t even lay claim to that long term loss of hope because he was a first year out Teacher! What possessed this young man who obviously hated doing what he did to take up teaching is beyond me. Perhaps the saying “those who can…do…those who can’t…teach” was true of Mr Pages-Oliver…all I know is that the rest of my school life was spent unable to comprehend all sorts of very important concepts because of the interruption to that most formative of years. I thought I hated maths when I am actually well suited to it! Now that I am grasping concepts that should have been taught to me more years than I would like to admit here ago, I am actually enjoying the mental processes that trigonometry and working through mathematical formulas is giving me. You owe me Mr Pages-Oliver!! (You also owe my year 12 Maths and Economics teachers who probably had nervous breakdowns after trying to get me to understand what they were telling me!)

The spent hay that I am just about to remove from the chicken coop.

Mucking out the chicken shed might not be my favourite way to spend a morning but the resulting nitrogen rich hay makes amazing compost and fills up 3 lasagne beds so it tempers the job and makes it a lot easier to get stuck in when you are getting fertiliser for free!

The rear of the chicken coop along with what we used to use to feed them (before the great population explosion of 2012). Steve found plans online for how to make a gravity fed chook feeder and it worked really well until we ended up with too many chickens to use it. Now it just sits there doing nothing but act as a night time perch for one of the fatter less agile chickens at night

Tonight we decided to allow Effel to go into the main roost with her fellow adult chickens. She has been perching in here every night for the last week and Steve has been having to grab her and toss her into the outside area where we erected a covered area for Effel and her babies to ensure at least some of them grew to adulthood (remembering she had 12 when we first put her in there and the reputation of being a TERRIBLE mother…). We put this lower perch up for the babies as Effel leaves them huddled on the floor. Steve just reported that Effel and her favourite baby are up on one of the high perches and the remaining babies are on the ground…oh well…back to the drawing board :o)

On the way home from our lecture we dropping in to pick up a jar of sourdough starter that a lady I met in the library in Exeter gave me. She wasn’t home and left us a message to pick up the starter and a bucket of globe artichokes which we dutifully did. We had a little look around her garden and it inspired me to get going with lasagne gardening in earnest. I have been putting off starting the process of growing vegetables for ages, mainly because there are so many factors up against us doing so it is frankly logistically terrifying to contemplate. We need to find some way to stop the hens, possums and wallabies from scoffing our efforts. We need to create irrigation systems for the garden beds because vegetables are very water intensive. We need to do all of this on less than a shoestring budget and using our ability to think laterally and problem solve and use what we have available to us here on site. The more I delve into permaculture online, the more excited I get because apart from lauding recycling and reusing, these sites actually share with you how to effect these changes cheaply, because penniless hippies are highly proportional in the permaculture community. Thank goodness that penniless hippies like to share because otherwise Serendipity Farm would be a barren wasteland forever! The lady that gave me the sourdough starter had made an amazing difference to her small property using hay bales, lasagne gardening techniques, no digging, and all a work in progress that looked fantastic. My kind of garden! Quirky, plants everywhere, veggies in the flower garden, a pond in the middle, a small pen of suspicious chickens and rocket and other herbs growing in every crack in the home laid paving. It all melded together to give a truly homespun and thoroughly delightful garden that I now realise is totally feasible for Serendipity Farm. This lady, who lives on her own, has just “started” and keeps going. Steve and I are rank amateurs when it comes to vegetable gardens and living in the country and I could procrastinate for the queen (Gold medal procrastination 101). Monica showed us that gardening is more about getting started and finding your feet from there than it is about creating an instant oasis of beauty. Again, the process is where you learn the most so I guess we are just going to have to get started with solving the problem of how to keep everything out of our veggie gardens and how to afford to fill our raised veggie garden beds and somewhere along the way we will discover that we have actually accomplished what we set out to do! We walked the dogs this morning in Beaconsfield in the misty crisp part of the day where walking is actually enjoyable. It warms you up and makes you feel glad to be alive. The past few weeks of rain have allowed the grass to turn green again and gardens to start looking like they might contain something other than hay. I needed to pick up some organic spelt flour to feed the sourdough starter that I had been given and so we dropped in to the café that doubles as a tiny health food shop to see if we couldn’t pick some up. I was very surprised to be able to buy spelt flour in Beaconsfield but the population is starting to change from mine workers to younger families moving away from the city because housing is much more affordable in Beaconsfield and surrounding districts. I remember my dad once saying to me that he and his partner could have bought just about every house in Beaconsfield when they first moved to the district. The Beaconsfield mine was silent and had been for many years. The town was limping along wearily and house prices were ridiculous. The company that took a chance on using modern technology to allow them to extract more gold from the mine were able to make it last for 20 years but in June this year the Beaconsfield mine is going to close again and the main source of income for the locals will be gone. It’s easy for corrupt state government officials to hold up the bell bay pulp mill as being the answer to Tasmania’s unemployment problems but this is simply a fabrication. The truth of the matter is that this mill will employ skilled workers that will be imported from elsewhere. Tasmanians are not known for their educational prowess and most Tasmanian’s work in blue collar jobs. Rather than retrain these people and have to face up to years of woeful educational outcomes, our state government would rather lie to them about the future of forestry, pulp production and mining in this state. We can’t afford to keep going the way that we have been in this state for the past 100 years. We need to be able to find employment in sustainable opportunities rather than exploiting our dwindling natural resources to our own detriment. In Tasmania we are just treading water but selling us down the river to the highest bidder (or most corrupt business) isn’t going to solve anything. It is just going to relieve the ‘heat’ from our state politicians and allow them a bit of breathing space to weasel out of the problems that bad governance has tumbled them into over years of negligent and nepotism in this state.

Steve has just spent the afternoon removing and disabling programs to make our laptop work faster. We had the misfortune of buying it loaded with Vista (sigh) and we are just about to take it to have XP installed because Vista righteously SUCKS! It is now running heaps faster and until we can remove Vista from the face of Serendipity Farm, we can live with it…

In keeping with our “work with what you have” ethos accompanying our “recycle/reuse” ethos here are some of our avocado plants overwintering in the glasshouse. I have NO idea what the possums and wallabies will make of avocados but fully intend on kitting them out for jousting on the joyous day that we plant them out in their “Full metal jackets” (Bring it on possums!)

Heres a lovely little Banksia serrata that Steve was going to turn into a bonsai after seeing a particularly magnificent specimen at the Launceston Bonsai Centre. I think it would look lovely growing in the garden but need to argue the point with Steve who is still tossing up whether or not to give it a good hair (and root) cut

Bollocks to food miles…we will just grow our own! This is a coffee plant…yes…we know that Tasmania is not known for its tropical clime but we are ever optimistic and one day we might be hotter and wetter than we are now and our little coffee plant will be given pride of place where it can grow and give us coffee berries to be roasted (hopefully not after being passed through Earl…) and ground on site making Steve’s morning brew carbon neutral!

I picked this little Camellia sinensis (or tea plant) up from a little nursery up north for $3. I will be heading back to see if I can’t buy some more as I drink a whole lot more tea than Steve drinks coffee ;o)

I had to laugh this morning when I checked my Facebook page and noticed one of the pages that I like had listed “Joe Walsh” as against alternative thinking people. I had a think about that and couldn’t for the life of me work out how someone who had imbibed more than his fair share of nefarious substances and who was right up there with Ozzie Osborne in the shambling mumbling living dead stakes could string together a coherent sentence about alternative lifestylers let alone use so many large words!  To show you what I mean, check out this evidence that Joe Walsh is on another planet to the rest of us (please forgive the bad quality but it’s the only video I could find of this to share with you)… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1mG0feiEc0 I rest my case! I went hunting to see what had riled this ex Eagles guitarist/singer up so much that he would start spouting politics as his new mantra and discovered that he isn’t the only famous “Joe Walsh” and that there is an American congressman called Joe Walsh as well. It shows how small our world has become now and how social media, especially Facebook, has allowed us to become privy to all sorts of worldly events that a few short years ago we would have had no knowledge about at all. I can only imagine how entertaining Joe Walsh and Ozzie Osborne would be should the American public ever get desperate enough to elect them to congress. I think that a jaded American public could do much worse than have to watch backbiting self-serving congressmen stabbing their way up the political landscape replaced by the amusing antics of the Joe and Ozzie show. I might start a campaign on Facebook for them :o)

I just spent the better part of ¾ of an hour maniacally wielding a block splitter alternating with a small sharp hatchet. I wasn’t re-enacting Jack Nicholson’s part in “The Shining”, I was doing something much more philanthropic. First…does the word “philanthropic” pertain only to selfless acts for humans? I hope not because I don’t know the equivalent word for selfless acts for chickens. We collected some wood from a dead tree that Steve felled the other day to use on the fire tonight. It was a little damp and the centre was rotten and Steve chopped the larger rings into smaller wedges while the chickens raced around in between his legs catching the various grubs and termites that flew from the wood. I had cleaned out the chicken coop bedding (hay) and thrown all of the hay into the compost heap and the 3 unused veggie beds that we are in the process of making and forgot to collect my jumper from the shovel that I had left it on. I decided that I would head to collect the jumper and ever the entrepreneur, collect a barrow load of wood at the same time. The wood was still a bit damp and after I loaded it into the barrow I noticed a particularly damp bit of wood and proceeded to chop it with the block splitter. Effel and her babies were hanging about. Ever since our adventures in removing the dead tree from the boundary fenceline Effel has suddenly materialised every time I set foot outside the gate and today was no different. Shadowed by her 7 babies she watched me cut the chunk of wood and as I cut it, it released a spray of termites onto the ground. Effel and the babies were delighted. I then rendered most of the firewood into kindling to enable Effel and her babies (and any other chicken brave enough to take Effel on for termite rights) to consume their weight in apparently delicious termites. The babies got less and less scared of me as they settled into their feeding frenzy and I had small chickens sitting on my feet, my hands as I was trying to chop the wood and Effel kept putting her head on the block of wood as I was attempting to chop it! I am NOT the best axeman in the world and so it is only sheer flukish good luck that Effel is still pecking around Serendipity Farm as I type this.  Night is falling; all of the animals have been fed and are heading off to wherever it is that they spend the night and I am set for a night of typing out recipes and hunting the internet for recipes to use up my future cups of left over starter. We will be burning off debris tomorrow and clearing out the side garden so that we can plant out more of our potted babies before the wallabies eliminate them all. Have a great weekend and see you all on Wednesday rested, relaxed and hopefully ready for another instalment of Life on Serendipity Farm.

How to steal a life…

Hi All,

I was going to call this post “Put Henry in the Curry” as a tribute to Spike Milligan’s skit that is most probably politically incorrect in some people’s eyes until you realise that Spike was born in India and is therefore poking fun at himself. I changed the name of the post because I just realised that today is ANZAC day. To many of you, ANZAC day isn’t anything that you would stop to think about. I couldn’t be bothered to paraphrase this as it said it all in a nutshell…good old Wikipedia!

“Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, originally commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. It now more broadly commemorates all those who served and died in military operations for their countries”

I recently finished (as did Earl but my digestion was mental and Earls was most decidedly physical) “A Covenant with Death” which really made me think about war and why we seem to keep doing this to ourselves. In truth, most casualties of war are the lower and working classes and the safest place to be in a war is inside an officer’s uniform. I was thinking about this early this morning when I was idly tossing some grain to the hen that inhabits the side garden with her 3 chicks. I say “her” chicks, she stole them from another hen when she failed to produce any eggs herself (after we pinched all 17 in a fit of pique to stop the exponential explosion of hens on Serendipity Farm). She now trots around with someone else’s babies, masquerading as hers. The other hen has sadly given up trying to get her babies to return to the correct fold and this other hen has effectively stolen her babies. I realised that there are many ways to steal someone’s life other than identity theft and war and chick theft both result in someone having a broken heart.

Now that I no longer use pictures that I filched from the interweb for the purposes of making my posts interesting, I discovered, most sadly, that this is the closest thing that I have to a photograph of anything French to tie in with the war theme of this post and keep it relevant in my posession. This is French goose fat. Not only does it have nothing whatsoever to do with France or the war, it’s nothing like as delicious as everyone says that it is and was a bit of a waste of $16. Go with duck fat people, its MUCH better value and far tastier (in Steve’s humble opinion)

Last night we made a huge pot of home-made chicken stock. In my past lackadaisical life where food came from magic supermarket fairies and I never had to think about the ethics or logistics of its production stock making was shoved (very quickly) into the too hard basket. A lot of things got shoved into the “too hard” basket and I am only just starting to discover that the “too hard” basket is a most interesting place to delve. The stock turned out rich and golden and had a heady scent that was totally absent from boxed stock. We then converted this rich stock into Mulligatawny soup. We ground the spices, garlic and ginger and used Korean red chilli paste to add heat and flavour. We try to do as many things as we can ourselves to cut out the middle man. The middle man and I have a Superman/Lex Luthor thing going on. I would like to think of myself as Superman in this equation although Superman didn’t have as many fits of pique as I do and most certainly saved the world on more occasions than I can remember myself doing so but you have to start somewhere don’t you? My world saving ability is to think laterally, to problem solve and to vote with my consumer dollar. We recently had a conundrum. A REAL conundrum for someone who has just returned to the vegan fold in that we had to do something about our burgeoning rooster population that was threatening to take over and wreak havoc on our previously utopian hen house. Something had to be done and we were just the superheros to do it! Henry (Rollins) was “removed” in the night. Over the course of the next few nights his henchmen Trogdor and Big Bertha (the gender confused chook) also met their fate. We discussed how to make the most of our newfound rooster futures. Henry is the only rooster that we have been utilising at this point of time because as the most active for the longest period of time we decided (using logic as our guide) that he would be the toughest (if tough was going to factor into any of them). We have been experimenting with this free range grain supplemented meat and have found it to be a very different proposition to shop bought chicken. Being new to wholesale rooster slaughter we still feel a bit bad about having to kill them but good about taking responsibility for the consequences of owning hens (and in our case roosters). We might just be able to step over that line that will take us from urban existence into true country sensibilities but for now, we are at least happy that we are making the most physically and ethically with our newfound rooster population. We might need a new Mulligatawny soup recipe however, we have a large pot of very heady overwhelming cardamom and ground clove flavoured soup that we are going to have to doctor to make it edible. Oh well…back to the drawing board! Check this out remembering that this was from the early 70’s and life wasn’t full of litigation and political correctness like it is now…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0n88tZQc4Q

Steve was messing about in the shed with some miniature callistemon seeds for the third (and he says final) attempt at getting some to survive beyond seedlings when I heard him calling out to me. I went out to find him clutching one of the bags of potting mix that we had put our hazelnuts and walnuts collected and then stratified a few weeks ago and got as excited as he did when I saw that 2 of the walnut’s had sprouted! I had assumed that they wouldn’t sprout until spring but I was wrong. Given the right conditions (moist potting mix, a series of nice warmish days and a nice dark place to fester a.k.a. one of our eskies…) these babies have decided to germinate in record time and I have to consider that it may be partly because the seed was collected locally and the conditions are perfect for their development. I hope that this burst of activity carries on and we end up with a nice selection of small Juglans regia to choose from when deciding what to plant out on Serendipity Farm.

Here are our walnut futures. There is something amazing about growing your own food and growing your own fruit and nut trees is a step on from that. Wish us luck with these little babies and their little hazelnut buddies that seem to be a bit sleepier than their walnut mates

I have no idea what this little fungus is called. I have been hunting for you and have found some photos of it on a website but not its botanical name. All I know is that it is cute, looks like a flower and puffs spores from the centre making it most probably a puffball family member. I just have to add this bit because I just found out that this is an “Earthstar” fungus and thought that it was fitting that a little fungus with this name would land on Serendipity Farm :). Hows that for 3 years of Horticulture eh? I am a closet mycologist and Tasmania is full of fungi. Check out this link to see some real beauties…

http://www.realtasmania.com/topic/606-mushrooms-fungus/

This is a type of crocus. I am way WAY too lazy to head out to the other side of the house with a torch clutched in my hand to see exactly which crosus this is. You can be sure that it is the best crocus that I could purchase for $2 from a local nursery and appears to be paying me back for my spendthrift ways by flowering before it gets consumed by one of the many vertebrates intent on scoffing our potted plants

Isn’t this little girl turning out to be pretty. I love the furry feet and her colouration. She is perched precariously on a recently felled sheoak sapling that was threatening to short out the entire neighbourhood by reaching vicariously for the nearest power line. Sorry little guy but some life lessons are harder to learn than others and yours was pretty tough!

I started reading Flaubert’s parrot today. I had laboured through the heart wrenching “A Covenant with Death” that had me lying awake late at night thinking about the futility of war, how short life is and reminding me that my sisters birthday was the same day as Adolf Hitler’s which in turn allowed me to race to the PC and wish her happy birthday just before it was too late. There are some merits to being in a time zone 2 hours ahead :o). I was under the impression that Flaubert’s parrot was going to be a bit of light quirky entertainment however it appears I was wrong and despite the promising and glowing reviews on the cover, this book just isn’t “me”. Never judge a book by its parrot. I have 3 other books from the library sitting alongside Flaubert’s parrot. One from the list… “Women of the silk” which is about Chinese women working in a silk factory that form a collective voice to question their working conditions. The other 2 I found on a random website that I initially found a recipe on. The poster had mentioned in the post that they had formed an online book club and being the nosy and adventitious person that I am I had to take a peek at her book choices.  Most of the books were non-fiction (a curious choice of reading material for a book club) but 2 of them stood out and called to me. I decided to order them post haste and “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” and “The Dirty Life” arrived today. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day was written in 1938 the same year that my mother was born. The cover gives me a sneak peek at what I am about to ingest “Miss Pettigrew is a down-on-her-luck, middle-aged governess sent by her employment agency to work for a nightclub singer rather than a household of unruly children. Over a period of 24 hours her life is changed – forever”. Sounds interesting doesn’t it. The other book is a true story about the chance meeting of the author and her future partner over a farming interview and a deconstruction of her sensibilities. It’s amazing how I have gone from wandering the wilderness without prose to guzzling my not inconsiderable weights worth of delicious literature and it’s all thanks to Mary Anne Schaffer and her novel “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” and how it did more to heal me after my mother’s untimely death earlier this year than anything else. Ms Schaffer never lived to see her novel published but she has certainly touched many lives with her beautifully written treatise about love and war all tangled up with stoic good humour and the resilience of the human spirit in extreme duress. I will continue my newfound love affair with literature for the foreseeable future and have no intentions of giving up this fantastic new vice. Who needs chocolate…books are MUCH more indulgent and have the added benefit of being totally calorie and fat free :o)

Here are a couple of the glasshouse babies that needed repotting recently. As you can see they are an interesting and exotic lot living in harmony in the glasshouse. The two Dracena draco (Dragon’s blood trees) had filled their pots with roots and the little Araucaria bidwillii (Bunya nut trees) at the very front is one of  3 that we grew from 3 seeds smuggled back from the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show in 2010. Along with it’s 2 siblings it is doing fine in Tasmania and it’s 2 siblings have been living outside the glasshouse (horticultural experimentation) for a year now so it looks like we might be able to plant them out and have them survive in our local environment. The yellowy green leaves in the background belong to several Michelia champaca or Golden joy trees. We were informed by the source of the seed that these plants wouldn’t grow here in Tasmania but these are only half of our results and the rest have been living outside along with the 2 remaining Bunya nut trees. We get milder temperatures here because we live on a rocky steep sloped block right next to the river which keeps our temperatures more stable and less likely to vary wildly than inland. This means that we can grow things here that are simply daydreams in other areas of Tasmania

Here they are all potted up and ready to grow on a bit before they get repotted again. The joys of being a horticultural student!

I read somewhere once that a dog’s intelligence is equal to that of a 4 year old child. That most probably explains why we are confronted by a most petulant pair if we decide to deviate from our early morning ritual in any way as the average 4 year old loves their rituals. This morning we decided to wait for a little bit before we walked the boys. I had just gotten notice of the imminent arrival of my 2 new library books and it seemed sensible to kill 2 birds with one stone and pick up the books in Exeter and walk the dogs there at the same time. The dogs take an inordinate amount of interest in my personal activities in the morning. Steve can walk in and out of the gate…he can put on a hat…pick up the dogs leads…he can dance the hokey pokey but nothing that he does is of any interest to the dogs because somewhere in the recesses of their minds, their walks are initiated by me. Steve is always ready to go anywhere at a moment’s notice and so the dogs have learned to watch for me heading to the bedroom to put on my shoes. I am shadowed by both of them intent on watching each lace tied and often accompanied by sighs and whining. I then have to head to the bathroom and put my hair up ready for the walk. Bezial is so tuned to this part of the walking equation that he doesn’t even bother heading to the bedroom and waits for the bathroom phase of the equation before he bothers to turn up and complain. After this stage it is straight out the door and a short wait at the gate before we are off adventuring! Imagine having two 4 year olds forever…permanently and perpetually 4…ARGH!

Hows this for a bunch of keys? If you are missing any keys for your property, your suitcase, your car, your shed, your tower that you locked Rapunzel up in, they are most probably here in this bunch. Steve thinks he has the key to the highway in this lot and about the only key missing is the key to the city…and that is one key that NO-ONE is ever going to give we leftist mad horticultural hippies any day soon 😉

Look what I made the other day. Steve requested his oat biscuits in slice form (because he is too lazy to roll all of those balls…) and here is the result

Then I made this tray of blondies. No idea what blondies are apart from chocolate free brownies apparently. I made them so the dogs would stop begging for Steve’s brownies that I also made…they contain dates for sweetness and Steve and the dogs ate them all first because they were apparently heavenly

And here are the brownies. I asked Steve whether or not he wanted cakey or gooey brownies and he chose the latter so that’s what he got! This recipe didn’t fail to deliver him a most delicious squidgy treat

Chestnuts? Why is she showing us chestnuts?…keep reading dear constant readers and you shall find out!…

I have a predilection for chestnuts. I am not ashamed to admit this to you all and am just about to indulge in a chestnut feast for my evening meal. I like to cut a cross in the top of them, steam them until they are tender and peel the shell and indulge whilst watching television. The shells then go into the compost bin where I can feel sufficiently happy that I am not contributing to the landfill problem but in doing that, I need to remember not to become one of those smug bastards who think that because they install energy efficient lighting it means that they are somehow better than anyone else. It’s so very easy to tip into “smug” but that robs you of all of the simple pleasure that you can get from feeling at one with the world and knowing that you are trying your hardest to leave the smallest footprint that you can. We have been working on our latest sustainable design and incorporating all sorts of interesting ideas. Our lecturer told us about a company that makes retaining wall units out of concrete that are also water storage devises. You can make walls, seats and even raised garden beds that also hold water to be used however you see fit. A really fantastic idea and you can check it out here if you are interested.

www.landscapetanks.com.au

Really great if you have a small space and you need a dual purpose module but not really my cup of tea. I like more natural looking things and Steve and I found this local producer of tanks and raised garden beds and are going to use them in our design

http://www.raincatcherstas.com.au/

We have been trying to use Adobe Illustrated cs4 to make a more natural looking design but we don’t have a year to learn the intricacies of Illustrator to apply to our course. Anyone out there wanting to give us a few tips feel free!

I am truly suffering for my newfound desire to make you all happy with a smaller post. I have to keep stopping myself from wandering around all over my mental landscape of thoughts that often look a whole lot like something from a 60’s Beatles movie. I need to learn literary discipline and learn how to condense my words down to find their simple, no doubt intensely flavoured, essence but much like Illustrator and AutoCAD and learning how to knit cable (and socks on 4 needles for that matter) and making stained glass windows and being patient and not losing my temper, I am going to have to shove literary discipline into my failed crafts cupboard along with everything else clambering to get out and push HARD to shut the bulging door. One day they will all burst out and fill up the house like that expanding foam stuff most probably suffocating me in their delight to be free. Until they do, and I have to use Earl as a life raft, I am going to keep stuffing my failures into the cupboard to be dealt with at a later date. See you all on Saturday when Anzac Day will be another year away and I won’t have to feel so sombre and unworthy of those brave young men dying so that I can choose to spend my life scratching my expanding derriere whilst watching people hunt alligators in a Florida swamp on an oversized television. To say that I am feeling guilty is a VAST understatement…

I just have to add something here that makes me feel really “chuffed”. I just checked my emails while I was waiting for the photos to load for this post and found that 10 people had signed my Avaaz petition against the gunns pulp mill (they DON’T deserve capital letters!). One of those 10 was Dr Warwich Raverty whom I hold in high esteem…he signed my petition! I am feeling star struck in the most environmental of ways! Please read this small article to get more of an understanding of what my petition and Dr Warwich Raverty are about. I am going to have a bit of a lay down to recover my composure!

http://tapvision.info/node/117

And should you feel strongly enough about big corporations nefarious dealings with government in order to effect their own needs whilst totally negating the desires of the people and the environment please feel free to check out my petition at Avaaz and sign it. The more people that sign the better. Thanks in advance for your support 🙂

http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Stop_the_Tamar_Valley_Pulp_Mill_from_being_built/