The rambunctiousness of Ravens

Hi All,

Does anyone else feel like they won lotto when they go to the library? It’s a treasure trove of knowledge and literature and my go-to place to withdraw myself a bank load of mental dollar bills. The library ladies both know me now…I used to attend Polytechnic in my first year and a half of studies and Helen; one of the library ladies was a “minder” (for want of a better word) for a disabled young man who was a bit of a handful. I think working at the library would be a gentle breeze after trying to manage a most determined, exuberant and often aggressive young man. The other library lady (whose name I am not privy to…) is also very nice. She knows me because I am the library patron who can’t be seen as she enters the doorway because of the staggering tower of returns that she is balancing precariously in a circus worthy attempt to have them all arrive on the library counter in one fell swoop…”Hello Fran”…and I am in! Aside from Nigel Slater’s entire back catalogue that I pre-ordered on my best friend “TALIS” (the state-wide library website where you can peruse to your heart’s content and order whilst wearing your pyjamas, eating toast at 6am and scratching yourself in a most satisfactory manner…all frowned on in the actual library but completely allowed when utilising TALIS)…The tiny space contains adventitious books…books that have been ordered and returned to the library in a most clever sustainable practice that the states libraries have decided to embrace where the book stays in its orderee’s library until it is requested again…I am severely tempted to order my 15 allowable books, Steve’s 15 allowable books and borrow my daughters 2 cards as well and keep ordering books to see just how many books the tiny rural kiosk of Exeter could physically handle but aside from being a reasonably nice person, I am far too lazy to apply myself with fervour to a task that doesn’t actually result in anything other than the annoyance of the library ladies and a breakdown in the relationship that I have built with them.

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As we were walking the dogs just outside our front gate we noticed the black “pirate ship” motoring underneath the Batman Bridge and decided to watch it head back out to sea. Apparently it is heading down to the Hobart wooden boat rally but it certainly cut a fine figure through the water on its way

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Bezial’s old walking haunt “The Swamp”. Just mentioning it makes his ears prick up and his tail wag and the other day we walked the boys around this wetland area that is subject to regular high tides that cover these pathways and keep the vegetation lush

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Steve, Bezial and Earl walking nonchalantly past this wonderful Illawarra Flame Tree (Brachychiton acerifolius) pretending that Steve isn’t at ALL interested in whether or not it has any seed pods on it this year as he may or may not have taken advantage of its seedy goodness in years past…

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Not quite “flame” but an example of the brillian colour of the flowers that bedeck the entire tree and make it a stunning street tree

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Seed pods! Steve may or may not be predating these seed pods on an indetermined day in the near future (is that vague enough do you think? 😉 )

I was able to take “Vegan Pie In The Sky” out again because it is a wonderful eclectic collection of delicious vegan desserts that certainly piqued my interest. I also took out another book again…The book is called “The Wilderness Garden” by one Jackie French. I have talked about Ms French before. She was a doyen of organic wackiness back in the 80’s before organic became the creed of the hipster. She wore weird hats made of vegetables and was larger than life…another larger than life lady whom I admire immensely is Ms Dawn French (note the last name…)…both ladies were once larger than life and have minimised themselves down to postage stamps…both ladies have out of this world senses of humour and each sports a healthy attitude of themselves and appear to be optimistic about the world around them and both are writers…what is the difference between them? Well 1 can write amazingly well and has a plethora of extremely useful tomes for the adventurous gardener and the other one can’t write herself out of a paper bag…I am sorry Ms French (you KNOW which one you are)…I am still smarting for having my faith in your ability to write so cruelly dashed by the sad piece of pulp fiction that I forced myself to read a chapter off not so long ago…my sensibilities STILL hurt ma’am!…the other Ms French had me enthralled from the moment I set my eyes inside The Wilderness Garden…the problem was I was first setting eyes on this wonderful book whilst sitting in the car waiting to take it back to the library! Christmas…you robbed me of my reading time! When I realised just how precious this book was to me I asked the library lady if there was a chance that I could renew it and apparently I could because I have this precious piece of life changing literature sitting in front of me on the computer desk as I type this post and I am gloating for all I am worth! It’s one of those “I am going to have to buy this” books. It deals with turning your property into a food forest for yourself and the local wildlife and living in harmony with the insects, the birds and the cycles…it promises no more fighting nature. Indeed it positively radiates with natural harmony and it also promises something more precious than integrated cycles…it promises that once the garden is established, it will be drought hardy, it will be extremely diverse, it will handle temperature extremes, it will allow us to grow a range of tropical plants on our property and most importantly it WILL work here in our Australian conditions… and you know why I have faith that it will? Because Ms French has been walking the walk for over 40 years now and knows what she is talking about.

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An avenue of very healthy looking trees in a back alley in Launceston

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Bezial having an adventitious drink of water from this fountain outside the library in Launceston

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Earl discovering that jumping up onto this “bench” might not have been such a good idea after all…

I will be immersing myself in The Wilderness Garden…I will be doing what Ms French endorses and I will be reporting back to you all with my results. You might have to stick around for a while though… it won’t happen tomorrow or next week and indeed some of the processes outlined in the book take years but it promises progress, honest cycles of fecundity (what a wonderful word!) and a sense of harmony with those cycles that is redolent with what we humans are supposed to live like. Ms French lives on just about 2 hectares (the same size as Serendipity Farm). She grows approximately 270 different kinds of fruit and the woman makes sense! Everything that flies from the page fits with my ethos and how I feel about the world. Ms French, you are my new gardening guru! Move over Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall… this lady is singing my song, in my country and with my conditions… consider this rat a ship jumper!

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I completely forgot about these senna seed pods and this little succulent that I collected ages ago…it just goes to show you how resilient succulents are!

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Redwood island where Steve likes to fish. You can disembark onto the island and fish from their if you like and it’s a lovely spot to have a picnic

You learn a whole lot about the world around you when you take the time to stop what you are doing and observe it. We knew that it was going to be a big year for the red-eye cicadas because of their breeding cycle and we were not disappointed when they started tuning up the band this year for their massive month long chorus of clicking. When we first noticed this phenomenon 5 years ago when dog minding for my father while he was still alive we only associated it with the heatwave that came with them. This year we have the obligatory heatwave but we also have time to pay attention to this most interesting cycle and how it benefits the local wildlife, specifically birds. I know that red-eye must taste alright because I found a dead one that I was going to take some photos of and Earl ate it. We had seen an influx of Australian Ravens on Serendipity Farm and thought that they were breeding but it would seem that they were here for the sexagenary cycle (5 year cycle that they maintain along with the Chinese…) of plenty. Not only had the raven population suddenly increased, but we started noticing other birds of prey…3 kookaburras, a plethora of cuckoo shrikes, butcher birds and their young and even an adventitious young hawk, all climbing around in the tree canopy to take advantage of the red-eye feast. Like Earl they appear to be particularly fond of these large black cicadas and the hawk had a very interesting way of flushing them out of hiding under the leaves…he beat his wings and cicadas flew out everywhere giving him time to pluck them out of the air around him while he sat on his branch munching. The ravens are particularly funny to watch. Aside from their constant communication, they are a very ordered group and mum and dad spend a lot of time coaxing their young to hunt for this free bounty of fat and protein. I have an affinity with ravens. Any bird with obvious intelligence is alright by me and ravens have it in bucket loads. Just head over to Youtube and check out “Ravens” and you can see some amazing birds using their minds to solve problems.

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An interesting selection of “stuff” in a wheelbarrow

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A nice big roll of ex-fish farm netting that needs to be cut in half with that little sharp knife inside that blue pouch so that we can protect the maple garden from predatory possums and wandering wallabies

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Back to that wheelbarrow of “stuff”…I have already planted out the red clover and am just about to take advantage of a little curveball that a glut of potatoes handed me…

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What happens when you forget about a 10kg sack of potatoes in the back of your pantry. After opening the bag and seeing their little tendrils waving at me I decided to make the most of the situation and use the new compost heap to grow some spuds! I used that wheelbarrow of organic compost to cover them…

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The spuds are now covered in organic compost and dead grass clippings and oak leaves and have been well watered in…lets see what grows 🙂

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Here’s that red clover in it’s heavily fortified tyre home. It didn’t even wilt after being yanked out of the ground in the heat of the day, stuck in a dog pooh bag full of water in the laundry sink for a day and then planted out. Hopefully it spreads its seeds far and wide and we end up covered in red clover!

I have been following a blog site about using container gardening to eliminate hunger. I love proactive blogs that tell you how to change your situation with a bit of spit and elbow grease and usually using items that have been discarded and that are usually free. Knowledge can give you a whole different perspective about what is and isn’t “worthless”. I love finding creative and attractive ways to reuse and repurpose items that would otherwise go into landfill. If you would like to see this amazing blog you can check it out here…

http://desertification.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/food-gardens-found-with-google-earth-science-daily/

and this Facebook page shows a really great re-purpose for wine bottles that we have been hoarding in our small shed in an enormous pile for ages now and that threaten to render us senseless whenever we are foolish enough to venture into the shed to get the lawnmower…we are NOT on the wrong side of alcoholism…we are just cleverly creating prospective art gardens 😉

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=340087336078044&set=a.233384676748311.57857.201890633231049&type=1&relevant_count=1

Steve and I recently saw an ad on a local noticeboard selling “craft wood”. It wouldn’t have interested us in the past but with Steve’s new-found interest in all things woody we took down the number and phoned up. The man that answered the phone is leaving the state and wants to offload his collection of craft wood so Steve will be heading to see him on Monday to potentially stock up on some lovely spoon futures. The seller has different kinds of wood including an orangey yellow wood called Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) that comes from Texas. While we were walking the dogs in Exeter we noticed a large shed at the back of where they have monthly market days where the Tamar Woodworkers Guild meets. Steve is thinking of looking into joining them…after all…who wouldn’t want to join a guild? The only concerns that I have are will he need a jerkin and tights? If so, he is on his own…I can’t sew for peanuts ;). We went to the tip and dumped some more rubbish (yes…it really WAS rubbish 😉 ) and I headed into their rusty container that doubles as a tip shop and found a lovely little glazed clay pot that someone had made with love and care. I can’t believe that anyone would throw out something like that and when I asked the tip manager how much it was, he said “to you…its free!”…so I have another little pot/bowl to add to my hoarded collection and another perfectly useful and attractive item is saved from landfill to my benefit. One day our children’s children are going to dig through our waste piles looking for useful things. They are going to marvel at what we threw away…

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The beginnings of a chunky oak spoon that Steve made for me

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Side on to show you how chunky it is. I like chunky things…they feel solid and reliable and real and I requested “chunky” when Steve asked me what kind of spoon I would like

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I think you will agree it turned out to be a lovely spoon. I especially like the wood markings in the bowl that look like an eye

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Steve’s hand holding the spoon to show the “chunk” 😉

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Steve decided to have a go at making some more “chunkies” from oak including a spatuloon and a spreader that also cuts cheese.

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Here they are finished with a nice rub of orange eco-oil and I really love them :o)

That’s it for today folks…here in extra sunny northern Tasmania it is hot…for Tasmania it is HOT. We don’t get a lot of “hot” but when we do, it tends to be oppressive and coupled with hideous humidity thanks to our endemic greenery. Its days like these where I remember why I don’t live in Tropical far north Queensland! Have a great weekend folks and see you on Wednesday for our cuppa and chat…hopefully it has cooled down a bit by then and we are back on track with our milder than the mainland summer :o)

The confessions of a self-absorbed hierophant

Hi All,

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

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The quiche of a million eggs for your perusal!

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

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

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

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The fecundity of the well fortified old compost heap…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Earl wistfully prodding the walnuts with his nose

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

Trifolium pratense red clover

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

Pirate Ship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Looking back towards the corn and silverbeet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hava nagila!

Hi All,

Aside from being a most catchy song that I have NO idea what the words are and would no doubt make a fistful of Jewish people collapse hysterically laughing on the floor should I EVER be stupid enough to attempt to sing my erstwhile version in their close proximity, the name Hava Nagila means “Let us rejoice”! I have SO much to rejoice that I often feel guilty for having the odd whinge about how rocky our soil is and how many weeds we have here on Serendipity Farm. I just got back from a visit to my daughter’s home in Launceston. I had a really great time with them both and we spent a large proportion of the time that we had together cooking. My daughters are amazing cooks. Neither of them has ever studied technique or worked in the industry but they are very adventurous and tend to pair some very interesting ingredients that I would never think could possibly work together but incredibly…they do! The first night we had chilli. I had vegan chilli made with some ingredients that I had brought along with me (oh ye of little faith! 😉 ) and it was delicious. I think there is still a bowl of it in the girl’s fridge and I am sure that they will find something creative to do with it. On night 2 we had an amazing feast. The girls have recently become enamoured with all things Korean and had purchased some Korean cookbooks and some mixed cookbooks with Korean recipes in them. We decided to have a go at some of the recipes and ended up spending a marathon 5 hours preparing and cooking 12 dishes that were all amazing and that teamed up to make an amazing feast. We made cucumber salads, spinach side dishes, 3 different kinds of “pancakes” ranging from a very normal pancake type batter topped with spring onions (which we couldn’t buy at the local shop and had to sub the next best thing…leek…so from hereon in, wherever I specify “spring onion” you will have to insert “leek” 😉 ) and chillies through to a very inventive recipe using dried split green peas (which we couldn’t find in their local small supermarket on the day we wanted them but found the day after…go figure!) and rice cooked together then pureed and combined with various finely sliced vegetables and cooked like pancakes. The girls eat meat and so made some rice balls filled with smoked salmon and avocado which are technically not Korean and were based on a Japanese recipe BUT they were amazing and I had oyster mushrooms, pickled ginger and avocado in mine. They also had some marinated Korean chicken drumsticks and a pork dish that I can’t quite remember what it was but it looked good. We ended this marathon degustatory event with some simple but incredibly delicious yeasted pancakes that looked more like doughnuts without holes and that were stuffed with crushed palm sugar, roasted peanuts and cinnamon and that were amazing.

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Steve says that this truck is a transformer…the only thing that I can see it transforming is an empty space into a space full of wood chips…

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Another “Steve” shot…apparently this is ANOTHER transformer…I think we are being overrun by them!

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Right behind a new estate in Exeter are the remains of an old abandoned orchard. Steve, Bezial, Earl and I went exploring today and found all different kinds of apples, pears and even a nectarine tree out in the open and just waiting to be scrumped by possums and wayfaring Sidmouth Scrumpers

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By the look on his face, this scrumper has had enough of wandering around old abandoned orchards and wants to return to the civilisation afforded by 2 streets back to the main street 😉

On night 3 we could have been forgiven for having something very simple but not us! We went the way of the home made pizza. The girls used a cookbook that mum had given us last year full of homemade pizza recipes and as I have had more experience cooking with yeast, I made the dough. We made 3 batches of dough because we made a pizza for Steve (because he had obviously been a bit jealous of our cooking exploits over the weekend) and one for the girl’s dog Qi who has an adventurous palate for a dog and who gets very interesting meals. The girls made an almost “regular” type of pizza topped with chicken, a spicy hot salami, pine nuts and “other things” that I didn’t really notice as I was busy slathering tomato paste on pizza bases and ensuring that the cheese flow kept going. They also made an interesting combination of prawns, chicken, various other things (again…applied while I was otherwise occupied so I would only be speculating about exactly what went on) and coconut. I don’t think that Beth was enamoured of this pizza but Madeline seemed to like it. Qi got a meaty pizza and Steve got his favourite things (hot salami, chicken, onion, capsicum, chilli, mushroom and vintage cheese) and he has stashed it in the freezer for a delicious quick meal for the coming week when we have to finish off the chook pen and are too knackered to cook (smart man! 😉 ). I typed out lots of recipes from the cookbooks that the girls purchased and they gave me a couple of CD’s by a Korean band called Winterplay that do some really good covers of popular songs and I will be listening to them whilst trying to wade my way through my 1000+ rss feed reader blog posts that struck terror into even my seasoned mass blog reading heart when I got up this morning. If you would like to hear them and check out just how good this band is you can hear them covering “Don’t know why” a Norah Jones hit and can see why I really like them

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVhzK01Jmq4

That’s my bit for spreading the love people…I would have NEVER heard of this wonderful band if it hadn’t been for my adventurous daughters and their adventurous palates…it’s time spent like the weekend that I just had that reinforce the value of family and of simple time spent together. No matter how ragged or crumpled your family is, it’s the closest thing to “you” that you have. Spend time with your children…spend time with your parents…heal those wounds (if there are any to heal) and get back together with the people that really do matter the most, your own flesh and blood and the people that will tell you the truth (sometimes with great gusto 😉 ). I love you girls and can’t begin to thank you for that wonderful weekend…even Bella Lugosi in Chandu the Magician, a 1932 movie that we watched to fill the Bella free zone that Beth needs to quench on a regular basis. We even watched Lilo and Stitch which I really hadn’t watched before and that I enjoyed disproportionately to what I thought that I would. I especially love this drawing that was on the fridge and that we have used as a family in joke for years without me even having watched the reference for this joke…

http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=2vmiiw4&s=5

In a word, I did all sorts of things that I don’t usually do. I adjusted to Madeline’s stringent washing up rollcall and exactly how to put it back where it goes…I slept with Qi and learned how to contort my middle aged body into the human equivalent of a pretzel to accommodate her desire to spread out over as much of the bed as she could possibly take up and I adjusted my getting up time to fit in with the girls going to bed time. Who would have known…a change really IS as good as a holiday :o)

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Stage 1 of banksia flower development…

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Stage 2…

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and finally stage 3

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If you can avert your eyes from the insect nuptuals going on towards the top of this shot (I can’t pinpoint it exactly for you because I am averting my eyes!), this is a bottlebrush flower

Peter Cundall, Mr organic garden show ABC television presenter himself and who lives not too far away from Serendipity Farm told us that this was going to be a bit of a stinker this summer in Tasmania. Stinker as in heat…not as in smell. I tend to agree with him because things run in cycles and they tend to be 4 yearly in Tasmania. We have mild years and hot years and this just so happens to coincide with our first year in Tasmania where our first full summer was a real eye opener because we thought that we were going to be cold and we discovered just how hot it can be here and our first winter was so cold we got chilblains and didn’t even know what they were.  We are more aware of the seasons here now and know it is going to be hot when we start seeing the cicada husks stuck to the
grass. This year we can hear them getting the band tuned nice and early and by the time mid-summer gets here they will have coordinated themselves into a wall of united stomach rasping. We won’t see them for at least 4 more years because their life cycle takes that long for them to reach adulthood and emerge from under the ground. At least the native birdlife get a “Hava nagila” moment of their own with plenty of free clicking protein for all!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psaltoda_moerens

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Aside from me looking like I am doing some sort of a sailors hornpipe dance you can begin to get an idea of how lucky we were to get not 1 roll, but 2 of these rolls of ex-fish farm netting. There are about 50 more of them up for grabs and we will be putting our hands up for as many rolls as they would like to let us have. We have also removed that blue rope and are storing it in Steve’s shed for posterity…(I think “posterity” is like “hoarding” 😉 ).

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Looking back the other way towards the house. We will get 4 x 2.5 metre x 20 metre lengths of this netting that should be enough to enclose our wayfaring chooks and keep them from digging halfway to China in their endeavours to have dustbaths all over Serendipity Farm

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One of the Brachychitons that we liberated from anarchy and chaos earlier in the year that hadn’t flowered in years and that is absolutely covered in flowers this year. Now all we have to do is pull all of that dead dodder from around it’s leaves and it might stand a chance of surviving for a few years more

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A cicada husk…one of many (it’s going to be a noisy Christmas this year on Serendipity Farm!)

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A close-up of garnet particles used to sandblast the Batman Bridge before it gets repainted

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Christmas wreath (and all sorts of other project) futures!

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Harvested willow…the rest is up to me!

It’s suddenly Wednesday and after heading over to Exeter to send Steve’s mum a calendar and pick up some library books and giving the dogs a good walk in the process we spent the day productively by measuring one of the large rolls of ex-fish farm netting that we got a little while ago. We were told that it was 20 metres long by 10 metres wide and after measuring it we think it’s probably a good estimate. We should have enough in a single roll to complete our chook shed reno and the other roll can be used to fully enclose our vegetable garden. We have been promised more of this precious commodity in the near future and we are going to get creative with it and use it to protect our small possum weary orchard and other areas that we don’t want the possums to invade. We cut a 2.5 metre wide strip from the first roll using the knives that we bought for grafting. We haven’t grafted much with them but we have at least used them for something! In the process we liberated 20 metres of strong thick nylon rope and tomorrow we will liberate 20 metres more. No idea what we are going to do with all of the rope but you can never have enough rope out in the country ;). After we finished cutting the rope from the netting we folded the netting up and set it aside…part 1 of the chook shed. By the time we finish we will have 4 x 20 metre long segments that we are going to attach to poles that we have already installed where we want to re-educate our chooks into who is the boss around here. It was getting pretty warm under the hole in the ozone layer that is our bright blue sky here in Tasmania so we headed off to put some stakes into the veggie garden to hold our rapidly growing tomatoes and prevent them from lying against the bird netting and being nibbled by waiting varmints. I guess the varmints are pruning the wayfaring branches for us but for now, they have been trussed up and the varmints are going to have to wait. I took a few photos of how our vegetables are going and it’s amazing to see how quickly vegetables will grow when you give them enough sunshine, food and water. The only thing that grows faster is the weeds :o(

We headed over to the East side of the Batman Bridge where there is a free camping ground and a large willow tree just waiting for clever locals to harvest to collect some willow canes to make our Christmas Wreath from. I had a bit of an altercation with a local redneck who had been racially abusing some Chinese tourists but nothing that Earl and I couldn’t handle ;). I heard on the news today that 52% of Tasmanian year 8 students are not able to meet the benchmark for mathematics. That joins our dubious honour of having 1 in 2 native born Tasmanians who can’t read or write adequately. Education needs to be pushed hard in this state. I guess it has worked to our politician’s advantage, up until now, to have an uneducated and unquestioning public who leave politics to the “experts” but now that the forest industry is on the verge of total collapse it is rapidly becoming obvious that most Tasmanians are ill equipped to do anything other than cut down trees with chainsaws and a subclass of bored, unemployed rednecks is going to be a significant problem for tomorrows politicians and the heinously understaffed police force that was cut to the bone recently in a vain attempt to reign in the budget deficit. I sometimes feel like banging my head on the wall when I (stupidly) watch the local news. I am not a particularly politically motivated person but blind Freddy could see just how inept and self-serving our politicians are and the really REALLY scary thing is that there isn’t any viable alternative for us to vote for. It’s equally as scary how quickly I can turn rabid whenever I consider our endemic politicians so I might just stop RIGHT THERE for today :o)

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Some Serendipity Farm “Yellow Nugget” cherry tomatoes

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One bed staked…

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and the other…

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Can anyone “splain” to me why this tomato plant seems hell bent on only growing horizontally? Nick (our ex-long suffering lecturer) took a most entrepreneurial view of our crazy tomato predicament and said “save the seed…make sure it stays true to type and only grows horizontally and then sell it for vertical and hanging baskets…make a fortune!”…cheers Nick, but I think you have us confused for entrepreneurs rather than lazy bums…(our subterfuge worked! 😉 )

We are still getting used to having time on our hands to do things other than study. It has been lovely to get stuck into working around the house and we have even started using the calendar that comes with using Google as our home page to keep us moving in the right direction. I picked up Dawn French’s first fiction work today from the library and am going to give it a whirl around the dance floor and see how she twirls. I also picked up the cold climate permaculture book about Hepburn Springs by David Holmgren because I now have time to read it from cover to cover like it deserves. Helen, the library lady, had put a book aside about making your own beauty products for me. She sometimes sees a book that she thinks that I might like and puts it on the shelf along with my ordered books. Cheers Helen, I like the look of some of the recipes inside and goodness only knows I can do with a slather or two of natural unguents if they will lend me an air of respectability once in a while ;). We have a full week of sorting out the chook house and then finding homes for 20+ hens. If anyone wants some prime year old egg laying (if you can find them 😉 ) hens, let me know. I had entertained giving them the chop and filling our freezer but entertaining and doing are 2 very different things. Roosters can be rationalised but hens in their prime cannot. After we make the chook coop we will be hurling ourselves headlong into all sorts of projects that we isolated from our Tuesday meeting where we had a bit of a confab about what direction we wanted to go in (preferably forwards) and how setting a few goals might actually cause us to follow through on a few of our plans.

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The rocket, lettuce, perpetual spinach, capsicum and chilli bed

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Not too sure what you do with perpetual spinach but at least we have one! 😉

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Aren’t lettuces pretty?

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Can you see the adventitious little tomato plant that grew from last years compost placed reverently in this garden bed? We think that it is one of Wendy’s lovely heritage tomatoes and it has a sibling in the next bed going great guns. I will let you know what they turn out like…by the way there is an aphid on the tomato…it won’t last long because the veggie gardens are seething with little lizards that seem to be doing a sterling job on cleaning up the tiny grasshoppers that have been attracted to the veggie garden like moths to a light. A fine example of integrated pest management at it’s finest 🙂

It’s time to think about posting this post now and after I do, I will head up to the veggie garden and will pick some mushrooms, some lettuce, some rocket and some spinach to make Steve a side salad to go with his evening meal. Living close to the ground is about as rewarding as it gets and I am going to have to get pretty close to the ground to harvest that lettuce! See you all on Saturday when we may just have that chook yard sorted out and I might just have some photos to share with you of some stunned looking enclosed chooks and Yin with his beak through the netting protesting his newfound confinement…Tasmania is a penal colony of old sir…get used to it! 😉

By the way…anyone who would like to have a chance to win Steve’s hand made spoon has 10 days to let us know. At the moment there are only 10 people in the draw and Earl thinks that they are pretty good odds. We have a lot more walnuts than “10” so please feel free to enter the spoon draw…only 10% of you want to win? Think of Steve’s pride! 😉