Trade offs

Hi All,

“What are you willing to trade for the life that you want to lead?” That seems to be the common thread running through my life. This morning I headed out to water the strawberries…a few handfuls of deliciousness for all that water…I watered the poor long suffering maple trees that we grew from seed about 3 years ago that are stunted in their pots and that are likely to still be stunted in their pots in a years’ time (those that are still alive that is…) because of a trade-off…veggie gardening and food production is more important than the cost of the potting mix required to repot these now, unnecessary, trees. After watering the “unnecessary” I headed up to the veggie garden and noticed that something has chewed my kale leaves off again…sigh…I know it wasn’t possums because they were too busy laying on the bird netting on the top of the bean bed reaching their hairy little arms through to pinch whatever vegetation they could manage to grasp…the trade-off here is that I don’t like using poison on my garden and the enormous slug that is apparently the reason behind my now skeletonised kale can be taken in triumph out to the henhouse where the duck will dispatch it with loud squishy joy (a degree of personal human joy can be obtained from said “squish!” so double bonus there!) and I cling steadfastly to my city dude attitude that one day we are going to be able to live with our native brethren in harmony because Serendipity Farm will be so cram packed FULL of food that neither of us is going to make a massive dent in its productivity. The trade-off is trampolining possums with rope burn on their arms and wallabies that are brave enough to circle the “unnecessary” bed and are picky enough to only eat the newly emerging leaves of what they grazed down prior to this present buffet style munching episode.

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Firstly I have to say “THANK YOU; THANK YOU; THANK YOU!” to Jessie from the wonderful “Good life” blog http://rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/an-update-and-things-coming-together/ Jessie sent me some of her sourdough starter that she makes her gorgeous loaves with along with some kefir grains. I was over the moon that they only took a day to get here and I plonked the kefir grains straight into some milk and Steve headed over on a mercy dash to buy some organic rye flour from Beaconsfield. Jessie also made that lovely black dishcloth that you can see underneath the jar of milk and happy little kefir grains doing the backstroke. I got it this morning (hence the green smoothie behind…note the spoon that Steve made me for my smoothies, extra long and has a pointy end to liberate “bits” from my vitamix). Take careful note of the 3 almonds in front of “Audrey” (my new sourdough’s name because she is going to want me to “FEED HER SEYMOUR” ASAP…). They are the result of a very caring man who decided that they looked like they were “on the turn” and that he would save them from dying…sigh…it looks like Jessie’s children aren’t the only ones prone to picking unripe almonds from trees 😦

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After the mercy dash we have 2kg of rye flour to feed Audrey…

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Audrey ensconsed in Herman’s old pot after being fed and watered. She is VERY happy by the way Rabid! It is a warm day here today and she has crept right up to the top of Herman’s old pot! I am going to feed her twice a day as a precaution against vinegar bricks…I now know that it wasn’t Herman’s fault…it was MINE! I should have been feeding him twice a day to encourage yeast growth, once a day encourages lactobacilli that make your bread sour and they must have been inhibiting the yeast as my bread didn’t rise enough…result…vinegar bricks. Maybe Audrey will be able to give me something that Herman couldn’t…an edible loaf of bread ;). Steve said “I don’t even want to look at it ok?” He has bad memories of us both being enslaved to Herman and his kin…around the clock nurturing that took over our lives! Now I have Audrey and the information that I need to ensure “I” don’t stuff it up, lets see if this little black duck can’t turn out something resembling “edible” :). I am over the moon Jessie! You just made my day, my week and my month and I don’t even care that I am going to be Audrey’s indentured slave until I can wean her off her rye and get her back into the fridge where she belongs…she has earned her warm spot and her fast raise for the next few days 🙂

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I don’t know where our local grocer gets these Mainland mangoes from but for $1 each, and supporting an Aussie farmer I am there!

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This is what they look like after cutting away the seed and freezing them ready to be added to my breakfast green smoothies. The seeds have all been put into the compost heaps all over Serendipity Farm as an interesting experiment. I figure that if mangoes fell from trees, they would do so in hot and humid conditions not all that different to my compost heap so lets just see what happens…at the worst, the seeds will rot down into the compost, at best I get a mango tree…a win/win situation!

At the bottom of this philosophical ethos, I guess what I am trying to say is that I have chosen to live like a penniless student hippy and the trade-off is that I can live how I please. I can experiment with my vegetable garden and I can take the time to “feel” this space and work out what I want and where. I can research long into the night and I can get up early and do the same thing until lunchtime if I wish. I temper my efforts to learn everything that I can about our world and everything that is pertinent to what we are doing with studying to advance our “worth” to society. I am able to spend the time working out which plants are going to be right for our situation and our requirements. I can download PDF’s and head off on as many tangents as I like to find what I am after and to me, that ability is worth our “penniless” label. Money is pretty overrated. I can hear the son and heir scoffing now. He is a money man…he deals in it and his job pretty much revolves around the acquisition and hoarding of it. If you choose to live simply and think laterally you would be very surprised at how little green folding stuff you actually need. Rabid, my erstwhile idealistic heroine of Ballan who has more energy than the Eveready bunny and would give my chin out mum a run for her money with her stubborn refusal to give in, has recently opened my eyes to the power of bartering. Bartering has been used for millennia as a way for we proletariat peasants to access the goods and services that we need without the requirement of ready cash. Rabid likes Steve’s spoons… Rabid lusts after a little spoon of her own…Rabid sends sourdough to a lustful Narf7 and suddenly a world of possibilities opens up… I love sharing. I really do. I don’t know why, but it is part and parcel of “me” and Steve is learning how much happiness can be gleaned from generosity. By the way, does anyone out there want any Cape gooseberry seed? This plant is a marvel for drought ridden areas and will grow just about anywhere. The chooks love to eat its large leaves and adore the fruit. I love the fruit and it is related to tomatoes and tomatillo’s but if you let it ripen it is sweet and tasty. You can even make jam and chutney out of them and they grow like weeds. I love how they keep popping up everywhere courtesy of the chooks and their past pilfering of the lower fruit on one ancient perennial shrub that has been here metastasising since dad was alive. Let me know if you want some (anyone in Australia that is) and I will start drying some. I have them growing in the garden and the compost and can spare a few seed ;).

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Not only are the cape gooseberries in the main garden, they grew all through the compost that we used to make the first set of garden beds and you can see one growing maniacally on the left of this shot…does this garden/jungle have any sort of order?! Not really…this is the result of 2 people hell bent on preventing the possums and wallabies from scarfing their produce…so hell bent that they have made it a virtually impenetrable fortress…and that includes for themselves! ;). The lettuce has gone to seed but I am going to collect it for lettuce futures and you can see the clover growing, I just left it because it is nitrogenous. I love how the veggie beds are evolving and doing their own thing (because that means that I don’t have to become a middle aged contortionist and slither sideways into them to correct anything that has gone wrong! 😉 )

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The trade-off for having a maniacal rocket plant is that it is rocket in the bank. I get to save the seed, the rocket keeps the soil covered and moist and NOTHING eats this bitter plant when it has gone over to the dark and seedy side The rainbow chard are also doing well and I will share some more garden shots with you on Saturday

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This is a teeny little compost heap. Well fortified and apparently of no interest to the possums because it didn’t have anything pinched from it last night. I have decided to kill 2 birds with 1 stone and make lots of little compost heaps all over the place where we want to plant trees. I figure that they will soften the soil, attract worms and add nutrients to the soil where we are going to plant in autumn. I think I am starting to learn a few things!

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The lengths we have to go to just to keep compost inside our compost bays but as you can see, “things” are growing in them. This was the last half 10kg sack of spuds that had gone stringy and are just starting to grow through the layer of leaves. I have also planted mango seeds (you never know…) and adventitious pumpkins are sprouting all over the place. The other large compost bin full of potatoes has been hit hard by the slugs but they are soldiering on regardless. I “found” some jerusalem artichokes out on the nature strip (and some comfrey but that is for another walk with the dogs 😉 ) and brought a couple of them home and put them in the centre of the big compost heap…again… you never know!

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Here is one of the culprits who are eating leafy things in the veggie garden…this one made a most satisfying noise as it slid down duckies happy beak!

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Some of the veggies that we harvested this morning…thank GOODNESS I have a recipe to make “Zucchini Cream” out of that monster zuke!

Compost is another one of my trade-offs. I spend the time making round wire mesh compost bays and I spend the time putting my fruit and vegetable scraps into a bucket in my pantry and supplement them with the vacuum cleaner emptying’s and paper and cardboard snipped up as it becomes available. I cut up all of my cardboard boxes and use the little $4 paper shredder to shred all of the newspaper etc. that we are able to find. I have been known to pinch extra I.G.A. catalogues when we are in Beaconsfield as they are made with thick newspapery paper that is great for the compost heap. 1 ½ years ago I could have cared LESS about composting…composting was something that mum nagged me to do and thus went straight into the “NUP” basket. Now I lust after leaves in the park underneath big deciduous trees, I twitch when I see people carting green waste branches to the tip, I can’t even begin to imagine throwing paper and scraps into the bin where once it was something I did without thinking about it. The trade-off for this vigilance is that I get amazing compost to put into my gardens and to feed this poor dry ancient topsoil. Swings and roundabouts folks, there is always an up, and a down and it’s our place to find the best balance between the 2 that we can whether that involves learning to suck it up when you find yourself with a bean cube rather than a mass of foliage and knowing that if you take that problem and find a prospective solution, next year you will be triumphant. Learning and constantly finding new solutions, not only keeps your brain active but fills you with possibilities beyond what you thought possible. If you aren’t a materialistic person you might just find that living with less and going lateral feeds your soul. It has certainly opened up some incredible doors for me :o)

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An ENORMOUS pile of ex-fish farm netting 🙂

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A photo that Steve took from next to the veggie gardens…can anyone…ANYONE tell me how photo’s make things look so much better than they really do?!

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This is a $2.50 “drinking coconut”. Back in the day I would have consumed the juice, eaten the meat and tossed the rest into the bin…not any more!

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The liquid and the meat go into my morning green smoothie…

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I also get this empty shell, that  I dried out completely, that I can make a bird house out of or a simple coconut bowl…either way, this valuable resource won’t be wasted…

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Even the white fibre on the outside of the coconut was chipped away and will go into the compost to enrich it’s suite of organisms… where once $2.50 wasn’t worth all that much, It most certainly is worth MUCH more in the sum of its parts now 🙂

I am starting to think about seed swapping again. Saving seed and swapping seed must be one of the most fundamentally fulfilling things that we can do. Not only are we “Sticking it to the man”, one of my favourite bolshie pastime, but we are feeding a tradition that goes back to our very human roots… survival through spreading the love (and load) around. Diversification is the means to survival. Monocrops are not the answer to our food problems. I would have thought that the great potato famine would have stood as testament to that. Back in biblical times there was famine and we need to learn from those lessons and not rely on single crops to be our saving grace. Monocrop’s are designed to line the pockets of the über rich and nothing to do with producing nutritious food for humanity. We need to diversify and work with what will grow best in our own little neck of the woods and learn to be satisfied with our lot, something that in the artificial world that humanity now manages to inhabit is an entirely foreign concept to mainstream thought processes…we are taught that we can have ANYTHING so long as we work hard enough…no we can’t folks. We can manipulate our environment just so much before it goes on the blink and refuses to do what we ask it to do any more. We need to work “with” rather than just take and that’s what we need to be learning now, how to solve the industrial sized problems that humanity has been forcing the world to live with for the last century. We CAN do this; it just involves that awful word that so many of our children would rather eat their left food than do…”work”. I, myself am not ashamed to admit to being incredibly lazy. I was one of those people contemplating the benefits of life without a left foot but I changed and if I can change, so can anyone. Again, all it took was a good hard honest look at how I was living and a strong desire to do something positive. I am NOT of the school of thought that “we are going to hell in a hand basket, let’s just group together and moan about “the end days” with sackcloth on our heads”…not THIS little black duck! If I am going out…I am doing it whilst trying to do something positive. If you can’t pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start again it’s pretty much game over and I plan on living this life to my full potential for as long as I can and as happily as I can. I want to leave a positive legacy, led by example, for my children of just how important it is to keep going and learn to live within your means and be satisfied with your lot. In saying that, I am not talking about being stagnant. I am talking about exploring the parameters of the life that you have been handed and doing everything that you can with it…go as far to the left and right as you can and put miles on that life before you have to hand it over to be checked in.

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Before ANY of my facebook friends do a double take and say “I SWEAR I have seen these last few photo’s before?”…yes you have and yes I AM going to use them here in the blog…whatchagonnadoeh? ;)… I found these empty water bottles on a walk and decided to title this photo “EPIC fail”…

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If you haven’t already got them, you should get these babies soon Jessie :). I LOVE bartering! Bring it on! 🙂

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“1 more photo…just ONE more photo and I SWEAR…”…

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Everything except for the cheese came from Serendipity Farm :).

I suppose it is all about that precious thing that makes humanity such a wild card…our ability to choose our own pathways. Our choices can change the world. Whether we know it or not, every action has an equal and opposite reaction and what we do DOES matter. I am talking science here folks, not hippy mumbo jumbo…call it “the butterfly effect” if you like. We are all here for a reason and it’s up to us how we choose to live. Steve just phoned and told me that David, the owner of “Wholesome House” our wholefood establishment of choice asked him about his wooden spoons! Steve is starting to see that his hobby could actually pay off. David is interested in stocking Steve’s spoons! We will take a selection of them in for him to see and we will see what happens from there. I guess you just have to be willing to explore those parameters and be brave enough to occasionally go out on one of those limbs on the boundaries. I have been thinking more and more about community. About developing all different kinds of communities, online, through the blog, locally and globally. Forging relationships with other people isn’t hard. Keeping relationships with other people is much more difficult. We aren’t taught how to negotiate, to listen and to suck it up these days and dealing mano-a-mano with other people isn’t as easy as it once was. Back in the day (say a century ago before industrialisation…) you HAD to get along with the other people in your community. You might not have liked them but each and every one had a place and a job within that community. You learned to live with each other because you HAD to and that is an incredibly valuable lesson and part of the reason why humanity survived and metastasised into what we are today, our adaptability. Industrialisation allowed us to play God. It gave us a false sense of our superiority and we ran amok. The problems that we are all having to face up to are a direct result of corporate greed and our insatiable desire to elevate ourselves above the rest and we are going to have to learn to live with less and accept the consequences of our actions BUT we can learn to do this with grace and hope and we can leave a better world for our children and their children. We just have to be willing to accept the trade-offs.

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)

Pretend cheese and heavenly vegan baking books

Hi All

Wow its 11.20pm on Friday night and I just realised that I haven’t yet started my post for Saturday! We have been studying and working on landscape plans for a few days now as we have been given an assignment to design a plan for a pergola with a seat. That has kept us busy researching everything from tensile strengths of timber to the sheer factor of bolts. Can’t have people sitting in our pergola seat and ending up on the floor! I spent tonight engrossed in a sea of vegan cheese recipes. It all started with me remembering that a book that I have been waiting to be released is just about to head onto the shelves. It’s called “Artisan Vegan Cheese” by Miyoko Schinner and promises to be the answer to this cheese lovers dreams. I never liked “fake” cheese and am one of those people that would rather go cold turkey than make do with something less than par. I dabbled in making some vegan cheeses myself and some of them were quite tasty but none of them were cheesy or acted like cheese. This book promises to deliver melty, tasty, cultured cheeses and none of them going anywhere near a cow or other milk producing creature. I can’t wait to have a bit of a mess about in the kitchen and make some of these cheesy creations. I spent tonight hunting down more recipes by Miyoko Schinner and in the process discovered that this lady is very generous with recipes and that there are quite a few great recipes out there available for free. If you would like to see some of them just head off to Youtube and enter her name and there are a plethora of choices. Some of them include a mozzarella style melting cheese for pizza made out of readily available cheap ingredients, a nacho cheese sauce that is thick and gooey as well as delicious and this new book promises all sorts of amazing cheesy experiences that also involve my latest greatest flavour of the month, fermentation!

A great big THANK YOU to my good friend Kymmy for my lovely trivet (cum wall hanging). I am assured (by my good friend Google) that this is the sign for a hug…
: X not sure why, but HUG it is 🙂

I always check the spoon and fork box whenever I go to thrift shops because I love old cutlery. I found these really long handled old spoons a while ago and was going to drill holes in them and make a mobile but they told me not to. They live in one of the cutlery drawers and as of yet I haven’t found out what they are actually for

Talking about amazing books, I am waiting on my copy of “My Sweet Vegan” by the irresistible Hannah Kaminsky of http://bittersweetblog.wordpress.com/. Whether you are vegan or not, the amazing recipes in this book will have you heading back for more. I can’t wait to get my copy and start baking! Hannah is a regular reader here on Serendipity Farm and just elevated herself to a second chocolate biscuit (vegan of COURSE :o) ) with her cup of tea by sending me a signed book plate to place with all due reverence into my copy. How amazing is it that we can share our lives with such talented people as Hannah. It never ceases to amaze me how approachable vegan cookbook writers actually are. I collected every single cookbook by Bryanna Clark Grogan and this lady has done so much to bring vegan cooking out of the exotic and into the mainstream and has taken the mystery out of “what the HECK am I going to eat!!!” by many a new vegan. After friending her on Facebook to follow what she is cooking of late she regularly comments on comments that I have made. The world is such a small place these days and I am eternally grateful to each and every vegan cookbook writer who has made this journey so much more adventurous and exciting than it might otherwise have been. What the heck Hannah…you can have 3 chocolate biscuits, I am feeling generous :o). If you want to check out the book that I am just about to most gratefully acquire, head over to this site and take a most delicious look.

http://www.mysweetvegan.com/

It has been so cold on Serendipity Farm and surrounding districts that Brunhilda has been invaluable to us. We were only talking about how this time last year we were living in a house with no heat source. This year we have been totally spoiled and Bezial can’t leave the house for more than a walk without pining for his position in front of Brunhilda. I have taken to wearing fingerless gloves on our walks and we headed to the Exeter thrift shop today to look for some assorted old cutlery for me to make a mobile with and while I was sifting through the pile of forks and spoons, Steve headed off and found himself a brand new pair of black converse shoes for $3 and an amazing hat with flaps so that he can look like an itinerant Russian potato farmer when we are on our early morning walks. The problem with early morning walks in the freezing cold is that anyone with earrings really suffers as they tend to get very cold and they make your ears hurt. I have 7 earrings and Steve has 9 so he needs that hat with flaps. I need to point something out here…Steve puts on the hat with flaps and instantly looks cute…I put on the hat with flaps and look like a true Russian potato farming woman that is ANYTHING but cute…hats and I do NOT agree. I managed to pick up enough interesting old cutlery to make a mobile over the weekend and I also got a nice black top with abalone buttons and a nice stripy hoodie. The Exeter thrift shop appears to have been taking donations from “filthy hippies” as there were all sorts of amazing brightly coloured skirts, jumpers and poncho’s. I am a jeans and jumper type girl myself but should any of you feel like exploring your inner hippy (and who wouldn’t?), feel free to head over to Exeter and go nuts…you will be doing both yourself and the community centre that the thrift shop supports a huge favour

This piece of glass that looks like an eye is apparently Greek. It keeps out evil apparently. Not too sure of its heritage but Steve brought it out here with him when he moved so here is where it stays

“What’s all this aboot then?!”

Hillbilly or Gypsy, the jury is out but that banjo is swaying the verdict

Steve found a good cheap source of banjo strings online and bought a set of them for his banjo. We don’t know why he bought that banjo but he really wanted it a few years ago after my son, who was working in an auction house at the time, told us that they had a consignment of new banjo’s come in to the auction house and he was suddenly smitten with banjo lust. Now that he is learning how to play clawhammer picking on his acoustic guitar, he thought “what the heck!” and is learning it on the banjo as well. It’s like having my own personal Billy Connolly on tap without the ribald jokes. All we need now is our own personal still and we can officially call ourselves Hillbillies. We are one step closer to actually growing veggies on Serendipity Farm in the spring! We recently made friends with a man who gave us some of his surplus heavy hardwood railway sleepers to use as garden beds. I love trading things…we gave him some heavy plastic weather blinds and he gave us the sleepers. No money had to change hands and everyone ended up with something that they actually wanted. We have to do a bit of pruning in exchange for some gardening tools that he no longer wants or needs and together we are forming a tiny little community within a community. Penniless hippies we may all be, but sometimes you don’t need money…you just need someone else with what you need, who no longer has a need for it. After we did a bit of work for our friend we came home to get stuck into doing a bit of work for ourselves. The next week is supposed to be sunny and dry and so we are going to get as much work as we can done and today I mucked hay while the sun shone.

Here are my little tireless helpers in the garden scratching around in the silty topsoil layer I have just shovelled tirelessly (HA!) over half of the spent chook hay.

My tarp covered silty topsoil after half of it has been shovelled onto the first layer of hay. That strange structure in the foreground is an old brass firehydrant that we found out in the woodshed

Looking down into the vegetable garden and the second layer of spent hay that appears to still contain its past occupants. Apparently they haven’t quite finished with it yet…

The last of the silty river topsoil over the top of the spent hay and now all we need are some worms and other undersoil beneficials to move on into the mix and do their thang.

I don’t actually mind changing the spent, nitrogen rich hay in the chook pen any more. I see it as gardening futures. We paid $3 a bale for meadow hay from the Exeter groundsman of the local footy club. They were raising funds and we were in need of cheap hay…a match made in comparative heaven. We have been storing up our 10 bales that we bought and are just about through them now. We use them to line the concrete floor of the chook shed and once it needs changing I muck it out with my trusty wheelbarrow and compost fork and today I actually used something that I read to get us a step closer to being able to produce some of our own food (aside from eggs and chicken that is…) on Serendipity Farm. I am completely envious of permaculture gardens that I see online and in books. I want that! I want lovely vegetables and climbing fruit bearing vines and pumpkins taking over the back paddock and I want it soon! Today I remembered that I had read to layer soil and spent hay and manure to create a veggie garden. We had a trailer load of silty topsoil from our new friend who had to install drainage on his property and just wants it removed. We can have as many trailer loads of silty river soil as we want. Now I need to make it friable and something that not only worms and ground dwelling critters will be happy to call home in, but something that will support and give nutrition to our future veggies. We learned that straw is amazing for soil cation exchange (DON’T make me explain it again…just go Google it ok? 😉 ) and that chook poo is incredibly rich in nitrogen but burns plants if it is fresh…so we have hay…we have chook poo (copious quantities of it…) we have a trailer load of silty soil and we have an impatient wanabe permaculture gardener with all of the knowledge and none of the practical ability so if you put all of that together you end up with an idea…I layered the spent hay and the soil to form a large mound in the prospective veggie garden area that I might even get Steve to help me lug some of those old railway sleepers down to soon and allow it all to rot down over what remains of winter.

Rustic industrial garden futures! I should be able to get some more like this in the near future. Cheers Mike 😉

While I was mucking out the chook pen, Steve was dealing with this little problem that we noticed earlier in the week. Tomorrow is our day of rest which coincides with the weekly church meeting at the Auld Kirk Church so we figured that today might be a good day to deal with it.

It looks like its fellow trunk is about to go out in sympathy!

This is what’s left of the last tree that fell down in the corner of the veggie garden. Rather than remove all of this rich decomposing matter I am going to take a leaf out of a fellow bloggers book. This permaculture follower is someone that I take notice of and she uses water wicking garden beds to great advantage. Check her blog out here, its well worth a look-see. I learned that I can heap soil over this pile of rotting timber and use it to garden pretty much straight into!
http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/a-pumpkin-called-barbara/

Future nettle wine…and by the way osteospermum daisy…I DO see you hiding amongst my precious nettles and I WILL be dealing with you in the next few days so enjoy what is left of your time thinking that your little camoflage attempt worked!

It’s time to start taking all of that accumulated knowledge and throw it into the ring! Hopefully I don’t end up squished and gored by permaculture and am able to ride it to glory. No doubt I will share the results here and we can only hope that they are positive or you are going to get sick of me moaning about it aren’t you? :o). Any of my dear constant readers who are also practiced gardeners (and you KNOW who you are…) can feel completely free to share any hints and tips with we rank beginners when it comes to food production. I have so many ideas and so little practice putting my ideas into fruition. Couple that with a terrible temper and a degree of impatience and you are starting to see why the dog needs therapy. Is anyone else totally over the Olympics’ yet? If I have to hear Eddie McGuire and his condescending tones one more time I am going to throw our television into the Tamar River. For the sake of Steve’s continued happiness I think I might just close the doors between the kitchen and the lounge room tonight while he continues to watch the opening ceremony and I cease to rant and rave through the open door about the incredible waste of money (over 40 million) spent on that opening ceremony for a country that really can’t afford it. It’s a bit like Tasmania spending up big when we are broke, time to face the music guys…sports just aint worth it! I have never been a sports fan and can only be found watching fringe sports that cross over into the bizarre like Curling, coits and Greco Roman Wrestling. I just went hunting to look for a few more to make me look somewhat more learned about Olympic weird sports and found out that there have been some pretty weird sports that are now discontinued from the games…want a little peek at what we “could” have been watching should the Olympic committee this year been less mingey?…

  1. Tug of war from 1900 – 1920 which was a bit of a cheat as they let individual clubs enter as opposed to countries and in 1908 Great Britain won Gold, Silver AND Bronze as a number of teams were allowed to represent the same country.
  2. Jeu de paume or “Real Tennis” in the U.K. was only included in the 1908 games in London and only 2 teams (the U.K. and the U.S.A.) competed. The U.S.A. won gold so obviously the U.K. got respectable Silver and the players didn’t use a racket and were allowed to hit the ball with their hands
  3. Forget Clay Pigeon Shooting…in 1900 they had LIVE pigeon shooting! It was included in Paris’s 1900 games and it is apparently the only games that animals were deliberately harmed
  4. In the 1900 Paris Olympics they also allowed long jumping for horses for some reason…(at least they didn’t have high jumping for the poor long suffering creatures!)
  5. They had rope climbing in 1896, 1904, 1906, 1924 and 1932 for some reason
  6. A game called Roque was played in 1904 and only the United States competed in the event so obviously won. I guess that is ONE way to ensure that you bring home the gold! ;). It looked a bit like croquet and was dubbed “The Game of the Century” but I haven’t heard of it… have you?
  7. Water motor sports were on the cards in 1908 and only France entered due to bad weather and won gold. Again it’s a good way to ensure that you get a gold medal if your games have a weird sport that is only played in your country…
  8. The next one is an oxymoron. “Solo synchronised swimming”…EH!?! This ran for 3 consecutive Olympics from 1984 – 1992 until someone actually thought about it and they decided that it didn’t make any sense… (12 years to work that out eh?)
  9. In the swimming obstacle race we Aussies apparently won in 1900. Good old Frederick Lane won the day by scrambling over a random pile of junk in the water to almost match his time swimming the course minus the flotsam and jetsam!
  10. I like this one…”Club Swinging”. Something to do with rhythmic gymnastics and on the cards in 1904 and 1932 and resulted in the gymnast standing still and waving the clubs around all over the place in an effort to look a bit better than the other competitors wiggling their clubs around in the air…It would seem that someone said “Enough of that!” in 1904 and in 1932 some bright spark decided to give it another go and ended up out of a well-paid Olympic job after it fizzled

Well there you have it folks…10 unusual sports that are discontinued in the Olympics… (Maybe the U.K. should have thrown in a few of their endemic sports like tiddlywinks…competition drinking for England and plum duffing (whatever THAT is!) and they may have had more of a chance to get piles of that Olympic gold…). Whatever happens in the Olympics you can bet that coke paid dearly for its product placement.

The little boofy tabby here is Fatty. He was the only one of Felix’s kittens that we didn’t manage to locate and take to the R.S.P.C.A. his dad Garfield has been hanging about and if Fatty gets anywhere near the size of his massive dad, he will be almost as big as Earl!

Big Yin surrounded by some of his girls. He now thinks that he is omnipotent and is taking his job most seriously of late. I caught him following me surruptitiously around today when I was egg hunting in the scrub and making little clucking noises to his girls as if to say “don’t worry girls…my nests NEVER get found”. Here they are checking to see if we have thrown anything over the deck that might suffice as food but sadly we were too busy living our lives to be hurling food to overstuffed poultry so you are going to have to walk to your pen to get more Yin…lifes a bitch eh? 😉

Everything old is new again

Hi All,

Barley. Yes…barley…not in its eminently quaffable form of “beer” but in its hulled mild mannered Clark Kentish form sourced from the bottom shelf of the supermarket ensuring that marketers have checked it out and found it severely wanting and stored with the humblest of shelf mates, the dried beans and the soup mixes. Who would know where to find barley in their supermarkets unless they regularly made rich hearty soups? I have recently taken to eating barley in the form of pilaffs. Aside from being incredibly delicious and filling when combined with roasted root vegetables and garlic, I have discovered on my researching travels that barley is more than it’s humble components might lead us to believe. Far-be-it from being a one trick pony in the production of fermentation and alcohol, it was one of our very first grains and many worldly cultures have survived thanks to the cultivation and use of barley. I went hunting for a recipe for barley water. I remembered both of my grandmother’s lauding the benefits of humble barley water and making it whenever they were under the weather. I am not talking about the lemon barley water that you can buy from the supermarket but barley simmered in water for about 30 minutes, drained and the resulting liquid drunk. You get the added bonus of cooked barley that you can use in all sorts of recipes. On further research I learned that barley is an amazing grain, full of soluble fibre, nutrients and with all sorts of benefits especially for women and type 2 diabetes suffers…I also found a fantastic recipe for bread made from barley.

This website gives a really interesting rundown of barley, its nutrients, composition and who and what it is good for

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=127

And here is a recipe that looked really delicious for barley bread with the added bonus of a video should you feel like you need further instruction

http://www.food.com/recipe/blue-ribbon-winning-whole-barley-sandwich-bread-with-video-399830

Sometimes I find something out that is worth sharing with you all and this ancient and much maligned grain is just such a sippet. I now include barley a few times a week and am planning to increase it to my predominate grain after finding recipes for barley breakfast cereal.

This is for Christie and this is Brunhilda

I have been undertaking an experiment in weight management that I started after my mother died in January this year. Mum was plagued with health problems and there is nothing like a parent dying to remind you of your own mortality. I had a good look at my own diet and the state of my health and decided that it was time to make a few changes. I decided to end my lifelong dieting habit. No more feeling guilty about “breaking my diet”…no more exponentially growing lists of foods that I couldn’t eat (making them the focus of my desires) and no more damaging my health with yo-yo dieting. Instead, I gave up dieting, I gave up eating food that was nutritionally poor and I gave up processed food. Up till today I have been “undieting” for 5 months and in that time I have had no cravings, I haven’t felt the need to binge eat anything, I have never had to resort to using my will power once and I have lost a total of 15kg with absolutely NO effort whatsoever. I am completely baffled by this, but I have never felt so good about losing weight. There are no “start dates”, “end dates” or worrying about how to eat after I stop existing on a single food and I now totally ignore all of the “latest” and “greatest” dieting secrets because they are all bollocks. To anyone out there reading this blog post who has a weight problem that just won’t budge, give it a go. It’s incredibly liberating and completely attainable.  It’s dieting that makes you fat.

to much of this makes you fat. steves rooster burger 99% fat free 100 organic “would you like frys with that”

I am SO over roosters it’s not funny! We started out buying (what we thought were…) 8 hens and were assured by the seller that they were all hens…we got Big Yin. I have NO problem with Big Yin as he is an incredibly good rooster and he will be living on Serendipity Farm until he passes away of natural causes but my problem started with the romantic (and incredibly stupid) idea that it would be nice to allow our hens to reproduce. I am a savvy person and figured that more chickens = more eggs and so against Steve’s better judgment (oh WHY didn’t I listen to Steve!) we drove hundreds of kilometres to a tiny town to buy 2 dozen fertile eggs. Again we were hoodwinked by the seller and the eggs were NOT what she told us they were when it came to the breed that she represented. We ended up with all sorts of hens and roosters and we just killed the last rooster from that batch a few weeks ago. The main problem has been Houdini our amazing mother hen who chooses to raise her babies out in the wild and leave them there after a month of intensive mothering to re-join her sisters in the coop. These 2 batches of feral chickens are as close to wild chooks as you can get in Sidmouth Tasmania and live in a large overgrown conifer just off the driveway near our home. Houdini’s initial hatching resulted in 4 hens and a single rooster. We dispatched “Little Red” due to his incessant crowing with respect to our neighbours. Little Red wasn’t causing our other girls any problems and I felt quite bad dispatching him. Houdini’s last feral hatching resulted in 7 babies. Out of this batch we got 4 roosters and 3 hens. The 4 roosters in this batch have just reached sexual maturity and are all crowing and wreaking havoc in our small chook ecosystem and so they have to go. Not only is the ringleader spending his days hiding from Big Yin (his dad) knowing full well that he is going to cop a hiding should he show his reprobate head, but he is attacking poor Bob who only just got over being repeatedly targeted by the last rooster that we dispatched. I have NO idea why Bob is such a sexy chook! She is smaller than the rest and it would seem that every single rooster that matures wants to take a shot at poor Bob. Steve found a fair amount of feathers (that she had just started to grow back) plucked out underneath the deck (where the terrorist hides in waiting…) and so tonight has changed from a nice easy Zelda Skyward Sword playing night to mass rooster genocide. We are going to try to kill/cull as many of the 4 roosters as we can reach tonight and then we have Effel’s babies to wait and see who crows and I am totally and utterly DONE with breeding… roosters and all things crowing and raping. As soon as I notice a clucky hen I will be removing her eggs and tossing her into the chook equivalent of jail (their enclosed outside coop area). If I miss one (like Houdini) I will wait for her to hatch her babies and we will collect them all at night and integrate them into the coop. It’s a whole lot easier to dispatch roosters from the coop at night than it is to be climbing conifers in the dark and hoping that you grabbed the right chicken!

how do we use this machine ma?

Our friend who cannot be named dropped us off some firewood and a couple of skinned and gutted wallabies for the dogs the other day. I should have removed the meat and given it to my oldest daughter who loves all things kangaroo from way back. The meat is very lean and needs to be cooked with bacon or casseroled/stewed to ensure that it doesn’t get too dry. The 2 wallabies that we got yielded a large 4 litre icecream container full of badly butchered meat along with 2 meaty carcasses that the feral cats and crows have had a ball with out on the lawn for the last couple of days. The wallabies hung in a bag in the shed for the first day because we were too busy to deal with them and with it being so cold it was perfectly safe for them to do so. Both Bezial and Earl were very excited to be watching me butcher the wallabies and were eagerly awaiting a taste of fresh wallaby. I cut both begging boys a small piece of the very light coloured meat and Earl ate his piece with glee and Bezial spat it out with a most comical “this aint chicken!” look on his face. He must have been under the impression that we had killed some chickens and left them in a bag as both he and Earl get benefits from our rooster killing “events”. The look of surprise was quite comical and Bezial is NOT a fan of wallaby and refused to even consider eating any more. Earl on the other hand was totally enamoured of it and will be getting the 3 large bags of wallaby meat for his tea for a few nights to come. If we are offered any more wallabies we will take them gratefully. Earl and my daughter will both get some (I promise I will butcher it for you Madeline!) to play with and we will benefit from what our friend has to do to keep her garden wallaby free.  We are still using the firewood that she gave us as well and we are swapping a pile of old steel and metal that was left on the property with her partner for more wood…barter rules!

A man and a very cute pug we met up the road , the boys liked her to

Steve and I are undertaking a unit in model building at the moment with our course. Our poor long suffering lecturer had to take on the job of teaching me how to do everything to do with building. I am not known for constructing pergola’s and thank goodness Steve comes from a building background as otherwise we might still be attempting to make our 1/5th scale model of a pergola next year. I actually had a lot of fun and have learned to ignore my immediate desire to panic as soon as I get out of my comfort zone. I give it the “Old college try” now and have learned that failure is always an option and indeed, often the result but that’s where ground zero learning takes place and wherever learning is…so am I! I learned to use a chisel…I learned how to use a chalk stringline… I learned how to do all sorts of things and am now a wiser and richer person for the experience. I am sure that if our lecturer was showing Steve how to make a model Steve would have had the entire thing done and his second model also completed on the day that we had our lecture and I know that I slowed the process down incredibly but wisdom sometimes comes slowly and I was quite proud of my efforts in the joint project.  The next model will be constructed by Steve and I with only a plan to go by and our lecturer will have nothing to do with it. Should our lecturer throw us a curve ball like “dovetail joints”, “steps” or “doors” he might end up with something a little more interesting than he initially would have thought, but you know what? This little black duck is no longer scared to try and THAT my friends is a mighty big milestone for me.  Steve and I met up with a fellow Western Australian a few years ago when we were getting some timber cut for us at Bunning’s. Leighman is part hippy and all great guy and we often see him out and about and end up having a bit of a chat. He is most interested in what we are interested in regarding sustainability and economical food production. We ran into him when we were shopping and he mentioned to us that a fellow worker at Bunning’s was doing the Landscape Architect course at university that Steve and I are going to undertake soon. He said that his friend was having a great time and really enjoying it. That gives us a degree of hope that we might actually be able to get something out of this course. Polytechnic/TAFE is a great alternative to university because you pay as you go and in Tasmania, if you are unemployed, your fees are capped at $275 a year no matter what you choose to study making education an extremely viable way to avoid the Centrelink queue whilst improving yourself and making yourself “job ready” at the same time. University may be a lot more prestigious than Polytechnic/TAFE but it comes with a substantially larger price tag and an ensuing H.E.C.K.’s debt for anyone choosing to take this path. Steve and I are well aware that Tasmania is NOT the place to be unemployed in your 40’s and so we are doing what we can to give us the best chance of being able to start our own business in the future. My latent desire to become a mycologist may just follow on from this initial degree and I have plans to take some permaculture courses as well. I would never have thought that I would be comfortable with all of this studying but there is something very satisfying about learning and I was born to research.

Steve is preparing his rooster killing kit. We are going to attempt to dispatch the 4 young newly matured roosters tonight because even though we may be killing the offending rooster tonight, as soon as he is gone, the next rooster will step up to take off where he left off. Once we are able to remove the roosters from the scene, peace can return (until Effel’s babies start to crow and it starts all over again). I really don’t like killing things and I don’t imagine that there are too many vegetarians out there slaughtering their own roosters, but again…if you take on the responsibility of raising chickens it’s like an iceberg…there is a WHOLE LOT under the surface that you don’t learn about until it’s too late and you are committed to looking after them.  Both Earl and Bezial are well aware that its rooster killing time. They must sense our apprehension and should know it well by now as these roosters will be 8 through to 11 in the history of rooster dispatching on Serendipity Farm. For 2 city slickers who couldn’t face killing flies it has certainly been an eye opening journey. I guess I think of the poor long suffering hens that have had to put up with these reprobates and their behaviour towards our egg futures and it makes it a little bit easier to deal with. I think I will think about poor semi plucked Bob who has had a pretty rough trot of it for the last 3 months or so and it will definitely ease my guilt. Consider us 2 city slickers who have most definitely learned their lesson!

Frost and it wasnt even that cold , we had minus -9 – 7 in Tassie last week

Steve here. We are back and that wasn’t fun but we have killed the 4 roosters that we had to and we are now in the process of dealing with them to make some food for me and the boys. Yin will be a lot happier in the morning and so will poor little Bob. We are getting faster and have realised that that was easier because we had no attachment to them at all. Ok Fran is letting me pick the pictures today as she is now busy for a little and then we have to feed us so I will say bye all and thanks for dropping by and watching us get roosters from the conifer and to the table. A few more wishbone which I’m sure we will get very soon and Fran will have some new designer jewellery. Now if we can just work out what to do with feathers we will be good any suggestions.

Steve

Hello Hump Day!

Hi All,

I just finished off my mammoth post for last week. I dare say it will take most of you a few days to read it but as I am now only posting once a week, I have to cram it all into a single post. We seem to be very busy here at the moment. Partly of our own choice and partly because that is what life is throwing at us at the moment. I would LOVE to be a totally proactive person. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to instantly come up with solutions for everything that life hurls at you on the run while you are formulating a plan to get the best possible outcome from said situation? I tend to be the quivering wreck in the corner not coping very well at all thanks to my tendency towards reactivity rather than proactivity. I didn’t think you had a choice…I thought people were born proactive, or reactive but I am starting to see that it’s all choice. I am choosing to expose myself to all sorts of interesting premises at the moment. I am checking out world issues that are pertinent to who we are and how we choose to live. It’s very interesting to realise that the world doesn’t revolve around you and that you are only one tiny ant in the massive great nest we call Earth. It’s not only humbling but somewhat terrifying as well when you realise what a very small voice each individual has. That’s where we need community and like-minded groups of people. One person has a small voice that can usually be ignored. An entire community all chanting the same chant are quite a lot harder to ignore and social media allow us to be more aware of events and situations as they occur and allow us to lend our personal voice to our chosen causes. It’s no longer that easy to pull the wool over people’s eyes. If anything, it certainly allows you to open your eyes to all sorts of situations that you may never have been aware of. As a quintessential magpie I like to learn things and social causes are something that appeal to me.

Here is the back block of our property. As you can see, its dry, arid bushland and it’s only saving grace is that it is a direct shortcut to the road at the back of the property and Steve was able to hightail it up there at short notice when he heard the Targa cars racing by and get some photos for you all to see on Saturday. At some time in the future, this area will be planted with olive trees, figs and further down, grape vines.

This used to contain seasol. Now it contains seasol, worm pee (yes…apparently they pee…), powerfeed and various secret natural ingredients that if I told you what they were, I would have to kill you. We are using this potent mix to give our planted out potted babies the best chance at adapting happily to their new surroundings

This is what is hiding behind the reed screening that we put up to shelter the hens when they are foraging in the colder months. We stacked some hay bales that we use for bedding in their coop (and for compost fodder when it is spent and full of nitrogenous delights) and you can see the hens are enjoying their new secret space

“HA! I found you!”. This nest must be the new communal nesting place because I liberated 9 eggs prior to these 2 appearing. I dare say they will find somewhere new tomorrow to stop me from pinching their eggs but for now I am feeling smug! It’s not often I manage to find where these wily girls are nesting

Ok, now that was how I “used to” post… I am going to have to find a happy medium between 11 000+ words and Dot point with photos…

Here is an “honest” photo. Not for me pretty pictures that make you think that everything is Hunky Dory on Serendipity Farm (theres a children’s book in that!). This is the true state of affairs. This area is under the deck, just around the corner from the last pictures and when we get a spare day we are going to make a walkway through here up to where we have the remainder of our potted babies to be planted out. Why haven’t we done this before today? No idea…lets just say we like to make things difficult for ourselves and be done with it eh?

Here’s a prime example of what we want to have growing all over the place. Not necessarily  bergenia x schmidtii (Elephant’s ears), Tulbaghia violacea (Society garlic) and Helleborus foetidus (the delightfully named “Stinking Hellebore”) but carefully chosen water wise and suitable edible food plants for our edible food forest. These plants are forming a mass of green mulch that keeps moisture in the soil. I am not interested in clean lines in my garden, I am more interested in being able to keep the moisture in the soil and constantly increasing the nutrient quotient of our denuded dirt. We are using permaculture principals and weaving in any and everything that makes sense and that will assist us in what we want to eventuate here from all sorts of integrated natural systems. This is my nest and this little black and white bird is going to feather it however she sees fit. Some things will work, some wont. Swales would be a nightmare here as we can’t dig our soil thanks to masses of volcanic rock. Thinking outside the box is our newfound strength and we are using our horticultural knowledge and scavenged information from the 4 corners of the globe to effect change

Here is a small sample of what we are just about to launch ourselves into clearing out in the garden on the side of the house. Blackberries, banana passionfruit (this one even has a fruit!) and osteospermum daisies, which to some people are their idea of “pretty flowers” but to me are right up there with boneseed and ragwort as invasive weeds. Once we liberate this side garden I can plant out my cold climate shrubs and we can start reducing our potted plants and our need to waste heaps of water on them in the summer time.

This information was taken straight from The Australian Native Plants Society to explain what this pot of salvaged plants are. We retrieved 5 pots of them from one of the garden areas that we weeded out and rather than discard them, we are going to plant them along the fenceline in our veggie garden as natural food sources and habitat for native birds and wildlife.

http://www.anpsa.org.au

“The drought tolerant, thorny, straggling native raspberry (Rubus parvifolius) and the more compact mountain raspberry (Rubus gunnianus), with its distinctive red blackberry-like fruit, are the only two Tasmanian examples of the twelve native raspberries in Eastern Australia. For optimum development of their tangy sweet fruit, they prefer the moister sections of your bush tucker patch. A quenching and therapeutic tea can also be derived from drying their young leaves or ‘tiny tips’.”

And here is another example of finding something on site that we can incorporate into our edible food garden/forest

This little baby is a coprosma quadrifida or native prickly currant bush. The jewel red fruit are prize bird food and the thorny nature of this shrub creates habitat conditions for nesting birds. If you would like to see a bit more about this plant you can go to the Australian National Botanic Gardens site…

http://www.anbg.gov.au/apu/plants/coprquad.html

First check this out! I found this when I was hunting through the amazing Green Shopping U.K. store where I downloaded some free e-books on permaculture. I don’t know about you, but I feel very guilty throwing batteries out. We have rechargeable batteries but this is a whole new ball park!  I couldn’t believe that batteries would run on water…

http://www.green-shopping.co.uk/clearance/h2o-replacement-batteries-pack-of-two.html

But here is the blurb and you can see for yourself…water batteries! Now I just need to get me some…

http://waterbattery.com/

We are surrounded by chickens…seas of them. We let Effel out with her 9 babies and she promptly got one of them dispatched to the next world. At the moment she has 8 with her still and we figure that it’s survival of the fittest out there. The silver Wyandotte still has 3 babies in the side garden and as long as she stays there I dare say she will keep them. I think one of the second batch of feral chicks that Houdini raised outside the normal hen societal model (the mainstream hens that head to the coop each night…) has gone the same way as Effel’s baby. It’s a pity because it was the only Wyandotte of the lot and most probably a hen. We have 4 roosters that are going to have to be dealt with at some day in the future in that bunch. Steve is in Launceston today doing the fortnightly shopping. When you live 50km away from the nearest shops you tend to really think about your shopping requirements and make sure that you have enough to last you through. I find it interesting to see how our shopping habits have changed incredibly since we moved from Riverside 4km away from the City centre. We are spending a lot more time at home and a lot more time away from “normal” people. I can’t say I miss wading through the masses at the supermarket checkout or my heightened stress levels whenever I ventured out in the car. Tasmanians are NOT known for their ability to drive well or use their indicators and I am not known for my saintly patience and ability to acquiesce to other drivers especially when they are obviously idiots…I rest my case!

“What have we here eh?…that wouldn’t be a glass of Earl’s favourite drink now would it?”

“Pa must be off the wagon…”

I made a spiced pear cake last night, partly to use some of the windfall pears from our tree in town that have suddenly approached magnificence and have attained that fragrant sensual perfume and taste that only a pear can get…loaded with ethanol and ready to turn any banana in their sight… I still have quite a few left and don’t want them to head over to the dark side and as Steve had a pot of cream wearing a hole in his desert pocket, I decided to make this cake to kill 2 birds with one stone. Here is the recipe I used if you would like to try it. I didn’t use the raisins…not because I am raisonally prejudiced, but because I didn’t have any. I also used only regular S/R flour rather than the ½ cup wholemeal and I totally forgot to add the baking soda at all but despite my messing about the cake was a success and Steve had a large portion smothered in thick cream and proclaimed “There’s nothing wrong with that!” which is high praise indeed from a man who is not totally enamoured of food like I am and who eats his meals without savouring each bite. I guess there are people like that out there who eat food because that’s what humans do. I am NOT one of them. I am one of the rounded, passionate, savouring people who like to smell, taste, feel and experience their food and can’t be dealing with bad food on any level. I guess Steve is just lucky that he is married to me and the food that he takes for granted when he is shovelling it in whilst watching television is prepared with flavour at its very core. There are lots of interesting recipes on this New Zealand site. New Zealanders are very similar to Tasmanians…isn’t it lucky that I don’t have to drive on their roads?

http://www.nzwomansweekly.co.nz/food/recipes/spiced-pear-cake/

Never one to do anything by halves, I decided to make good use of the heated wood stove ovens and the 4 litre ice-cream container full of poached quinces that I had left over from my quince poaching event last week. Steve was born in the year of the Dragon and has the luck of a Dragon to boot. Whenever I go hunting for recipes I inevitably find what I am looking for through sheer hard slog…wading through acres of mediocre sites to find one gem in the pile. Steve heads off to find a recipe and “BAM” he not only finds amazing recipes first go, but he finds a truly wonderful site along with it. After making the recipe for “A poached quince cake” I did what I usually do and went for a bit of a look-see at the rest of the site. I felt an instant alignment with the woman who owns this blog. I have more than a sneaking suspicion that what happens to us is meant to happen to us. I know that everything happens for a reason and just because it looks and feels like the most devastating thing that we are never going to get over, doesn’t mean that something incredible isn’t born from the ashes…indeed the pain of said event gives birth to the conditions for newfound happiness. We both lost a parent in January this year and I urge you to read this persons tribute to her father. Her honesty and her rich sense of the English vernacular are translated into the fabric of her posts and if I can only work out how to follow this blog I will!

http://elegantsufficiency.typepad.com/the_elegant_sufficiency/2007/08/a-poached-quinc.html

I made the cakes and I must admit here that I also omitted the walnuts and raisins from the poached quince cake and added a cup of chopped dates instead. Again, work with what is on your pantry shelf and the walnuts are out stratifying in the dirt for next year’s trees and the raisins simply didn’t exist so dates is it quince cake! The recipe hints and tips mentioned that this cake was somewhat dry and I HATE dry cakes. I upped the quinces to about 2 ½ cups and liberally doused the cake with the fragrantly perfumed quince liquor that I had saved and sieved from my batch of oven poached quinces. The poaching recipe that I used was just a nondescript recipe from the prolific recipe author “anon” that is responsible for many interesting recipes that I find online. I must admit…anon appears to have produced the very same recipe for poaching quinces as Dame (surely she is going to get a gong in the next Queens Honours list…) Stephanie Alexander…curious that eh? I wonder if they were both working on the same recipe at the very same time! What are the odds for that? 😉 Steve also sampled a decent sized segment of quince cake and decided that he really couldn’t describe the flavour of quinces if asked. I dare say some elderly lady in the supermarket is going to one day approach him and say “Hello dear…can you please describe the flavour of poached quinces to me… I can’t quite remember?” and he will be able to give her the description that he gave to me last night “something like tarty Turkish Delight”…hmmmm not too sure if that would make me want to eat them or dip them into chocolate and set about selling them to the general public? Either way Steve was not only satisfied, but actually happy about the cakes and the chance to serve himself chunks of both of them in the near future, warmed through and drizzled with cream, custard or ice-cream. Who wouldn’t think “There’s nothing wrong with that” under these circumstances…

Phase 1…”first make your quince cake”…

Phase 2 “reduce your quince poaching liquid”…

After this phase you have to pour your poaching liquid/syrup over the cake and wrestle it off your husband who has cut himself a massive wedge to “sample” before you can take a good picture…sigh…

The dogs are restless…this happens every second Monday when Steve heads off into town to do the fortnightly shopping. By now, even Earl the reactor (I sometimes think we should add the word “nuclear” in front of reactor…) should be able to work out that today is different to other days. The day that they have to lay inside bored out of their gourds staring up at their most boring female owner and waiting for the interesting one to come home also coincides with a sudden increase in doggy treats, nice fresh steak for their dinner and a whole lot of interesting bags and smells to accompany the bags. There might be little brown bags of cumin seed, coriander seed or even Italian mixed herbs to sniff…grabbing the toilet paper bag is always fun…if you can actually rip it and all of those little cylinders fall out its extra credit on the fun quotient watching the owners running about trying to retrieve them and you might even find a forgotten one under a chair later on that you can digest at your leisure. The best part of today is that it heralds a doggy walk somewhere other than usual. There’s a bit of extra petrol in the car and ma has gone a bit stir crazy so we are most probably going to head off to Beauty Point for a nice splash in the sea and a run up the beach. Hopefully the local dogs are all out on the road verge like they usually are and we can strain at our leads and bark furiously as our owners jump around on one leg trying to stop the local dogs from “having a go”… we strain forwards on our leads for half of the walk till we realise that we have turned around and are heading back to the car when it becomes incredibly necessary to pull back on our leads and make our owners drag us. Who wants to go home to lie on the deck in the sunshine, above the chickens and cats lying below being fed choice titbits and having our bellies scratched? We want more! We are thinking about forming a union and going on strike…no more barking at the cats on cue… no more random jumping on our owners in the night… no more pillow ripping until our demands are met! We will lay together, eyes baleful and tails pathetically down (STOP WAGGING YOUR TAIL EARL!) and will force them to give us our demands…

  1. The fridge will be left open at all times
  2. The gate will also be left open at all times
  3. Earl will be allowed to eat the new leads
  4. The chickens and cats will become “on” limits rather than off limits
  5. Food will be served at 30 minute intervals 24/7
  6. The car door will remain open so that we can hop in and go for a drive whenever we want
  7. Walking will be mandatory and compulsory and will be undertaken as soon as the 30 minute feeds have been eaten

If our humans refuse to give in to our demands we will be working to rule. We will only bark when they are watching something good on television and any burglars are welcome to help themselves unhindered by doggy alerts. We will play and jump all over them in the middle of the night and we will sit near the door and stare at them for hours on end to be let out, only to sit on the other side staring to be let back in as soon as we are out. We will also beg pathetically at every single meal no matter how disgusting (read “vegetables”…ECH!) it is just to remind them what good dogs we are and how very VERY bad we could actually be…

Interesting paper bags…

Here’s another good food blog that I found late one night and can’t for the life of me remember hitting the “follow” button for. It’s one of those lucky finds that I am actually glad I clicked because this blog makes eating vegan food feel like a sinful indulgence. Check this recipe out and you tell me that you wouldn’t like to take a slice of this…

http://tasty-yummies.com/2012/04/13/kalamata-olive-and-herb-socca-with-roasted-vegetables-gluten-free-vegan/

Beth looks like a quintessential vegan in her photo and she uses wholesome organic free range things. She is not a vegan but her vegetarian and vegan choices are all something that I would love to have placed in front of me on a regular basis. I checked out her website for her graphic art and was most impressed. Funky, Retro and very Vegan in flavour and by the look of it, an up and coming force in the graphic art world. Good luck Beth and cheers for the delicious recipes. Here’s the graphic art design website if you want to check out Beth and her hubby’s art work

http://heroandsound.com/

I just hit 2465 words. That’s about a fifth of my big post on the weekend and so I might just stop posting now. It’s going to take me a while to learn how to condense and compress my posts. Some of you might just say “Zip it!” (Physically and metaphorically) but that is most difficult for me because I am verbally and post verbose and it’s hard for me to change. I hope this little taste of Serendipity Farm mid-week has found you all hard at work doing whatever you do. I hope you haven’t succumbed to the Hump Day blues and that you are all focussing on your weekend ahead. Here on Serendipity Farm we do what we choose every day. We don’t have weekends because every day is our weekend. Before you all start to get irate and jump up and down at the injustice of “some people” having all the luck…there has to be SOME good points to being a penniless hippy student living on the bread line and that is our solace. See you all on the weekend and remember “Don’t do anything that I wouldn’t do” (so you are pretty much free to do whatever you like so long as you don’t take anyone else out with you when you crash ok? ;))