Teeny tiny pertinent post

Hi All,

 

Cheers for humouring me when I occasionally need to share a thought…I had just posted the last post (er…not “The Last Post” with a cornet… but my last post in the blog…) and on the side of the post (where you can’t see…only me…the genius that posts the post…) they had this little quote.

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. Gustave Flaubert

Every time I post they give me a little quote from some famous writer to inspire me to greatness. Gustave Flaubert may well have been a great French author…but the book “Flaubert’s Parrot” was an abject self indulgent tug! I couldn’t even finish it folks…as a representitive of Mary Anne Schaffer’s Bucket List of books I had to at least give it the old college try but it was so pretentious and hard going I had to give it the old heave ho and just got another war book from the list to take its place. I will let you know how it goes…See you on Saturday and lets just hope most of you get this post as WordPress seems intent on making me invisible!

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How to steal a life…

Hi All,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.landscapetanks.com.au

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

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

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

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

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

http://tapvision.info/node/117

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

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

Why hippies are thin

Hi All,

Have I piqued your interest yet? Over the last (almost) 2 years we moved from relative bliss in the suburbs, totally devoid of any understanding or care about where anything came from and just predating shopping centres at all hours of the day and night whenever our stomach’s rumbled or we felt like bedecking our intestines and arteries with some form of tasty chemical indulgence and got thrown into the abyss of country living. We didn’t have time to blink, let alone adjust to our situation; we were thrown in running and immediately started trying to reclaim Serendipity Farm from the clutches of chaos. I have discovered many important truths since we got brave enough to come out from under the bed what seems like eons ago and would like to share a few of them here with you now.

1. Everything wants to eat you or your possessions in the country. Termites, rats, mice, possums, wallabies, rabbits and in our case “Earl” all join together in a ferocious free for all as soon as you open the door and attempt to ingratiate yourself with any degree of wilderness and settle down out in the sticks

2. Life runs on a parallel time frame in the country. This is to be confirmed, but somewhat like the unseen university in the Discworld…country living has its own peculiar time portals that swallow you up and spit you out the other side confused and wondering why it is dark and where the day went…or I may have just been taken by aliens…either way, confusion reigns

3. Unlike living in an urban environment, your house in the country will instantly form a tiny microcosm where everything starts looping in cycles. In the city you feel small, in the country you are suddenly aware of how very important these little cycles are and your place within these cycles

4. You have to learn to think laterally when you live in the country. You also have to learn to think on your feet (sometimes concurrently with thinking laterally…no mean feat!) and you also have to learn to amuse yourself because the only other person here is watching The Swamp Men on television and isn’t likely to stop in the perceivable future

5. Last but not least…(this is where the title comes into it…aren’t you glad you kept reading?) everything takes a zillion more steps and 100 times more effort in the country when you are penniless student hippies (as most hippies are) and can’t just buy what you want or pay someone else to do it for you. Simply getting warm involves a trip up to the back block to collect some of the firewood that you hadn’t gotten around to moving down to the wood shed yet after chopping down the dead tree, chain sawing it into logs and splitting with a block splitter, isolating some kindling wood (usually whilst doing some form of callisthenic exercise involving bending and stretching up trees and under shrubs), running the gauntlet of getting the firewood past Earl who isn’t called “The eatinator” for nothing and then rubbing 2 sticks together for about 3 hours. Ok…so I fibbed about the last bit and we do use the occasional match (shock HORROR…send the environmental police around…sigh…). To get food you have to grow it yourself…to have a roast chicken you have to “first kill your rooster”. In the city you can live an idyllic life so far distanced from the origins of your food and without an exertive care in the world. You can reach for the telephone and all manner of piping hot (or its free!) comestibles will wend their merry way right to your doorway. Sugarplum fairies (or their corn syrup equivalent in the U.S.A.) lure you at every café, lunch bar and supermarket but out in the country you have to make your own and you are suddenly confronted with exactly how much of what is entering your digestive tract in the form of hidden fat, sugar and chemical enhancers. When you live in the country you either bury your head in the sand or you fess up to your previous life of sloth and degradation and start finding ways to turn it around and all of the “ways” involve hard slog and nutritional change. Enter the thin hippy. People who care tend to be thin. Do you know why? Because they are so busy racing around after causes, events, volunteering, eating on the run, thinking about their food and trying to eat ethically to put on weight. Hippies are thin because they are living nature how it was meant to be lived and whether or not they end up with a bit of diarrhoea from eating something unwashed, or left out for more than 10 minutes or that hasn’t been scrubbed within an inch of its life or doused in Dettol doesn’t matter because if you grow it yourself, and you embrace sustainable permaculture principals you can put a handful of that fecund dirt into your mouth and eat it and it will probably do you good! There you go…hippies (the lucky buggers) are thin because they are so active and vital and caring and concerned that they don’t even care about how much they weigh and so Murphy leaves them alone. No fun in shoving kilos onto someone who needs them is there?

I promised you a couple of photos of Targa. Steve was right on the corner when this car span out and got bogged. They had to sit out this stage of the time trials and were not all that happy about it!

This was supposed to be Steve’s moment of glory…his 15 minutes of fame…but they never used the footage of him jumping up and down, waving like crazy at the camera or of Serendipity Farm (which is where the helicopter is hovering in this picture). Steve says “Bollocks!” I say “Thank goodness! Did you even LOOK at yourself when you headed up the back paddock with the camera to take a few photos?!

Look at those eyes…latent suspicion and violent tendencies along with ninja stealth when it comes to hopping into my poor long suffering succulents…

The following pots are the sole remaining cacti and succulents that we could save from these marauding hyenas of the veld (a.k.a. ducks)

I used to have so many amazing cacti and succulents that I couldn’t even count them. Each one sourced locally and hunted in various nurseries, horticultural shows and small pieces given lovingly (and sometimes taken surruptitiously) by friends. You will notice that most of what remains is heavily armoured. I swear the ducks have been formulating a plant to remove the spines so we repotted them and put them up out of the assassins reach.

We are continuing on in the garden attempting to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Does that sound a bit like sour grapes? You are darned tootin it does! It seems like the more effort we put into removing years of neglect, the more like a barren wasteland Serendipity Farm is becoming. We have huge piles of debris littering the landscape; we are constantly followed by small members of the poultry confraternity standing in the arches of our boots waiting to catch all sorts of disenfranchised evicted creatures from their resting places in the shrubbery. Our 2 ducks, who until now have been somewhat suspicious of us and who have managed to maintain a significant distance between themselves and our person, have now decided that we are worse than Hitler because we have been removing all of the vegetation that they previously hid in whilst making surreptitious raids of my succulent patch. We have dispatched yet another rooster to that great roasting pan in the sky for attacking Pingu and pulling out heaps of feathers and forcing Effel to subject to depraved sexual acts. Goodbye Trogdor. I am sure you will make a very tasty roast dinner. I have noticed something very interesting about our poultry population. Big Yin is an amazing rooster. We couldn’t hope for a better one. He looks after the flock, he finds food, nests, shelter and anything else for his girls and makes sure that they get all of the choice titbits that we toss out to them throughout the day. As each new rooster gets old enough to start acting like roosters are prone to do, and we dispatch them summarily, the next rooster in line, who has until this point remained latent and benign and who hasn’t done much more than crow takes up the flag and starts roostering for all they are worth! No sooner had we dispatched Henry (rollins) the initial rooster who was causing problems in the hen house, Trogdor, who had up until that point been so benign that we had considered he might be gay, stepped up to the mark and became Big Yin’s chief nemesis. Now that Trogdor is out of the picture, Big Bertha (yeh…I know…good pick…sigh…) is crowing for all he is worth, molesting all and sundry and has just signed his gender confused death warrant in the process. We then have another quandary with Little red. He is the first of the feral chooks that live “elsewhere” to the chicken coop and we are going to have to hunt him down with a torch one night. Is it just me that takes great delight in reading my blog spam? I get quite a bit. Some days I get more spam than I get views! Lately I am getting some hilarious spam that I enjoy over my early morning cup of tea and guffaw outrageously at. Do yourselves a favour and have a read of your spam…it just might make your day :o). Here are 2 examples from my spambox (like a lunch box but with the vegetarian equivalent of spam luncheon meat…perhaps seitan?)…

“You know therefore considerably when it comes to this topic, produced me in my opinion consider it from a lot of varied angles. It’s like women and men aren’t interested unless it is something to do with Girl gaga! Your individual stuffs excellent. All the time care for it up!”

And how about this enlightened comment…

“Great beat! I wish to apprentice while you amend your web site, how can i subscribe for a blog site? The account aided me a acceptable deal. I had been a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided bright clear idea”

If anyone out there can enlighten me to what either of these comments actually mean I would be most interested to find out. Here’s one I actually sent on to share with my daughters the other day…

“You might want to revitalize your best then you will likely have large amounts with high supplement in the male body. Growth hormone is definitely a necessary lifestyle deliver by way of our company’s pituitary gland which may be the culprit for much of our maturity.”

There you go! I thought about hooking up to their company’s pituitary gland but then realised that it was the culprit for my maturity! See what you are all missing out there? Who needs to buy newspapers and turn to the funnies, these are MUCH funnier than that…

“Now you see me…now you don’t!”…one of Effel’s babies showing how well they can camoflage in with the endemic vegetation and why, despite her best efforts, she still has 8 of them.

Most people (at least in Tasmania) would see this pile of tyres that we inherited along with Serendipity Farm (and quite a few more to boot) as a problem. We don’t. We are going to have fun working out what to do with them. We could make a tyre garden. We could use them to make steps (found a site online that shows us how), or a retaining wall…or even as the basis for a wall filled with our local rocks and sand. There are so many ways to use old tyres so why are local Tasmanian’s throwing them into every ditch that they possibly can? Because they have to pay $5 a tyre to dispose of them at the local tip, THATS why…sigh…

This is what we have had to do to protect anything vaguely succulent in nature. Even euphorbia’s, with their irritating sap, are not safe from those feathered assassins…just take a look at that rectangular teracotta pot…the day before it was green! Today it is picked down to the brown base.

It’s Friday morning and we are having an unusual early morning off from walking the dogs. Today we are combining picking up my book requests from the Exeter library, hauling a mass of vanquished blackberry foes to the Exeter tip green waste centre and walking the dogs in one of their more preferred locations all at the same time. We have learned that multitasking saves time and money. One trip for 3 requirements makes me feel good. We had to learn that lesson the hard way when we first moved here. We spent so much time racing back and forwards between the city and here and we seemed to be constantly on the go. Now we wait, we plan and we make sure that we do as many things as we can whenever we get into the car. We have spent the last month really getting to grips with the tangle of foliage on Serendipity Farm. We know that autumn is the very best time to plant out our potted babies and so we are removing as much of the weedy neglect as we can to find space to give them the best start for the coming year. We have learned a lot about ourselves in the process and are starting to fall into our own routine. We have the peculiar distinction of being parents that leave their children. We left my son living in the rental house that we lived in when we moved here. He was working and inner city rentals were both expensive and difficult to find so he was happy to take over the lease. When we moved out to Serendipity Farm we left our two daughters (both adults before you start to phone social services…) in our house in town so rather than have our children move out on us leaving us empty nesters, we emptied ourselves out of the nest! We were in the most privileged of positions when my dad died to inherit 2 houses. My brother and sister both got 2 houses of their own and before anyone starts envying any of us, every single house came with an overwhelming list of repairs, neglect and mounting cost so each of us had to earn what we have inherited. Far from being ungrateful, I know that we have been given a very precious gift and that as penniless hippy 40 something students we would never have had the opportunity to buy a house let alone end up debt free like we are today. We love our life out here and are starting to get a feel for being 2 people out in the wilderness. There is something quite terrifying about being left alone with your partner. I think that is when many marriages start to fall apart and when a mans shed becomes more important than it has ever been before. That’s when there is no-one else to focus on and suddenly you are confronted with each other with no-where to hide. If you throw retirement into the process you get, most probably, the very first time that either of you have had to spend extended periods of time together and someone that you can share a house with for half a day quite easily can become “the enemy” overnight. You just have to watch “Keeping up appearances” with the ubiquitous Hyacinth Bucket (“Boo-kay…it is pronounced BOO-KAY”!) to see just how terrifying retirement must be to a couple. Again, Steve and I spend 24/7 together. Retirement will be much like school holidays…we most probably won’t notice it like we didn’t notice them so again we buck the system.

“Ok, so your back from town…these are in bags…and they appear to be some sort of food…”

“Wait a minute! There’s nothing tasty in these bags!”

2 distinct varieties of Jerusalem Artichokes that I picked up in one of our local green grocers when we were in town on Friday. I am most excited about being able to get really big interesting looking specimens like these and will be planting them out as soon as they start to sprout a little bit. I picked up 3 wizened tubers in a pack at Woolworths a few years ago and planted them out in our house in town. As I type this the girls have harvested tens of kilo’s of these tasty (albeit flatulence inducing but whats a little fart joke between friends?) tubers that have the added benefit of having pretty sunflower like flowers, being perenial and dying back so you can slash the stalks and use them for mulch and in having the ability to reproduce exponentially much to the Canadian’s amazement. They are classified as “weeds” in Canada. Obviously the Canadian’s are not able to take a (fart) joke…once you have these babies, forget about caring for them…they look after themselves and you won’t ever go short of nutty crunchy delicious tubers as they seem to be able to grow in any condition known to man

“Ok…theres nothing tasty in this lot of toys that they brought back from town…you know that someone is going to get the blame for all of this mess…”

Apparently Bernard and Manny (the Javanese Finches in the cage over to the right of this photo) did this. They have taken full responsibility and wish it to be known that they are ashamed of themselves and will clean up this mess post haste. They apparently did it alone with no help whatsoever…

There is nothing like living in the country to remove all pretention from a person. When your lower body is covered in mud and chicken manure, your arms are scratched up with hand to hand blackberry combat, you look like a brown zombie (who remembers sunscreen when you need to get up and going early before the sun is up) and you are starting to regret not listening to your lecturer when he said “don’t forget your earplugs when you use the chainsaw” because much like Pete Townsend, you are starting to have problems hearing people. You go to town looking peculiar because you have attempted to scrub your skin free of dirt and debris that has plastered itself violently all over you in your heady pursuit of finding something ordered in a sea of chaos and you turn up looking wide eyed and innocent in the middle of the city. Simple country folk. I no longer ask Steve “does my bum look fat in this?”…I say “can I get away with this…” or “are there any holes (Earl), stains (no end of creatures and situations want to stain everything that we own) or fraying (treacherous blackberries!)?” It’s no longer a matter of “I need that new shampoo to make my hair look like golden tresses” its “did I wash my hair? Are there any leaves in my hair? “Could you just get the scissors and trim it straight across the bottom for me?”…country life certainly changes a person and woe betide anyone who chooses to attempt to maintain their idealistic romantic notions of picnics in the fields and picking wildflowers and drinking wine out on the deck whilst gazing into the eyes of your lover because the chickens have been in the paddock first…the wildflowers are classified weeds and you had best remove them QUICK before DIPWE catches you with them on your property and your lover has already gulped his glass of wine down in one swig, is too tired to focus on your eyes and you both look like you have been dragged through a blackberry patch backwards (curiously…that saying is incredibly pertinent to our current situation!) and you BOTH have a headache. Much like Tom and Barbara Good from “The Good Life”, we are discovering that country living isn’t quite so idealistic and nostalgic as many wistful city dwellers might have us believe. In saying that, I wouldn’t give up what country living has done for us. We have a degree of freedom that we never had in the city. If I want to throw off my clothes post haste and hunt for leeches on the deck, so long as I don’t choose to do it at 12pm when the Tamar Cruiser wends its way past us on the river delivering its amplified speech about the Auld Kirk Church, I am safe to do so. We can start, finish and “do” whatever we want around here. We can eat what we want, when we want to. There are very few rules and regulations that have to be enforced and we are quickly discovering so much about ourselves and our place in the world and together that we would never have learned whilst surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city.

Another pile of vanquished blackberries off to the hoosegow  to do the time for crimes against mankind

And here they are effectively “zipped” (old school computer talk for condensing to all of you young hipsters out there…) and ready to dump at the Exeter Green Waste Centre. Here we are parked at the Exeter Library where I just picked up Flaubert’s Parrot and Women of the Silk to read over the coming week. I have a few more books in transit, I am getting greedy in my lust for literature…

I hereby swear never EVER to leave a library book lying on the kitchen table and head outside to see what Steve is on about. Earl took advantage of my 5 minutes respite from reading to ingest some literature of his own. Earl is now semi filled with war, death and “The Push”…sigh…the only thing that I have going for me this time is that the first entry in the fading yellow paged cello taped paperback copy of “A Covenant with Death” by John Harris was 1964, making this book almost as old as I am! Steve was actually born after this book entered library circulation and so I am going to argue my case if faced with a hefty bill for replacement. It seems fitting that a book has been dispatched today as we suddenly discovered 2 new roosters. That only leaves 1 of the heavier chickens that we imported in limbo as to its sex. My theory about roosters is gaining momentum as each time we dispatch a rooster, another “hen” steps up to take its place. We now know who is a hen and who isn’t apart from the younger ferals, Effel’s babies and the silver Wyandotte’s 3 who are now shared between a golden laced Wyandotte and the silver Wyandotte. We just took an afternoon wander around the property with Earl on a lead and Bezial free ranging. Wherever we have cleared in the last month is now able to get rainfall down to the soil and everything is looking happy and green. We are starting to work out what plants we can use from our large potted stash, and which plants we are going to have to get rid of. We donated 3 roses to our Polytechnic yesterday because they are simply possum fodder here. We are in the process of repotting all of our stock that we have grown including all sorts of maples (sourced from seed from all over the place) and all sorts of conifers (sourced from seed and cuttings from all over the place). Steve potted up some of our glasshouse specimens to give them some more room to grow and I dumped the remaining potting mix and left over tomato stems into our compost heap. I will be topping it up with spent chook roost hay covered in nitrogen rich manure when I clean out the hen house tomorrow. Bernard and Manny, our Java Finches, are getting their cage cleaned out as well and their spent hay will be added to our compost. It is now second nature to throw “anything that was once living” (apart from meat grandma!) into a smaller bucket in the pantry to be tossed out into the compost heap when it is full. We phoned up a local machinery hire agency and we can get a large chipper/mulcher for a weekend for $95. We have some BIG plans for that mulcher and hope to eliminate our massive great pyre of decaying branches down in the teatree gardens as well as crown lifting and mulching tree branches all over the property. We will remove the Photinia x fraseri “Robusta” that are on the dividing fence between our place and the graveyard at the Auld Kirk church and will mulch them all into a large heap to rot down and use in the garden elsewhere. We checked what had once been a large pile of oak leaves that we raked last year for Glad next door and it has rotted down to a very small amount. We will top it up this year with year 2 of raking and being neighbourly and will use the leaf mould on the garden as it becomes available. I love being able to reuse waste on site. The only thing that we are taking to the tip (vegetative matter wise) are the blackberries. One day, when the blackberries are at a manageable level we will be able to make weed tea out of them but we don’t have a large enough vat to tackle the vast amount that we are dealing with at the moment. We need to isolate some plants for our garden starting with a source of Moringa olifera or drumstick tree. This tree is amazing. You can count the things that this tree ISN’T good for on one hand. We would also like to give neem a go. I know we are not tropical but we do have a range of plants growing here that shouldn’t be happy to do so including Jacaranda’s, Brachychitons and 2 Sydney red gums that should be roots up in Tasmania let alone thriving like ours are. We would like to see if we can grow as many of our own insecticides, food trees, medicinal plants etc. on site. I look forwards to hunting them down and sourcing nurseries and individuals with stock that we can buy swap or take cuttings/seed from.

Here are the veggies and the 15 (hand counted) whole peppercorns ready to be put into the stock water when the carcass has been simmering gently for an hour and fifteen minutes. 45 minutes later we had very unphotogenic but probably heavenly stock

The last of our elephant garlic that we grew this year. Juicy, hot, spicy and incredibly fragrant it was really something compared to the cheap imported garlic that is available in the shops.

Colours…we need coloured food for antioxidents and for visual appeal. I don’t like chunks of carrot so we tend to use a vegetable peeler to make long quick cooking strips that are perfect for stir fries

This pile is waiting to be turned into Steve’s special fried rice

Ok…so this home made black bean sauce doesn’t look all that tasty…that is a BIG understatement, but this fragrant paste is redolent with flavour, heat, texture and low food miles using our own garlic, chillies, local olive oil and only the black beans (salted) were imported. I dare say we could have found an Australian source if we tried or I could turn to my trusty typed out copy of “The Permaculture Book of Ferment and Human Nutrition” and make my own! I love a challenge especially a food challenge. I once made a man with Coeliacs who was also unable to have dairy a vegan pizza made with spelt (he didn’t react to spelt) and home made vegan dairy free cheeze. He hadn’t had pizza in 6 years and apparently ate most of the enormous offering all by himself with no reaction whatsoever. As I said…I LOVE a challenge 🙂

Steve cooking up the veggies and black beans for the brown rice fried rice

Check out the colour in our home grown free range eggs…I almost needed sunglasses to make this omelette for Steve’s stir fry

This chicken has been marinating in chilli flakes, sesame oil and some mirin overnight in the fridge

Brown rice black bean fried rice…absolutely delicious!

The eggs are still this colour when you cook them. Here they are waiting to be divided into 2 portions. One for Steve’s meal and one for the dogs to share. The utensil here is an Australian designed and made “Chopula” made by Dreamfarm, a forward thinking sustainable company who really does care about all aspects of their production. I love this egg slice. It will sit on the bench when not being used without leaving any of its current occupying foodstuffs on the bench. It will hook on the side of the pan when you are cooking and you can chop, slice etc. whatever you are cooking and the shape allows the easiest flipping of a frypan full of pikelets that I have ever experienced. Hell yeh I am promoting this amazing tool! Do yourselves a favour and buy yourself one. These guys are not paying me to promote them, they just deserve it they are so good 🙂

I have just discovered (purely by accident) a site where I can get a like for like copy of A Covenant with Death sent to me for $12. Cheers Jennifer of Parklea books! She might have had to lift it from her market stall but lift it she did and as soon as I can verify her account details the $12 will be wending its merry way to Jennifer and that well-aged paperback will be handed in along with my freezer bag of torn shreds (Earl never does anything by halves…) as replacement all before I have to suffer the injustice of not being able to take any more books out of the library until I replace it. Steve and I decided to cook today and to take advantage of the stove being on to do as many things as we could. We used some of the first rooster to make a chicken stew to be frozen and used later on. We put the rooster carcass and wings on to gently simmer and made a large pot of free range stock with surprisingly little fat despite me leaving the skin on the carcass. We then made a crunchy oat slice for Steve (and the dogs) and cooked a large pot of brown rice and dried it out in the warming oven for my meal of fried rice tonight. Into the fried rice went diced onion, diced yellow (hydroponic) capsicum, the last of our fresh garlic that we managed to wrestle from the wallabies crushed, some chopped mushrooms, some carrot and lots of secret sauces etc. that Steve throws in at the last minute to make something truly delicious. He had stir fried marinated chicken with home-made black bean sauce. We like to do as many things as we can ourselves and after seeing a recipe for black-bean sauce online I decided to try it. The result is salty, hot and sweet and absolutely delicious! We have various pots of food cooling all over our kitchen so that we can prep them and fridge or freeze them depending on their future use. Steve has a whole bowl of left over stir fry and will have that tomorrow night with some of my brown rice fried rice and who knows what I will have…we tend to wing it! I was going to watch some television tonight but remembered that I had to post so you saved me from brain numbing. I am instead going to play Hammer Heads, a most interesting hybridisation between whack-a-mole and gnome warfare. One day I am going to beat the king. Until then, I can but keep trying to whack my hardest and give it the old college try. When I get bored with that I can read Flaubert’s Parrot or sit by the fire with a big cup of tea and simply ruminate mentally about life, the universe and everything (hopefully I don’t get sued by Douglas Adams for that!) Have a great week and see you on Wednesday. Hopefully I will have done something by that stage to share with you as our weather is apparently going to be drizzly for the foreseeable future. Not that I mind, I LOVE the rain :o)