Finding happiness in simple things

Hi Folks

I wanted to start this week’s post off with a simple but most beneficial truth that I learned this week and if I learn nothing else this month…perhaps even year…this is a goodn’. Do you ever keep getting the same message over and over and over again? I have been revisiting the “be grateful and thankful and happy with what you have and simple things” message a lot lately. Just about every blog post, FB page update (that I sporadically look at) and website that I access has some hidden message just for narf7 that involves me thinking about how very lucky I am to be learning how to be so happy with so little. When you can be content with little you are truly blessed.

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“What do we have here?” (after changing my clothes to repeat the original “what do we have here” but after a quick change in clothing so as not to look like Granny weather wax out of the Discworld witches series 😉 )

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Potato onions! Sent by Jess from rabbidlittlehippy. Out of season, and the people at Yelwek farm in Tassie couldn’t have bent over further to make this happen if they were contortionists. I couldn’t believe the amazing customer service folks. If you are in the market for potato onions (white or brown) or oca, the delicious little multi coloured yam fest of great happiness or if you want to wait a little bit because they are just about to add onion shallots to their fantastic repertoire (and they sent me 2 for free to trial!), check out their website and do yourselves a favour and buy some and support a small grassroots company that could do with your business. These guys make buying something fun 🙂 Oh, by the way…that isn’t really wurzel gummidges nose…it’s ALL mine! 😉 In my defence, I was running on 4 hours sleep and my eyes felt like boiled onions by this stage of the day 😉

http://yelwekfarmoca.com/

I got the most overwhelming sense of bliss just walking into my veggie garden to water it yesterday. A true and most complete sense of being right with the world. As I watered (and flattened my veggies with their regular quotient of H2O) my mind wandered around all over the place as it tends to do. Just a quick aside…scientists have proven that older people don’t forget things because they are suffering from dementia as a rule, they forget things because they have SO MUCH INFORMATION CRAMMED IN THEIR HEADS that some leaks out. I, for one, will be supporting that scientific study with my hand on my heart and a fierce sense of loyalty most probably far outweighed by the studies weight in the scientific community 😉

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I was supposed to get 10 of each…as you can see (if you are furiously counting…) I got 14 brown potato onions and 12 white and see that lovely little card filled with helpful information? How amazing are these guys eh? 🙂

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One of my “pretties”. I don’t have a lot of them and indeed, I almost didn’t have this one. This is a tuberous begonia. I thought that this particular specimen had carked it so I tossed it outside the glasshouse where the poor thing overwintered completely devoid of potting mix and then started to grow little green leaves as soon as spring hit. I couldn’t believe it when I noticed it growing tenaciously next to the glasshouse. Here it is reminding me that I don’t know everything and that sometimes, what you throw out is beautiful…”be careful what you throw away”. Life lesson learned 🙂

I usually get up at 3am, have my first life giving and most wonderful mug (bucket) of tea soon after. It accompanies me as I browse and read blog posts delivered to me overnight into my RSS Feed Reader without which I would have to sift a whole lot more dross before I found the pure gold. I slowly sip my life giving elixir and all is right with the world. I don’t allow myself another cuppa till I get back from walking Earl. I do this because otherwise I have to find tracts of bushland in order to evacuate said extra mug (bucket) and you just never know who is watching 😉 that was up until today. Today I have coined the phrase that is going to accompany through 2014 and most probably the rest of my life. “Do simple things that make you happy”. Simple things like have that extra cuppa, go and read that book, stop following the dogs and sweeping behind them and go out to the garden instead and just sit and plan…little things that make my heart sing, my soul smile and that I keep putting off because I have so much to do…”so much to do” can wait. Life is here now and I want to enjoy it to the max 🙂

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One of the “mints” that I pulled from out of the pathway at the community orchard in Deviot turned out to be a bee balm 🙂

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My latest 2 fig “cuttings”. The one of the right appears to be happy but the one of the left might have been just a teensy bit too big to survive on the small amount of roots that this ground layer had managed to set down. Time will tell

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What happens when plants are happy…you get fruit!

I kept coming up against reviews for the book “Eat, Pray Love” last year. I fortuitously found a copy for 20c at a local op shop and thought that it was a sign that I should read it. Sometimes signs are put there in order for you to learn, and sometimes they are put there for some higher being to have a bit of a laugh. I get the feeling it was the latter case for me in this situation. I settled down to read the book and by the time I got to chapter 3 I couldn’t stand the heroine and was starting to wish terrible things down upon her self-indulgent head. I stopped reading it and vowed never to let it, or anything written by its author darken my doorstep again! “Eat, Pray, Love” was supposed to teach me something and indeed it did. It taught me “never rely on someone else’s reviews to dictate what is and isn’t going to be a good read!” Earl has his own version of “Eat, Pray, Love” it’s called “Eat, Prey, No love involved” I don’t want to give people the wrong impression about American Staffies. They get a bad rap through the press as it is but there are some dogs that are just born hunters and Earl is one of them. Bezial, also an American Staffy, isn’t. He was born with a black and white peace sign planted square on his private parts and he has been keeping the peace ever since. When Steve and I have one of our rare arguments (I argue, he hides) Bezial is right there between us gently pressing his warmth up against the protagonist (that would be me) and attempting to sooth the waters and bring about peace. Maybe he is the reincarnation of Ghandi and is asking me with those doggy eyes to give non-violent protest a chance 😉

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Happy mango seedlings grown from a seed. Time to repot them into bigger pots and let them overwinter another year before planting them out in the spring

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The tall (and most spectacular) euphorbia here was grown from a small piece pinched from a friends succulent. The cactus below it came in my mum’s shoe from Western Australia 😉

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The “Lone Banana” of Serendipity Farm still going after 4 seasons in our small glasshouse

Bezial will walk through the middle of a motley collection of chooks, cats, and small furry critters completely ignoring them. He would most probably love to leap into the centre of them and frolic for all he is worth but he knows that his freedom and ability to wander at will on Serendipity Farm (where Earl is on a leash at all times…) rely on him playing pool with our wishes. I must admit he does get a bit excited when he sees a rooster and that may, or may not, have something to do with me “releasing the hounds” (well…Bezial…) on said roosters whenever they bail up a poor unsuspecting hen and force their unwanted attentions upon her. Rape is rape folks. I am NOT speciesist and Bezial is my weapon of choice. Earl would do as good a job but the raper AND the rapee would both suffer the consequences of my outrageous indignation 😉

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More exotics…if you don’t try them you will never know. The large leafed beauties are turmeric, grown from a single organic rhizome bought from the health food shop and the lush leaves in the background are avocado’s grown from seed. The palmate leaf on the left hand lower side is my choko (“YES JESS I AM GOING TO PLANT IT OUT!” 😉 )

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A fully enclosed, “Garden Room” that I haven’t thought of what to put in here yet. Any ideas?

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Scarlet runner bean futures. They can be eaten green in their pods or dried and cooked from dry. A most ambidextrous bean indeed 🙂

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Pumpkins (triffids) who have decided that the grass is greener on the other side of the compound and who are heading off in a most determined way to prove it!

Look what I found the other day…a hazelnut! 🙂 we dug this small sapling up from a farm that we were working on. It was supposed to be discarded but we asked if we could have it and this year it has a solitary hazelnut. That’s what this is all about folks 🙂

You are getting 2 posts today. 1 recipe and 1 regular. I made the recipe the other day and saw that it had incredible possibilities and just wanted to share it with you all, especially Wendy from Quarter Acre Lifestyle  because she is a fellow penniless middle aged bit-of-a-health-nut hippy and would completely and utterly “get” the benefits to this recipe 🙂 I have since had an inquiry from Jess at rabbidlittlehippy asking about how I make my buckwheat porridge. That’s a much easier proposition than this cereal but I must admit, I love this bolshie buckwheaty granola stuff. I have eaten it every day for breakfast since I made it and it keeps me full until dinner time. When you look into buckwheat you start to realise that it is a nutritional powerhouse

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=11

It has a distinct earthy flavour to it that I love but if you mix it with other flavours it carries them well. It grows well in just about any conditions, it can take extreme heat and extreme cold and it seems to like being beneficial in all stages of it’s life cycle. I love a good multi-use plant!

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I found some calendula (marigold) seeds on a plant on the side of the road verge the other day and decided to plant them and here are the very first marigolds grown by narf on Serendipity Farm 🙂

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Beans growing in the experimental compost heap of great glory. Please don’t ask me what kind…no idea…just beans 🙂

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These small seedlings are of a perennial plant known as “coin plant” or “honesty”

I am just waiting on my good friend Jenny previously known as “she-who-can’t-be-named”. She is the taskmaster who forced me to plant out a vegetable garden this year and so I guess I owe her for the entire mass tangle of fecundity that is threatening to take over Sidmouth as I type. I was watering happily the other day when I realised that as much as I adore permaculture and harvests, this little patch of green has fed my soul by simply being an oasis of growth in a sea of rapidly declining green cum brown paddock. It stands out like a beacon and at any time of the day you can find chooks circling it trying to scratch their way into the paradise beyond. Good luck with that chooks…after an early oversight on our behalf and a small invasion of the possum kind where said possum harvested a pathway right through my silverbeet and a small apple tree and ate a lime off a tiny little lime tree (that was how I knew we had been invaded by one of our furry foes…nothing else would eat an unripe lime!) which Steve and I patched up and fortified like Fort Knox, we haven’t had any other nocturnal (or otherwise) invaders to speak off aside from the odd insect but we also have a wonderful lizard population and a spider underclass that seem to be doing a sterling job of keeping the pest species to a minimum

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The view of the (triffid) garden from up in the top right hand corner

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This is what used to be my compost heap experimental patch and has been renamed the pumpkin patch

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Potted edibles mix with their raised bed siblings

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I got this red clover a year ago as an emaciated half dead specimen on the side of the road and it loves it’s new home on Serendipity Farm

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Another view point of the garden

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And yet another one. Whipper snipping the circumference of the garden beds made it much easier to really see the garden and how it is doing. Prior to this the grass and weeds were almost as high as the garden beds

My younger sister Cathy aka Pinky, got married last Thursday. She and her wonderful partner Jason have been together for almost 15 years and they finally decided to tie the knot. I am incredibly happy for them both because they are 2 of my most favourite people in the world. Cathy and I might be 2 strong women with strong personalities to go with the territory and it’s probably good that we are separated by a vast chunk of rocky Australia for most of the time but we would fight to the death for each other…she knows that I have her back and any time she really needs me, I will be there. Seriously Pinky…if you need a gas bottle changed, just send me a plane ticket and I will be there! 😉

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How we cook our dinner on a hot HOT summer’s night…outside with a view and accompanied by an ice cold beer 😉

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I took this shot to show Jess what feverfew flowers look like and decided that it was pretty so I am sharing it with you here 🙂

Well I don’t think I should waffle on too long in this post. Aside from wanting to get these 2 posts up and loaded nice and early, I have 2 of them to box your ears with and can’t expect you to wade through two long epistles in a single sitting. Have a fantastic week. Here in the South East of Australia we are copping a fair bit of heat at the moment but sooner than we know it, it will be autumn and that chilly wind will start to blow heralding another 6 months of Brunhilda crackling most companiably with me on my early morning starts. See you next Wednesday 🙂

“On the scrounge again…”

Hi All

“I just can’t wait to get on the scrounge again…” (ALL apologies to Mr Willy Nelson for taking his sterling effort and narforising it…)

Disclaimer…just before you start attempting to wade through this post it is probably one of the longest posts I have ever put on this blog. I completely and utterly forgive you if you just want to flick through the images and get a visual idea of what the post is about today. I guess summer has just taken over my brain…its my excuse, and I am sticking with it! 😉

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These are Gladioli carmineus corms. Gladioli carmineus (Mini Gladioli) are a low growing gladioli that grow quickly and spread like wildfire. I got these bulbs when leaning over a gardeners fence and admiring her plants on one of my morning walks with Earl

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Steve gets the bucket and I get the tahini from inside it…a win-win situation

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Whatever these plums are they are not cherry plums. I noticed these on a small tree amongst some wild cherry plums so I picked some before the possums stripped the tree and am going to plant out the seeds

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geranium cuttings and the reason why you pick fruit when it is green around here…the possums sampled my pilfered plums…cheeky sods!

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I am a manic list maker…here you see some of my lists, some clasps to ensure that the hose doesn’t blow (again) and bags of chia, quinoa and amaranth seed that I am going to plant along with some buckwheat as experimental crops this year

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The hay bales in Steve’s shed have just been appropriated for “other purposes”. I don’t mind, at least I know where this nest is!

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Looks like it has more than one occupant!

Well here I am again on Wednesday but what a difference a couple of weeks makes to this little black duck. 2 weeks ago I was a spent husk. Today I am bursting with possibilities. December 1st was apparently the first day of summer but Tasmania seems to have decided to succeed from the rest of the world and do its own thing and we have had spring, autumn, winter and a tiny hint of summer thrown in over the course of the last 2 weeks. I can’t say I mind. I love all of the rain that we are having and so does the garden. 2 weeks ago the veggie garden was a sad reminder that I had been hiding under the bed with my fingers in my ears a little bit too long but the season appears to have been hiding under the bed with me so everything is rosy on Serendipity Farm.

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Steve’s Chinese (larger) bonsai Japanese maple that he sourced from under the deck as a tiny seedling and has been training for 3 years now with it’s own nitrogen fixing crop of clover growing with it

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A little primrose and a strappy liriopes both bought from the little stall at the top of the hill for $2 each

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When I sorted through the potted plants I found this succulent that is just about to flower and a lavender that I can plant out in the garden

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My newly purchased Egyptian walking onion and perennial leeks along with grape vines grown from cuttings from a Muscat grape and pelargonium and scented geranium cuttings sourced from one of our walks

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Healthy melon and capsicum (pepper) plants that my daughter Madeline grew from seed and that are excess to her needs so I get some (cheers Madeline 🙂 )

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More geranium and pelargonium cuttings. I usually take a whole lot more care with cuttings but geraniums and pelargoniums are very hardy and should all strike no problems

The vegetable garden is going great guns. Because of all of the rain that we have been having, the rest of the garden is great gunning as well; especially the forget-me-nots that I am studiously pretending don’t exist much to their amusement. I looked down at my jeans yesterday after I had gone hunting for eggs amongst the undergrowth (I live in hope and am ever optimistic…) and I was covered in forget-me-not seeds…the little buggers LOVE me! Earl, who had accompanied me on lead was also covered in forget-me-not seeds BUT the difference was, he just shook himself and they magically dropped off him…I attempted to follow suit and nothing happened…I was still scraping them off my jeans and muttering under my breath when I managed to haul Earl up the deck steps to the deck above. If truth be told, the jeans aren’t the only thing that is covered in forget-me-not seeds but every time I get infested I toss the item into the washing and continue on regardless “I CAN’T hear you forget-me-nots!”

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Wheeling loquat seedlings, cherry plum seedlings and displaced herbs around to the veggie garden from the shed

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An oak leaf hydrangea flower on the way

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The only thing stopping this artichoke and the Jerusalem artichoke in this photo from being scoffed are the forget-me-nots and other “garden miscellanea” in this garden bed preventing the chooks from being able to see them

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Looking back from the first garden to the house where you can see one of our fine specimens of guard dogs on alert…pity they weren’t on alert the other day when we had some Jehovah’s witnesses breach the compound, walk up the steps, come onto the deck and tap on my window for a good 5 minutes before I realised that it wasn’t Earl’s tail on the window, it was (shock horror) PEOPLE! I calmly informed them that I had NO idea why our big dogs hadn’t bounded around the corner barking to greet them, politely said “no thank-you” when offered literature and said goodbye to them as they headed back down the steps. Suddenly the deck started to rumble, an eruption of barking ensued and shamefaced dogs who had been sleeping on the job pelted down to bark off the intruders…sigh…

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I hope you are all getting the picture as to why I am hiding under the bed and have NO idea where to start in the garden. Everything has gone completely mental and who would know what most of this is!

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Our mountain of home grown compost underneath some ex fish farm netting that has been dampened to keep the worms in it happy

Now that I am free to wander around the garden at will (forget-me-nots and all…) I have rediscovered my love of gardening all over again. It goes dormant for winter and appears to have erupted out of me with a vengeance this year. As a penniless student hippy who desires to live simply and sustainably I have to find all kinds of different ways to get what I want that don’t involve the green folding stuff (or even the silver stuff to be honest 😉 ) and the last week has seen me scrounging with impunity to our advantage. Here is a list of recent scrounges…

  1. Live Christmas trees scrounged by Stevie-boy, the son-and-heir, his Texan sweetie and my daughters from the firebreak between a pine plantation and our friends property
  2. 2 x 20 litre tahini buckets scrounged by Stevie-boy from Wholesome House health food shop for his shed that contained enough organic tahini to fill a large glass jar…BONUS!
  3. A visit to the Deviot Heritage Apple and Pear enclosed orchard yielded rooted cuttings of various kinds of herbs that had gone rampant into the path and that are now replanted into a large pot
  4. More angelica seed from the same garden scattered all over the place on Serendipity Farm
  5. Some cuttings of Tagetes lemmonii (an aromatic shrub native to south-eastern Arizona and south into Mexico) that I have on the windowsill in a mug of water with the hopes that the cuttings will produce roots
  6. 4 more small loquat trees that are now potted up and happy as clams in the veggie garden
  7. Lots of cherry plum seedlings found on a recent walk down at Bonnie Beach that are going to become the welcoming fence line trees on Serendipity Farm in the future
  8. A selection of pelargoniums and geranium cuttings that were sourced from plants growing on the side of the road on another one of our walks recently. I realised that some areas of Serendipity Farm are always going to be pretty arid so have decided to grow plants that will be able to tolerate low water conditions and geraniums and pelargoniums are perfect cheerful specimens. Soon to come will be lavender cuttings, rosemary cuttings and anything else that I deem drought ready and willing
  9. I walked with Earl over the Batman again and took my secateurs and a large plastic bag this time and arrived back home with cuttings from Cistus x “Purpureus” (Pink Rock Rose) and that unknown grey leaved sage type plant that I am experimenting with. I have put half of them in a glass of water on my kitchen windowsill and the other half are in potting mix in the veggie garden
  10. Seeds, seeds and MORE seeds…collecting like a crazy woman from wherever I can see something that I like (that doesn’t involve pole vaulting over someone else’s garden fence 😉 )
  11. I found a stash of possum sucked loquat seeds underneath a large loquat tree that I may, or may not have been going to predate (but the possums got there first…) and brought them home and shoved them into the ground in likely places of survival all over Serendipity Farm. I kept 5 back to plant in potting mix as I love loquats and want them all over the place as part of my lines of defence between us and the marauding natives. I figure, by the time they get to the heart of our garden where the “good” things are, they will be so stuffed full on lesser fruits that they will hardly be able to waddle…ever the optimist is narf7 😉
  12. I have been snacking on native cherry fruit as I have been walking Earl in the mornings down Auld Kirk Road. There is a particular tree that Earl likes to make a fuss over (due to a large brown hound once attempting to accost Earl in this exact place…) that gives me a little time to snack on the large native cherry tree in the vicinity. The fruits are small, reminiscent of cashew fruit with the seed sticking out the bottom of the fruit and the same shape (except a lot smaller) and quite tasty when they are ripe. There are so many of them the birds can’t actually keep up with them this year.
  13. Free seedlings from Madeline, my eldest daughter including red capsicum seedlings and some kind of melon (either rock or honeydew). I am just about to clear them their very own mountain of horse poo to grow happily in. The pumpkins that sprouted from compost hurled under the horse poo before we sunk the first pole in the veggie garden are all starting to grow like crazy so some melons may as well join the parade
  14. Still finding lots and lots of beer bottle caps on the side of the road that I am collecting to make this

That’s only a small selection of free or minimal cost things that I have been hunting out with a view to utilising them on Serendipity Farm. I get so excited about the possibilities of growing free plants and guess what I did this week…I FINALLY managed to sort through all of the potted plants and move them to one area. Steve helped me set up the overhead watering system so that most of them get watered without effort and only a few are going to need to be watered with the hose but pretty soon we will be taking some of them off to one of the Deviot Saturday morning basket markets with a large painted sign saying “Free to good home”. I would like to think that people will make the most of some free plants for their garden and that our potted babies will make someone else happy 🙂

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Even the possums have been hiding under the bed when faced with the wealth of crazy undergrowth that Tasmania is generating. I am starting to think that we have switched poles and Tasmania is the new Bali! This rose bush is usually twigs. It lives as twigs for most of the year and then goes twiggily dormant…this year it has been allowed to keep it’s leaves and these little roses smell amazing. “Cheers possums!”

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Steve’s Strelitzia’s are just about to bloom and this large black cicada has just hatched out of his pupae and is waiting for his wings to harden enough for him to fly off to the trees above and join hundreds of his brethren in a chorus that will herald the heat of summer. They are great food for birds and other animals and every 4 years we get invaded by these huge slow chirping behemoths

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The offending pipe that kept blowing apart when we turned the tap on in the veggie enclosure. This pipe is all that stands between water and the garden so I mended it today with some of those clips that you saw in an earlier image. Soon we will get another water tap inside the enclosure but for now this one is good enough

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This used to be the first series of 3 garden beds in our original set-up. We were late to the game this year so decided to use the existing infrastructure to get going sooner and after pulling out the now unnecessary partitions we have a fair bit more room to grow veggies

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The bed in the foreground contains silverbeet that our horticulture friend Jenny gave us months ago. They were languishing in a cardboard box with most of their soil washed away and I am amazed that they survived, let alone are growing like crazy now! It can only attest to their hardiness

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Next time I plant carrots I will use seed tape…as you can see “someone” accidentally tipped a few extra seed halfway along that third row…oh well, the packets were only $1 each and the thinnings should be prolific

I have been studiously ignoring Christmas almost as much as I have been ignoring the forget-me-nots to the same effect…it is just flowing past me regardless. I have reached a point where I am just about ready to tentatively stick my toe into the Christmas tide BUT I will be doing it at my pace and point blank refuse to get caught up in the hype. The television is manic with “GREAT DEALS FOR CHRISTMAS” but narf7 is content with “slowly, slowly catchy monkey”. Wouldn’t a monkey be great on Serendipity Farm? He could live in the veggie garden and have fun with the possum marauders on their nocturnal visits…but seriously, this year will be spent doing what we want, when we want. A most glorious wish and one that I get the feeling I just might get.

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Rows of peas going crazy…now I just have to work out how I am going to support them when they get bigger

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On the left hand side of this small garden bed are some scarlet runner beans that formed large bulbous tubers last year and that the chooks scratched most of the soil away from. I didn’t expect them to grow back this year but once we topped up the soil and added lots of horse manure they started growing again. Bonus crop with no sowing effort at all!

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The nut trees that had been living in Steve’s shed to protect them from the native animals are much happier out in the open

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My 2 yacon plants surrounded by the pallid tendrils of a forgotten bag of potatoes in the back of the pantry

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Horse poo mountain that I am going to leave in this spot because all of these pumpkins spontaneously grew here. I must have dumped some household compost underneath this spot and now they are growing happily…more plants that I didn’t have to coax to seedling height and transplant out…I LOVE this gardening lark!

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More free plants. This time they are some of the strawberries that I sourced from a stack of strawberry runners that someone threw onto the green waste at the local dump. Their loss, my gain! This pot is one of almost 15 that we will be planting out “somewhere” inside the veggie compound

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The Egyptian walking onion and perennial leeks in situ. Is it just me or does that Egyptian walking onion look like Earthworm Jim? 😉

Bev, from the wonderfully inventive and sustainable blog “Foodnstuff” posted a post this week that was completely invigorating and got me out and about collecting plant material and getting stuck into the garden. Sometimes you just need a gentle shove and Bev’s post was mine. If you would like to see how a real garden works, click on the link above and head on over and check out Bev’s garden full of possibilities. I love Bev’s blog because every time I see a new post it gives me some new ideas and new ways of doing things that I didn’t know before. I am ever on the scrounge for useful information and Bev’s blog is cram packed full of it

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The sum total of the lettuce population in the garden…a bit sad really but we are just about to remedy this problem. I have to use slug/snail pellets in the garden at the moment because they appear to have heard on the grapevine that there is free grub on Serendipity Farm and I am NOT losing any more food to freeloading varmints…

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Looking into the veggie garden at the possibilities…note the amazing architectural construction of the gateway into the garden. Another one of my dad’s “wonderful creations”. I am just REALLY glad that he didn’t build the house! 😉

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Note the garden is now taking over the “lawn”. Note also that someone has to mow the lawn! (Note to self…mow the lawn BEFORE you show them another photo of this area! 😉 )

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This is what is commonly called “Elephants Ears” or Bergenia cordifolia by people who want to appear horticulturally clever “You KNOW who you are!”

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Note Earl has just about had enough of me walking backwards and forwards and taking photos…We picked up that Cray pot full of floats for $5 at the last progressive garage sale in march…I love the progressive garage sale 🙂

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Sadly, I don’t know what this is. I bought it in a pot at Wychwood because the lady told me that it was hardy. Here you can see it fighting a loosing battle against some native raspberries (note to self add “make tepee’s for the native raspberries as number 732 on your to-do list”…sigh…)

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Unlike the unknown perennial that the native raspberries are attempting to throttle, these little guys are edible. They are going great guns in the garden under the deck and you can see the small fruit forming on the vines now

I am just about to gird my loins and head off to a local friend’s home and spend some time chatting to her about making my idea about developing local community a reality. I know that there are a lot of people living in the area who might be interested in getting together with other like-minded people in order to develop our local community and share our combined knowledge to everyone’s advantage. My idea is to have a meeting to see how many people are interested, to start a group of us that are interested in getting together over a cuppa for a crafting group, baking circle, gardening group etc. all invested in teaching each other new skills and forging a sense of community here in tiny little riverbank Sidmouth. Stevie-boy suggested the name “Sidmouth Sustainability Group” which sounds like a plan to me and my friend is the perfect place to start because she has been a “hippy” for most of her life and knows more about sustainability than I have had hot dinners (and that is a LOT folks 😉 ). Together we should be able to at least host a few interesting talks about various subjects ranging from keeping goats, making goat cheese, spinning, gardening (Roxy) through to keeping ferments, cooking for allergies etc. (me). The idea keeps lodging itself in my head and I think it’s the right time to bring it to fruition. I will keep you in the loop about how it pans out but I doubt I will do anything about it till after Christmas (oh NO! I said it! If you acknowledge it, it will come! Sigh…)

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This spot under the deck is very dry and this is where I am going to plant lots of those pelargoniums and scented geraniums in order to keep moisture in the soil and to grow other shrubs that wouldn’t otherwise survive in this arid spot. There was nothing here last year and as you can see, we have some plants growing. A note to anyone who thinks that where they live won’t grow flowers. Plant snap dragons. Those snapdragons are self sown from “somewhere” (dad most certainly didn’t sow them!) and keep coming back and spreading year after year.

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This was a scented geranium that I potted up as a cutting last year that we planted out earlier in spring

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So is this one. They are hardy, have pretty flowers that stay on the shrub all summer and whenever they are touched by anything (including wind or water) they release a lovely scent. The perfect plant for under the deck on a hot summers day 🙂

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This bottlebrush seems happy out the back but it will soon be enclosed inside the dogs compound (we are going to extend it) so I can’t vouch for it’s continued happiness. We can only hope that Earl decides to “mark” things a bit further afield but I won’t hold my breath…

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Steve’s collection of “Solar Groovers”, little solar powered things that he has collected that wiggle in his music room window. You can see one of his tab books on the music stand in the background.

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Back on the deck now (much to Earl’s delight) and looking back towards the veggie enclosure. Note the gypsy hoards of chooks wandering around pinching things…sigh…

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Our bedroom window with assorted vegetation

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“Someone” who wishes to remain anonymous because he was a very silly man, left the door to the pantry open where he had placed his nice new crocs that he had purchased the day before…

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We can’t be having Earl get ALL the attention now…better do my cute “upside down” number and have a bit of a chew on what was left of that croc while I do…

Looks like I have earbashed you again but like the large black cicada’s that are hatching out all over the place, my summer exoskeleton is firming up nicely and I will be ready to fly in a week or so. I have even been contemplating the Christmas meal! Next week I will have the tree put up and decorated (although it will probably take me a month to take it down again…), decorations made of an interesting baking soda clay from this site… and goodness only knows what else will be fermenting on Serendipity Farm so stay tuned for the next summery instalment of simple sustainability on Serendipity Farm and enjoy your nice warm fires and hot chocolate because at the moment, I am doing the very same thing! 😉

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The cherry plum seedlings that I found on our walk at Bonnie Beach

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The loquat seedlings that I found on our walk in Deviot…if you keep your eyes open and look for things you would be amazed at what is right there on the ground

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I was happy to get a red cherry plum seedling so it should remain true to type and stay red as it grows with red cherry plums

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The herbs that I pulled out of the sawdust path at the Apple and pear heritage orchard in Deviot. No idea what they are but probably some form of mint. They look a bit sorry at the moment but they will soon perk up. Anything with a square stem (minty sage type families) tends to be very hardy

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Some of the cuttings that I took from the park over the other side of the Batman bridge while I was walking Earl the other day on the kitchen window ledge

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The Scented marigold shrub cuttings that I am hoping will strike in water also on the kitchen window ledge that is pretty full incidentally. Note the collection of shoes that need to be removed before we come inside due to being coated in something insidious and the lengths that we have to go to in order to ensure that they remain wearable and out of doggy reach.

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Ben Folds King of the hipsters…

Hi All,

I think that this is the LONGEST post I have ever expected anyone to read in the history of this blog. Anyone not of a strong disposition can be excused from reading it in its entirety…the rest of you, suck it up and at least have a go…you never know what treasures it might yield 😉

First up I am going to share the best, most tasty recipe for chilli with you. It has the bonus of being incredibly easy and it freezes amazingly well. This is Steve’s “Secret” recipe and so I guess it is the bonus for all of you dear constant readers who have stuck with trying to read these gargantuan posts ;). Here you go…thank me later and remember that Steve is “The Magic Man” 😉

Steve’s Secret Recipe Chilli Con Carne

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 chopped onions

2 cloves crushed garlic (Steve uses about 5)

500g lean minced beef

250ml red wine (you get to drink the rest apparently)

2 x 400g cans crushed/chopped tomatoes. We use homemade pasta sauce and I will give you the recipe for the pasta sauce after this chilli recipe

3 tbsp. tomato puree (we don’t use this)

3 – 4 tsps. dried chilli flakes but you can use more or less to taste

1 tsps. ground cumin (Steve uses about 3 tbsp. fresh ground)

1 tsps. ground coriander (ditto to the cumin, about 3 tbsp. fresh ground…try it, it rocks!)

1 stick cinnamon

A good shake of Worcestershire sauce

1 beef stock cube (OXO here in Australia but use what you have wherever you are)

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

1 x 400g can of drained red kidney beans

1 x 400g can baked beans (this is where Steve differs from the original recipe which calls for only 2 cans of kidney beans and no baked beans because the baked beans add a lot of body and taste)

Sour cream, sliced avocado and fresh coriander (if you like it) to top the chilli when you serve it

Heat the oil in a large, heavy based saucepan and fry the onion and garlic until softened. Increase the heat and add the mince, cooking quickly until browned and breaking down any chunks of meat with a wooden spoon. Pour in the red wine and boil for 2 – 3 minutes. While waiting, pour a glass for yourself. Stir in the tinned tomatoes (or equivalent pasta sauce…see below), tomato puree (if using), chilli flakes, cumin, ground coriander, cinnamon, and Worcestershire sauce and crumble in the stock cube. Pour in the drained kidney beans and undrained baked beans with their sauce into the mix and then Season well with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook over a gentle heat for about 50 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally until the mix is rich and thickened. Add the fresh coriander if using and cook for a further 10 minutes, uncovered, before removing from the heat, adding any extra seasoning if needed. This is ideal served with lime wedges and rice, crusty bread or chips (French fried) or jacket potatoes and cheese, guacamole, sour cream and a big green salad or turned into the best nachos ever.  It might sound humble but give it a try, it’s delicious :o)

Note: if you find your tomatoes were a bit runny and your sauce isn’t as thick and rich as it should be (it should be like gravy in consistency) you can add some beurre manie which is just equal quantities of softened butter mixed with plain flour (all purpose) till combined and lump free. If you need to thicken a sauce, just add chunks of this mix into the sauce and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon till blended into the hot sauce. Keep adding till the sauce has thickened to a consistency that you like.

My homemade pasta sauce involves the following: –

1 x 400g crushed or chopped tomatoes or the equivalent fresh tomatoes chopped up

1 tbsp. olive oil

About 3 cloves crushed garlic

1 finely chopped onion

Yellow American style mustard

Tomato sauce (ketchup)

Bbq sauce (bottled)

Veggie seasoned salt (Masell in Australia but use vegeta or what you have elsewhere)

1 tsp. dried mixed herbs or 1 tbsp. fresh chopped herbs

We use a tsp. of dried chilli flakes but we like things hot 😉

Cook the onion in the olive oil and when transparent add the garlic and once the garlic softens add a good squirt of mustard, tomato sauce (ketchup) and bbq sauce. Add the herbs and seasoned salt chilli flakes (if using) and stir together over heat till combined. Once combined nicely pour in the tinned tomatoes gently and simmer till thick and unctuous. Give this a go, it’s delicious. I add mushrooms; capsicum, eggplant etc. as they become seasonally available (add them with the onion at the beginning of cooking). This yields a top class most tasty tomato pasta sauce that is miles apart from a can of tinned tomatoes. Try it and let me know if you like it :o)

Steve has been a bit lax with his bachelor food posts of late and after his spaghetti in frankfurter’s effort has been conspicuous by his lack of effort. He decided to share another recipe with you in the bachelor range, this time he got June, Honey Boo-boo’s mum’s recipe for “Sketti”…

http://www.foxnews.com/recipe/honey-boo-boos-sketti-3

Honey boo-boo must have “made it” because she just got taken off on South park…

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

Now we can get down to the nitty gritty of the actual post…Ben Folds …King of the Hipsters…the rise of the über cool nerdy geek and the celebration of all things retro, the legitimisation of the awkward generation, the intelligencia gets cool and suddenly we get bands like (give examples) and veganism is hip and cool and the 60’s are the ONLY place to buy your kitchen furniture. The rise of the hipster brought about the cultural desire for all things handmade, unique, the embracing of old school principals and Etsy (no spellcheck…I  don’t mean “Betsy” 😉 ) owes its beginning and sudden meteoric rise on hipsters. Ben Folds was a hipster before anyone knew what a hipster was. I am listening to his latest album and he sounds like a cross between Elvis Costello and Blur…how is that for cross Atlantic hipsterism? I have a penchant for singers who can write amazing lyrics AND give them a voice like Ben Folds. His anthems to the forgotten were just what 75% of the school population needed to hear and he came at just the right time. When Ben Folds gave a massive subculture a voice it was an awesome thing to see the results. I belong to that subculture and so do all 3 of my children. It was the right time for them to be able to embrace their inner geekiness and progress on to knowing that they are, indeed, the superior race and they got their legitimisation through people like Ben Folds. How amazing that the hipsters of today are the children of yesterdays oppressed! Everyone wants to be edgy and wear 60’s clothes and have sideburns and retro moustaches (obviously guys 😉 ) and shave their sideburns and get tats (every good hipster chick has a multitude of meaningful tats). Where are we going with fashion folks? All I know is that we can find a niche in amongst these upwardly mobile non child bearing thinkers and that some of their ethos is actually worth embracing. Cheers Ben Folds…you deserve your kudos and your fame and you probably deserve a marriage that actually works BUT if that happened would your muse desert you? 😉

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We have gone from 30C heat where regular basking upside down on the deck is the norm to this…

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Hiding behind the screen door within close proximity to Brunhilda’s wafting blissful heat

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“Excuse me…would you MIND not opening that door please…there are dogs basking here!”

The only problem with the hipsters is that they are indulging themselves out of existence. They prefer owning a dog to having children and their need to spend both incomes on retro is still “spending” per-se. The movement is shifting sideways into the new rise of the homesteader and the hipsters desire to get their little plot of earth is starting to make rumbles in the country that can only benefit from the windfall of people immigrating from cities and repopulating the small towns…it’s obviously a natural progression and part of humanities need for equilibrium…spreading out to where you can move and think and just “be” and where you can put your mark on a tree and can feel the earth between your fingers. The selfishness is going to have to go hipsters and maybe your country born kids will rebel against being dressed up like small “Mad men” and will revert to feral hippies… wouldn’t that be something? Hey, the 70’s is back man…FLARES ARE BACK MAN! Ferals living amongst what’s left of the trees, getting their hands dirty and their feet dirty and learning how to listen to the earth and respond accordingly…perhaps it’s more than humanities survival that is being reflected in our current trends…perhaps the earth is channelling us…perhaps it’s a survival mechanism from somewhere deeper than any of us know because people are being called…drawn to the earth. Thanks hipsters, you are a good blended first generation to give homesteading legitimacy and by giving it a new voice and popularity you are showing people that it is possible for life after peak oil and that old lesson about how everything has good and bad points is being learned and shared all over the world through social media. That can only be a good thing :o)…by the way, wouldn’t Ben Folds make a perfect counterfoil for the spinster daughter in that amazingly iconic painting “American Gothic”? 😉

Grant_Wood_-_American_Gothic_-_Google_Art_Project

Cheers for this photo Wikipedia 🙂

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

‘All sorrows are less with bread’ – Miguel de Cervantes.

My sentiments exactly! I am now following a wonderful blog that has shot right up my blog reading list of wonderful ways to spend my early morning hours with my first cup of tea. This beautiful quote comes from her blog. It resonates with me because it’s something that we all need to remember. Miguel de Cervantes was talking about the solidity and comfort that a full belly can bring you and sometimes when we are lusting after something way out of our reach we really need to be looking closer to home to see what we already have and realising that life is about appreciation of what we already have and learning to live the best life that we can with our lot. We are all primed as children to toe the line when it comes to heading down the highway of life. We are pointed in the direction of active consumerism from a very young age (can anyone say “McDonald’s? 😉 ) And powerful media moguls make a huge amount of money messing with our minds and dangling delicious unreachable carrots in front of us to direct us in the way that they want us to go. I am not talking new cars and expensive whiskey here folks, I am talking fundamental life goals where we start out thinking that we are failures if we haven’t managed to buy a house, have 2.5 kids and own 2 S.U.V’s and a subscription to a country club by the time we are 30. We are herded into thinking that we are simply not good enough, not worth it, if we don’t keep following that carrot on a stick. A clever donkey knows after a little early carrot chasing that this isn’t going to work…that following that carrot on a stick isn’t going to get a tasty treat but a lifetime of frustration and a clever donkey just stops. I am starting to see that most people are not clever donkeys. We know that we are on a highway to discontent but we keep on trying to buy our way into happiness…a new car…15 pairs of shoes…a kitchen aid (will it make your cake taste better? Probably not but MAN it is pretty! 😉 ) And we keep cramming our homes with “stuff” in a vain endeavour to sooth our minds…minds that are screaming out “STOP!” We no longer realise that happiness is found in our own back yard…that we are the instigators of our own happiness. We are so far removed from our gut instincts and our intuitive minds that we allow “someone else” to guide us through our life goals, our important decisions and that “someone else” doesn’t have our best interests at heart.

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Not quite “bread” but definitely the Asian alternative…this baking tray of slightly undercooked rice has been specially prepared for tomorrows fried rice

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Seasoned with salt, pepper and chilli flakes it gets put uncovered into the fridge where it dries out a bit more, then into Brunhilda’s warning oven to dry out and heat a bit before Steve turns it into this…

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Delicious fried rice. The homemade spring rolls next to it have been lightly brushed with olive oil and will be baked in the oven till brown and crisp to accompany some of this rice for Steve’s tea. Steve is the only one that eats the fried rice and spring rolls so the remaining 4 servings of each are put into the freezer ready for quick nutritious and tasty meals if we get in late or end up working too long on our studies. He also has 4 Cornish pasties made last night in the freezer for more meals. We love making extra so that we don’t have to cook all of the time 🙂

It’s time that we all stopped and actually thought about where we are headed. Our parents were baby boomers and were the only generation where life kept getting “easier”…from the 1940’s on the media took over directing our desires and we let it. It was just easier. They took advantage of our need to be part of the flock but slightly above the masses and we have been competing for superiority ever since through the acquisition of “stuff”. A new bike, camera, S.U.V. isn’t going to make you feel better. What will make you feel better is learning who you are, being honest about yourself and your situation and taking a good hard look at how you can make the best of what you are and where you are in life. Stop trying to use consumerism as a band aid. It doesn’t work. You are going to end up aged 70 with 16 facelifts, fake boobs (think Jane Fonda and Madonna…) and a pathetic need to be “YOUNG!” at all costs because you are absolutely terrified of what is happening to you…you can’t buy your way out of aging…so far, no scientist has managed to make us live forever (God help us if they ever do…) and no amount of fast cars, holidays to Bermuda or gold dangly chains are going to defy age. Even the hipsters aren’t immune…they are the generation of the “forever young” to the max…40 year olds with skateboards and pierced noses and tattoos who won’t commit to “relationships” because they are WAY too young to settle down… we are now getting so far removed from the real world that there is a backlash of people stopping and saying “what is going ON here!” It can only be good. When you stop and actually think about where you are, you can take that elusive carrot out of the equation and you can start to see your own life in perspective. What you have been given is a chance…a precious chance to learn, to grow, to communicate and to understand. You have been given your own personal vessel to experience this world and the most precious gift of choice. If you get nothing else in your life, you can choose what your reactions are going to be and that is what makes we humans so incredibly lucky, our ability to choose our own pathway.

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I just went hunting for some pictures to put into this post and found this one taken from a warm spot just in front of Brunhilda…this is our idea of the perfect kitchen…no clutter (the fridge is in the cupboard in the hallway) and plenty of room to “live” in this space. That’s the great thing about doing renovations yourself, you can do whatever you like 🙂

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Another photo taken last year but not used in the blog yet. Taken last autumn of the Acer palmatum maple tree on the deck stairs

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This sort of scene is just around the corner on Serendipity Farm and I can’t wait! I LOVE fungi and have plans to study mycology at university in the future if only to be able to eat whatever fungi I damned well please without Steve telling me that “You are going to kill yourself and leave orphan dogs…” sigh… 😉

I would normally be sitting here reading my RSS Feed Reader at 4.44am BUT my modem has decided to pitch a fit and as a technical luddite, the only thing I know to do with modems taking tantrums is turn them off and then back on…so far my wonderful trick isn’t working…curious that I slag off Google and overnight my modem goes into the foetal position! Coincidence? We shall see! 😉 It does give me time to type out another blog post. That’s what I mean about seeing the opportunities in situations. Sometimes the situation is pretty dire and it’s difficult to see anything other than the immediacy of what is happening but that’s where we can really get the most out of this lateral thinking and we can start to try to formulate “other” ways to look at the situation. We don’t have to be a reactive creature, that’s the beautiful thing. We can be proactive about taking what life hands to us and we can use it to make our lives better…the net goes down? Forgedaboudit…type some blog posts, think about what you are going to do today, get that crochet out while Earl is still in the land of nod and maybe you won’t have those “tension problems” that you usually do when trying to crochet a row. I found some gorgeous jar holders yesterday. I know that mason jars are now de rigour in the U.S. and people carry them everywhere and hipsters are toting them to their hipster coffee shops to get refills of their hemp milk soy lattes. Me, I think they are jars! I think that jars are for preserving and saving things for the future. I have even seen hillbilly wedding mugs made of Mason jars and I think that you northerners can keep that trend and I will just keep my jars for when I need them. These lovely jar totes were amazing…the creator (Etsy, OBVIOUSLY folks, would any self-respecting hipster go anywhere else? 😉 ) had somehow felted the finished product and the bright colours got me excited more than the functionality of the item (see…this little black duck is as prone to wanton consumerist desires as the next person…) the difference is that I didn’t want to race out and spend money on them, I wanted to make some myself. Apparently I REALLY pissed Google off because not only can’t I get the modem to work, but now Microsoft can’t diagnose what is actually wrong with my connection! Can anyone say “BANNED” 😉 Bring it on Google; this little black duck has nothing to lose! 😉

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My daughters gave me this unctuous and most gorgeous chestnut cream a while ago. It had an amazing flavour and I have since found recipes for how to make it online. Come chestnut season I will be making my own but for now, I have lingering memories about just how good this was 🙂 Cheers girls 🙂

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I wouldn’t be smiling if I was you sunshine…

We just got a few spots of rain…we were told that we would have 100% chance of rain today and I guess, technically, that was right. Steve lugged the large heap of wood and put it under the deck yesterday so most of it should be nice and dry. He left a few barrow loads for the lizards who had just had the equivalent of Armageddon visited on them to hide in while they acclimatised to their new situation and then escaped. Feral cats love lizards and we love them too so we wanted to give them the best chance to survive their situation. I think that we also need to connect and learn the precious lessons from our grandparents and other elders. Far from being the reminders that we are all going to die and being shoved as fast as possible into homes to moulder away, we should be prizing their knowledge and cataloguing it for future generations who are going to have to remember the past to give them the best chance in the future. I just turned my modem off and am going to give it 30 minutes rest. I guess it has been busy of late and might need a nap (but only a SHORT one modem!) I have a couple of blogs that I want to reference here for you all to visit and I can’t access their U.R.L’s till the net works again. I get to put my money where my mouth is this morning. I know that I have almost 300 blog posts to read because before the network slowed down to an abject crawl, my RSS Feed reader shared that bit of information with me. I know that those blog posts are not going to stop and hopefully we get use of the net back today because 300 can swell to 500 in a very short time. While I was last away at my daughters it swelled to over 1000 posts and that takes some wading through believe me! I juggle precariously on the precipice of 500+ blogs and I guess sometimes I am going to have to burn the candle at both ends to ensure I get the best out of them.

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Some of my seed haul for today. The dry seed pods at the front have an incredible strong “fruity” smell and come from some sort of herb. The red berries come from some Crataegus phaenopyrum (Washington Hawthorn’s) that we discovered on our walk and have been collecting as they ripened. Hopefully we can get some to grow this year for planting on Serendipity Farm and that walnut was the only uneaten nut in a stash noticed under a shrub where there was a severe dearth of walnut trees…no idea how it got there but it is a very unusual long thin nut so we are going to try to stratify it and grow it over winter for our walnut futures.

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The seed pod of the strongly scented aniseed herb that I collected today

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This is the uber spiky pod of  Echinacea angustifolia (cone flower/Echinacea) with seeds in situ. I want lots of Echinacea on Serendipity Farm because it is hardy, incredibly useful and it loves dry conditions. Perfect for us 🙂

I recently discovered a blog http://truebeautyalways.com/2013/03/17/earthen-vessels/  that is amazingly well written. I love the way that the blogger is able to communicate ideas and the fact that she looks a bit like my niece Tahlia is an added bonus :o). The post that the link will take you to is a wonderful post about taking her children to the river in the heat and a wonderful story about how to tell the truth whilst avoiding a disaster if the truth got out, an old Quaker story. I love the way that this girl tells stories and weaves her words together to play with your mind and recreate beautiful scenes in your head. I guess my mix of blogs revolve around the interesting in all facets of life. I am not interested in mainstream unless it has something special and most of the blogs that I follow are beautiful examples of “special” in the nicest possible way :o). Here’s another one that I just started following…

http://www.lovelygreens.com/2013/03/tree-planting-at-childrens-centre-farm.html

This is community ethos and vision and a wonderful post about how small communities can really make a difference to future generations and with a bit of effort and vision can really give us a chance to do the right thing for the earth. It’s not us that are going to bear the brunt of the last century of wanton disregard for the earth, it’s our children and their children who are going to have to attempt to live with the legacy of the baby boomers and we can at least attempt to do something to halt the road to ruin that was initiated in the name of “progress”.

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If you click on this screen shot you can see it clearer. That white area is the lumber yard where Steve worked for a year. It was his second ever job after lasting a week at a local butchers. The green triangle off to the right of the lumber yard is a spruce plantation and Steve used to garner himself Christmas trees from this farm gratis…he often worried about the seat of his pants coming into contact with the cold hard steel of the farmers shotgun but when you are 21 and a hard cool punk, what’s a guy to do eh? 😉

I know that today’s post is really a couple of weeks ago post but it would be an unsustainable thing to dump a perfectly good post that was just hanging about waiting to see the light of day inside your collective heads. I have been up since 3am having a ball whittling away at my 500 blog posts that just seem to be growing exponentially but that are much more manageable now. I found 3 more scrumptious blogs to stuff in there in the wake of the old spent blogs that I discarded recently. We walked the dogs in Deviot and I invaded the small heritage apple and pear enclosure to raid the seed pods of the Echinacea that have just given up the ghost for the winter, something that smells like amazing aniseed but that appears to be somewhat salvia like in a pod and something else that has pods that smell like fruit! No idea what the second 2 pods are but my seed saving just increased our prospective springtime bonus of free greenery and gave Serendipity Farm another nudge up the “get it for free” ladder. Steve and I studied the covered top of the enclosure today (the original source of our planning for our new fully enclosed veggie patch) and have decided to go with purchasing some extra heavy duty bird netting and running rope or wire along the poles that we are going to install in the ground to form a nice tight possum proof roof that won’t sag and that will be easy to install. We got home and I collected some brushwood kindling sticks whilst holding my nose to avoid the stench of the large kangaroo that most THOUGHTFULLY chose to croak it not 20ft away from our back door :o(. Maybe it’s the culprit that has been harvesting my potato leaves and rhubarb leaves and it finally realised that “they are poisonous!” and nature took its toll. Whatever the reason, the cruel irony is that now that the days are colder, the blowflies that I HATE with a passion have disappeared and the one time that I need them to do their disgusting thing, they let me down! Sigh… no idea how long we are going to have to hold our noses as we walk to the car but the dogs LOVE it. To them, the back yard smells like Chanel No. 5 (ech!).  We then spent the morning hunting through Steve’s old stomping grounds in the U.K. and I can show you where he once worked for about 10 seconds in a lumber yard and the woods adjacent to the yard were where he got his Christmas trees from. I am going to spend the rest of the day minimising the RSS Feed Reader, stoking Brunhilda and baking up a storm and staying warm and happy inside for the rest of the weekend.

spoonsA quick pic of Steve’s draft poster for his Media assessment

frans

And this one’s mine…as you can see we have VERY different taste 😉 The logo on the extreme right in my poster is just representative of where my logo will go when I finalise my choice of logo’s. Anyone out there with any street cred in poster design feel free to let us know what you think and be gentle folks, we are babes in the woods with Photoshop at the moment 😉

See you all on Wednesday and this is for all of you Northerners…Nick Drake and Northern Sky…just perfect to welcome spring :o)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3jCFeCtSjk

The Voles are coming and I have become a hoarder

Hi All,

Having just planted out 7 garden beds with precious vegetable futures we now have to consider the fact that we aren’t the only ones who love vegetables…there are apparently hoards of creatures out there who can’t wait to take a scrump of our loot. Short of buying a rocking chair, a shotgun and putting a straw in my mouth I figure that we are going to have to do some detective work regarding “pests”. Pests come in a couple of forms…invertebrate, including most of the creatures that are going to totally ignore our bird netting cover and who are going to buzz right on through. Because we have covered the beds with bird netting (and here is the total irony of it all…) the little insectivorous birds, like the wrens that patrol our windowsill bossing the tiny cheese cubes out of us, can’t actually get in to scarf the aphids etc. who will carry on regardless. For these insectivorous critters we need to think smarter not harder. Integrated pest management is the way to go. We are using permaculture principals to give Serendipity Farm a whole new ethos. We are reusing, recycling and repurposing just about anything that we can get our hands on because it’s both sustainable practice and cheap and as penniless student horticulture hippies we need to be mindful of “cheap”. We have learned a few things over the last 4 years about building strong foundations for your hopes and dreams starting with the soil and building up from there. I am constantly amazed and excited with the prospects of working with nature rather than against it. As we learn more and more about permaculture through practical application we realise that it is the quickest most trouble free way to get what we want from our land. We are using what we have learned from our mainstream horticulture studies to branch off laterally into permaculture and learning about design has given us a new set of eyes each (like spiders 😉 ) to see how it all fits together. Some of what we are doing at the moment includes: –

Integrated pest management:  if you make conditions ideal for beneficials they will come…they will stay and they will eat your pest populations. We are prepared to wear a bit of insect damage till the beneficial population builds up to meet the pest populations and we are in the process of building overwintering bug houses and installing them around the area. We hand pick snails, slugs etc. and use the most ecofriendly choices for slug pellets that won’t hurt native animals and that biodegrade safely around our vegetables that have been covered and everywhere else has Sargent ducky on patrol. No slugs or snails shall pass by her probing dibbling beak! One of the most valuable tools you can have to deal with invasive pests before their populations become a problem is very simple. Just walk around your garden and “LOOK”. If you are doing this often enough you will notice the tell-tale signs of plant predation and will be able to nip it in the bud early.

Integrated weed management: weeds are just plants in the wrong place guys! I have been learning from some amazing sites where people go hunting for weeds and use them for all sorts of edible and medicinal reasons. No more “bollocks a weed!” for me, aside from some of the invasive grasses and should they become a serious problem, methinks it is time to get that pair of geese that I have been thinking about who eat their weights worth of grass which is their predominate food of choice. Just have to dig a little goosy dam for them and as our subsoil is solid yellow clay, no problemo! Use your weeds and you will be amazed at how they suddenly become managed problems. Use Bernard and Manny’s weeds for an example, Bernard and Manny are our two Javanese finches. They LOVE dandelions and I headed out to pick their favourite snack daily. Pretty soon there were no dandelions left in the front yard and I found myself in the ironic situation of having to steal weeds from other people’s gardens at night just to feed my finches habit. Use those weeds and you can bet your derrière that they will disappear! Murphy’s Law works both ways folks ;).  Don’t use herbicides, use your brains.  Hand grub and use the weeds to make weed tea for yourself (dandelions and nettles) or for your plants. They pinched the nitrogen from your garden in the first place, may as well take it back! No weed can survive a good drowning.  Try chopping the weeds with no seed heads up fine and putting them in the compost or cover the heap of weeds and solarise them with some black plastic. We all have to learn to put away the quick fix because most of them come with a steep price tag both for our pockets and the earth. This site, in particular, is a wealth of knowledge about weedy species and how to use them to your advantage

http://urbanherbology.org/2012/10/30/365-frankendael-day-193/

Here is a way to deal with your weeds thanks to good old Aunty ABC…

http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s2267268.htm

You can also make liquid manure to mix in with the weed tea and you can make compost tea as well. Crush up some charcoal and add it and aside from something that will attract flies for kilometres; you will have a valuable source of nutrients in their more easily assimilated liquid form. Just remember to hold your nose when you are measuring out!

Companion planting: Cheers to my long time gal pal in Perth Kymmy for sending me some information on companion planting. Kymmy has her garden totally together and it’s lovely to wander about in the greenery and tropical lushness that spills onto her undercover area. No tropical here aside from a poor long suffering philodendron that dad was trying to starve to death for 20 years. It’s now under a large tree and its leaves are slowly turning from yellow to a nice dark green…rescue 101 Pimblett style!  Many plants actually grow better with certain other plants. American Indians realised this and grew corn, pumpkins and beans together forming a symbiotic relationship of nitrogen production (beans), green mulch (pumpkin) and height for the beans to grow (corn stalks). I have been hunting around and found a really wonderful comprehensive permaculture companion planting PDF that want to share with you…

http://permaculturenews.org/2010/07/30/companion-planting-guide/

Confuse-a-cat: Plant your food in the garden and your garden with your food. Plant herbs and flowers in with your food garden and why not kill 2 birds with one stone? Make them edible flowers as well. Use plants like borage, comfrey, marigolds, pansy’s (especially Johnny jump-ups that keep on keeping on no matter what the conditions are) Italians have known about this forever. Back in Western Australia (or little Italy as it shall be spoken of from here on in…) the Italians were the market gardeners and started all of the green grocers all over the place. They certainly knew how to grow a tomato and you always saw their front gardens full of vegetables and flowers en mass. That’s how to confuse your pests too folks…mass planting with everything. I just have to get my chooks under control (for under control read locked up!) to start practicing what I am preaching here because they scarf everything edible in the garden and take dust baths in my hard work.

Mulch…mulch…MULCH!: Soil microbes need moisture to carry on their day to day activities and if the soil dries out they will head for damper pastures. Your veggies/plants won’t like it much either. Water has become a precious commodity and its price is starting to cause us to conserve it. Nothing like a hit in the old hip pocket to make you care about something. The perfect solution is to ensure that your soil is mulched to retain its moisture. You can use all sorts of things to mulch soil including organic and inorganic materials. We have a massive heap of Photinias that we removed from the fenceline that we are leaving in situ for the summer so that the leaves will drop off and mulch the soil and the branches will dry out and we can use the larger branches on the fire and we can use the smaller branches to form hugelkultur beds. Mulch will make your garden happy and will significantly reduce your water bills. Couple this with harvesting rain and using it on your veggie garden and you are in a win-win situation

Nothing to do with today’s post but a couple of random dog walking photos taken recently

It was a lovely still morning…

I am waiting to get some seed from that lovely bluey green leptospermum (tea tree) behind that banksia

I will never tire of looking at this beautiful Japanese Maple. Maybe one day some of our little babies will be this beautiful

Finally we get to the vertebrates! These are the boned critters with hearts that pump warm blood…those hearts might pump warm but their thoughts run to cold…stone cold stealin! On Serendipity Farm they run amok and range from rabbits, potoroo’s, wallabies, possums  and the most dangerous of all are “chookus Serendipitus”…the dreaded Common house chook. After reading the gardening blogs that I follow in the wee small hours of the morning I have suddenly become aware of a problem sweeping the US that I had never thought about before…voles! Voles: tiny field mice that remain faithful to their partners for their whole lives that eat seeds and grain and that reach sexual maturity in a month and that can wreak havoc on a good root crop…wait a minute… WE plan on having a good crop! I have unprotected beetroot in the ground that voles could tunnel underneath and lay in wait for those tender red bulbs to form and slowly digest them around their expanding family while I wait on tenterhooks for a vole scented gnawed handful of leaves!

This might be a water vole but its the only stock photo that I could find! No vole lawsuits for me!

I realise that voles are not endemic in Australia. I also realise that most voles could care less about vegetables BUT with global warming who knows where the voles will migrate…there could be voles right now stowing away on cruise ships with tiny sticks over their shoulders and all of their worldly seedy belongings stowed in a tied up gingham kerchief…stealthily and steadfastly wending their way to Australia to start a new beginning. If the Irish can do it…so can the voles. They keep telling us that we now have foxes in Tasmania although most people haven’t seen them and there is a sneaking suspicion that some wily Tasmanian decided that working in the forestry was a bit of a dud and that he might spread the rumour that “there be foxes!” so that he could sit back in a cushy “hunt the fox” job and get paid a handsome sum to stay in bed all day and postulate about “yup…me mate saw one the uva day!”. Most of Tasmania wants to end the “Fox Taskforce” as a bad joke BUT I can see a new direction for it…”Vole Taskforce!” Why not? If foxes can weasel their way over here in the boot of someone’s car (probably said aforementioned wily Tasmanian who ferried them in as “evidence” for his new income venture…) then so can voles! I could put an entire extended family of voles under my hat and a banana in my handbag and run the gamut of the sniffer dogs and insist that I didn’t realise that I wasn’t allowed to bring in a bit of fruit to eat for morning tea whilst the dogs rabidly tried to digest my legs. Once my contraband fruit was handed over they would pass me through customs…no banana “no worries luv”! But I WOULD have a hat full of voles and a new income generating venture for the coming season 😉

This is just to prove to myself that I CAN make fishcakes! Secret = use the potato ricer rather than mash the spuds

Earls potato sack halloween costume. He figures that he can trick people into letting him into their homes and then he can treat himself to whatever he likes and carry it away in his sack

Steve catching Earl in the act as he tried to head over to Frank and Adrian’s place next door and almost fell off the deck…

Stevie Kruger joining in on the halloween festivities…”One two Stevie’s coming for you”…

A plethora of vegan food blogs have exploded exponentially in my rss feed read thanks to vegan mofo. Vegan mofo is a month of crazed recipe creation where every day my inbox is cram packed full of awesome and exciting vegan recipes. I can officially be called a hoarder of vegan blogs and Steve is considering an intervention (but not before I collect a whole lot more!) These blogs freely share homemade cheeze recipes, how to make creamy vegan sauces, all sorts of wonderful sauces, salsas, spices and herby goodness to excite my tastebuds… now could I resist? My rss feed reader is bursting its seams but I just can’t stop! They are all so amazing, so promising, so full to the brim with wonderful creative and scrumptious looking food that my gluttonous fingertips keep clicking “Add to rss feed reader” before my brain kicks in. It IS 5am when I am reading them folks…who is awake then? I am NO exception! I am actually going to make one of the “cheeze” recipes tomorrow. This recipe is made with coconut cream and the resulting cheeze looks like cheddar, melts like cheddar and gives a nice cheesy result for pizza, quesadilla’s and all sorts of previously unattainable recipes. This is why I get up at 5am folks…I am hunting vegan wabbits! I will share this recipe with you because I am the magnanimous and most caring person that I am. If you are brave, give it a go. If you are lactose intolerant, can’t eat nuts, are vegan etc… it could be a life saver.

http://sweetroots.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/vegan-quesadillas-homemade-coconut-milk.html

We built a bean bed today. It involved us removing ancient enormous nails from some old treated pine poles, hammering those poles together to form bed sides with the old enormous nails and putting some scarlet runner, yin yang and borlotti beans into my almost unused electric sprouter. I added some mung beans as the machine has 4 compartments and I may as well get something I can eat out of it in the short term. We were given the scarlet runner beans by Wendy, Glad next doors daughter. I was given the other two kinds of beans by someone from the Sustainable Living Group on one of my brief forays into what they were going to teach as permaculture. The teacher was using a book to teach from and wanted payment for her services so I figured that I would get the book myself and bollocks to paying someone to read a book to me…I can do THAT myself ;). The local Sustainable Living Group is part of Tamar Natural Resources Management and has regular seed swap days to get heritage seed circulating throughout the population. I will be attending the next seed swap day and will be taking some of my little walnut trees to trade. I could almost start a walnut farm with the amount of them that germinated. It pays to use local sources to select your seed for growing whenever you can because it has adapted to your local conditions and has provenance in your area. I chose local walnut trees to get my seed from and most of it germinated without stratification over winter. The same goes for vegetable seeds. Buy what grows best locally and what is suited for your growing conditions to guarantee yourself the best chance of a good result. We decided that rather than waiting 10 days for our little baby beans to struggle through the soil and spread their tiny cotyledons to embrace the fresh air and sunshine on Serendipity Farm that we would use my sprouter and see if they don’t sprout faster. This is a whizz bang sprouter that sprays a fine spray of water over the beans, seeds, grains (whatever you are kidding yourself that tastes good when it is sprouted) and regulates the humidity etc. I bought it in a moment of madness when I had deluded myself enough to think that I was going to eat only raw food. That lasted till winter and fizzled when sprouts and vegetable pulp wraps suddenly become decidedly unappealing. I am sure that I heard Steve muttering something about “no more gadgets!” but he knows better than to get between me and a bargain whose-a-ma-jig that I don’t have in my kitchen already (sigh).

Steve working out how to make a bean bed out of some random treated pine poles

Hoarded building futures…

Isn’t it amazing how much room a man needs to build a small bean futures garden bed?

Voila! Using recycled old nails and hoarded treated pine poles Steve made a bean futures bed ready to be relocated tomorrow. Note that bench with steps, a previous project of Steve’s

The you-beaut sprouter doing its thang with the scarlet runner beans at the front. We have put the sprouter in the shed because it makes so much noise!

Our veggies are standing up happily and are so far free of vermin, pests and disease. Our bean futures are bathing in a light misting of water to facilitate their enhanced germination period, We have a bean bed ready to transport over to where we have chosen to grow our veggies tomorrow when it stops raining and to be filled with the remaining rich compost and some of our compost heap that has been mouldering away all winter long. Let’s just call it an anaerobic compost heap and be done with it because when it was raining I couldn’t find it in my nice comfy position next to Brunhilda to don my raincoat and get turning that friable heap. Thanks to a red wriggler compost worm injection from our friend at Inspirations Nursery Exeter, we have worms in the compost heap and Steve found a container that we are in the process of turning into a worm farm so that we don’t farm off our worms into the veggie gardens at the expense of our new compost heap. We have a gate to build in the dog’s compound around the house so that we can get out to the veggie garden area more easily and we have all sorts of pressing things to do on Serendipity Farm. The difference between this year and last year is that this year we have goals, a purpose and a direction that permaculture has been able to deliver. Last year we were hacking away at what appeared to be a never ending problem. This year our problems are rapidly turning into benefits and suddenly it all looks achievable.  I have some surreptitious ground cover “pinching” to do over the next few months and am going to raid the girls place in town for comfrey and various other cuttings from lavenders and rosemaries so that we can mass plant them all over Serendipity Farm. I now have visions in my head rather than dread. I love it when a plan comes together! See you all on Saturday when it isn’t Halloween and no-one will be knocking at your door asking for candy/sweets or throwing bricks through your window because you forgot to buy any 😉

I couldn’t resist it! Watch out…the vampire voles are coming!

Christmas in July the first “NO Earl!”…

Hi All

The first “NO EARL!” was probably around about this time last year (mid-July) which would have been very closely followed by the second “NO EARL!” and we are probably approaching our 175 000 “NO EARL!” about now. The angels didn’t sing…in fact the only thing “singing” (if you could call it that…) were the dulcet fisher wife tones of yours truly echoing obtrusively throughout otherwise quiet valley of Sidmouth, fighting its way aggressively out to Bass Strait to terrorise an unsuspecting penguin colony somewhere. I am going about this post upside down today…nothing to do with traction and everything to do with today…Wednesday being effectively “Wrong”. I can’t tell you what, exactly, is wrong with today but it started with a headache and no feral cats meowing under the deck for something to eat, chickens that didn’t want to eat bread…dogs that didn’t want to eat meat and Bezial getting sick in the car for no apparently reason (other than extreme anxiety brought on by a total of 3 walks. An unheard of reason to barf with excitement…). We didn’t want to work on our latest AutoCAD plan today because being what it is, it would have ended up not working for whatever reason and I might have had a prospective future meltdown. We decided to let today be wrong. If it wants to gyrate itself into oblivion sideways it’s not our business and we are just going with the flow for the remainder of this unusual day and so posting the end of the post first seemed somehow most fitting.

This photo just goes to show you how “Wrong” today is. I would normally not show you our back yard (or more to the point…the dogs back yard) as its not very aesthetically pleasing due to Earl’s plant eating habits

Who wouldn’t like to live in a lovely house like this with a beautiful garden leading out to the driveway…

It’s nice isn’t it? Well this is the front facade and a most manicured facade at that. We walked the dogs around the back of this house today and the back yard is littered with bicycles, the garden is a shambles of overgrown trees and shrubs and you wouldn’t be able to match the front facade to the back if you were asked to “match the front to the back yard”…sometimes what you see isn’t all that you get!

It’s a wise person who takes stock of what they have in their lives and who they are and are able to not only come to an amicable agreement with themselves to accept this, but actively enjoy their lives. As penniless hippy students we exist on the breadline. We are happy with our lot and enjoy our way of life incredibly; however we don’t have a lot of leeway with the ability to purchase whatever we want. We have a list an arm long of what we want to get for Serendipity Farm and a moth eaten sock with a few coins in it under the bed that we are loathe to raid for even the smallest purchase. We are proud of how we are debt free and able to live on a shoestring, but it makes it all the more important that we are able to access information online about how to make our shoestring stretch exponentially. I have found some amazing websites and blogs that share all sorts of hints and tips and am eternally grateful to everyone out there who shares what they know and how they do it for free. We can learn how to upholster a chair, how to recover a book, how to make strange and wonderful ferments and recipes to use them in. We can learn how to do simple home renovations and get comparisons of various articles before we pull that long suffering sock out from under the bed to spend our precious savings. It’s not easy living on next to nothing but there is a stoic satisfaction in being able to not only make do, and save as well, but enjoying the process is the most satisfying thing of all. It’s all too easy to get scared about the world around us and all of the changes that are slowly starting to happen. Peak oil, G.M.O. crops and all sorts of large headlines in the papers making us wonder if our homes and lives are safe but economies rise and economies fall and always in the background are the people living day to day…adapting and changing and learning and rising and falling and living around the outskirts of the headlines and the war and the famine and the fear…communities working together to share and foster hope and I can’t help but feel that we humans are probably due for a bit of a shakeup within our consumerist fragmented society. It might not be so bad if we have to live with our parents…it would certainly be cheaper and returning to some of our past community ways can only be a good thing. Ensuring that the elderly are treated with respect as the keepers of the ways of the past and seeing life and death up close and personal can only be good for our children. Forget shielding them from the world, they are only going to get hurled out into it eventually so they should be able to see reality and ask questions and get valid and caring answers. Life is tough but it is also beautiful and humanity as a whole barely live their lives any more in the pursuit of the elusive consumer “happiness” bird.

Autumn demolition of the side garden has resulted in this decidedly underwhelming vista but as you can see, the little Luculia that we planted out is beaming from its new position in the earth and to this day, still hasn’t dropped a flower. It is an example of how being grateful for what you get is a beautiful thing

This is Beauty Point in the middle of winter and the greyness is echoed all around our local environment

Another grey picture showing you where we walked today. Despite the colour scheme being pretty monochromatic, there is a dignity and a sense of place that comes with winter that gives it an austere beauty all of its own

“What’s she on about now!”…well…my son just got back from America and Ireland with his new partner Kelsey and he is just about to head over to visit us on Serendipity Farm. Steve and I met online when he was in the U.K. and I was in Western Australia. Life online is a fantasy and pictures that we post on blogs shield reality. Who wants to post pictures of dog chewed rugs and piles of decomposing branches in the top paddock? Who wants to share that they sweep the floors at least 5 times a day to ensure that you can actually see wooden floor under all that dog hair and who wants to admit that they haven’t got a clue how to go about washing that wooden floor that they so thoughtfully decided to wax rather than polish with high gloss chemicals…not I! Reality has a way of pushing its way to the fore and giving you a shove. Earl is real…he has a way of pushing you with his nose and letting you know that something isn’t right in the state of Kansas. I don’t want our reality to be something that Kelsey isn’t comfortable with. We choose to live frugally and simply and are incredibly happy with our lot and can only hope that she will see that and realise that happiness isn’t always wrapped up in expensive wrapping paper and tied with a credit debt bow. One day Serendipity Farm is going to be Stewart’s and perhaps Kelsey might be right there with him when he moves in and I want them to see hope and prospective happiness and a life close to the ground and the ability to choose their own destiny that is tied up with owning your own home. We are incredibly thankful and grateful for that chance and hopefully they will be too. Does this smack of a bit of self-flagellation? I think its more fear of the unknown. I am a quintessential magpie AND a bit of a control freak. I don’t like the unknown precisely because it is just that…”unknown” and I can’t plan for it. Just come and visit us Kelsey and don’t have any preconceived ideas…we can make some bread together…we can go for a walk with the dogs and have a chat about life, the universe and everything…we can roast one of our chooks and you can have as many free range eggs as your heart desires (here’s hoping that Kelsey loves eggs!) and in the process of unwinding, I hope that you will slowly look around you and think…”I could do something here…”…that’s all I ask :o)

You may remember Pingu, our little hen who started life out on the wrong foot. No-one wanted her and we found her almost dead on her own in the chicken compound. We put her in a basket on top of Brunhilda (before you call the R.S.P.C.A. we had the plate covers down!) and Earl has tried to dispatch her twice now but she keeps coming back. She will never be a normal chicken but again, whoever is normal on Serendipity Farm doesn’t belong here! We take waifs and strays and the fringe dwellers here and Pingu has earned her place here especially as she lays a lovely brown egg every two days :o)

Pingu submitting to human interaction for the sake of her continued breakfast each day of bread and butter…

The indignities that a poor long suffering hen has to go through to live in the shed on a large flowerpot and get fed a mangy bit of bread and butter in the mornings!

You often hear about a lonely cuckoo singing in a tree somewhere that sets the tone and the mood in books…we have cuckoo shrikes here. They are about as far from a real cuckoo as you can get and spend their lives looking in my kitchen window and yelling out on the deck for us to deliver small cubes of cheese into their gaping maws. The insects have apparently gone into hibernation or hiding to escape the hens rabid beaks and the cuckoo shrikes have stripped as much bark from the eucalypts as they dare and there are apparently not enough insects to go around. Dad used to feed them mince but mince is not an option for us and so they get small cubes of tasty cheese. They LOVE it! I had some spare mince a while back, and feeling magnanimous and content with my lot on that day, I put some out for the cuckoo shrikes for old time’s sake. They picked it up…they carried some off and they came back and completely ignored it! “We want the cheese…bring us the cheese!”… oh well…they only come like this in winter when times get tough and in summer we rarely see them aside from the odd shredding of eucalyptus bark and the odd squeak in the distance. They raise their young, they bring them to the deck to learn the “ways of the cheese” and they head off to have more babies and there are generations of cuckoo shrikes that have lived like this…a symbiotic relationship with the humans and we are hoping to carry on this tradition along with planting out lots of habitat and food plants for the local birds for many years to come.

Here is the little female Cuckoo Shrike who usually sits on Steve’s hand but this is the only picture that I could take of her that turned out as she is WAY too fast for my slow fingers to click

There’s a bit of chicken jealousy going on between the coop dwelling chickens and Pingu. They have heard about her shed and her daily breakfast and have decided to move in on her territory (and Steve’s) even more than I have with my strawberry pots while I am trying for the life of me to work out where to put them to protect them from the hungry possums. I have a vertical garden idea that I am ruminating on at the moment and will keep you posted

When we were researching ideal shrubs and small trees to use for our water wise sustainable garden plan that were a combination of incredibly hardy, able to grow just about anywhere in any situation, that offered habitat for birds, protection for them along with food we discovered, quite by accident the genus Elaegnus. I had heard of this genus and after a small bit of research realised that it included Russian Olives, a most desirable tree. This genus is amazing! It contains some of the most water-wise, hardy, adaptable edible plants known to man and the entire front garden of our plan is cram packed full of them now. I just did a spell check as word didn’t recognise the word “Elaegnus” (and let’s face it anyone not involved in horticulture most probably wouldn’t!)…and it wanted me to swap “Elaegnus” for “Eloigns”…EH?! Now THERE is a word that makes more sense and that we all know and love right? NOT! Apparently the word Eloigns means (and I quote from the Free Merriam-Webster online dictionary…)

“Definition of ELOIGN. transitive verb. 1. archaic: to take (oneself) far away. 2. archaic: to remove to a distant or unknown place: conceal …”

Now I know that Elaegnus is a genus that usually consist of more thorns than leaves and I know that you might wish to remove yourself from the close proximity (read “in the middle of”) of any Elaegnus that you may have innocently fallen into the middle of post haste but Eloign doesn’t really cut the mustard to describe this genus, Word, so keep to what you know best (irritating grammatically erratic bad spellers like me) and leave horticulture to the gardeners! My own personal interpretation of the word Eloign is “once bitten twice shy”! I will commit this new word to memory to be used in conversation around the water cooler should I ever be lucky enough to fall victim to getting myself a regular job in the near future and feel the need to ensure that everyone else around the water cooler knows that I am an unmitigated nob.

Here is the boys dinner for tonight slowly defrosting in Brunhilda’s slowest warming oven. The temperature is perfect for slow defrosting as well as for dehydrating an added boon that I didn’t think of when we were contemplating our justification for Brunhilda’s initial cost and a massive help on cold winters days

Doesn’t this photo of Paper Beach make you feel wistfull? Well it does me!

We have bone wars going on at Serendipity Farm. The only thing that we have any problems with our 2 male dogs with is bones. When we first got Earl we used to give both dogs bones as they are the best thing for their teeth (cleaning) and for their digestion and healthy bowels. Bezial has always been a bit mean with bones and Qi learned early on not to even THINK of having a personal bone and that the odd nibble when Bezial was laying upside down inside was the best that she was ever going to get on the bone front. Earl isn’t like Qi and soon learned to stand up for his bone rights. We didn’t want any problems between the boys so we stopped buying them bones but today we thought of a possible solution to our problem and bought 2 large beef thigh bones. Earl is shut on the deck and Bezial gets his bone out the back door…never the twain shall meet and silence and happiness shall reign on Serendipity Farm…that would be the situation in an ideal world but Serendipity Farm is NEVER ideal and Bezial ONLY eats rancid bones that have been lying about undisturbed for weeks. Earl can’t be kept on the deck for the 2 – 3 weeks that it takes for Bezials bone to get to the desired level of putrescence and so we are back to square 1. Bezial lying next to Brunhilda with one ear up listening for if Earl makes any surreptitious moves towards the back door and Earl hurriedly eating his bone so that he can start on Bezials…the grass is apparently greener (and so is the rancid bone…) on the other side of the gate…sigh…back to the drawing board!

“Lassie came home!”…well Della did…she has had puppies and has gone from being Bezial’s mate to being a barking mother much to Bezial’s consternation… it’s tough being a clueless male. She was trying to catch the plovers that were flying shrieking around her attacking her in this photo and it was hilarious to watch her snapping at them as they bombed her from on high.

These are some of the glass houses at the Polytechnic department of Horticulture and go part way to showing you how bleak winter can be in Launceston Tasmania in July

Although winter is upon us and its cold, grey and a bit depressing I wanted to share this photo with you that Steve took yesterday when we went to Paper Beach to walk the boys. Love is eternal and so is optimism! “Hurry up Spring I am cold!”

Well it’s time to start preparing food for the various creatures that inhabit Serendipity Farm (ourselves included) and another few days have headed into the abyss of time. At least when I am old and have time for reflection (should the day ever come when I DO get to reflect!) I will have these posts to look back on and wonder what we ever did to deserve this! 😉