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 🙂

Of Ferments, Foments, Fizzing Synapses and the odd good book

Hi All

I have noticed that a lot of the blogs that I am following are starting to delve into the subject of thrift and frugality. As a penniless student horticultural hippy I am more than aware of the value of thrift and am not only immersing myself in thrifty pastimes but am incredibly excited and rewarded by finding as many ways to live as frugally as possible as I can. I spend a lot of time hunting out how to do things myself. I decided that my “special” thing would be that I knew stuff. Not anything that would get me that million dollars on a game show but useful stuff like how to make milk out of nuts, how to start a fire with knicker elastic and a stick and how to approach a grumpy dog without having your jugular ripped out…you know…”useful” stuff.

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Thinking about cutting my long hair short…I reckon I would look just like Audrey Hepburn…

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See…EXACTLY THE SAME! Told you so 🙂

I think that the power of not being wealthy is that you have to learn to rely on your wits to get you what you want. You have to learn to plan, to organise, to save up and to find alternative ways to get to your goals. I also think the most important thing about being on a low income is how you look at your situation. Steve and I might be living below the poverty line but we certainly don’t feel poor. We manage the money that we do receive well and I feel positively rich. I was gifted a good education (what price that?!) and am able to head to my local library and find books on almost anything I need to know. Whenever I want to find out how to do something I can head straight to the internet and there will be a tutorial or pdf somewhere with my name on it that will give me the information that I need to know for the task.

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That innocuous little pile of “stuff” in the shadows there is netting that we cut to start the long and laborious process of covering our garden bed

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My able assistant showing you how we have to unroll the massive heavy (did I say HEAVY?!) rolls of rainwater soaked fish-farm netting so it could dry out enough for us to cut it in half to use to cover the top of our fully enclosed veggie garden

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I am not just performing my morning Tai-chi routine here folks…I am tying up hundreds of metres of nylon rope in the hope that it will hold up the weight of the heavy fish farm netting

Steve and I are both problem solvers. We are diametrically opposed in just about everything and even that has its benefits…we tend to be able to see all sides of a problem (when we can stop bickering enough to unite our efforts that is 😉 ) and usually, not always, we can nut out a way to at least stem the tide till we can afford to do the job properly. I have a bucket list of wants. At the apex is a wind turbine, closely followed by a HUGE rainwater storage tank. After that I have various smaller wants that mostly revolve around us doing things, planting, plotting and most importantly “DOING”. The numero uno of everything that matters.

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“Check it out Leroy!” part 1 of 3…

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You can see it better from directly underneath this  portion…16m long and 5.5m wide (remember this is only one third of the total size of this MASSIVE great garden area. You can see the old veggie gardens dwarfed underneath this part of the garden

As a seeker of the truth of useful stuff I have a most amazing series of hard-drives cram packed to the brim with what I have found. I have been doing this for years and it’s only comparatively recently that I have started to put what I have learned into practice. Jo, from “All the blue day” recently asked her readers how they had been living more frugally. I commented but it got me thinking about what we do, that we no longer even think about that is frugal. I like to make as much as I can from scratch. That makes good business sense to me. Take out that useless middle man (BASTARD!) and you are left with a lot more money in your pocket so narf7 is on a mission to cure her penniless condition by making as much as she can out from raw materials and recycled “stuff” herself (and apparently talking in the third person makes it even better…)

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I found a very clever idea on Pinterest for half burying wine and beer bottles in the ground upside down for a most aesthetically pleasing and thoroughly sustainable garden bed. “STEEEEVE…GET DRINKING!” 😉

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Some of the seeds that we bought today to start planting out in our veggie garden as soon as we get it under cover and the beds sorted

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A selection of little babies to go into the garden…can you see their little smiling faces? No? Well you aren’t looking hard enough then! Picking up tomatoes and eggplants next week as we like to plant them straight into the garden as soon as possible

I make my own sesame milk for my tea. I used to make almond milk but almonds are expensive and so I started to do a few experiments and sesame milk is my new go-to milk sweetened with a little homemade date paste to give it a rough approximation of regular milk in tea. Aside from that I now culture kefir and kombucha, both of which add valuable probiotics into my non-dairy diet. I can make a very good approximation of yoghurt out of seeds and nuts but now I am delving deeper and have found that I can make a tangy cheese out of cooked beans and my spent sesame seed husks from making milk when cultured with a bit of non-dairy kefir tastes amazing when you dip raw apple slices in it. I am UBER excited about the fermentation process and how invisible industrious little critters can be beavering away in the background making our food digestible. By the way, did you know that our bodies contain more microbes than cells?

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I buy raw buckwheat kernel’s so that I can process it freshly as and when I want buckwheat porridge for my breakfast. That way it is both cheaper and better for me as the nutrients are retained inside the grain. In the background you can see a little bowl of soaking soy beans for my homemade organic soymilk kefir.

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I used the last of Brunhilda’s winter latent heat to cook all of these dried, pre-soaked beans so that I would have some beany material to experiment with over the next few weeks. I am going to perfect making fermented beans to add even more probiotics to my already seething bacteria laden body 😉

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Sometimes my endeavours to make everything myself backfires…

I also attempt to grow as much of what we eat as possible. Living 50km away from the city we shop once a fortnight and we shop well and if we run out…too bad. We are in the process of attempting to grow a food forest on Serendipity Farm to shore our future but the “penniless” bit gets in the way somewhat. Where regular people head out to the nearest Bunning’s we have to get clever. That’s where 4 years of horticulture and decades of watching my mum and Grandma take cuttings, grow from seed and just generally “make a garden from bugger all” comes in. We have figs, walnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, avocados, carob trees and lots of other food bearing shrubs that we have grown from seed or cuttings. Sometimes if you want something you have to go about getting it another way than the accepted norm. There is usually a way to get what you want but you might just have to think outside that box or learn to do things yourself or stand on your head to see things from a different perspective to get it

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Last years cuttings and seeds that are this years transplants into our garden. Learning how to grow your own food and plants is a fantastic idea if you are monetarily challenged

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Our friend who used to be in the witness protection but who outed herself and became “Jenny” gave us a stack of raspberry canes and 2 Marion berries today from her garden to transplant into our garden. Aren’t good friends wonderful? Jen has been our friend since we all did horticulture together in a local Polytechnic. She says that we are the only people that she would let into her house when it is messy (not that it ever is 😉 ) and the sentiment is mutual…THAT is friendship folks 🙂

If we need something we try to make it out of something that we already have. Enter Steve the amazing. I SWEAR his mum pinched him from a gypsy because this guy can MacGyver his way out of anything and can make pretty much whatever we need here with bits of wire, a bottle cap and some tree sap and what’s better…it lasts. Our temporary dog compound around the house to stop Bezial from wandering when we first moved here 3 years ago has stood the test of time. It holds Earl the fearless in and away from the feral cats that meow and spit at him through the gates so it must be strong. We are in the process of building a fully enclosed vegetable garden the size of a decent tennis court. Another means to an end. I also saw a lovely homemade basket woven willow cloche for preventing chooks from scoffing your preciouses that I am going to start making ASAP so that I can grow things in the garden again (who says Pinterest isn’t useful? 😉 )

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Despite Steve’s little joke with the sharp knife, this ISN’T what it looks like…no still beating heart was held for a single moment by this good vegan (can I still stay in the vegan confraternity this time?…Please?…) what you see before you is the squished husks of a couple of kilos of blackberries that we only remembered that we had when we were cleaning out our freezer in the shed. What to do with a couple of kilos of blackberries? Why make WINE of course!

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Part 2 of the wine making process. Part 1 was squish and soak in water for 24 hours…part 2 is where you sieve out the seeds and pulp over sugar into a sterilised container. Our container is somewhat larger than this small batch of wine needed but we are ever hopeful that one day we WILL fill a container and the “craic” will go on for weeks!

I make bread and just about everything else that we eat here from scratch. The more you bake/make it the better you get at it. I sub a lot of vegetarian options to reduce costs because meat is expensive and Steve could care less because the things that we cook taste delicious with or without meat. It’s all about sauces, spices, herbs and finding the right flavour bases (which we also make ourselves). We are not scared to delve into other cuisines and have found a wealth of amazing recipes, techniques and food ingredients this way. My current adoration of fermentation came from messing around with ferments myself but then reading about homemade miso, tempeh etc. and learning that fermented soy products are the only healthy way to consume soy…and why stop at fermenting soy? Just about every bean, grain, fruit and vegetable has some way to culture it and when you think of all of those little internal microbes you realise that adding a few more to the mix might just add something positive to the balance.

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“I Spy with my little eye…”

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“Itsy bitsy spider but she is flipping’ HUGE!” That will teach us to leave the fish-farm netting rolled up and out in the elements for months without touching it!

I spend a lot of time researching (from 3am till 7am) and then putting into practice what I have learned. I read a lot. I take books out of the library and read them. I am currently reading a book about creating gardens from bugger all (a good book indeed!) and the traditions of community when creating gardens. I am also reading Patty Smith’s autobiography and it’s an amazingly good read. I couldn’t tell you what she sang but I now know a whole lot more about this fascinating complex lady. Reading feeds your imagination and your soul. I am having some amazing dreams and remembering them now. Just needed to fire up the old brain box again 😉

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We took the dogs to the dog park. Note Bezial standing to the left doing NOTHING but sniff the same blade of grass for well over 15 minutes…may as well have a nap…

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Me attempting to stop one of the dogs noticing that this wonderful tree trunk is VERY close to the external fence and performing parkour moves before we could catch them…I don’t think that Beaconsfield is ready for Earl in full parkour

Our studies are also fermenting exciting possibilities. We now know how to knock together a rudimentary website. Nothing fancy at the moment but we are fast learners. Keep your eye on this space. We plan on turning Serendipity Farm into its own little blog space in good time. I am also getting a niggling feeling like I am neglecting our local community in all of this research. What if I was to start a group of like-minded people in the local area? Predominately we could get together over crafts at the local hall or perhaps we could form a baking circle? What about if we started a gardening group/club and shared our information and plant material? What about if I headed over to the local community centre and showed people how to do more with less? What if? What about? It all boils down to taking all of this amazing information and sharing it and THAT dear constant readers is what narf7 is all about. That’s what this blog is about. I have an omnipresent overwhelming NEED to share. I think I was born to share. Imagine how exciting a community of like-minded people could be? Take your stagnant little suspicious neighbourhood and turn it on to possibilities…Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall is showing small communities how to get off the grid entirely with wind turbines…a large wind turbine is too expensive to even contemplate for a family… for a couple of families…but what about an entire community? Can you see the possibilities?

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This is the only way that Steve can get the dogs to run around in the dog park…note the bag of dog treats in his hand…

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You can see why these 2 are particularly active if you look to the right of this shot…sigh…

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Earl after running around like crazy, “smiling” up a storm

I am all about the excitement of new possibilities and not giving in to the depressing morass that society has found itself bogged down in lately. I am not an ostrich, I KNOW that we need to be aware of Global warming and the current crazed economic threat of world monetary collapse BUT I can’t personally “do” anything about that…I CAN show people how to do more with less. I vote with my feet and my moth filled wallet and I can learn to do more with less. So can you. Have a great rest of the week folks. Get stuck in to trying to do what you can with what you have. Make it a challenge, not a chore and see how your life and your degree of satisfaction increases exponentially with the results 🙂

Confraturnity of Chrones

I just wanted to share a gorgeous image that my sister shared with me on Facebook. THIS is a life well lived folks and what I am aspiring to with not only my wonderful sister Pinky, but each and every one of my fantastic confraternity of prospective crones. A reprobated and bolshie old age to each and every one of you 🙂

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

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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