The sparrows are back and they brought a friend…General disarray…

Hi All,

 

Last year there was a bit of a sparrow problem. They were dropping dead all over the place and I thought that our small population must have croaked as well because they suddenly stopped coming. I forgot that we are upside down here in Tassie and so the sparrows had buggered off on holiday up North for the summer and are now back down south here for the duration of the colder months. That means that they are primed, ready and raring to go for cheese pinching. We put cheese out for the grey shrike thrushes and this is the object of their desire. Short of buying an extra kilo of tasty cheddar cheese a fortnight for the sparrows we have to spend our days thwarting their efforts which isn’t easy because as anyone who has had anything to do with sparrows (rats, squirrels, cockroaches…) knows, they are clever little bollocks.

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Talking about cockroaches, here is the Serendipity Farm equivalent having just been released by Stevie-boy to wreak their havoc and breed exponentially for another day…

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A wise move Stevie-boy, that very fetching plastic bowl should prevent the chooks from hijacking your brain and making you their mindless puppet slave…but then again it might not!

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This should be a quiche…it isn’t. It is a potato bake. If we HAD some eggs it might be a quiche…those cockroaches are living on borrowed time!

It is around about this time of year that an uncertain malaise tends to settle on narf7’s generally happy demeanor. I just headed up to the veggie garden where I was greeted with a mass uprising of white flies, some half dead pumpkins, the scene of some pumpkin carnage (some are still OK but a fair few of them have been reduced to a few seed husks 😦 ) and the overwhelming and frankly terrifying prospect that I am going to have to “do something”  out there. Good LORD where do I start? The possums have managed to trampoline the top of the enclosure, breaking the thin ropes that we stretched across to prevent them from accessing Poland (at least through the netting) and they pretty much have squished the garden down to about 3ft high in some areas. My poor yacon is still thriving but is also 3 feet high thanks to possums tap-dancing on it. The pumpkins are showing no signs of slowing down despite some obvious frost damage to the outer perimeter and there are tomato plants still producing tomatoes. Fear and a sense of “Where the heck do I start?!” is crippling me at the moment. I am holed up inside with a nice hot cup of tea where it is safe from sparrows, possums and actually having to be proactive about my immediate problem…”move over under that bed Earl…make room for a new tenant!”

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I was going to show you a photo of the garden but I don’t think that you are ready for that yet…so here is a photo of what the kitchen looks like at 6.30 in the morning. Check out the view…

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And this was Monday when it poured down for the whole day…

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And this was yesterday where the river was covered in mist. The view never looks the same way twice out of my kitchen window

You know how they talk about “putting on hats” to change situations? Well remember my post about reality a couple of weeks ago? I recently bought one of those Nepalese style ear flap beanie type hats (complete with a bobble on top). It has been pretty cold here lately and as someone who has a lot of earrings I can attest to how cold your ears get when all of that metal starts to chill down and this hat promised to be my ears winter saviour. I picked it out because it was bright and easily visible (so the drivers might avoid the rest of the lesser spotted early morning narf being dragged along behind Earl if they could at least see the head portion…) and as Mr Billy Connelly once said “This’ll do ME!” I bought it, brought it home and headed to my reality mirror (stupidly) and placed the hat on my head. It is amazing how many things can go through your head at the same time when you can usually only process one thing at a time like “make a cup of tea”…”drink the cup of tea”…

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I think I am part squirrel. I have this incessant need to collect seeds and store them. Unlike the common garden squirrel I don’t use hollow tree trunks…not THIS little black duck! No other squirrel is going to nick MY stash…I store them all in containers on my kitchen window where I can see them and gloat over them…might be about time to plant a few of them out so that I can free up a bit of space to start collecting some more methinks!

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The view out the kitchen window today. -1C on Serendipity Farm and again I give thanks for Brunhilda 🙂

I recently converted to complete honesty in my year of living honestly back in 2011. It wasn’t an easy conversion mind you as some things are harder than others to be honest about (like how many chocolate biscuits you can REALLY pack, hamster style, into your mouth in one go…) but it was an entirely cathartic experience and cleaned out my back passages of dusty self-delusion that had been festering away for many years. I realised how very honest I had become when I posted a photo of myself wearing the hat of terror (as it shall be known from now on) on my brothers Facebook page for the whole world to see (for indeed, my brother appears to have friended “the entire world” on his Facebook page). I thought it was only fair as I had shared a picture of him in my last blog post. Not only did I bare my crazy Nepalese hat wearing moniker to my brothers doting public but I allowed Stevie-boy to then go on and Photoshop me further. There is a degree of honesty that is dignified and then there is just getting silly and I think that I might have veered straight out of dignity and into that wild world of “silly”…

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Here’s that picture. “Crazy is as crazy does my mamma used to say…”

 

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The only way I could stop Earl from attempting to eat my hat was to let him wear it

Early morning is a great leveler. You have nothing to distract you (aside from forty squillion roosters who are hell bent on squawking in the new day but that’s another story…) and you can really focus on what is real and what isn’t. Real is narf7 before her first cup of tea where she is lucid but not very nice. I have had my first cup of tea so I can now discuss Plato with impunity AND I can tell you that I learned something new and exciting this morning. I realised that if I can post a MOST unflattering picture of myself, on my brothers Facebook page where all of his (crazy) friends can see me in all my twitchy glory, I can do anything. Outing yourself is liberating. Being unafraid of your aging and slightly terrifying countenance is taking liberating to a whole new dimension. I just realised that I don’t care what people think of me…how liberating is that! I just realised that if I want to wear my chalupi hat of great ear warmth I will. I just realised that people are going to be judging you no matter what you do and whether you slap a tonne of makeup in order to blend in with the natives or just go al fresco and wear your crazy chalupi hat isn’t going to make a lot of difference. Ok, so maybe you might get pointed at and laughed at a bit more but let’s be honest, there are worse things than causing a bit of jocularity in the native populace and if I can bring a smile to someone’s dial, far-be-it from me to deprive my people of that joy

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Looks like I might have to lay off of the carrots again and Stevie-boy is toting his woolly Russian hat from last year as this year is just that bit colder than last year so he can wear it

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Earl demanding equal time again…

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Can’t be playing favourites now can we?

OK, I am off for my early morning walk with Early (surely that sentence is something… a palindrome? Alliteration? Why oh WHY didn’t I pay ANY ATTENTION in English class?!!) Wish me luck, we are walking with Jan’s brother Peter and Mieka today as Jan is AWOL driving a camper van back to a terminal as a (very clever) cheap way to get from point “A” to point “B”. Remind me to tell you about how clever Jan is some day when I am not contemplating just how much drag coefficient Earl is going to subject me to in my immediate future…

Nothing for nothing

I stole this with impunity…I liked it when I saw it. Feel free to steal it from me with impunity if you see fit

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After managing to get Bezial to wear a hat, Steve suddenly got visions of starting a website and taking daily shots of Bezial with strange things on his head…I am glad to say that he forgot about that idea almost as fast as he thought of it but NO-WHERE near as glad as Bezial was 😉

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When they say “seedless dates” on the packet, don’t believe them. Just sayin’…

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A wonderful friend just gave me some figs. I LERVE figs. I decided that to eke them out I would cook them with some dates into a compote so that I could have them in my morning buckwheat porridge

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Not pretty…but DELICIOUS 🙂

I just got kicked out of bed by Bezial on my sleep in day! I don’t really mind because that meant that I remembered the dream that I was just having as he started pressing me with his nose to remind me that I was an hour overdue to get up (lazy sack that I am who needs reminding…). I was dreaming that I saw Mr Robert Downey Jr. and asked him for his autograph. Not a strange connection as I have been talking about him and sharing him with the most delectable Pauline and Ms Lori from Oklahoma so entirely reasonable that I should dream about Mr (delicious) Robert Downey Jr. BUT the bit of paper that Mr Junior handed to me had a most interesting symbol drawn on it. It was the mathematical symbol for zero. I am not a mathematical genius. I am not even a mathematical dunce and can only dream of aspiring to dunce one day but the other day (Mother’s Day to be precise) My mathematically minded son told me that the symbol for zero has a line through it. OK, good o…but what does this have to do with Mr Junior? Well apparently, early on in his career he made a movie with the word “Zero” in the title. I know this because I have forgone my long suffering RSS Feed Reader this morning to hunt down all things Mr Junior to see if I can make some sense of my dream. Seems that movie won him critical acclaim and was almost a parody of what his life was to become…

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Stevie-boy obviously delighted to have me take a photo of him but I needed it for comparison…

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As you can see, Mr Junior has taken to dying his hair blond in order to look like Steve and is it a coincedence that he has a beard>?! I rest my case…

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Well look at you Mr Junior! Anyone who can be swayed into wearing a pair of lederhosen and still look rather fetching is AOK by moi! He looks like he is thinking “How many times can I do something stupid like this before they stop letting me make movies…” 😉

Maybe I was channeling Mr Junior? Maybe he hitched a ride in my sleeping brain (dangerous waters Mr Junior…) and sent a little sentiment out to the universe that my sleeping brain reached out to in its somnolent state…whatever the reason if you are reading this blog post Mr Junior (and indeed, why wouldn’t he be?) I have a message for you from narf7…THE narf7 of Serendipity Farm. “Sir, you have risen from the ashes like a phoenix (a sweet and most delicious phoenix) and are currently listed as one of the “A” list in Hollywood. You made more money last year than most of us can even begin to contemplate and I think it’s time that you used your wealth to go find yourself some happiness outside of Hollywood. Go sit on a rock (a very expensive one) someplace out in the desert and find yourself. You are worth it Mr Junior. We are ALL worth that much. I owed you that bit of precious advice for you giving me your autograph…now if I can only find it under my pillow…

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Steve first thing in the morning…

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Steve first thing in the morning AFTER  a cup of coffee…

Well this brings me to the end of another blog post. The terror of the sheer effort needed by me to just return the veggie garden to a semblance of order is starting to recede (a little). It has been joined by a nagging in the back of my head reminding me that I “really should get back out into the rest of the garden and plant out trees, shrubs, source some perennial veggies…blah blah…” yeah my inside brain is a whole LOT more organised than my outside skin! I am going to head out in a moment and rake up the pile of horse manure that Stevie-boy got us last week before the car decided to put its 2c worth in (off to the mechanics tomorrow with YOU young  fellow-me-lad!) I am doing this because I NEED to feel like I am doing something productive. I might even have a go at learning how to crochet this afghan that I have nailed to my PC desktop…

http://www.allfreecrochetafghanpatterns.com/Mile-A-Minute/Make-it-Quick-Afghan/ml/1/?utm_source=ppl-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=allfreecrochetafghanpatterns20140516#yOZjUpFIVoxf5dhU.99

They assure me it is fast, reasonably easy to make and reliable and at the moment on Serendipity Farm, I NEED me something to take my mind off all of that “other” stuff that is clamouring in the wings just waiting for me to attend to it

 

A walk in the black forest

Hi All

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pCKtk9cD4M

aka “Eine Schwarzwaldfahrt” (hee-hee 😉 )

Can’t tell you why I love this song, part of it is to do with the Pirate radio station episode of The Goodies where this is the only record that they have for their radio station and part of it might be my German ancestry (and the toilet humour I just discovered in the German translation) but maybe it just reminds me of my parents playing it way back when I was a little kid…who knows, but all I know is that I really love this song 🙂

No philosophy today, just a lot of wandering around and looking at possibilities on Serendipity Farm. As city slickers (well “town slickers” really…) Steve and I were able to take advantage of the low cost of education here in Tasmania to study horticulture however moving to Serendipity Farm added a whole new world to our horticultural endeavours up to this point. Suddenly our pots of trees and our choices of plants that gave us pleasure became more of a liability than an asset when we had to water and repot them on a regular basis and a new awareness of what the land actually needs started to rise up inside us. I knew that I wanted to use permaculture principles on Serendipity Farm. I wanted to energy cycle and plan with nature’s eyes and follow in the footsteps of Bill Mollison and his cohorts along with amazing visionaries like Masanobu Fukuoka who had a world vision that encompassed a complete overhaul of industrial practices and a return to agricultural practices that work in harmony with nature.

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My custom pumpkin sling and my yacon that has sent out another 3 shoots and is threatening to take over Serendipity Farm

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For those of my dear constant readers who like a veggie garden fix every week

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And here is another one. The tall plant on the right is the yacon

I have been collating information like a crazy person. I have hard drives cram packed to the gills with word documents, PDF’s and all sorts of information but much like my cookbooks, I never look at them. So where is an ex-control freak going to start out on her journey to “find” the real epicentre and ethos of Serendipity Farm? She is going to head out and watch. And that’s what today’s post is about folks…heading out and seeing what Serendipity Farm actually “Is” at the moment and what nature appears to be doing all by herself to heal the problems.

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This is what my experimental compost heap looks like now…what is that over in the corner?

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AHA! That would be The Garden Chook! The whole time I was attempting to take her picture she was scooting up and down the perimeter wall and clucking and squawking like crazy…”there are worse things than narf7’s you stupid hen!”

Nature HATES bare earth and does her level best to cram pack it with anything to hand which usually eventuates as a whole lot of weed species and a few fast growing nitrogen fixers. This reforestation is called creating a Seral community. The most pressing thing is to cover up the soil thus the weeds are able to proliferate and seed en masse. Small nitrogenous shrubs and trees like wattles and sheoak’s grow in between the weeds and after a little while they provide enough shade for other shrubs and ground covers (usually native) to get a look in. The larger wattles and eucalypts are slowly growing amongst the mix and within a short space of time you are standing in another one of nature’s miracles…a forest. Once the trees start growing they shade out the ground below and the weed species tend to die out aside from the hardiest species but eventually it all evens out. Nature is a great leveller.

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This hen was pining for her sister. I gave her sister to Kelsey (luck of the draw when you have 2 hens to catch and you are lazy and grab the first 2 that are sitting in front of you on the perch as you enter a dark chicken coop…) to join their small chook population and hopefully she is happy now

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Isn’t nature clever? Here you see how nature naturally prunes a cutting back to a growing point. Above this bud the stem has died and eventually the top of this branch will drop off leaving this healthy growing point to take over. Clever isn’t it 🙂

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Just a quick sunshiny image for all of my northern dear constant readers 🙂

Down in the lowest part of Serendipity Farm (we are on a steep slope that leads into the river at the bottom of our property) teatrees thrive where the excess water arrives down from the slopes and has time to soak into the ground. There is actually green grass (albeit sporadic thanks to the wallabies and kangaroos that live down there) growing here even though we haven’t had any proper rain since early December.  We are in the process of working out a series of swales that will contour our property and that will direct and slow the water flow and topsoil that it contains down our steep rocky slopes and that will allow the water to soak into the ground before moving on to the next opportunity to splash a bit of that precious moisture around. We are going to use the remains of the large piles of debris to create swales as well as chopping them up to form hugels that we are going to place around the boundary fence lines of the property and will seed with hawthorns for privacy and native bird and animal habitat. It hasn’t escaped my attention that the only really green and grassy areas on Serendipity Farm at the moment are beneath large piles of debris

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One of the 2 cluckies that were guarding a small pod of delicious chicks that have since been rehoused to safer digs

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All that was left of a mother hen who had 13 babies 😦

I mentioned that we had a quoll in last week’s post. Since we noticed a dead chook in the garden we have lost at least 5 more that we know of, mostly mothers with babies. We have 2 populations of small baby chicks that have been orphaned by quolls attacking their mothers and killing them and coming back to eat as many of the terrified babies as they can catch. It is quite disconcerting to find a tiny chicken head, wings and heart sans the rest of the chick and we have discovered more of them than we would like to even think about. I have had to contain the chooks inside the outside enclosure, herding them up at night and catching all of the orphaned babies and hurling them all into the chicken coop that has a concrete base in order to have at least some of my chickens still there in the morning. Remember that old saying “be careful what you wish for because it might come true?” well wanting less chooks and wondering how we were going to deal with the feral population is no longer a problem. We have mum quoll and a nest of babies polishing them off nicely for us…the only problem is that she isn’t going to head off anywhere until she has eliminated the entire population of chooks…NOT an acceptable option quoll!

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This was taken back in January when there were significantly more pears on the tree but one of these pears is just about ripe and “I” bags it!

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Part of the reason why narf7 hides under the bed and is contemplating a serious drinking habit…

We are on high alert here at the moment. Every time I hear native birds alarm calls I head out to make sure that the quolls aren’t on the move. I thought that they were nocturnal but apparently when they have babies the mother quolls and the babies can be seen during the day as well. I have had the usual escape hens making a quick exit from the outside enclosure as soon as I let them out in the morning but I kind of think if a quoll eats them it might be doing me a favour. Who wants chooks clever enough to get out and hide their eggs, hatch them out and then raise them out in the bush? NOT ME! A smart chook is just one step away from a velociraptor in my books

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We helped our good friend Roxy to complete her online “Responsible Serving of Alcohol” course because she doesn’t have a computer of her own.

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Note while Roxy is “driving” she is sticking with tea…Steve on the other hand is only a passenger and is completely able to drink and backseat drive 😉

I just raced out to see what all the commotion was about as there were hens making their alarm calls all over the place. I headed out prepared to do battle with the quoll, apparently with my bare hands as I didn’t take anything with me, and after wandering around amongst the escapees (2 roosters and a hen) I couldn’t see anything to be alarmed about and when I turned around to head back to the house I noticed that it wasn’t a quoll that had alarmed them, it was a white goshawk that occasionally visits Serendipity Farm. As these magnificent birds are quite rare and wanting to get a good photo of it as it sat in a eucalyptus quite close to the house I slowly slunk into the house and grabbed my trusty camera and headed back outside all the while looking at the tree it had been sitting in. It was gone…I backed up slowly watching the sky and stopped at the end of the deck only to realise that Bezial was getting up from his sunny spot next to me and that there was a nasty smell…bugger…I had trodden in something nefarious :(. I could still see the goshawk circling in the sky but wasn’t able to get a good image for you but I DID get a good shot of my remedy for dog poo on your deck…

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That’s what lavender talcum powder is for isn’t it? 😉

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In the spirit of laziness and complete transparency (well…”some” transparency 😉 ) I bring you narf7 trying to drown her sorrows after discovering a mass slaughter out in the driveway…note the lack of a glass…too depressed to wash up…

Earl and I have been walking with Jan and Mica for a few weeks now and it has certainly made a difference to both dogs. They are calmer and more relaxed and tend to pull us less on our walks now. After our walks together we head back to Jan’s house where the dogs can run around her enormous back yard to their hearts content and by the time I head back home with Earl he is completely and utterly knackered. Earl is a very social boy and loves meeting new dogs but he has a special place for Mica, Jan and now Peter, Jan’s brother. Earl LOVES Peter. I think that Earl would move in with Jan and Peter if he had half a chance but alas, you are stuck with the hillbilly Pimblett’s Earl, such is your lot 😉

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Most of this lunch was grown by Roxy 🙂

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Apparently having calzones for tea brings out Steve’s creative side

We had a tiny 15 minute thunderstorm this morning that was punctuated by a 5 minute rain event. I have been waiting for rain for SO long now it was a bit of an anticlimax but never let it be said that narf7 isn’t grateful. I would just like to be a whole lot MORE grateful is all. When Steve and I made the decision 3 nights ago to bundle up every chicken on Serendipity Farm in order to save their lives we didn’t realise what we were setting ourselves up for. We headed out with a torch and our determination. We had to wait till dusk because our feral community (like a seral community only less useful…) of chooks is very wary and we had to work under the cover of dark. One by one we found them, perched on various fences, structures and underneath shrubs and one by one we hauled their indignant squawking carcasses back to the chook coop and hurled them into safety. Each and every chick was hunted down and grabbed and tossed in to join the rest. The first 3 surviving chicks from the very first mother hen massacre that survived a second night where their 4 brothers and sisters were picked off and dismembered one by one were hiding under a blackberry shrub and Steve and I managed to grab them with blackberry thorns to remind us of our kindness

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What happens when you mix nutritional yeast flakes, tahini, miso paste, a squirt of mustard, a slop of sweet chilli sauce, Massell chicken (vegan) style stock powder and a squirt of lemon juice with some fresh ground pepper and enough water to mix to a smooth paste?

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You get vegan “cheeze” sauce, that’s what you get 🙂

The hardest to get were the roosters who were VERY wary and every time we grabbed one it made the most hideous noises. You would have thought that WE were the quolls the amount of noise that came out of them! We then headed off to grab the clucky chooks and the babies that had hatched out from under them. There were 2 cluckies sitting on one enormous clutch of eggs (cheers chooks… we could have had them!) and half of them had hatched out. With the quoll taking 2 mothers in 2 nights we didn’t want to run the risk of it taking out 2 of our prize layers in one fell swoop so we had to run the gamut of hen pecks to first grab all of the tiny fluffy babies out from under them. As we grabbed them we put them into a box, then Steve grabbed the older Wyandotte who had gone clucky and took her over to the roost and deposited her and then he came back for Pong, Pingus sister who was fiercely pecking me for all she was worth…I grabbed her and carried her to the shed where we had a cage set up ready with hay and food and water for her to stay in overnight with her babies and we placed her inside and released all of the babies into her (angry) care.

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You can see the chicken coop (white door) and to the left of it the amorphous creation known as “The Outside Chook Enclosure” where our chickens are currently languishing while the quoll has free reign of the rest of the property (mutter…mutter…mutter)

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I know I have been running my mouth off against Mr T. Abbot our liberal (what a misnomer of a word eh?) Prime Minister of late but a spy submarine? “REALLY?!” 😉

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The same night I had my wine event, I decided to have an easy tea (easy for someone who is no longer steady on her feet to prepare 😉 )…this is what I ate for my evening meal with a packet of frozen Brussels sprouts and some frozen green beans (steamed) added to the mix. It was quite tasty actually but maybe that is just the wine talking 😉

By this time Steve and I were knackered! We had moved around in ways that middle aged hippies most probably shouldn’t move around in if they don’t want to wake up the next morning with all of the pain inflicted by the uninitiated whence undertaking the Karma Sutra without all of the fun! It was pitch dark when we arrived back inside but we were full of the joy of knowing that the quoll was going to go without its early morning breakfast of tasty plump chook.

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A friends house plans and what Earl thinks of them…

I remembered at the last minute that there was still one hen (that we knew about at the time) that was up near our vegetable garden ensconced in the middle of a pile of dried branches…dried …spiky… painful branches… and so we headed up to save her like the heroes that we are. I managed to grab her but she flapped away and eventually I grabbed her by the legs and managed to calm her down enough to hold her but she was making some terrible noises and I didn’t want to alarm the chooks in the coop any more than they were already alarmed and so I decided to toss her into the veggie garden overnight. The next morning I headed up to water the garden and “The Garden Chook” was sitting in my possum decimated silverbeet bed and ran off squawking when she saw me. She raced off into the pumpkin patch and disappeared. She is being tolerated in the veggie garden until such time as she disgraces herself and digs something up. She has my laziness to thank for her degree of luxury and freedom

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Steve’s new preciouses complete with Windows 8

Well here we are at the end of another post and I haven’t even told you that we have started our new course and that Steve has a new (preciouses) mobile phone to play with. I guess I really should keep something for next week when hopefully we will have contained the quoll and relocated it somewhere where it won’t be imbibing of Serendipity Farm chook flesh in the near future. Have a great week folks. I hope that it is starting to warm up for all of my northern readers and that is starts to cool down (and more importantly RAIN) for my southern friends as well.

The frugal bug bit me hard

Hi All,

Frugality is a bit like exercise. You start off noticing every time you set off and you are knackered when you get back BUT pretty soon you find yourself enjoying the previously taboo subject and finding all sorts of ways to slip it into your day to day life with good results. Frugality conjures up scrooge. I am too generous to be a scrooge but frugality has really started to sit well with me. I love to share the love around with anyone who wants to share but I am learning to condense my efforts into those that offer a bit of reward for your hard work. I am starting to get very enthusiastic about making our own pasta and the prospects of taking it a step further and making all sorts of weird and wonderful farinaceous goods from far flung countries. Just about every country has some sort of pasta equivalent albeit made from yak’s butter and a dab of the local earth to get it started. I have always wandered the degustory earth like grasshopper in search of foodie Nirvana…not “Foodie” like Anthony Bourdain, but Foodie like “Oh MAN that tastes so good I need to make it again…right now!” That sort of foodie :o). As a penniless student hippy there are certain ingredients that are out of my reach but they are not unattainable, just luxuries. I save them for special events where their inclusion will lend an air of “special” to the occasion. Growing our own veggies is another case in hand…not only can we grow our own vegetables, we can plant things that we otherwise would never be able to get in the shops. I am in the process of working out how to set up an Australia wide network of Seedy Pen pals to share open pollinated seed and other edible and ornamental seed with we long suffering Aussies whose borders shall be protected at all costs! I am right there with customs on preventing disease from entering our borders…I just see the end results where we can’t get cheaper seed material BUT if we are willing to pay the earth and at least one of our limbs we CAN import the bare rooted material from a nursery who is willing to make massive profits on the mainland and pass ALL of the costs onto the poor Tasmanians or Western Australians who are desperate enough to want something a bit different. Plant material should know no boundaries except those that exist to stop diseased material from passing them.

Some of Noel Button’s glorious special irises that he grows on a small allotment in Exeter and sells them once a year at Entally.

I LOVE living near the water. There is something magical about being able to watch the ebb and flow of the river

It was hard to take this shot when there were 2 overexcited dogs trying to drag us in so that they could have a swim. I don’t know how Steve managed to take it!

The more Serendipity Farm starts to emerge like the phoenix from the ashes of Highfield Gardens, the more excited I get at the possibilities. While we will NEVER be the glorious manifestation that Wychwood is (check out this amazingly gorgeous and highly enviable garden here… http://www.wychwoodtasmania.com/Garden/gardenM.htm and it’s only 2 ½ acres AND it’s not too far from Serendipity Farm!) we can make this a little permaculture paradise in an oasis of dry summer humidity. I know “dry” and “humidity” don’t really work but we have the luxury of a short growing season coupled with a lack of rain (thanks to the mountains to the west stealing all of the rain before it gets to us) and a LOT of natural vegetation that tends to leak out its moisture as soon as the temperature gets over 25C. Couple this with the hole in the ozone being directly over us and the sun really packing a punch and our conditions become humid and dry…go figure! Finding free edible plants like our figs and our little loquats was great fun as well as money in the bank. Frugality breeds frugality simply because it feels so good. We aren’t going to start hoarding what we have but we are most definitely enjoying living simply and richly. It’s now Sunday and I am SO excited! I only recently told you about my lack of success with growing Moringa oleifera. I had purchased seed online several times and no matter what I did it wouldn’t germinate. I blamed on selling and old seed BUT that didn’t stop me from tossing the last of the seed that I bought about 2 years ago into my automatic sprouter along with the purple king beans that Bev recently sent me and the last of the beansprouts that we used most of last night in a wonderful stirfry. I was watering the strawberries when Steve called out to me and came out of the shed with his hands cupped around something. I thought that he had caught one of the little banjo frogs that live amongst our potted plants eating the insects that are attracted to the moisture but he had one of the Moringa seeds in his hands and it had sprouted! As my dad would have most euphemistically spouted “You could have bloody well knocked me over with a feather!” The only reason I tossed the seed into the sprouter was so that I could emphatically finish the sad saga of the Moringa and call it the bad lot that it was but it paid off and I might just get those (well…at least one!) Moringa’s that I have lusted after. That’s the thing about growing things from seed and cuttings, you get a chance to mess about with the mystery of life and the end results can be nothing short of enlightening :o)

Lest we forget…

Buttercups!

We managed to grow at least 1 Muscat grape from our original vine that we left with our daughters in town and hopefully we should get some more as the cuttings are starting to leaf up well

It was Remembrance Day today. We remembered. I remembered my grandfathers who both went to war. My dad’s dad was in both wars and my mums dad was in WW2 in Papua New Guinea. I remembered that the fantastic life that we lead today is only because of these men who were brave enough to do what their country called them to do. I am not talking about whether or not they SHOULD have been called to war…just that they were ready to go to protect their families and their country…nothing is nobler than being willing to lay down your life. We were over at Glads collecting a trailer load of grass clippings and old dead leaves to bring back and inoculate our new hot compost heap with. We had been chatting to Glad and Steve was still enviously staring at the sky where not 1 but 2 sea planes were swooping low…landing in the water and then taking off again in tandem when Glad said “must be getting near 11…” and we remembered that we needed to observe 1 minute’s silence. Glad headed indoors and Steve started the car and then suddenly stopped it. From the car radio the last post rang out clear and pure and flowed down to flood the river where boatloads of people stopped what they were doing and looked up and listened. We do remember grandad. We remember that life is too short to wage war on each other and that any time there are enough brave men who are willing to lay down the law there in the midst is humanity. Thank you SO much for what you did for us. For the chance to be able to think what we want to think…do what we want to do and be who we want to be. I don’t know much about what my grandad’s went through. I know that my dad’s dad got gassed by mustard gas. I know that my mum’s dad came back harbouring a particularly virulent form of malaria and had to spend a long time convalescing in hospital. I know that neither of them would have been the same after they returned and the burden of what they had witnessed burned deep into their psyche forever. All I know is that I will be eternally grateful for what they did for me.

Serendipity Farm looking “spesh” for spring 🙂

A plethora of eggs

Bean futures on steroids with a punnet of bicolour corn and some tiny little Cavello Nero

I also remembered something else. I remembered back when I was at school and played the tuba in the school brass band. I remember how on Remembrance Day we would all be shuffled off in uniform to march from the school down to the memorial and most of the town would turn up stoic and scrubbed and looking like the farmers playing dress up that they were. Uncomfortable in their suits and shiny shoes but as soon as the last post started we all stood to attention and we listened…a whole community united by remembrance. After the last post and some other cornet interlude played by a quavering youth whose adolescent honking usually only bore a vague resemblance to the original score, we marched right back to the school and back to our lives without much more thought about what we were remembering. I remember the weight of that tuba…I remember the song that we played as we marched and the “Boom Boom” of the big bass drum. I remember how badly we marched and how heavy that damned tuba started to get about halfway down to that memorial. The memorial had the epitaph “Lest We Forget” emblazoned on its monolithic brow and we never forgot…not once…to march for the soldiers.

Things certainly grow quicker in spring. This is the little walnut that was only just out of the ground on Saturday…

and this is one of the little hazelnuts that stratified over winter and we forgot about till we wanted the esky back. The little nut trees are being protected by the wheelbarrow till they are old enough to move out of the shed as Pingu the great defoliater lives in the shed with them!

The weather is starting to heat up and my thoughts are turning to irrigation systems. We have a lot of irons in the fire at the moment and as one iron gets beaten by the blacksmiths hammer of activity, the others have to lay there smouldering until we can get around to dealing with them. Irrigation is going to have to come to the fore soon as we have been planting out our precious babies and whilst they are going great guns with the spring rain that we have been having, pretty soon we will hit our 3 months of summer with very little rainfall and we need to be ready to irrigate. The cleverest way to irrigate our widespread trees is to use black polypipe and brown dripper hose in a circle around the tree/shrub that you want to irrigate in a series of watering stations. Black polypipe is cheap… brown dripper hose is not. That’s why you need to use a whole lot more black polypipe than brown dripper hose and make it count. You also need to ensure that the precious moisture that you are giving your plants stays put in the ground around their root zone and so you have to mulch Mulch MULCH to the max. In a couple of years’ time our trees won’t need our supplemental water. Till they are able to establish deep and decent root systems we will need to give them enough to survive on till they can stand on their own two feet. We are always mindful of our sustainable ethos here on Serendipity Farm and one thing that has been grating on our consciences is the lack of a large water tank to take advantage of the annual winter rainfall that cascades from every orifice on site. We have several outbuildings on the property and any one of them could be collecting precious sky water for use over summer. I wish we could afford an enormous rainwater tank but we simply can’t. That won’t stop me looking for as many water barrels as I can over the coming year to shove under drainpipes and harvest next year’s water but for now my frustration at not being able to have collected all the water that we need for the summer watering regimen is pretty high.

My new fortified compost pumpkin and potato future bin. Good luck breaking in possums…I overengineered it to the max!

Our veggies are going great guns. They seem to like the position in full sun that we gave them and are growing like crazy. The tomatoes are happy and I am about to trial pinching out the shoots on the tomatoes and potting them up to grow tomato cuttings to keep the harvest growing well into next year. I learned this technique from Bev at “FoodnStuff” a wonderful Victorian blog that taught me all about water wicking garden beds and Hugelkultur gardening techniques. Bev is a mine of information and is living real. Check out her website for some wonderful ways to garden Aussie style :o)

http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/dehydrated-pumpkin/

That post was a most interesting run down on preserving pumpkin for future use. Rabid little Hippy just told me about another new Aussie sustainability blog that one of her friends has started up in Queensland. It’s called The Tropical Hippy and although she hasn’t posted many posts yet this blog promises to be a most interesting read and I have tucked it in my rss feed reader between “These Light Footsteps” and “Turning Veganese”. I hope she likes the company ;). If you would like to check her out feel free to wander on over to

http://thetropicalhippy.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/growing-veges-from-veges/

And this post should reward your efforts handsomely. It’s about growing vegetables from the ends of other vegetables and is great fun!

The tip strawberries that are now incredibly happy (and also fortified) and are just about to start producing strawberries for us. Some of the berries are starting to turn red…Hopefully there will be some strawberries left to show you 😉

I am SO glad that I had this mostly done post cribbed up my sleeve! We have been working exceptionally hard this week to finish off a mammoth design each and suddenly it’s Wednesday and my eyes are sore and twitchy from being forced to watch a computer monitor for hour after hour. I actually really enjoyed the process though. AutoCAD and I have had a bit of a history going. We didn’t like each other much and we still treat each other with a degree of suspicion but we are learning to get along now and I am actually proud of the sustainable landscape design idea that I created. In the few brief minutes that we allowed ourselves away from the computer I fortified the compost heap because I had an epiphany. I was tossing the latest contents of my compost bucket onto the heap under the interested gaze of the chooks who instantly fall on any scraps with gusto and scratch them all over the place eating very few of them (fussy sods!) and leaving the way open for the possums to wander about scarfing scraps at their leisure. I have been noticing pumpkins popping up in the compost bin along with a potato growing out the side. The potato has lost its leaves to wayfaring wallabies but the pumpkins were managing to survive because I tossed a large dead lavender into the compost because it was too hard to snip up and was waiting for it to decompose and it was protecting some of the young pumpkins from the possums…as I upturned the compost bucket into the compost bin I thought to myself…”why don’t I contain this compost bin and grow spuds and pumpkins in it?”…just like that I had a great idea! Serendipity Farm soil isn’t anything to write home about thanks to the heavy clay and the plethora of rocks BUT my compost bin has been sitting there full of happy worms elevated above the rocks and the clay and things are growing in it magnificently. Rather than hump the compost off to the veggie garden, I am just going to plant the veggies IN the compost! A win-win situation all round and so I headed outside with the dregs of a bag of King Edward spuds that had gone to sprouts and some Kipflers that we bought a while ago that I just never quite got around to planting. I am going to put a trellis up the side of the chook house and train the pumpkins up the trellis. Once the pumpkin gets to the chook roof it will have all the space to run laterally that it can and hopefully, if I do my job and keep it happy with food and water, I will get some pumpkins AND the chook house will get some thermal insulation against the heat of the day.

Cacti enjoying the sunshine in their pot 🙂

Ok, it’s just about time to post this post and I am going to spend the evening (you guessed it) staring at the computer screen doing a bit more work to complete one of our final units. In a few weeks we won’t be horticulture students any more. We will students of fortune…our own good fortune. We will have time to spend in the garden. We will have all day, every day, to put our heads together and make gates, bean beds and sort out our chook yard. We have applied for the graphic art and printing course that we want to do next year and now we just have to wait to see if we get accepted. I am really enjoying the processes of Serendipity Farm in the spring. I was looking out the window this morning at some of the hard work that we have done here and realised that it feels like “our place” now. The amount of pleasure that I get out of getting down and dirty is completely out of proportion to the act of getting down and dirty. I have a sense of peace and happiness that I haven’t had in ages and I feel like a woman in her castle…perhaps we should have called this place “Serenity Farm” ;). To all of you who don’t know what I am talking about…go watch one of the few amazing Aussie movies called “The Castle” and you will get it :o). See you all on Saturday when we will be up to our armpits in beans and we had better have remembered to get that bird netting to protect them or they might take over Serendipity Farm! :o)

Making your choices count

Hi All,

I belong to a couple of survey sites and am occasionally sent surveys to complete online and yesterday I was asked several questions about how happy I was with my lot. As I worked my way through the questions I thought about how very lucky we are to be living the life that we have here on Serendipity Farm. Most of the questions were a selection between two polar opposite answers and for most of them I was genuinely able to choose the positive option. Prior to inheriting Serendipity Farm from dad, we were living a somewhat aimless life as nomadic students. We lived in one of my dad’s rentals that was empty and studied in an attempt to gain a foothold in the job market in a state where 34% of the population live on welfare payments. Tasmania is a desperate state. Anyone who wants to throw a few dollars around here can pretty much do whatever they like because both of our major political parties are desperate for solutions to our own tiny island GFC that defies Australia’s robust economy.  We are a state on the edge and employment here is not a given right, but a lucky break.  As I waded through my survey choosing my answers I thought about how a simple stroke of luck took us from a spiral of increasing bills with a stagnant income to a place where we get to make choices. I heard on the news that people receiving government payments are living below the poverty line. As students, Steve and I receive the lowest payments on the government payment line and are considerably below the poverty line…so why was I choosing the positive answers from a survey obviously designed to test the waters of debt in Australia? The answer is very simple… because I AM happy.

One of the overgrown grevillea shrubs on the property

A prostanthera ovalifolia/native mint bush, one of 3 overgrown specimens down in the jungle part of the garden

I didn’t get happy overnight. I spent a fair bit of my life feeling adrift and separate and unconnected. It was only when I started to make choices about what I did with my life that it suddenly started to fall into place. Choosing a goal (studying) and working through to where we are now has given us choices. We have gone from statistics to anomalies in a single fell swoop. We are no longer welfare victims; we are people who choose to live simply. We don’t see ourselves as “poor” because the life that we choose to lead is rich with possibility, choice, pathways and self-governance. When we chose to take positive steps towards living a more sustainable life we started to remove obstacles to happiness and even though everything about our lifestyle should shriek “fear” and “unhappiness”, the steps that we are putting into place to amend Serendipity Farm from the soil up are going to build positive changes at every stage to allow us to live a simple and debt free life. We are debt free by choice but Serendipity Farm gave us back a whole lot more than being debt free. We have somewhere to call home, to grow our own food, to implement energy saving and water saving techniques and to start a series of cycles incorporating permaculture principals that will live on long after we are gone. The future is nothing but positive when you take control of your choices and you choose to live simply and discover that happiness doesn’t come out of a wallet, it is a state of mind.

A large Mahonia aquifolium against one of the large palms in the jungle part of the garden. You can see why I am expecting to see monkeys whenever I head down into this part of the garden

The Mahonia has wonderful blue fruit and lovely bright yellow flowers along with spiky banksia looking leaves which makes it a striking and hardy specimen for water wise gardens

I finally got around to bleeding my rss feed reader of all of the blogs that I didn’t really need to be reading. Most of them were food porn and as each delicious morsel checked out of my reading list it was difficult to let them go. I am a prolific commenter. I believe that people who write blogs give us a special part of themselves. They sit there, week after week, month after month thinking of insightful things to titillate us and educate us. Some of these blogs were works of art. The photography alone was drool worthy. As a vegan I had no use for some of these blogs. They positively dripped butter and triple layers cheesy meaty goodness but I lusted after them because they were simply beautiful. Someone out there thought enough of their unseen readers to put that much effort into what is effectively a diary. It takes very little time to give people positive comments about all of that effort. Whenever I get an especially exciting recipe from a blog, or a beautifully written post, I have to tell the poster that their work has hit home and feedback is part of the reason why we blog and to connect with strangers is delightful. Many of my dear constant readers are now long distance friends. All of your blogs are still gracing my rss feed reader and your posts are awaited with glee. I deleted posts that were not relevant to me “right here and now” and even then, I lamented their loss. When you have 600+ posts a day to wade through, you know that you need to do SOMETHING to remedy the problem and the problem is that I am greedy when it comes to wonderful blogs. I know that I haven’t even tickled the surface of the blog world. There are glorious blogs out there that I am not even aware of. I found one the other day that was cram packed full of amazing Chinese recipes for how to make all sorts of wonderfully exotic things from scratch including making your own starch noodles, spring roll wrappers, all sorts of amazing Chinese pastes, condiments, pastries and all sorts of steaming techniques and it opened up my eyes to getting a real handle on Chinese cooking that I hadn’t even thought relevant to my kitchen. I can see all sorts of steamed buns, gowgees, chilli oils and water roux’s in my kitchens future now all thanks to a lady who I will never meet who is generous enough with her time to share her precious knowledge with me personally. The internet allows us all to be authors and our viewing public votes on how good we are by liking, commenting and following us. THAT is why I comment. Because what you are doing is precious to me and I value every single comment that teaches me something that I don’t already know.

Sorry about the blue jellyfish in this shot but I just wanted to show you the 2 Tasmania varieties of Telopea truncata/Waratah, one light yellow and the other bright red that are in flower at the moment. We have 2 small specimens and after seeing how well they do in our local area we will be planting them out ASAP

A lovely old Cornus kousa rubra that we noticed on one of our walks with the dogs

We have been working our study futures on Serendipity Farm in the last week. We worked on some plans for a drainage system for our course last week and finished off our costing for our Landscaping unit. We are now putting out tentative feelers in the direction of our unit in creating a show design garden but are holding ourselves back because we aren’t yet aware of what our lecturer has in mind for us. That hasn’t stopped us from thinking about our ideas and planning what we want to do. Steve, as gung-ho as ever, has forged ahead, has designed blocks on AutoCAD, has basically formulated his entire garden along with a pencilled in plan for what he wants to do for his concept plan. I have a list of items on a piece of paper. I am a lot more cautious than Steve and would rather wait to see what Nick actually wants us to do BEFORE I commit to hurling myself into action. I love Steve’s idea. We are both working on small courtyard gardens in urban settings (our choice) and although we have worked closely together on most of our units our ideas are wildly different. I have chosen to run with my heartfelt passion for sustainability to design a garden that will combine function and form with simple food growing strategies in the most aesthetically pleasing way possible. I want to integrate water wicking garden beds, vertical gardening (including green walls), aquaponics, composting and worm farming along with lots of other ideas that I have been finding in my research for my project online. Steve has headed off to create a beautiful garden with incredible simplicity that is quite formal but that allows the owner to recreate the garden as they see fit. A very clever idea that got me excited when he was discussing it with me yesterday. We should hear from our chosen area of study next month to see if we are able to get interviews into the art course that we both want to undertake next year. We are very excited about this course because we have been working with horticulture for 4 years now and a sideline off into another discipline, albeit one that is relevant to what we are doing, has us heading into the unknown again. If we both get interviews and we are both selected for what is apparently a highly sought after course, we will be studying all about art and design using the Adobe suite of programs. Having learned to ride AutoCAD like we stole it, we figure that Adobe will soon yield to our combined efforts and we are really looking forward to learning how to manipulate the pictures in our heads and turn them into a visual interpretation of what we want to say…words in pictures…communication…what it’s all about.

A most beautifully constructed stone wall in Beauty Point. The stone is endemic to the local area and Serendipity Farm soil is predominately comprised of this stone so we are thinking about looking into learning how to make dry stone walls and taking the lemons that our soil has handed us and making dry stone wall lemonade!

“Herman” the orphaned magpie before he went to live with the wildlife carer.

Steve and I decided to take a break yesterday from studies to plant some larger maples that have just revealed themselves to BE maples by growing some leaves and ceasing to be nameless sticks in pots. We have all sorts of maple trees, predominately Japanese maples collected from road verges around prolific seeders that started out as tiny seedlings that wouldn’t have made it through their first summer in the gravel and the pathway of oncoming traffic. We have given lots of them away but there is still a forest of them out there to plant and we decided that there are worse things to have a forest of than maples. One of them is an Acer saccharum or sugar maple, a native of the North of North America and Canada and aside from being a beautiful specimen; it has worth as a food producing plant. Global warming might reduce that worth but in my mind’s eye, I can see the glorious colours that a forest of maples interspersed with edible food trees would bring to Serendipity Farm. Perennial food plants and trees that produce food are the best way to shore up your food futures for generations to come. We are like squirrels on Serendipity Farm but we are not collecting nuts, we are planting them. I learned that pecan nuts will grow in Tasmania and now all I have to do is source some. Along with Almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts we can grow a source of energy rich protein that will allow us to make our own oil, flours and pastes and in my case, milks, to add to the food spectrum. Self-seeding annuals, perennial food shrubs like currant bushes and berries, prolific fruiting vines like passionfruit and kiwifruit are all on the cards and knowing that we can guide nature and assist it to give us the eventuality that we want along with gaining positive benefits to the soil, the ecology and the native environment around us has given us the impetus to get stuck into the hard work that it takes to turn 4 acres of neglect into a going concern.

The “Cluckies”…a group of old biddies hell bent on waiting out our enforced eviction from the nesting boxes. They lay in this spot all day waiting for us to reopen the coop doors and scramble to hop back into their empty nests. A sad indictment of a hens desperation to hatch out a clutch of babies…NO MORE BABIES!…sigh…

A tray of dehydrated bananas that might make it to storage but that are so tasty that I might end up eating them before they get put into a jar

The maples that we plucked out of our “pick me…pick me…” pile, were assembled and ready to plant. All we needed to do was pick where we were going to put them. Steve chose an area to dig and I pointed out that the tree was going to grow to a considerable size and that we didn’t want it to take away our view and so perhaps it might be better moved slightly over a bit…I chose a spot and Steve started to dig…and suddenly we had a water spout…a water spout? Yup…we hit a pipe. In effect “I” hit a pipe with my choice. We have been very lucky not to hit one of the networks of black polypipe that spreads like a subterranean system under the soil just about everywhere on Serendipity Farm. The owners prior to my father and his partner were like water seeking moles that were determined not to lose access to water anywhere on the property. There are taps EVERYWHERE and most of them are within 50 metres of another tap and to have missed them up until now is a sheer miracle. The next hour was spent shoring up the system until we head into town next and pick up a more permanent fix for the system and at the moment the pipe is graced by an old metal stopcock that Steve found in the shed. Steve is an amazing Mr Fixit. I thought that country living conditioned you to being able to find solutions to problems but as a city dweller for all of his life, Steve was dumped into the deep end of country living and was able to take what we have on site and work with it to fix just about everything that needs fixing and work out a solution for most of our needs that doesn’t involve the moth eaten sock under the bed. Bedraggled, covered in mud and after flooding one of the chooks predominate nesting spots (that we know about) we looked at the rapidly assembling mass of dark clouds and decided that the maples were just going to have to wait for another day. Sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men are not enough to get your maples planted.

Effel Dookarks daughter in the compound sitting on 12 new fluffy babies

You can see the new fluff balls in this shot as well as Effels daughter AND Effel in the background watching her grandkids

We had a very eventful day today. We decided to walk the dogs in Rowella which we haven’t done in ages but for some reason we decided to do so again. Towards the end of our walk we noticed what we thought was an old bottle in the middle of the road but when we got closer we saw that it was a magpie. Steve’s first thoughts were that the magpie was dead but as we got closer it put its head up and looked at us. Thinking that he was going to have to euthanise the injured magpie Steve was considerably upset but as I walked closer I noticed that the magpie was much smaller than a normal adult magpie and realised that what we thought was an injured magpie was a fledgling that had fallen out of its nest. We decided to remove the little guy from danger as there was a large crow watching him intently and his parents were nowhere to be seen. After rescuing him I put it under my jumper because it was very cold. We got home and put it under an infrared heat lamp that we bought back when we rescued Pingu last year until we could contact an animal rescue centre who told us the name of a lady living in Legana who cares for injured and orphaned wildlife. We were not considering taking another trip to town but we popped the baby into a hay lined shoebox and loaded the dogs into the back of the car and headed in to town. After dropping the baby magpie off we headed into town to pick up a few things that I forgot on the shopping list on Mondays shopping event and to give the dogs another walk around town. We got home and were sitting on the deck having a well-deserved cup of tea and as we were talking I noticed a hen that looked suspiciously like Effel Dookark wandering around outside the compound where we have contained her for her own good with her 2 remaining babies. On closer inspection we realised that Effel was still inside the compound but one of her daughters was wandering around with 12 tiny little fluff balls that she had hatched out in one of the nests that we missed! We managed to shuffle them into the compound with Effel and hopefully she will manage to keep some of them alive longer than her silly mother. As it stands, we have over 50 chooks on Serendipity Farm and it’s time to think about how many chooks we actually need here. 50 might be a tad too many methinks! After a long hard day I think I might let you off a couple of hundred words early and I might call this post finished for today. I think I might be asleep before my head hits the pillow tonight :o). See you all on Saturday.

No Sticks today, the sticks have gone away…

Hi All

Well maybe there is room for one special guest stick from the lovely Nat at Polytechnic…she would like it to be known that this is a self-stickature  and that she is amazing at growing flowers (and apparently teaching Horticulture at the Alanvale Polytechnic is a hair raising experience!…;) ).

With the last few sunny days I can feel the earth waking up on Serendipity Farm. I can feel it yawning and stretching and basking in the new warmth and light and everything is starting to turn green and burst into leaf and flower. The birds are pairing up and we get a little scraggy blue wren and his partner on our kitchen window looking for cheese along with the cuckoo shrikes and sparrows. Our chickens are determined to go clucky and Bezial discovered a nest with 26 eggs in it yesterday when I was out pulling the nodding blue forget-me-nots out of the garden and reminding myself about how I had left a stand of them in the lawn where my dad couldn’t see them when I mowed the lawn for him a few years ago because “they are so pretty”…talk about make your bed and at a later day having to lay there covered in sticky forget-me-not seeds! Consider lesson learned God…I won’t be making that mistake again! ;). Steve and I have been venturing out into the garden and tentatively touching things, looking at things and feeling our way back into the outside world of Serendipity Farm. Glad and her daughter Wendy next door have spent most of winter burning off their debris and yesterday, when we were out raking, they were burning off the long grass before it becomes a fire risk and we had a chat over the fence. It’s nice knowing and liking your neighbours.

Things are starting to green up in the side garden…sort of Armageddon with hope

After we removed all the sticks from the lawn, raked all of the leaves up and Steve whipper snipped

We also did the small grassed area in front of this side garden

AND the garden in front of the deck…

Aside from the stair rails needing a bit of TLC, the garden area is starting to look pretty good

We spent the day raking the lawns to remove the sticks dropped from the large eucalyptus trees above. We collected them all and burned them on a small fire site next to the house. I pulled out forget-me-nots while Steve whipper snipped the Vinca major that has had too long ruling the garden and whose days are numbered. We took stock of where our efforts from earlier in the year had left us and took up where we left off. I can honestly say that there is no more solid sleep than that which comes from a hard day’s work where you get your hands immersed in the warm soil. I slept like a log last night. Today we are going to burn off a pile of dead blackberries and some debris left over from an earlier wood collection run that litters the second smaller garden down from the house. It’s not visible from the house so it’s easy to just forgedaboudit BUT should someone venture down into the second garden they would see carnage.  Why are we tidying up like maniacs? Because the son and heir is bringing his new partner back to Serendipity Farm to meet us. Someday this will all be his and perhaps hers.  I want them to see beyond the piles of their parent’s debris and see the wonderful possibilities that Serendipity Farm holds and I want them to love this little piece of land stuck out in the boondocks on a river somewhere at the end of the earth like we do.

(I wish Steve had been out in the boat and caught some fish BEFORE he smoked it…)

Just a little whipper snip and everything starts to look a whole lot tidier

Some of the greenery that we uncovered in our recent assault on the side garden

Where we pulled all of the weeds out and replanted with dwarf conifers, grasses etc. is starting to look lovely, mostly thanks to the arrival of a host of spring bulbs

The Japanese maple above the steps is just starting to come into leaf. All we have to do now is find a way to stop the possums from scarfing the tender new leaves and everything will be fine!

The Blackwood trees are all out in bloom and there is a stark difference between their hard toughness and their soft fluffy lemon yellow blooms. It’s almost as if God gave them something soft to balance out their hardness. The more I look at nature the more I see these patterns of balance and the more I learn about life in general. One of the trees that we cleared out underneath has apparently succumbed to the chickens nefarious scratching’s and endless dust bathing under its canopy and is starting to die. We will remove it and store it for next year’s firewood and will plant something a bit more water and chook wise in its place.  The chickens don’t know it yet but their reign of terror over Serendipity Farm may soon be a twinkle in Big Yins memory. We have plans for a deep litter chook pen based on this wonderful idea at Milkwood Permaculture my “go to” place for all things regarding applicable permaculture that can be used on Serendipity Farm. This set up got my brain churning and the fact that it relies on a sloped site and the chickens doing the work to fertilise straw for future composting really struck a chord with me. They called it a “Gravity Chicken Run” and as gravity is always trying to grab whatever it can on its swift decent down to the gate at the bottom of Serendipity Farm I figure why not get it to work for us?

http://milkwood.net/2012/06/13/meanwhile-in-the-gravity-chicken-run/

Bezial allowed me to take this shot so long as I included telling you that he is the rightful dog on Serendipitiy Farm and that all other canine creatures are facimilies rather than having any claim to the throne.

The third pile of blackberries that we threw onto day 2’s fire BEFORE I realised that I was wasting photo opportunities and raced to grab it

The second small lawned area down from the house. As you can see we may have left some of this debris here for a little while…

This was after we removed the three loads of blackberries so imagine this heap about 3 times bigger and you can start to get a picture of why we procrastinated about dealing with the second lawn

Ok, I am starting to twitch!

I get very excited whenever I go to Milkwood.net and I end up spending ages there. It’s my own private permaculture porn site where I can fantasise my brains out about how we can change our land to give it the best possible chance of surviving and flourishing into the future. This post has been pinched. Don’t bother to sue me Nick and Kirsten as penniless student hippies have nothing that you want. Just be happy in the knowledge that what you put out there into the ether is taking root down south and growing. We have decided to use the 9 old railway sleepers that we were given by a fellow penniless hippy in exchange for a bit of work that we did for him to make ourselves a polytunnel up next to where we are going to build our gravity fed chook run. The only thing stopping us from doing what we want is a severe lack of the folding green stuff but my last month and a half of sustainable learning (thanks to the free lectures from Tamar NRM) has given me all sorts of ideas for how to deal with a lack of money by using our smarts to give us what we need. No seeds…go to the seed swap day and swap some of those plants that you no longer have a use for…no materials? Do some work for fellow penniless hippies and suddenly “stuff” may just be a possibility. We are taking up Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s creed and bartering our services for “stuff”.

The garden might be a bit chaotic but that lawn is starting to look alright…

That dead looking tree actually has a path leading down to it that will have to be cleared out in the coming weeks

Looking back towards the house…we might grow some kiwifruit over this arch in the near future

This pathway leads down to a pond that we are going to resurrect and use as part of our edible food forest. We have some blue bamboo that needs to be planted in water and this might be just the place to put it. As you can see we have some serious clearing and replanting to do on Serendipity Farm but this year might just be the turning point (I certainly hope so!)

This is a Serendipity Farm “Where’s Wally”…find a chicken, a duck and a cat

I sent off a missive to the dear Amanda, the unseen, unthanked backbone of the Tamar NRM team who intercepts the emails, caters for the “do’s” and hovers about in the background just waiting for someone to ask for something. She once sent an email saying “I sleep here in the office and I never go home” and I am starting to think that might not be too far from the truth! My missive was effusive, ecstatic and most generous in thanking the Tamar NRM for the amazing series of free lectures and wonderfully catered lunches that I have just attended and I felt that she deserved some of the credit for the smooth progression from one event to the next. She sent back her own missive asking me to write an article for the next Tamar NRM newsletter so stay tuned folks…narf7 is going postal!

It doesn’t take our hoards long to find a patch that was previously occupied by debris, currently occupied by thin air and scuttling, startled insectivourous life

Duckies new best mate Yin who has had to adapt to being tailed by Ducky or suffer the quacks of outrageous fortune

A rare case of afternoon sunshine on Serendipity Farm

One thing that we can’t swap is our weather here on Serendipity Farm. We are situated in a zone where rainfall tends to be somewhat sparse. We need to get rainwater tanks from somewhere but rainwater tanks are one of those things that need to be put into the “future” basket because the moth eaten sock won’t run to rain water tanks. Neither will it run to the small personal wind turbine that wants to be built here either and as serious as I am about doing things myself, the instructable that I downloaded for how to build your own wind turbine may as well be written in Japanese because my technical ability runs to zilch and none. Who knows where the future will take us but one thing is for sure…we are at least taking hold of the reigns and trying to direct the workhorse in the direction that we want to go.

“Anyone for a Melaleuca Chuppa Chup?”

Henny Penny is NOT amused! “Put me down you blighter!” How ungrateful after Steve just saved you from the lusty intentions of “Chicken” or “Stock”!

I am in the process of learning to write smaller posts. I am a naturally generous person and cutting my posts down feels like not giving you bang for your mental buck but I realise that most people don’t have an hour to read a post and that my posts are definitely off the chart when it comes to average post lengths.  After all of these years of mangling the English vernacular I have decided to attempt to harness my verbosity and like Serendipity Farm, direct it where I want it to go. I can’t promise you that I won’t fall back into my large post ways especially when I have a lot to share with you. Enthusiasm…thy name is Fran! BUT I can promise you that my posts will be pared down a bit. I can nibble off the bampf and I can actually read them and edit them a bit and see if that enthusiasm can be channelled into some sort of directional flow. I am looking at the word count at the bottom of the page and it says 1343. That’s roughly half that of my usual posts. My brain is champing at the bit to flow where it will like a meandering stream but I am going to nip it in the bud today. I think I will give you all a hug (we all need a hug when we break bad habits) and love you and leave you there! I know! I did it! See you on Saturday when Stewart and Kelsey are rocking up to Serendipity Farm and I may be allowed to take some photos to share with you…then again…I might not 😉 Keep your fingers crossed that the son and heir is feeling magnanimous about the world and willing to allow me to snap him for posterity. Wish me luck! (He hates his photo being taken so I am certainly going to need it ;))

Transition towns on Serendipity Farm

Hi All

I think that contentment with your lot is an entirely underrated concept. I decided to take it from concept mode and apply it to my real life. No longer is contentment shelved with the occasional mental dalliance with Brad Pitt or George Clooney, but it’s out here in the open being given a long overdue airing. I think that my much mulled over purchase of Brunhilda our enormous wood burning stove has had something to do with this. Since we moved to Serendipity Farm we have been choosing to live more frugally and more simply. It’s not of necessity and is more to do with making a conscious choice to live with less. We had an opportunity to totally change our lives and we decided to go with it. Sometimes you can’t afford to just carry on regardless and this was one of those times, however our road less travelled is a pilgrimage to understanding more about who we are and where we fit into this unusual landscape we call life. I didn’t realise that something as fundamental as food, warmth and the early morning predawn sight of a firebox full of flames would give me so much satisfaction. Aside from the flames I can now cook whatever I want pretty much whenever I want. I can cook a cake in one oven, a meal in another and be defrosting something in the coolest oven whilst proving my bread, setting my yoghurt, making breadcrumbs or dehydrating (fruit, veggies AND the occasional shoe) in the other. I can set my cup of tea on one of her covers and it will stay hot for as long as it sits there. I can boil a kettle of cold water in a few moments and it will sit on its own little rectangle of warmth ready to be reactivated, bubbling and singing its heart out in a moment’s notice…always a bonus when you are as addicted to tea and coffee as Steve and I are. It’s the elixir of thought in my case, and a channel of direction for Steve’s nervous energy. Just making very small changes to our lives has opened up a whole lot of possibilities. Swapping milk from a carton for home-made almond milk has given me back some choices and allowed me more control over what I am consuming. The purchase of 2 more almond trees will give me more control over my ability to continue using almond milk in my tea. The more you think about your ability to sustain your lifestyle using your own hands, a degree of thought and problem solving and what you have around you the more exciting the possibilities get.

Literally “The road to Serendipity…” 🙂

There is so much doom and gloom around at the moment in the environmental movement. Why would anyone want to bother trying to do anything positive about changing their environmental footprint when we are hit by barrage after barrage of negative information, hopeless outcomes and doomsday prophesies that appear to take more than a small degree of delight in mankind’s ultimate demise…I choose not to listen to them. I choose to actively try to change my own personal footprint and life so that what I am doing isn’t going to make it worse and might just make it better. I have always tried to be a glass half full person. That doesn’t mean that I stick my head in the sand or never stress about anything, this is my year of living honestly and sometimes I can be positively vibrating with stress. The last few years have taught me how much stress someone can actually live with and how detrimental to your health that stress can be. I don’t want to heap unnecessary stress on top of the stuff I can’t choose and worrying about the end of the world won’t do anyone any good. I guess the environmentalists are trying to push these changes through by using a blunt approach. That’s what the Australian government are trying to do with cigarette packaging…it doesn’t work because you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink and if someone doesn’t want to change their thought processes and actions then nothing that you say or do is going to get them to. I decided long ago not to preach to people. It’s not worth it and they could care less. I just do what I can to live within the parameters of my own ethos and ideology and hopefully people can see that a simple life is more conducive to being a happy one.

The Aurora Australis heading back down the Tamar River to the sea. It makes a deep throbbing noise as it chugs its way down the river that you can hear for miles and Steve had advanced warning that a “photo opportunity” was approaching today

Part of the reason that I would love to study mushrooms and immerse myself in mycology is that fungi play such a fundamental part in our day to day lives and we need their activities for so many things. Here’s to you little branching fungus… live long and prosper!

I can’t stand people who jump on a cause because it might just earn them some popularity. I have made some sustained lifestyle choices and NONE of them were for the popularity points. I don’t labour the point with a vegan lifestyle because it’s what I choose to do and nothing to do with anyone else out there. I am not going to picket my friends’ houses because they choose to eat meat. Get a bit of a grip people…you end up looking like idealistic gits and most certainly don’t show anyone the benefits of living the way you choose if you are too busy trying to elevate yourself above everyone else with your trendy lifestyle choice. No tattoos for me…no shaven sides of my head…no husband with a soul patch…”How will anyone KNOW that I am vegan?”…you know what…I don’t actually CARE if anyone knows that I am vegan. I am content to just “be” vegan and know that it ticks one of my own personal happiness quotient boxes and be done with it. This segues me back to today’s meeting. I won’t be talking about it in this post because it’s in the future and I may still be ruminating over what I have heard today so you can expect a full critique along with photos on Wednesday. I can’t promise that I won’t have taken the odd surreptitious photo of the back of a felt hatters head (felt had firmly in place and most probably blocking someone behind thems view of the proceedings)…I can’t promise that I won’t have had the odd comment to make to a grandstanding felt hatter who turned up to “have their say” but who couldn’t be bothered to actually get up on stage and put the effort in to attempt to show people how to do something and I can’t promise that I won’t get a bit overexcited about something that I learned. You know me well now dear constant readers and excitement is my middle name! I am really looking forwards to attending the garden visit with my friend from the witness protection program. I will be taking copious photos of Steve Solomon’s personal veggie garden along with the odd photo of my friend’s shoe. He wrote the book “Growing Vegetables South of Australia” a most detailed scientific approach to growing veggies in my local environment. Steve lives about 15 minutes away from Serendipity Farm and as such, what he is talking about is quite pertinent to my own requirements. He is also an old hippy, a hermit and is into trying to live a simple sustainable life. He is also an expat American who has developed a range of seeds for our local climate that he sells through the Exeter nursery. It will be very interesting to attend this lecture and find out what Steve does with his own garden. You can learn more about someone from their personal actions than you can from a million of their words…

http://www.soilandhealth.org/05steve’sfolder/05aboutmeindex.html

There is something very invigorating about being in a room full of people who want to facilitate change in their local environment.

Here’s part of the knowledge base of Serendipity Farm. Note the large monitor that allows me the vanity of thinking that I don’t need glasses AND the ability to switch between computer, television AND Wii. My own personal little entertainment unit that allows Steve the run of the loungeroom at night and the freedom to watch trashy tv and the Olympics without my derogatory comments.

The transition town lecture has me inspired. We are such a fragmented society now. Technology has given us the ability to be distanced from the earth and to purchase our wants and needs from middle men and from overseas. I am not saying that it’s not fantastic to have the range of goods and services that we have but I am saying that a fair few of them we don’t actually need and we are soon going to have to renegotiate what we can and can’t live without. I would rather have a washing machine than an I-pod. I would rather install a wind turbine than continue to watch as our electricity prices skyrocket out of all proportion to what is being delivered. We DO have choices and we can exercise our ability to head on over to where the choices fit our ethos and Transition towns fit right smack bang in the middle of my own personal utopian ideal. Our civilisation was able to exist long before anyone thought of using oil to grease the chains of capitalism and so long as we haven’t stuffed up our environment too much, we will be able to exist long into the future. I CHOOSE to see the bright side because I don’t want to live in perpetual fear and depression. Our fragmented society has done nothing for families, for the once esteemed position of the elderly and it’s a rare person who is actually content with their lot. Communities are a thing of the past apart from in Third World countries where they will feel the loss of oil somewhat less than we will. I am not talking about survivalists when I talk about Transition towns. There are always going to be people who want to succeed from the human race (usually with guns and traps and water purifiers). To be honest, I wouldn’t want to live in a post-apocalyptic world where your choice was selfishness or to eliminate the competition. That brings me back to transitions. Change is always a very difficult thing for me. I like to know what is going on and where I fit into it and as such, I tend to make sure that I am well aware of my local environment. The truth about peak oil is that change is something inevitable and the sooner we see where we fit into this change the better. I can see a lot of benefits. I see the loss of supermarket giants hold in our communities due to the skyrocketing price of fuel. That means that we will get our bakers, our butchers, and our local store on the corner back. We will lose our ability to instantly access goods from overseas, BUT we will be able to take full advantage of what is local and seasonal and we may all end up healthier for this. No more Monsanto! We will have to learn how to manage our pests naturally…no more monocrops. Far be it from fearing this, we should be learning how to grow food within our communities to sustain us locally. In other words…it would be back to the hamlets…small towns and communities that naturally formed before the rise of oil consuming machinery. It wasn’t that long ago folks…only last century people didn’t have cars and that’s only a collective blink in the history of the world. The stranglehold of capitalism based on oil has been rapidly depleting our environment of its beauty and resources to our detriment. We CAN live on after peak oil…we just need to learn how to do it and not to fear the changes. I guess transitioning can be summed up in a sentence…” Remove “ME” from its elevated position of envy and put “US” up there in sustainable lights”.

The “blurb” about the event that I attended today

The lady standing coordinates the Tamar sustainable living group. She is living the life that I want to emulate here on Serendipity Farm and has an incredible amount of knowledge about living sustainably and will be coordinating the next sustainable food choices event that I will attend in a fortnights time. Can you see a couple of felt hatters? 😉

We were asked to get into groups and brainstorm some ideas about what we wanted to achieve within our local communities. This was my little group and we had some great ideas

Ok, enough transitioning for me! I need to head off to the shower, pack some fruit for my lunch (it might be transition towns but I bet they still forget to cater for the vegetarians (let alone the vegans 😉 ) and take my trusty camera to see if I can’t take a few shots for you today of what this is all about. I like being a lens for learning. I guess I should probably have stayed at my studies when I was at teachers college but looking at some of the harried teachers and lecturers around me makes me believe that the world did me a favour when it removed me forcibly from a career in “sharing”. I guess you can see that I am very excited about this month and the possibilities of sustainable living and transition towns. I hope that you will stick around to read about my interpretation of what it’s all about because that’s what I am all about at this phase of my life…love me…love my transition town ;). Today it’s Kelsey, my son Stewart’s partner’s birthday. “Happy Birthday Kelsey” and welcome to our strange family! It’s my own birthday tomorrow. I will be spending the day being spoiled and cossetted by the man that I love. He is going to throw himself out on a limb and bake me a vegan cake and we are having veggie burgers and home-made chips for tea (my own personal request). I am sure that the dogs will be entirely unimpressed with our meal but take heart Steve…at least they won’t be begging from your plate tonight! Have a great weekend dear constant readers and remember that we all have choices, it’s just up to us how we decide to exercise those choices :o).

Dog 1 and how enthusiastic he is going to be tomorrow night with the food choices available to the average scrounging dog…

Dog 2 after being told by dog 1 what is going to be on offer at the table for my vegan birthday feast. Bad luck doggies…its my night! 😉

Future trading in nature’s stock market

Hi All,

Steve and I have spent the last year shoring up futures for a rainy day. We have rooster futures, egg futures and wood futures…all grown and collected ourselves. We have also been researching how to make these futures renewable. As penniless hippy students we realised that we needed to take a few lessons from our grandparents and learn how to do as much as we could ourselves. Watching The Good Life recently made me realise how ahead of its time this 1970’s television program actually was. In one episode Tom and Barbara needed to mend their roof and couldn’t afford to pay anyone to do it so they decided to take themselves off to night school to learn how to fix the roof themselves. There is enormous power in knowledge and an immense degree of pleasure. I have to admit to internally snickering at Tom talking about “efficiency” and then heading out every day to get a home made cartload of wood rather than working out a way to be more efficient, but I forgive him because this show was SO far ahead of its time it’s amazing. I love knowing how to do things myself. It goes WAY past the delight in producing a nice cake from the oven and has me scouring the net for ways to propagate our own edible food forest from seeds and cuttings and traded plants. We have found a source of cutting material for blueberries and kiwi fruit, another bag of walnuts to stratify and attempt to grow from a local source (so they should be more resilient to our local conditions) and more importantly, we have found a source of free topsoil! One of the first things that we discovered about Serendipity Farm was that you can’t dig the soil…it’s full of large rocks. This was a BIG problem because as penniless hippy students who had spent what they had been left on shoring up Serendipity Farm for the future we don’t have a lot left for going “up” when it came to gardening.  We tossed up whether to pay big money for raised garden beds and they lost out to our wood burning stove and a trailer. We figured that we could make raised garden beds out of the rocks that were our arch nemesis in the first place, making lemonade from the sour lemons that we had discovered. I used some of the debris that we had generated in our efforts to ethnically cleanse Serendipity Farm from its active and growing weed population to chop up and fill half of the 3 garden beds that we have already built out of some old corrugated iron that we inherited along with the property. We have been trying to use as much of the collection of old rubbish that we inherited because aside from having to pay to have it dumped, it goes against our principals of throwing things away when you could use them and save yourself time and money in the process so old tyres, old corrugated iron and a large bottle population that has been slowly uncovered are all being stored for future use. Now that we have found free topsoil, all we need to do is enrich it with last year’s futures (oak leaf mould) and the contents of our compost bin and we have 3 garden beds ready to plant! The same source of free topsoil offered to loan us their rotary hoe, but whatchagonnado? Rotary hoes and rocks are NOT the best of friends (somewhat like me and middle men…)

Hayfever futures…

Cymbidium orchid futures

Long time futures…this is the very first time that this orchid has flowered since Nat gave it to us several years ago…

Epyphitic orchid futures (dependent on regular beer injections…)

As Kermit the frog once sang “It’s not easy being green…” It’s hard slog! Where you might use the later day equivalent of Agent Orange to take out all of your weedy species in one fell swoop, we choose to manually grub our weeds and that takes time and an enormous amount of energy. Since Saturday we haven’t stopped working. We had a week of sunshine and knew that this was a rare and precious event so we decided to make hay while the sun shines and get out into the fresh air and do what we could to shore up our wood futures and tidy up the garden. For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you know that we are juggling studies in horticulture with working in the garden here. It’s frustrating because our chosen path of indentured student poverty doesn’t give us much scope to actively put into practice what we are learning. We have to either wait until we have the money to do what we are planning, or we have to find another, money free way to get what we want. I am NOT good at waiting! That’s what all of the research and planning has been for… learning how to do what we want at minimal to no cost. It might take a bit more time to get what we want…but at least we aren’t sitting twiddling our thumbs waiting until we can afford to get it the “normal” way. Steve is off shopping today because yesterday (Monday) was our esteemed ruler Queen Elizabeth the 2 had her birthday on a day that wasn’t really her birthday…honestly Liz…HOW MANY BIRTHDAYS DOES ONE GIRL NEED! They aren’t like handbags and shoes you know and with your advancing years I would think that you would want to minimise, not maximise them… I guess she gets lots of presents… but at least Steve realised that it was a holiday (probably due to his expat patriotism 😉 ) and stopped himself from heading off to do our fortnightly shopping when he wouldn’t have been able to do half of it because the smaller local shops would have been closed. This brings me back to futures again… we have learned not to live day to day like we did when we lived in the city. We were spoiled back then. If we wanted to shop we just headed up to the Woolworths shopping centre 4 houses away from us and bought what we wanted and if our need was for something that we couldn’t satisfy at Woolworth’s we were only 4km away from the city centre and could be there in minutes. Here we are 50km away from the city and fuel is expensive. We soon learned to curtail our driving expeditions and use the car only when necessary and so we now shop fortnightly and make sure to have more than we need. Today…2 weeks and 4 days after Steve’s last shopping expedition, we still have everything that we need to go along as normal and that is what futures are all about…

Springtime flower futures

Walnut tree futures

Integrated Pest Management Futures

You have to be very careful when you are planning your futures. You need to ensure that you cut out as many middle men as you can. As you all know middle men are where the money goes and they deal in dreams. They take what someone creates and they flog it to someone else and in the process take a large cut of the profits and increase the price of what they are dealing with enormously…we don’t need them and they are costing us a lot of money! Superannuation is one of those middle man run schemes that can end up (like insurance) being something that costs us dearly. If I had money (which I don’t incidentally)… it would be in a sock under the bed! I loved the episode of Futurama (My Three Suns) where Fry told his convoluted tale of the grasshopper and the octopus…it goes like this for those of you who have been missing out on some quality television…

“It’s just like the story of the grasshopper and the octopus. All year long, the grasshopper kept burying acorns for the winter, while the octopus mooched off his girlfriend and watched TV. But then the winter came, and the grasshopper died, and the octopus ate all his acorns. And also he got a race car. Is any of this getting through to you? “

Far be it from me to not learn something from such a wise young sage…I see the lesson in this tale as being if something can go wrong it most probably will AND  there is always someone out there waiting to take credit and profit from your hard work. There is a happy medium and a very fine line between storing up futures AND living in the moment (sorry Caesar…) and we are attempting to do it all.

This was FULL of leaves, packed down and compressed last year…this was last years oak leaf futures…

Scratching the surface reveals future AMAZING soil amendments

A handful of vegetable futures!

I have a sore back…I have a sore arm…I have a sore chest…I have a sore knee…that’s what happens when you throw yourself with abandon into collecting wood from a steep rocky back block and clearing out debris! Thank GOODNESS Steve is shopping today because I don’t know that I could have worked as hard as we have for the last 3 days for another day… We have cleared out the banana passionfruit in the vegetable garden area that was covering up a nest of blackberries. We have collected wood for 2 days and yesterday we decided to clean up some of the random piles of debris and have a good old fashioned bonfire. Again… the simple act of having a bonfire involved us spending 5 hours collecting up the debris and raking up the piles of leaves, sticks, twigs, grass that we have been generating, loading it up into wheelbarrows and tipping it onto the fire…just a small aside…did you know that technically fire can be construed as being alive? It eats, it breathes (fires need oxygen to burn), it generates energy, it reproduces… it’s also our oldest way to manipulate our environment to give us what we need. I have been researching the Swidden-fallow ancient method of agroforestry (thanks Spencer from Anthropogen.com for EVERYTHING that I know about this…). It’s amazing how we don’t hear about these ancient methods of agriculture isn’t it? Why are we hammered with industrialisation when it only represents an insignificant portion of our past existence? If we could live without it before, we can do so again… I haven’t got time to go into Swidden-fallow principals here but if you are interested head on over to

Anthropogen.com

and find out all about it. While you are there you can check out some really interesting PDF’s, sites and information about all things to do with sustainable agriculture and as Spencer seems to spend most of his life hopping from one continent to the next you can take a wild ride in horticulture with him with each of his posts. Burning debris for the ash and leaving great piles of debris lying about is part of the Swidden-fallow system. As lazy as I am, the great piles of debris are starting to wear thin on me and so we decided to turn them into ash. The great piles that are strategically hidden from sight are still there…those that were in our line of site are now smouldering in a massive pile of snowy white ashes waiting for the rain to distribute them to the teatree garden area via concrete swale drains that we cleared out yesterday as well…another one of my grandmothers sayings comes to mind…”in for a penny, in for a pound” meaning do as many things as you can in one go and save yourself the time, effort and in some cases money. Drain cleaning before the rains hit…debris removal…tidying up our vista and basically restoring some form of order to the chaos that our garden has become. Today we rest. It’s one of the few benefits of being penniless hippy students who study from home…we can organise our lives how we see fit so long as we are able to do what is required of us. We are both great fans of being organised. I do it; Steve likes it so we are united on that front. We have so many plans for what we want to do here…composting toilets…rain water tanks… wind turbines… a generator… most of our plans involve some serious capital outlay and so are going to have to remain plans until we are able to bring them into reality. That won’t stop me hunting for ways to get what we want as cheaply as possible with the best possible outcome. Bring it on world…so long as there is an internet and a library available to me I can find out pretty much anything that I need to do it!

Olive tree futures (looks like peanuts I know but its skun olives 😉 )

Tamarillo futures

Present  Catalpa bignonioides (Indian bean tree) pod

Future  Catalpa bignonioides

Tomorrow will see us off collecting topsoil. We might even drag our tired sorry bones off to do it today because tomorrow has a rainy forecast. I was reading a transcript from an interview that Andrew Denton had with Billy Connolly on his program “Enough Rope”. I love Billy Connolly and consider him to be one of the best comic genius’s around. He is able to be a real person and a naughty boy at the same time bringing everyone into the fold in the process. I have never laughed so hard or as loudly as I have when being entertained by Mr Connolly himself. He said something in the interview that really hit home with me. I quote…

“There’s a little Buddhist saying that says, ‘Learn what you should be doing and do it.’ And it sounds too simple to be, to have any importance, but it’s absolutely true.  The number of people I’ve met who are doing things they don’t like and it’s making them really, you know… The number of guys I knew when I worked on the Clyde who hated their job, didn’t like their wife that much and didn’t like the place where they lived. And I thought, how can you do this every day? But you would be astonished at the number of people who do that, every day of their lives. And, the whole trick is, I would say to my children when you’re going along the road and you’re at the library or wherever you are, watch what you’re drawn to. Watch the type of shops, the windows you always hang out at. Just listen to yourself and see what you’re being drawn to and don’t choose a career. You know let it happen to you. It’ll choose you.”

Isn’t that great? No wonder so many people are jumping onto the Buddhist bandwagon. I think that there are a whole lot of instinctual things that we have learned to suppress inside ourselves because we get swept along by societal needs and wants. When you move out of societies mainstream… and it IS a stream that washes you along… you suddenly realise that there is more to life than the acquiring and spending of money. Thank goodness for that because the sock under my bed is only one that Earl stole from Steve as he lay sleeping on the sofa and if all of my worldly goods were held inside that sock they would be outnumbered by Steve’s toenail clippings and skin flakes! When you haven’t got a lot of money you can choose to get depressed about it or you can choose to see it as a challenge. I choose the latter. There must be some sort of aberrant optimist inside me that keeps on wanting to try weird and wonderful things. I keep going (like the Eveready bunny) LONG after most people would have given up and gone home. I think that this tenacity of spirit came from my mum who spent most of her life trying to negotiate mainstream society when it was more than obvious that mum wasn’t part of it. The more people I meet, the more I realise that “mainstream society” seems to be a metaphor rather than a reality. Most of us feel alienated from “mainstream society” in one way or another. Aside from us all being individuals, “mainstream society” is a concept that was concocted and is being perpetuated by media moguls, advertising executives, purveyors of unnecessary goods and entrepreneurs to keep us wanting more and using our natural competitiveness to make us think that someone out there has something better than us and that we had best start trying to keep up… I say bollocks to it. I got off that treadmill before I even got on it! Not having money is a great way to keep yourself off that treadmill in the first place as it’s all about the folding green stuff and if you don’t have it…you’re not allowed in the club. I have discovered that far-be-it from being a small lonely club; the “buggerybollocksall lack of money” club seems to be the norm for most of us living on planet Earth. I am taking my life lessons from my fellow compatriots around the world. Should you know about some money saving way to reuse, recycle, repurpose just about anything to our avail I am MOST interested in finding out how. I learned a great deal from both my parents and grandparents about thrift and the value of frugality and am in the process of learning about the thrift and frugality of other cultures. In the process I am learning all sorts of valuable life lessons and am having a great time discovering just where we sit in the world. Cheers to everyone out there who puts in the effort to keep sharing what they do and how they do it by the way. Without this massive network of free information so many of us would be reduced to subsistence living without a lot of hope. Your generosity of spirit has given us so very much and from all of us living on the breadline…we thank you from the bottom of our hearts :o)

Oak leaf futures

Garden soil ammendment futures

See that pile of soil down at the end of this driveway? THAT is our topsoil futures 🙂

Ok, so you get another 3000 word post. Verbosity is my gift and my curse and I guess both you and I are going to have to live with it! Hopefully I entertained you a bit and enlightened you (via others) in the wordy process from go to whoa. I hope you all have an interesting and informative time until we meet again. I hope you all get at least 1 chance to step outside your comfort zone and take a little risk and live a little in the process. I also hope that Steve gets home soon with something to entertain Earl before he finishes off the plastic rubber Father Christmas he is working on in his walk-free boredom and starts on the kitchen chairs! Ciao bambino’s c’est finis!

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