A Fracoon is eating my library books!

Hi All,

My daughters took one look at our new pup a year ago and said “It’s a Fracoon”. A fracoon is apparently a cross between “Redd Fox” from the Nintendo game Animal Crossing and a racoon. Earl has proven to be a worthy combination of the two. Redd Fox was a dubious ‘merchant’ in the game and whenever you bought something from his nefarious shop, you were always aware that it might not be quite kosher (if you get my drift) and ran the risk of being ridiculed for buying a fake. Foxes are nefarious creatures that slink around looking for something to eat or some trouble to get into and raccoon’s reputations precede them. They are gregarious, brave, inquisitive and little demolition derbies on wheels, much like our Aussie brush tail possums. Earl is all of the above in a much bigger skin. Like foxes and racoons he has his cute moments. Earl isn’t a bad dog…he is a bored dog. Steve and I walk both dogs at least 5km a day which takes us over an hour. Bezial is fine with this and spends the rest of the day lounging around on the deck or moving from sunbeams to a bit of shade. Earl is another kettle of fracoons and we just have to amuse him throughout the day. I have foiled the library and have purchased a copy of “A Covenant with Death” by John Harris from an online second-hand book seller and it is winging its merry way across the Tasman as I type this post and once it arrives I will take it, along with the shredded remnants of a young dog’s inquisitiveness and face the music at the library. I have a sneaking suspicion that they are going to start suggesting library books to me. You know the kind…the tattered yellow dog-eared kind with more sticky tape on them than book because so far, the library has been coming out of the “Fracoon book cleansing” events on top. Earl’s first attempt was a hardly read copy of a hard cover book about edible food forests. It was replaced with a brand new copy sent out from old Blighty post haste. This second book was from the early 1960’s. Some might say “a 60’s book is a classic so would cost more to replace”. I would say “this book could be found for 20c at an op shop if I had the time and the ability to hunt through the shelves in Launceston” but I don’t and so the online option where the book was actually removed from someone’s market stall at the Melbourne Markets had to be effected. This book is shiploads better than the copy that Earl segmented and so again…the library comes out on top. I hope that Earl (and I) have learned our lessons now. Library books are NOT worth eating or leaving anywhere that fracoons can find them.

This is the very first Garage Sale house for us. We started at the opposite side of the run of houses and were going the opposite way to just about everyone else. The story of our lives! Doesn’t this place look more like Vermont than Australia? Steve got his backpack sprayer here. Perfect for seasol, worm tea etc.

Garage sale number 2 and the start of a trend for various kinds of boats for sale. We even saw an unattended boat on the side of the road with a “For Sale” sign on it…

“The Others”… Have any of you seen a U.K. show called Mr Bean? In it, we can only assume an alien abducted (and rejected summarily) ausbergers man navigates his way through the “normal” world leaving an hilarious trail of debris behind him. There was an episode where he went on holiday and for some reason, singled out a man to compete with. This family are our “man” and we are playing the part (most magnificently I might add…) of Mr Bean. Brett and Sandy are locals that we know quite well. We don’t see them very often and usually only say hello to their dog Tommy while he is barking at us walking the dogs. We last saw them last year at the progressive garage sale where we rose victorious in our quest and bought the bargain of the day that is still spoken about in hallowed circles. Today we were chatting with them about how to defend yourself against marauding dogs when walking your dog on a lead. We said that we were going to buy a pair of telescopic walking poles from Ebay specifically for the purpose. Brett said “That’s a bloody good idea!” and as we both drove off in a cloud of dust it was on! later on they overtook us and we met them coming back the other way with a victorious Brett waving a telescopic ski pole out of the window saying “It only cost $3!”…Touche Brett and Sandy…Touche…for now! There’s always next year…

The next garage sale was a thinly veiled attempt to draw unsuspecting people in to a photographic gallery. We decided not to subject you to the pathetic items on display whilst the owner ushered us all into the gallery…we took photos of his goats instead. They were MUCH more interesting and attractive and I bet they were a heck of a lot cheaper! Goat 1

Goat 2

Steve and I have been working on one of our latest projects in our landscape design diploma. Today we will be making blocks in AutoCAD to place into our plan so that we can give our lecturer a “Concept Plan” for when we next see him. We have been looking online for concept plans to see if we can’t tailor AutoCAD to do what we want it to do because as technical and detailed as it is, it was never designed to be an artistic application and our results look unpolished. We discovered that many landscape designers use other, more artistic, applications but we are not in the position where we can pay for another computer program to make our plans “look pretty” at the moment so we are doing what we do best and thinking laterally. Studying from home allows us to make a whole lot of silly mistakes using AutoCAD and because our lecturer isn’t right here with us we pretty much mess about and see if we can’t solve our own problems before we send off a volley of “HELP” messages to his inbox. We often come up with solutions that our lecturer might not otherwise have had to deal with and so we learn more about what we are doing than we would otherwise do if we were sitting in a classroom of students watching the board. Studying from home is really great for us. For the first 18 months of our horticultural adventure we had to attend class daily. We lived 4km from the city centre at the time and had just signed up for our diploma in horticulture when my dad died suddenly and everything changed. We moved from 4km away from the city to 50km away from the city. Because we were penniless hippy students we were unaware how our inheritance of 2 houses would affect our student payments and so we spent the rest of 2010 cramming in as many units (5 in all) as we could (the most expensive units in the diploma) to ensure that we wouldn’t have to pay full price for these units the year after. Tasmania’s low priced houses allowed us to keep both houses and still fulfil our student payment obligations and so life didn’t suddenly become massively complicated and we were able to move here and carry on studying as we had before. We are so very glad that we had been studying horticulture because without that lifesaving backbone we would still be huddled under the bed hiding from the massive vegetative problem we inherited. We are using our property for our sustainable landscape design. It’s given us a degree of personal satisfaction to use what we already know and supplement it with permaculture principals using information gleaned from as many of the incredibly generous people out there who live a permaculture life and who are willing to share their trials and tribulations with the rest of us. We learn from their mistakes and are able to use their hard work to our avail. One day we will help community groups to design outdoor spaces that suit them using what we have learned. We hope to barter our way through life as we turn Serendipity Farm into our own personal little oasis of permaculture bliss. I dare say I won’t be writing “The Serendipity Farm Little Book of Calm” any day soon, but things are starting to feel like they are working together around here for the first time in almost 2 years. Cycles are starting to integrate and we can see a light at the end of this most chaotic of tunnels. We are growing our own nut trees, fruit trees, edible fruiting shrubs and as much as we can to help us to turn this property into an edible food forest for the native animals and for us. Our lecturer is jaded about country living. No doubt he was once a bright eyed bushy tailed (sorry Nick…I just made you sound like one of your arch nemesis possums there!) horticulturalist out to save the world but things wear you down and the native wildlife here is most persistent. Wonderful ideals can come tumbling down or can be worn down slowly until their shell is as smooth as a cynical rock. I don’t blame him for being sceptical about our food forest idea. It’s easy to throw ideas around like Earl throws feathers from one of his plucked victims but I never do anything by halves. I have a burning need to research things and find the best possible outcome and one day, we will be able to live with the possums, indeed, they, being the territorial little bully bruisers that they are, will do our work for us. One family will rule them all and will keep the rest from scavenging everything that grows and there will be so much food here that one family won’t be able to eat it all. That’s my aim and over the next few years we will see if I end up victorious or jaded. Either way my stubborn willpower won’t allow us not to have our edible food forest. It might just look like a Steampunk garden covered in old smooth metal and strange gnarled structures designed to minimise damage by the natives. Either way we will have a garden worth visiting.

The outside of the Deviot Hall, the recipient of the proceeds of the garage sale fees today.

This startled looking lady was a stallholder inside the hall. I bought a pair of Dutch canisters from here. The canisters were for “Suiker” and “Koffie”…

This most suspicious man seems to be in quite a few of my photographs. It’s lucky that he was standing right there in front of this large Eucalyptus viminalis. As you can probably guess, this next garage sale was not all that photogenic…

We purchased a most interesting “lion” at this house. At least we THINK it is a lion…it was only $2 and a fitting plaything for the boys to dismember after our day out hunting for bargains

It’s just on dawn and I can hear Little Red (rooster) Big Yin’s first male progeny giving it the old college try outside and alerting me to stop typing and get his bread chopped. Steve and the dogs are still in bed. I like having an hour to myself in the morning and no sooner do I get out of bed than Bezial (who vacates the bed in the night) is waiting wagging his tail to hop into my nice warm patch and be covered over by the doona. I take Steve in a cup of coffee at 7 and we work out what we are going to do with our day. Today we will be walking the dogs early and we will then design some blocks for our concept plan in AutoCAD and after that we are going to cut a path through the weeds at the side of the house from the steps to where we have our potted plants around the side. We have been wondering why we haven’t done this sooner but we tend to flit around from project to project on Serendipity Farm to keep us motivated and this project has been on the back burner in the “not important or not dire” pile. Up to now we haven’t had the luxury of choosing, we have had to tackle the weed problem, the grass problem and the firewood problem as matters of importance. We DON’T want a fine from council for being a fire risk, we don’t want to perpetuate the weed problem that we have here and spread it to our neighbours (any more than it already is…) and we don’t want to be cold in winter so we needed to deal with those fundamentals first. Now we have the relative luxury of being able to choose and this pathway is one of our first choices because it will mean that we don’t have to walk 150metres to reach somewhere that is actually 10 metres away, just totally inaccessible thanks to tangled and massed vegetation. It will make our lives a bit easier and I am all for that!

I might only have bought a freaky handmade lion (that has since gone to meet its maker) but I fell instantly in love with this tiny bulldozer! Nothing would give me jip if I had this little baby on the property…not rocks…weeds…Earl…NOTHING would stop me! It’s just a pity it wasn’t for sale…

Many houses in Tasmania have apple packing sheds on the property. Tasmania is predominately an apple growing state and this old packing shed only opens once a year for this garage sale. I bought an Inkle loom and some world music CD’s from here last year and this year I bought a double disc DVD of Bill Grainger (an Australian Cook for everyone out of the loop) for $1. I just really love these steps…

And this bit…

And this bit too! See you next year Apple Packing shed…

Isn’t this ornamental grape lovely? That black coated woman in the background is me attempting to get Steve to think about letting me have some old wooden doors and a window sill for $5 each. We didn’t end up getting them and thank goodness because I have NO idea why I wanted them!

We made a few blocks, we cleared out a pathway and as we usually do, we were not content to leave it at that and headed off tackling blackberries with our swashbuckling secateurs and our trusty small pruning saw. We lopped 15ft tall roses that should never have ventured above 5ft, we removed enormous boneseed plants, weeds from South Africa (as are most Aussie invasive weeds because they LOVE it here) and had to be very careful wherever we trod because the 3 latest silver laced Wyandotte babies and their 2 mums and Effel and her remaining 7 babies were everywhere! As usual, we managed to carve a way through the wilderness to make it easier for us to go from the steps to the potted plant area around the side of the house and in the process generated 3 trailer loads of debris (mostly boneseed, blackberries and enormously overgrown Buddleia davidii). Once we removed the overgrown Buddleia shrubs on the side of the deck we opened up a newfound gap in our Earl proof garden defences and we had to fix it up post haste! Earl had a bit of a nibble on the new fortification and decided that the taste and texture of thick weldmesh are not something that he is going to ingest any day soon. Owners 1, Earl nil. The petition that I started on Avaaz a few weeks ago when foaming at the mouth (a regular occurrence for me whenever I watch, listen or become aware of “news” in general) at a news bulletin about our state leader telling us how we NEED that (bloody) pulp mill for Tasmania’s future…eh?! If we are relying on it, Tasmania is totally bollocked as far as I am concerned. I no sooner settled down (still foaming and muttering) to the PC when I noticed a post from Kosmos9, a blog that I follow, sharing a site where normal people can make a difference by starting a petition. I threw myself into it with great gusto and set about transferring all of that froth and angst and frustration into that petition. I got an email from one of the Avaaz volunteers who is an Aussie living in Sweden and who helped me reformulate the petition into a smaller, more condensed (less foam and more meat ;)) petition and now the petition has been noticed by most of the local anti-pulp mill groups and it went from 10 signature’s to just on 400 in one day! I hope EVERYONE signs this petition. We are unable to get the media to be unbiased regarding this matter and so those of us who don’t want this mill (most of Tasmania’s population) are simply ignored and don’t have a voice. We are told blatant lies in the media that we can’t counteract because we are stifled whenever we try to have our voices heard. One can only think that the media in Tasmania is bought and paid for by big business along with both major political parties in our state. This petition was my one way of sharing my angst with the rest of the world and it looks like the rest of the world is actually starting to listen! Cheers to anyone reading this blog who has signed my petition. You are giving us back our voice and a degree of hope that we might be able to do something about this injustice. There are over 500 signatures for the petition now and growing (hopefully exponentially).

When we pulled up in the driveway of this house there was a little covered stand loaded up with jonquil bulbs, enormous organic grapefruit and small sage and chive plants in recycled newspaper pots for “donations to the famine in Africa”. I knew that I was just about to meet some kindred spirits and on meandering down their driveway and seeing this totem pole, it bolstered my opinion of them no end. It also gave Steve the idea of making his own totem pole

This is a permaculture garden with a large almond tree in the centre and various annuals and perenials as well as edible plants and vegetables. The owners told me that they wanted to reach an eventuality where they had minimal human input with the garden. Good luck with that guys 🙂

I just loved this little gargoyle on that stump. It personified exactly how I feel sometimes when I head out into the garden and have to start thinking about where to get stuck in…

I didn’t like the woman running this garage sale. She was somewhat snooty and very overpriced so I headed out to where she actually had something interesting and took a photo of this possum fortified veggie garden combined with a chook house and a weather vane. I really appreciated her chook yard…I didn’t appreciate her!

Heres the other side of the chook jail with a wistful rooster peeking out…

We got up bright and early this morning to go to the annual progressive garage sale that we went to last year totally by accident. We were heading somewhere with our trailer when we noticed the garage sale sign and found out that lots of houses were involved. It’s a great idea and allows everyone to sell off their unwanted items at the same time so they don’t have to pay for the publicity and there are more people out and about than might come for a single garage sale. We walked the boys early and packed them into the car with the lure of “walking at the beach”. For the next 2 hours we got in and out of the car and had to shove an ever more reluctant Earl into the back. I love garage sales and have the opinion that I don’t have to race from door to door because I might miss something (as many of the people we saw were doing) because if we were meant to get an item, it would be there for us. I took lots of photos to share with you whenever I could. We cashed up $50 into coins and smaller notes because there is nothing worse for someone having a garage sale than people wielding $50 notes. We still had $23 left when we got back and bought heaps of unique and interesting things and met some really interesting people. At the final garage sale I met a lady that I had met in the Exeter Library who had a common interest in sourdough bread making and she told me that she has just succeeded in making a great starter and is going to give me some! We found an amazing seed pod on a Eucalyptus conferruminata and its currently residing in the cooler of our 4 ovens so that we can see if we can get some seed from it. I had a really good time wandering around other people’s driveways and gardens and was more interested in what people were growing than in what was for sale! I got a most eclectic mix of items and am most happy with what we bought. Steve got a backpack sprayer from the very first garage sale that we went to for $5. It is a step up from the small spray pack that we are currently using that came with seasol when we purchased it. I love getting bargains and re-using things that other people no longer want. We bought a wonderful handmade wall tile for $2 with a wonderful representation of the sun on it that is now hanging out on our wall on the deck. At the end of the garage sale line we got to Paper Beach and it was blowing up a storm when we got the long suffering dogs out of the car. They won’t be in such a hurry to get into the car next time!

This was the last garage sale of the day and I loved this metal pelican statue. We skipped a few garage sales and I didn’t take photos of some of the others which is very lucky because otherwise this post would be bordering on a novella again wouldn’t it!

This is the flower of the Eucalyptus conferruminata that I mentioned earlier.

And the magnificent seed pod (my daughters who have just started reading these posts again are rolling their eyes and skipping over this bit saying “MORE PLANTS”…)

Sorry about the lack of focus on this spent flower bud but apparently my camera can only focus on the foreground OR the background and its the backgrounds turn this time…sigh…

And lastly the leaves of this most beautiful and interesting of Eucalypts

In keeping with my need to make my posts smaller I will finish up here for the day. Hi to Kelsey if you are reading this post. I was really glad to meet you and I hope you have a fantastic life changing holiday. To everyone else, have an awesome week and see you hump day…

Here are some of the bargains that we got… the 2 glasses cost a total of $1 and are hand blown glass and that reed thing on the right hand side is a pot with a handle from Papua New Guinea for my “reeds of the world” collection. I don’t really have a reeds of the world collection but apart from making me sound interesting, I might just have to start one now!

I met many interesting people while garage saling and Steve met a real fun guy…you can see him at the very front of the photo…fun guy…fungi oh come ON people! We all need a little lightness and laughter in our day 😉

Why hippies are thin

Hi All,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And how about this enlightened comment…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brown rice black bean fried rice…absolutely delicious!

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

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

Hello Hump Day!

Hi All,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.anpsa.org.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://waterbattery.com/

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

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

“Pa must be off the wagon…”

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

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

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

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

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

Phase 1…”first make your quince cake”…

Phase 2 “reduce your quince poaching liquid”…

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

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

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

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

Interesting paper bags…

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

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

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

http://heroandsound.com/

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

A pocket full of walnuts and a pocket full of hope

Hi All,

Sometimes a bit of hope is all that keeps you going so NO-ONE OPEN THE WRONG POCKET OK?!!! I was also tempted to call this post “And then there was one”…because we are starting to slowly make a dent in our precious potted babies. “Things” are able to breech the various coniferus sectors underneath the overhead sprinkler area as we slowly remove their compatriots to be planted out into real dirt (sorry James…”soil”…) and said “things” have been selecting various tasty inner sanctum tender and tasty plants for ultimate indulgence. There are small pots of “something” that are now “nothing” but when you have over 900 potted plants to find a home for in 4 acres of soil it is actually a blessing when something gets eaten. We have decided that if they do get eaten, we are not going to get upset. They were just wrong for our situation. No point spending years trying to protect things that possums etc. are trying to reach their little arms through to grope a handful of tender green shoots is there…so we are only going to protect our food crop plants and the rest of them are fair game. Anything (like roses) that we know the possum’s rate highly…so highly in fact that they line up to sample the various kinds and fight over them…we are going to give away. Anyone want a few Pierre de Ronsard for somewhere in their gardens? As conifer lovers we are reaping the inadvertent benefits of the objects of our passion because apart from Chamaecyparis, that have the dubious honour of being delicious to wallabies, the rest of our wonderful 300+ collection is distasteful at the least and poisonous at the best so we have accidentally stumbled on the best case scenario for Serendipity Farm when it comes to plant selection. Now we just need to find something that dissolves rocks that is not toxic to plants and we are set!

This photo was just about where we left you last week. It was taken on Steve’s spanky new mobile phone and shows a much tidier, debris free garden. That didn’t last long!

After clearing out the gardens running alongside the driveway of years of years of overgrown weeds we decided to beat the weeds at their own game and plant out some of our potted precious babies. This photo shows Steve checking out our selection of dwarf conifers for use in the garden that you can see to the left.

This is a 20litre bucket of Basacote. Basacote is not organic…it’s not sustainable and it’s also not something that we would use as our first choice of fertiliser for our garden but we had purchased this product (and paid a not inconsiderable amount of money for it) and in keeping with our newfound ethos of “Waste not, want not” we are using up our existing supplies of fertiliser and when we run out, we will choose organic fertilisers from then on. For the moment we are tossing a handful of it into the “root growth zones” (horticulturalists jargon for “holes”) and integrating it into the soil to assist root growth development.

Isn’t Pingu turning into a big girl? We can only tell her apart from the other Barred Plymouth Rock by the colour of her legs. Her legs are yellow and the other one’s are white. Pingu is slowly starting to give in to her chicken side. She is scratching in the dirt and here you can see her pecking insects from our dwarf conifers. She did eat that grass in the plastic terracotta coloured pot in the top right hand corner but we have every hope that it will sprout from the base again…

I hope you have all recovered from last week’s marathon length post. I might just have to break my posts down into twice weekly posts if they all start to resemble a novella like that last one. I have been having a great time working in the garden and getting closer to nature. Far from dragging my feet I am now the first one up and raring to walk the dogs before sitting down over a cuppa (now mine has home-made oat milk rather than cow’s milk…back to total veganism for me!) and some breakfast and discussing what we are going to do with this new and most beautiful of days. Dare I say I am now one of those filthy “morning people”? Not quite, but I do have a spring in my step and a newfound appreciation for these clear crisp cool mornings that autumn is flinging at us regularly. This post starts on Saturday last week. I am sitting here after loading that marathon post and 23 photos and wanted to document what we did today so that I don’t forget anything. It is almost 9pm and Steve is watching “Storage Wars”. It is an interesting show comprising all sorts of amateur entrepreneurs who turn up to storage auctions and attempt to pay the least amount for piles of boxes which this show will have us believe, usually contain riches beyond our wildest dreams. I dare say, if the pickings were as fantastic as they make out they were, that there would be more than the 20 odd people milling about at each of these auctions. My sceptical brain tells me that most of these auctions result in the “winner” taking home a pile of someone else’s old unwashed clothing and boxes of personal papers worth diddley squat. Steve loves it though and it keeps him off the streets so for that…you did good A&E channel.

This was taken after we had watered in the newly planted conifers etc. We have plans for the Miscanthus sinensis “Zebrinus” grass to the right hand side of the photo and will be planting them further up the driveway where they will have room to expand and grow to their full potential. As horticulturalists we don’t have the luxury of being able to say “we didn’t know how big it would grow”…

This is a bit further down the driveway from the photo above. As you can see we have integrated dwarf conifers in with existing grasses and reeds. We love textures and variations of green and are not really “flowery” people (despite our Penniless Hippy status). In saying this, Steve just bought me some Shirley and Californian poppy seeds to sprinkle around all over the place. I remember my grandma doing the very same thing. She was indeed a woman before her time!

This Picea glauca “Pendula” was one of our very first conifers that we bought way WAY back when we first got passionate about them. We discovered it welded into the ground with an enormous tap root and pot bound beyond belief. Despite having to cut its pot away from the ground with our ever present secateurs, we decided to part with the money to buy this lovely specimen knowing full well that it may die from its neglect and the rough treatment that we had to mete out to extract it from it’s resting place. It never looked back once and has hung in with us ever since to the point where it was our very first conifer planting on Serendipity Farm.

After we planted out the driveway we cleared out this area under the deck and after consulting our plant oracle (paper…rock…scissors…) we isolated some specimens from our collection to plant out. It took most of the day to dig out the holes and prepare these plants for planting out but we did it! The tall yellowy green conifer furthest to the left is a Pinus thunbergii “Thunderhead”. This would normally get to quite a height but this specimen has the dubious honour of being 30 years old and used for grafting material nursery stock. It is virtually a bonsai and will most probably never grow much bigger than this. If it should put on a growth spurt, good luck to it! We planted it right on the corner so that it could grow unhindered if it sees fit.

This isn’t the best photo in the world but Steve took it for me this evening to show you how the garden looks. Each one of these conifers was chosen because of its colour, texture and growth habit. The other plants chosen are to compliment the conifers or act as “fillers” while the conifers grow. Some of these conifers are at their full potential height and are over 20 years old. Not every conifer is a massive tree and there is a conifer for every single garden, you just have to find it

Today we woke up, got up, headed out and walked the boys without any real plans for what we were going to accomplish today. I had spent the night before hunting for recipes for oat milk that would be suitable to use in hot beverages. The problem with lots of non-dairy milks is that they are either too watery (rice milk) or they separate alarmingly when united with any drink above body temperature (most nut milks). I don’t drink soymilk anymore because of some concerns that I have about its ethical production, Genetic modification and murmurings about acquired allergic reactions due to repeated use of soy products and I also refuse to pay the middle man to grind a few grains/nuts and mix it with some water and store it in a box for me to drive 50km to pick up from a supermarket. I choose to buy the raw materials and make it myself, using “locally sourced” water in the process. Sorry about that…I am a little bit over the words “Sustainability”, “Slow food”, “locally sourced” etc. being used as massive wanky buzz words by foodies and vested interests desiring to elevate Themselves and their arm length list of exclusive ingredients WAY up the food chain from we humble “normal” eaters. Leave our food alone and sod off and make some more guinea pig coffee or Moonlight picked tea or whatever it is that is the latest greatest food fad that will only last for as long as it takes the first brigade of steadfast followers to pick up on before it will be discarded like last night’s empty wine bottles. “Terroir darlings!”…sigh…Mathew Evans started all of that. He has managed to weasel his way into a regular column in “Feast” magazine, one of my secret magazine indulgences. I swear that man sets out to irritate me whenever he sits down to start his next article… “Hmmm…what is going to piss that woman in Sidmouth off the most this month?…shall I talk about walnuts? How about goat shanks (that will make her twitch!)…I know…goat cheese…she HATES people going on about that…I have it! Truffles! That will really make her blow her stack!”…sigh… I try to skip past the articles but they go on for pages and pages and it is inevitable that I am going to notice something on one of the pages dedicated to him, his anorexic wife or his child that he stole from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall because hey…he stole everything else from him…he may as well take the kid!

“Hmmm…what do we have here?”…

In honour of Friday 13th (and the total dearth of decent horror movies on Austar…) we have “Eggy Krueger” …

Is it just me who finds this somewhat alarming?!

When I was looking for a non-dairy alternative that I could make myself and that would not only behave itself in hot tea (my caffeine hit of choice) but that would almost mimic the consistency and flavour of milk, I did what I normally do and spent hours wandering all over the food blog ether following little off road foodie trails and ending up totally off context. I ended up at a vegan baking site that has a most interesting and innovative initiator who took it upon himself to invent a vegan healthy home-made alternative to butter. Yeh RIGHT I can hear you saying. Vegans are people too! They need something wholesome and comforting to spread on their toast in the mornings and the non-dairy alternatives tend to be as alarming in taste as the label is to anyone foolish enough to peruse it…how can you have 100 ingredients, mostly chemical in something supposed to be health food! To anyone (like me) who is interested in their own health and who would rather eat nutritious fats than suck crazy chemical cocktails of margarines into their poor long suffering bodies, go check out this link. It just might give you something to do in your kitchen this week. I will give you the original post first and then Vegan cookbook extraordinaire Bryanna Clark Grogan’s take on this recipe. It’s usual for a recipe to evolve all over the vegan food web until it becomes something of a legend. This Vegan “Buttuh” appears to be just one such recipe.

http://www.veganbaking.net/other-vegan-treats/735-vegan-butter.html

This is Mattie’s recipe that he invented

http://vegan.com/recipes/bryanna-clark-grogan/bryannas-vegan-butter/

This is Bryanna’s take on this recipe

For anyone wanting to “make their own” so that they know exactly what is going into their food and have quality control or for people who simply can’t eat butter for cholesterol reasons and don’t want to eat margarine because they don’t want to glow in the dark, this might just be a staple recipe

I haven’t even started on what we did today and it’s just on 9.30pm!  Steve thought that it would be nice to have a look at our potted babies that we now house around the side of the house under our home-made overhead watering system. Now that the weather is cooler and we are getting a little more rain it isn’t used much, but through summer it enabled us to keep our 900+ precious babies alive and gave solace and comfort to endless blue wrens and our ducks as well as the tiny little frog who strikes up the band whenever the sprinklers go off. As we were wandering about weeding out the poor potted specimens who had given their lives for the cause, Steve said “You know how we grew all of those Podycarpus lawrencei (Mountain plum pines)? What do you think about planting some of them out on the newly cleared out rocky embankment?”…what a good idea! So thus began our opus for the day. We hunted through all of the conifer specimens in our potted babies (over 300 of them in total) and after lamenting the few that had croaked (mainly chamaecyparis for some reason…) over the long hot summer that we just had, we set about isolating those conifer specimens of each species that would only grow to a specific height and width. We also pulled out all of the grasses that I have been collecting and carried them around to the front of the house in front of the deck. Armed with the conifers and the grasses and 4 miscellaneous plants (excitement value) we set about trying to ascertain the specific end heights and widths that these plants would attain. Now as newly knighted horticulturalists you (and our lecturer Nick) would most probably see us doing something like this when choosing the plants to place in any given specific area…

But the truth of the matter is that it was more like this…

I guess my plant just won…scissors cuts paper! That blue dolphin plaster on my index finger is a reminder to cut AWAY from myself when you are disembowelling a dead chicken…)

From a very early age Earl (a.k.a. the plant terminator) had taken an instant liking to plant tags, closely followed by an unhealthy interest in plant matter itself. All of the most precious (and expensive) plants that we didn’t want to risk being eaten by the native mammalian wildlife (predominately possums and wallabies) we housed inside the compound that we built just as much to keep them out as to keep Bezial in. It turns out Bezials desire to run amok and wreak havoc at every chance he got was a grossly overestimated talent. His legend preceded him and we were highly sceptical (and fearful if I am being honest) of him running away and swallowing the local wildlife and farm animals whole like some sort of marauding T-Rex on steroids. What eventuated was a very sedate dog who walked beside us, could care less about the local wildlife, in fact, actively loved watching it from the deck, and who deserted us in action in the field any chance he got to return to his lovely sunny spot on the deck where he could watch the world go by. What an angel he turned out to be…and then along came Earl… I am not going to go into everything that Earl has passed between his enquiring snout and his constantly moving nether regions but I stopped counting the cost way back when he had eaten 4 times his initial cost (and he wasn’t cheap). If Earl wasn’t a sweet tempered most loving dog he would have been bundled up and sent back A.S.A.P. within a week of his purchase. We love Earl dearly and the feeling is apparently mutual but we soooo wish that he would stop eating everything that takes his fancy! We ended up putting our precious compounded babies outside and at the mercy of the mammalian wildlife because nothing could be as dangerous to plant life as Earl was. Earl has ingested more plant tags than he has plants and so when hunting for what went where, we had to resort to a degree of guesswork that may or may not pay off. We then set out to plant out the known plants (those that retained labels or those that we absolutely positively knew were likely to be ground covers) and paper, rock, scissored the rest. We interspersed some grasses, discovered some very shallow soil that covered massive rocks and used our horticultural smarts to afford us a degree of plant knowledge to choose something to place on this otherwise barren ground and ended up choosing Ajuga Reptans (common bugle weed) that will spread and grow in this rocky terrain. The end result is that we planted out 40 plants today that will no longer have to live in confinement and water stressed fear through another summer.

With our “Waste not want not” ethos now, we decided to use these quinces that I was given by a friend recently to do more than perfume the house

After cutting them, adding cinnamon sticks, cloves and sugar syrup and leaving the skins and cores on to enhance the glorious colour once cooked I covered them up with foil and put them into the oven for 4 hours…yes 4 HOURS! That’s the beauty of having a wood burning stove. While you are heating the house you can cook whatever you like in your ovens for free…no worrying about leaving the oven on for 4 hours for me!

Here is the miraculous transformation in colour that occurs after long slow oven braising in sugar syrup. I gave our girls some of these to make a pie and the rest are in the fridge waiting to be used to make a delicious rich quince tart tartin with thick whipped cream.  I am keeping the spiced cooking liquid that is now headily perfumed and the most glorious orange red colour to speed up the colouration process of my next batch of oven braised quinces.

We are tired and sore but we are also satisfied beyond belief with how happy the simple act of planting out our own plants into the ground on Serendipity Farm has made us. Tomorrow we will be removing the adventitious weeds that have grown back after our initial blitzing of the area below the deck. We chose more conifers from our stash that won’t grow above 2 metres tall and we have some interesting cold climate deciduous shrubs that have delightful scented flowers and that attract bees, birds and butterflies. We noticed a gloriously coloured Euonymus alatus (spindle tree) that was doing its level best to attest to its poisonous nature by colouring itself the most amazing Magenta and are thinking about planting this out as well…we have so many beautiful things that need to be planted out. Most of my cold climate shrubs and my abies and picea are going to find their homes in the side garden. Steve prefers cedrus and Pines and we found some really beautiful specimens to plant out in the raised garden beneath the deck in full sun and surrounded by rocks. Pine heaven! That’s our challenge tomorrow and all of the old azaleas that we hacked down to the stump and left the stump to remove another day have regrown and so we have decided to allow them to live amongst the conifers. I am constantly amazed to hear people say things like “I love azaleas but I can’t get them to grow at my place”…we live just around the corner from the woman who said this to us the other day. We just hacked ours down and they refuse to die! We were also told that Philadelphus is a very delicate plant and that they are hard to grow and keep growing in your garden. Poppycock is what I say to that! I have had the dubious “honour” of being selected to attempt to remove the Philadelphus invasion that has taken over a large proportion of the Eastern side of the garden on Serendipity Farm. This tangled; twining monster is no delicate creature I can assure you! To be told that this ground layering mass shooting invader is hard to keep growing is an anathema to me! I have seen the soil here; it is most definitely NOT anything special. It has been neglected and totally denuded of anything in the way of fertiliser in the last 20 years and has been surviving on whatever the sky throws at it and on the leaf matter that falls to the ground PERIOD! It is full of dolerite colluvium rock and I know that because I just spent the better part of 20 minutes finding out! Digging anything but the areas of raised garden bed on the property (and even then you do so at your own risk) is a fool’s errand and a most disheartening process that usually results in a small hole that you can’t bury a dead mouse in (we know…we attempt just this process at regular events). I guess you have to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before you learn to appreciate your very own worn and out of fashion but highly comfortable and worn in shoes for what they are. After watching last weeks “Garbage Warrior” documentary and seeing how much effort was put into mattocking up the sun-baked soil in New Mexico to stuff it inside old tyres to gain thermal mass in the desert where temperatures plummet and soar on a regular basis I have a newfound liking for our rocky soil. At least it doesn’t freeze! Another saying comes to mind…”Better the devil you know” and I guess that is the case for our soil/rock combination. Underneath the topsoil interspersed with rocks we have massive clay. Clay is just good soil waiting to occur and once it has been broken up by the addition of organic matter and tree/plant roots, it becomes a wonderful friable soil with great cation exchange capacity. “In soil science, cation-exchange capacity (CEC) is the maximum quantity of total cations, of any class, that a soil is capable of holding, at a given pH value, for exchanging with the soil solution. CEC is used as a measure of fertility, nutrient retention capacity, and the capacity to protect groundwater from cation contamination. It is expressed as milliequivalent of hydrogen per 100 g (meq+/100g), or the SI unit centi-mol per kg (cmol+/kg). The numeric expression is coincident in both units. Clay and humus have electrostatic surface charges that attract the solution ions, and hold them. This holding capacity varies for the different clay types and clay-blends present in soil, and is very dependent of the proportion of clay+humus that is present in a particular soil. A way to increase CEC is to favor the formation of humus. In general, the higher the CEC, the higher the soil fertility.” I pinched that straight from Wikipedia and if it is a little difficult and scientifically jargonarific for you, just imagine what it would have been like if I had to explain it to you! Needless to say a soils cation exchange capacity is its capacity for holding nutrients and when amalgamated with sufficient hummus, moisture. I have been doing a bit of research around using biochar, a slow burned charcoal that South American indigenous people have been using to enrich the soil for 2500 years. Here is an article regarding biochar and how to do it yourself should you wish to use it in your soil…

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/03/23/149221607/how-homegrown-charcoal-may-get-your-soil-through-a-drought

It is definitely something that I will be looking into on Serendipity Farm. Any low cost ways to enrich our soil and increase its fertility are going to be top priority. Thanks to Anthropogen (Spencer) for pointing me in the right direction for my latest night of searching for information. I can’t for the life of me work out how people can say that they are bored! I have no time to scratch my nose let alone be bored.

We have planted out under the deck and had a good time sorting out what we needed to plant (see above and the paper, rock, scissors conundrum). Eventually we arrived at a good range of heights, textures, colours and shapes and interspersed our conifers with grasses and a couple of nice weeping maples. We had considered putting all of the weeping maples in the under deck space but it gets really hot there in summer and as most of you may already know, Japanese maple cultivars can be quite delicate and tend to burn in direct hot sun. We are going to plant the area out down next to the bird baths with most of our lovely maple collection. It is incredibly satisfying to plan something and then actually set out and do it. We completed the deck garden and aside from one or two of the hens that shall remain anonymous (you KNOW who you are!) pecking the leaves of some of the more tender grasses that we planted, everything is still intact and happy the day after. I have more than a sneaking suspicion that our weather is going to be freezing cold and quite dry this year, just like the very first Tasmanian winter that we endured when we moved here 5 years ago. Things run in 4 year cycles here apparently and after a long hot summer (like 5 years ago) there was a long freezing cold winter that gave both Bethany, my youngest daughter, and I chilblains. I tend to believe nature rather than the weather department (who failed to predict Sunday night’s massive thunder storm at all) and so am preparing for a really cold winter. We don’t get much frost here on Serendipity Farm as we are quite close to the river and up on a sloped rocky site which keeps the temperature more even than it otherwise might be around here. Our little “microclimate” allows us to miss out on the worst of the frost and grow things that might otherwise succumb to this scourge of inner Tasmanian towns and cities. I doubt that most of the conifers that we just planted out would mind a bit of frost as most of them are Japanese, Korean and Chinese and are used to being buried beneath snow in their native countries of origin so this nice sunny spot will make them ecstatic. They already look happier out of their potted confinement and we look forwards to whittling down our potted plants to a small number of non-planters. Some will be rehoused at other loving homes where the threat of possums and wallabies is less extreme (and imminent) and we may sell some at a market stall if we can’t fit all of our precious babies in. Our main problem is that we are avid propagators and have managed to amass a small army of babies from seed and cuttings. Some of them are destined to never leave the glasshouse but the rest of them will need careful consideration now that our ideals and eventual outcome for Serendipity Farm have changed. We started out thinking that we would turn the garden into a glorious landscaped garden full of maples, conifers and other beautiful cold climate trees and shrubs. When we got here we soon realised that digging was an issue and apart from that, we have finally succumbed to our inner hippies and given in to the desire to be sustainable and do as much as we can with what we already have. Growing our own veggies, re-using, recycling and turning the garden into a permaculture based edible food forest. We have started to grow hazelnuts, walnuts, grapes; avocado’s and will be targeting food crops in the spring. We have some artichokes that desperately need planting out and we want to start growing some really interesting crops like Amaranth and quinoa and planting out an almond tree and sourcing more fruit and especially nut trees. We are going to plant olives and figs at the rear of the property where anyone from Greece would feel really at home, rows of various kinds of grapes to be used for eating, making wine and verjuice and various other things. We have all sorts of ideas for our garden and most of what we have collected up until now is totally unnecessary for our new outcomes. An example is that when we were planting out the area under the deck we had to remove many small Physalis peruviana var. edulis or Cape Gooseberries as they are commonly known. If we didn’t already have a large shrub that has seeded copiously all over the place I would have dug these small plants up and planted them out elsewhere as valuable sources of vitamin C and bird food. We may have done away with the Cape Gooseberries but we saved every little native raspberry bush that we could. Birds must have deposited these small native raspberries when the area was thickly overgrown with an enormous ancient yellow banksia rose (Rosa banksiae) and all sorts of weeds and overgrown shrubs. When we cleared the area out we didn’t notice these little plants and they took advantage of the new sunny conditions and we collected lots of small specimens that we have pruned and potted up to be placed “somewhere” on Serendipity Farm in a more appropriate area. We will provide them with tee-pees that we make ourselves from old spindly teatree poles that have succumbed to the wind in the teatree garden and some that have to be thinned out to allow the remainder to grow strong and resilient. The little native raspberries will be trained up the tee-pees and will be allowed to do what they do best, be prickly edible habitat for small native birds.

Today we got up after a 2C night and headed out nice and early to walk the dogs. I wore some fingerless gloves but even then my hands were cold and so I figure I am going to have to buy some full fingered gloves perhaps with wooly middles. Earl put paid to my conundrum about the fingerless gloves by promptly eating them when we got home so I guess he has forced my hand (is that a pun? Not intended I assure you!). We had breakfast and headed out into the garden to see what needed to be done for today. We were assured by the weatherman that it was going to be 15C which is perfect weather for gardening especially when it was going to be “fine” and “fine” all week apparently. We were dragging our heels a bit because after our triumph yesterday where we were able to make a large difference in a day, we are back to hacking, snipping, shaping and generally trying to tame some of the more wild areas of Serendipity Jungle and its nowhere near as rewarding as when you are able to facilitate change and see your results. Steve headed off to chainsaw some dead trees that we had dropping in the garden that we saved from blackberries and Periwinkle (Vinca major) the other day. The 2 sickly looking specimens of Brachychiton populneus appear to be much happier now that they have been liberated from the undergrowth and after getting a really good drink of rain the other night with the thunder storm they appear to be very happy. Who knows they might be able to soldier on yet? I decided to tackle my arch nemesis “Blackberry” again. It’s mano a mano blackberries and I insist on coming out top. I had just started dealing with a huge population of blackberries situated in the hedge between the first and second gardens when I noticed a section of blackberries over to the left of the large conifer that we tackled last week. I figured it would be stupid of me to leave blackberries on one side as they are prone to wandering around adventitiously and it was time for me to knock that garden pest on the head! Steve helped me to liberate the garden from a massive pile of overgrown blackberries and I then started on the main hedge. I worked slowly but surely, first cutting the tendrils that catch onto everything (especially me), then hacking down the larger canes and finally cutting off the canes at the base. The dead canes are worse than the live canes. We had just managed to work our way from one side of the garden bed to the other, hacking out an entire dead lonicera nitida (box leafed honeysuckle) and a mostly dead and fully lying down Forsythia x intermedia. We were just about to pat each other on the back and head back up to the house for a cup of tea when Steve noticed 4 little kittens in the shrubs near where we had been working. Felix strikes again! We collected the 4 gorgeous little tabby babies up and after Steve held one of them at arm’s length because it was going off like a fire cracker we headed up with armfuls of kittens to the shed to work out what we were going to do. We are very VERY tired of having to deal with other people’s lack of responsibility. We have 6 feral cats living on the property and now 4 kittens to add to that. Steve and I had been pondering what to do with our ever burgeoning population of roosters on Serendipity Farm. The poor hens are too scared to look out from the shrubs as they are being molested by just about everything that moves! Henry, Trogdor, Big Yin (not to be outdone) and now we find that Big Bertha is a rooster as well! Surely you would think that roosters would have made themselves known to be roosters before 6 months of age? I think that these Brahma chickens that hatched out of some fertile eggs that we bought last year are very slow at developing. We had contemplated tossing the roosters over a fence, rowing them out to the island and hurling the entire randy bunch into the first lady who sold me Big Yin but what it all boils down to is that we would be perpetuating that cycle of irresponsibility. We had decided to sharpen the axe tonight and take it in turns to dispatch our rooster population one by one. To anyone horrified by this, we are NOT natural born killers. We are natural born sookie la-la’s who can’t even kill fish when we go fishing but our hands have been forced and we refuse to be part of the problem so the only solution is to render our rooster population null and void. We are going to have to hunt down little red rooster (one of the older 5 ferals) as he doesn’t nest with the others and the 7 latter ferals appear to have at least 4 roosters in their number so we are also going to have to deal with them at a slightly later date when they can be truly isolated as male. This brings us back to the kittens that we found. What were we going to do with them? We could have left them there and pretended to not notice them which would have been putting our heads in the sand and giving ourselves a much bigger problem at a later date. We both knew that we had to take them to the RSPCA and have them put down. I sat with the 3 quiet little kittens (Steve had to take the firebrand spitting, howling and scratching wrapped up in a towel to get the dog carrier) and talked quietly to them. Their tiny faces and enormous blue eyes were all looking up at me and I told them how sorry I was that they were born kittens. That they had only had a couple of weeks of life and that life was not fair. I handed them over to Steve and he headed into town with them. Country life is not a romantic walk in the park people. It’s not an idyllic blissful retreat from civilisation. It’s a whole series of hard decisions that have to be made and we city/town folk are having a really hard time learning to be country folk. I feel so very sad for those tiny little upturned faces and for their mum and brothers and sisters who are going to have to be dealt with in the near future. We can’t keep perpetuating the lack of responsibility and the buck has to stop somewhere. We are awfully tired of being the place where the buck has to stop and it breaks our hearts to have to kill our roosters and have the cat’s euthanised. Life isn’t always easy or fair and if we are willing to have chooks in the first place, we need to be willing to deal with the hard decisions.

The rooster off to the left lurking in wait until Big Yin (to the right surrounded by wary girls) wasn’t paying attention so he could have his nefarious way with these poor stressed out hens WAS Henry. Henry is now deceased and his tender corpse is in various stages of use on Serendipity Farm. His days of being a serial rapist are over and where once he lay in wait for our poor long suffering hens, Steve lays in wait for his tasty meat as it bubbles in a delicious free range casserole…there has to be some poetic justice in that.

Steve got home after taking the kittens to the RSPCA and we had a chat about the rooster problem and decided that if we were killing the roosters, we may as well prepare them and Steve could eat them. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that (probably because I am vegetarian) but I guess if you are trying to live a sustainable lifestyle and you have a “resource” that needs to be removed from your poultry general population it is the most viable option. Steve is looking forwards to sampling our home produced free range grain fed chicken to see how different it is from supermarket mass produced chicken. At least our roosters won’t have died for nothing. While we were thinking about this (and feeling slightly better about killing the roosters because they won’t die in vain) we were sharing a hot drink out on the deck and watching the feral cats. Steve had asked at the RSPCA about how to deal with the growing problem and there is a vet in Exeter who can help us. No idea what “help” means so we will just have to phone him up and see. While Steve was telling me this Felix, our chief problem cat (the mother of millions) came out of the undergrowth with ANOTHER KITTEN! Steve and I hunted all over the place for more kittens but she must have had this one with her when we discovered the rest and so we still have a kitten problem. It was really cold last night and hopefully the cats have somewhere warm to sleep at night. My daughters phoned up last night to invite me in for a “mother and daughter” sleep-over. We are going to hit the shops, take Qi for a long walk in town and have lunch and tea together. They are making me a “pie” because I couldn’t have an Easter egg for Easter and had to watch Steve eat the enormous Easter egg that they had bought him. Steve is one of “those” people, the kind of person who gets Easter eggs and who makes them last. My sister Catherine (a.k.a. “Pinky”) is also one of “those” people and often had Easter chocolate left over well into the New Year. I can’t see the point of hoarding chocolate. I am an instant gratification person, most probably why I have also been carrying those instantly consumed Easter eggs on my person for all of these years. I guess one year without indulgence won’t hurt me. I was up the back of the house the other day collecting some of the dry wood that we had cut up and left in piles for a fire and realised that I was feeling very sprightly and happy to simply be alive. I started to think about how people carrying around a lot of weight (I was 109kg at my heaviest about 14 years ago) lose more than just hope and self-confidence. I think that when you are considerably overweight you feel the world differently. Junk food and overeating fill you with more than unhealthy thoughts, you become physically less able to do things and the unhealthy physical conditions bring about unhealthy mental conditions. That might sound very simplified (because it is. I am trying to formulate this as I type) but what I am really trying to say is when you are very overweight, more than just your body changes and it becomes a whole lot harder to see the world in a lighter clearer way. If your body is clogged up, so is your mind. I actually volunteered to head up with the wheelbarrow and get a heavy load of wood the other day. I was having fun throwing the sheok lumps into the barrow and hefting the handles and trundling erratically all over the place to try to find the pathway of least resistance to the house without upturning my overambitious load. I would have totally avoided this task in the past but with my newfound energy from eating nutritious food and allowing myself a healthy dose of fats in my diet and my total lack of concern about what I am eating I have rid myself of my previous dieting mentality and I seem to have found my own personal key to increased health and weight loss. I wonder how many people out there are trapped inside bodies that have been created by the advertising and food industry with all of their genetically modified and chemical crammed cocktails. It is surely no coincidence that obesity and gross obesity have skyrocketed in my personal generation and all generations that have come since that directly correlates to the food industry and the mass creation of all of the choices of packets, tins and ready-made mixes that we have available to us today. Life got easier, we got more choices, everything tasted delicious thanks to hidden fats, sugars and chemicals that not only made us wider but addicted us to these foods as our bodies slowly get taken over by lethargy and depression as a direct result of these chemical cocktails and our bodies being overfed but undernourished. I have been checking out some of the Paleo sites online. While I personally don’t eat meat or butter etc. I have a curious mind about the fermentation process and if you head off and check out some of these sites you will find all sorts of very intersting recipes for making your own probiotic condiments, butter, dips and spreads and just about everything can be enhanced by tossing in a few Lacto bacillus and leaving it to ferment for a while. People following the GAP and Paleo diets believe that we should be eating like our ancestors did. No chemicals, no rubbish, meat, butter, full fat etc. I am every the magpie and take what I want from various “plans” and the fermentation side of this equation really interests me. I got very interested when I stumbled on (and consequently typed this book out in its entirety!) the incredible book about fermentation written by one of the founders of Permaculture Mr. Bill Mollison. It is out of print and should you be foolish enough to want to buy it, it starts at $300 on eBay and they won’t take any less. It is highly sought after and one of the most incredible resources for documenting and providing recipes for fermentations of just about every culture around the world. I may never make seal blubber ferment but I most certainly know how to do it! The book is called “The Permaculture Book of Ferment and Human Nutrition”. I was so VERY tempted to keep my library copy and pay the cost (the cover price) but my sense of honesty and knowing that someone out there might just need it a whole lot more than me lead to me spending a solid week, day and night typing every single word in the book out. I have a massive word document that I might just convert into a PDF and make available on Scribd, a file sharing site that allows you to upload and download PDF’s about just about everything. I sometimes get a sense that I have found a fundamental truth when I find things like this. I get very excited and want to share it with the world. I guess that is what comes from being born on the day that I was that is supposedly the numerological day of the hierophant (that’s hierophant people NOT elephant!). A hierophant is someone who seeks out knowledge and shares it with others. For once, I have to agree with a label, this one not only sticks, but it fits this little black and white chicky.

Isn’t this a wonderful place to have a nest? So why do you think none of our chickens have decided to lay their eggs here? Beats me to0!

Music is a fundamental part of my world. My life has been tangled up with music since I was tiny and when I was 2 I became totally enamored by the Beatles (according to my mum). Music takes me places…I should say “good music” takes me places. Bad music makes me angry! Music for the sake of profit makes me even angrier so we won’t talk about “those” sorts of music will we? Good music needs to be good both musically and lyrically (if it has lyrics that is…no-one could say that Mozart was bad for lacking a word or two) and needs to have real meaning. There are songs that take me places in my life whenever I hear them. Smells do the same thing. I often wonder if those of us naturally inclined to being on the tubby side have a highly advanced sense of smell. I know I do and I figure that despite everything that popular culture would have us believe, that this heightened sense of smell might just be right up there in the survival of the fittest stakes. In our modern world of plenty, we never have to use our senses. Everything is right there in the supermarket waiting for our hard earned dollars to purchase, but back in the past when food had to be hunted I wonder if a heightened sense of smell might not have been an asset rather than something that renders you susceptible to obesity? I might have to do a thesis on that one day…I might have to sign up for a uni course one day…there are so many things that I might have to do one day that I dare say all of my days will be gone before I actually get to do most of them but hey kids…you get my legacy of learning passed on and quantified ok? Back to music that I managed to segue food and bodily senses to deviate so violently… Music has gotten me through some hard times in my life. The simple act of listening and digesting someone else’s words who has been through something difficult and who has been driven to document it straight from their soul to the hungry masses by their very obvious talent to paint a picture in music is not only fundamental, its alchemy. The ability to bypass your thought to speak directly to base human need is something primal and music can breach the process that usually has to involve unlocking all sorts of mental doors and a period of time before it can be accomplished. I would rate good musicians higher than good poets, good artists and good writers because they are able to go places that these people simply can’t go. When I was bleeding over my first marriage breakup I spent hours and hours listening to music. I didn’t think about it, I just allowed it to blend into me and slowly the familiarity of these songs formed part of me becoming whole again. I am not someone to shirk the hard stuff the life throws at me. I know deep inside me that it is better to face the music initially and be cut to the core with a sharp metaphorical knife than deny the truth and bleed slowly for years. If something isn’t working…if something is wrong you have to deal with it and the sooner you do so, the sooner you are able to start picking yourself up and becoming whole again. I find it most interesting that I am someone who hates change but I am the first cab at the rank when it comes to hurling myself emotionally and mentally into dealing with grief, loss and difficult situations. Music is one of the keys to making yourself whole. Just don’t make it death metal people or “whole” might take on other forms :o)

Check out this Bromeliad, one of 3 that Steve and I noticed growing one someones road verge. I wouldn’t have thought that Bromeliad’s would grow in a temperate climate like Northern Tasmania but apparently I would be wrong! I love bromeliads and will be sourcing some of these most interesting plants for Serendipity Farm in the near future.

We now have a hedge that is relatively blackberry free! We finished off what we started yesterday when Steve had to stop and take the 4 kittens to the RSPCA. The fifth kitten that remains we have named “Fatty” and Felix was noted heading into the undergrowth to deliver a freshly killed rat to his squawking maw. After the hedge we headed over to the area between the Auld Kirk church graveyard and our back yard and had a look at the Photinea x fraseri ‘Robusta’ “hedge” that is in various decrepit stages varying from psyllid infested to absolutely dead as a door knocker. Add a copious quantity of banana passionfruit vines that are in the best of health and growing exponentially and we had some thinking to do. It would take us the better part of about a week’s solid work to remove the banana passionfruit from these prehistoric shrubs and the process would be excruciating. We were standing around contemplating our fate when I suddenly had an epiphany! “Why not cut them all down!”… ¼ of them are now “down” and forming a massive pile of debris in our prospective vegetable garden. As usual, we effect change at our peril and generate an inordinate amount of debris in the process. On the positive side, we will gain a panoramic view of the beautiful Tamar River should we ever regain enough energy to prop our eyelids open long enough to admire it. I am off to visit my daughters tomorrow (Thursday) and share some quality time with them. No doubt I will be driving all over Launceston to every strange food shop in the city, but I don’t mind, I usually get to share the benefits of the girls cooking and they are adventurous and very good cooks. I wonder what I will get for dinner? Apparently it is going to contain purple carrots. I know that the girls will be able to make me something delicious because until recently, Bethany (my youngest daughter who is just about to turn 22) was a vegan and they regularly cooked for her so at least they know what sort of things I am most likely to enjoy.

Steve hopped over our fence and took a few photos in the Auld Kirk graveyard directly behind the area where we have our chicken coop and duck pond/boat that tends to be green more than clear most of the time. The area to the left has been cleared of Photinia and you can see the remaining Photinia to the right. We are in the process of removing the entire stand of Photinia from this area.

As you can see, to remove all of that banana passionfruit from the church side of our rangy overgrown Photinias would have been an epic event. We decided to totally remove the Photinias and take advantage of the sunlight that will become available for growing vegetables behind this area.

Steve hopped back over our fence to take this shot back towards where he was just taking photos (are you dizzy yet?). As you can see…apart from sunlight being made available so that we can use this area for veggie gardens, it will also open up quite a lovely view.

This area has been cleared of Photinias so far, only about 4/5th’s to go! We discovered another tap in our endeavours. That would give us 4 taps in a 30 metre area. Irrigation for the prospective raised veggie garden area TICK

It’s now Saturday and I enjoyed my stay with the girls a lot. We shopped, we walked the dog and I didn’t have to eat squid intestine pancakes with some sort of crispy Korean accoutrement which made me very happy. Instead, I got roasted pumpkin, parsnip, sweet potato, onion and regular potato with a side of sautéed mushrooms and spinach. Most delicious and for desert the girls had most thoughtfully bought me some gluten free vegan chocolate rum truffles. I am not gluten intolerant but the girls figured that they would cater for every eventuality and they were delicious. The next day I headed home and we spent the day waiting for dusk and our first chicken killing spree. “Spree” is a most enthusiastic word for what happened and Steve and I were not looking forwards to dispatching Henry, the first of our rapist roosters who had been terrorising our older girls for a week. It had gotten to the point where they were hiding out in their coop all day too scared to step outside and be molested so something had to be done…last night we did it. First we carefully researched the most humane and quick method to dispatch Henry. He didn’t make it hard for us by spending his last hours chasing our girls to exhaustion. I have a Jackie French book titled (curiously enough) “Chook Book”. In it, it tells you just about everything that you need to know about keeping chickens on a small scale. Jackie French is an Aussie icon for sustainable living and was touting organic produce long before it was fashionable to do so. Her no nonsense approach had us choosing to use an axe to dispatch Henry and after watching some youtube chicken snuff movies that will make me have nightmares for a week that involved using razor sharpened nail files, inserting them into chickens beaks, shoving them through their ears while they squawked right through the process and all performed by a 60’s grey haired tattooed version of Henry Rollins himself and his hillbilly acquaintances! I decided that good old Jackie French and her Aussie sensibilities would outrank Mr. American Hillbilly Henry Rollins ANY day! With our weapon of choice chosen, a pot of boiling water ready to dunk the corpse into to pluck and rapidly wavering nerves we headed off into the chicken coop. Steve had already isolated where Henry was roosting and I picked him up, wrapped him in an old towel and Steve cut off his head. It didn’t take long and as soon as we did the deed we carried the body over to the hot water, dunked him a few times which made plucking a whole lot easier and I volunteered to gut him which proceeded uneventfully and as we had been warned by all and sundry about how tough and rubbery roosters who have been “amorous” can be, we assumed that Henry would be as tough as old nails. Not so! The simple 30 second soaking in the boiling water caused the skin on the wings to separate a little which told me that a rubbery rooster we had not! We cut Henry up reverently and thankful that he was going to be put to good use and that his tyrannical days were over. Steve just sampled a slice of Henry and having never tried free range grain fed chicken before was most pleasantly surprised. The meat is a bit firmer but not tough and unlike its supermarket forced counterpart the meat is full of flavour. Tonight, Henry donated his breast to Steve’s stir fry and every part of him will be eaten or recycled. We buried his intestines, head and feet under a tree, his feathers are in the compost bin and Earl got his heart and liver (with some fava beans and a little Chianti…). His legs will lend themselves to a confit and his frame will be used to make the best free range chicken soup this side of the Tasman. Henry…you did not die in vain. You are extremely tasty! Next…Trogdor!

It’s not easy to kill something and I doubt that Steve and I will ever get used to it, but we are making sure that each and every rooster that we have to dispatch is both appreciated and utilised. Aside from reducing our rooster population, we are making Frank next door incredibly happy. Having amassed a small fortune in roosters who had all started crowing in the last 2 weeks, I dare say living on the coop side of Serendipity Farm at 6am when the roosters all started to serenade the new day might not be the most soothing of wake-up calls. Frank was most happy when we told him that we were going to reduce our rooster population. He told us that he had been killing roosters since he was 10 and was the initiator of the “tough rooster” myth that we just put paid to. Jackie French told us (she is our new sage by the way…) “If I kept a lot of hens I’d eat some of the old ones. But these days we only keep a few hens. They’re friends. It’s a dangerous moral and social precedent to kill your friends, chooks or otherwise”. Point taken Jackie! (You are all safe…for now…). We have 2 more roosters who are causing trouble earmarked for the roasting pan. Trogdor is enormous and is part Wyandotte part Brahma. He is chasing our girls but so far doesn’t appear to be too intent on constantly stalking them like his brother was. He got chased by Steve today with the rake so he is next on the chopping block. He will be roasted! Then we have “Big Bertha” who changed from a large hen that we were just about to give away to a rooster overnight. This gender confused chook even fooled Big Yin and has been hanging about with Yin and his girls where they were hiding from Henry. We have our suspicions that we have 3 more roosters waiting in the wings. They are all Brahma’s and we have a sneaking suspicion that like other birds, roosters suppress their sexuality when more dominant roosters are around. Once the 3 top dogs are out of the picture you can bet your boots that the 3 that we have our eyes on will start to crow. We let Effel out today with her 9 babies. When Steve went to shut the coop door tonight she was on one of the tall perches and 7 babies were sitting underneath her and 1 was in the outside enclosure. No sign of the 9th…sigh…Felix may have been too tempted by an easy meal for Fatty and I don’t actually blame her. I just hope it was a rooster Felix! Our Silver laced Wyandotte hatched out 3 little baby Silver laced Wyandotte’s the other day. She still has all 3 despite her being a close second to Effel in the “Bad mother” stakes. I get the feeling that most Wyandotte’s are bad mums. Effel will fight for her babies but seems totally content so long as she has 1 baby with her. The rest can be off squeaking for her and she could care less so long as she can see 1. Steve and I figured that it is survival of the fittest here and if she allows some of her babies to be eaten, we can’t follow her around constantly to prevent it. So far 4 of her babies have died or been eaten and I dare say the count won’t stop there.

We got stuck into removing the blackberries around the base of the bird baths and in the hedges. We are slowly starting to see rudimentary form emerging from the tangled debris. We can see where the original owners planted things, made pathways and chose to plant special things. We discovered a poor overgrown weeping camellia hidden underneath a large variegated conifer that we crown lifted slightly so that the camellia can get some light and rain. Life is full on here. We have been working on our latest sustainable landscape design and were able to work out how to use our house/block plans to superimpose a Google earth view of our property over. Cheers Google! Not only do you allow me to visit Wikipedia (stop scoffing…you all go there too!) and Instructables but you help me to do my homework as well! Now we just have to work on our concept plan ideas and add a bit to our client brief and we can sit down with impunity with our lecturer and use our “confuse-a-cat” tactics (good cop, bad cop) to get him to show us his photos of his recent trip to the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show. I wish we could have gone but it wasn’t to be this year. I have a desire to travel Australia and visit all of the botanical gardens. I have already been to Kings Park in Western Australia and the Tasmanian Botanical Garden but I would love to go to Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory to see what other amazing plants Australia has on display. Our lecturer is a really great teacher. He knows just how to push your buttons and make you want to learn. A good teacher lights a fire and stands back so that you can deal with it yourself. Cheers Nick for being someone who loves to learn and who isn’t below sharing with his students.

This lamp is a tiny shining beacon that allows me to spend time in the lounge room with Steve at night. He likes to watch television in the dark. I dare say it makes the countless horror movies that he loves to watch more thrilling but I like to read, crochet, pat the dog etc. and need a light source to do so. Here is a perfect example of cooperation (take note Ernie!) and how we are able to solve problems. The problem wasn’t that I wanted to read while Steve watched television…the problem was how to facilitate lighting my seating space without alerting Earl to the delights of this new found light source. The lamp (sourced from my daughter who no longer has a use for it) had to be sited above Earls “zone of interest” for its continued survival and so Steve drilled a hole in one of the higher book shelves to fit the lamp and ensure its ongoing ability to light the corner (and save us a visit to the vets with a metal impacted dog…)

I guess I should finish up about here. Steve is watching John Foggerty on television; he has set up a lamp for me to read or perform various strange badly attempted crafts while the main light is out so he can enjoy the suspense of horror movies (his favourite movies) and watch the A & E channel in its glowing resplendent glory. We will be getting stuck into the garden over the coming week. The weather promises to be warm…warm…warm…until Wednesday and so we will be effecting change while the sun shines on Serendipity Farm. I have been discovering all sorts of militant causes online and Steve spent Friday morning checking out highly credible 9/11 conspiracy theories on youtube. And to think that you thought that we would lead a boring life on Serendipity Farm? How wrong you all are! Next week will no doubt see Effel’s babies numbers decreasing, the weed population increasing, new ideas, new ways of thinking, new places to walk the dogs and new recipes to be tried and tested. We will probably have a roast chicken (well Steve will…) and we will be heading off next Saturday to a progressive garage sale that will involve a large number of houses between the Batman Bridge and Gravelly Beach putting their unwanted goods out for sale to people driving past. Last year we got a wonderful handmade Tasmanian Blackwood chair for $2 (mainly because I was the only person willing to ask the price!) and we also got our first 8 chickens. We have almost come a full circle back to where we might even be able to sell some of our own chickens at the next sale. Have a great week everyone. I just picked up Flaubert’s Parrot from the library and am working my way through “Covenant with Death” in expectation that Mr. Julian Barnes might just deliver me another quirky read. Covenant with Death is a very well written book that I am enjoying reading. It also gives me fodder for thought. ANZAC Day is rapidly approaching and this book is all about foot soldiers dying in the First World War. We all need to remember just how futile war is and how many people died fighting for our right to freedom. See you all next week for another full to bursting post about life on Serendipity (mental) Farm

Holy Crap Batman…they’re effecting change on Serendipity Farm!

Hi All,

We all have them and April is one of our birthday months on Serendipity Farm. My oldest child turns 30 and my youngest turns 22. Don’t feel left out Madeline, you already had your birthday (24). Since we moved to Serendipity Farm we no longer spend a large amount of money on people for birthdays. This came about due to us considering how much money we had, and how much money they had and working out that we were the lowest common denominator in the money chain so we now give gifts rather than moola. No doubt my son is racing out to take up bungie jumping, sky diving and anything else that he can to deny his descent into 30 and my daughters will spend the day together celebrating with an amazing feast revolving around gourmet products. Since we moved out, the girls have become gourmands. I talked to them yesterday and was informed that they had just been shopping and purchased goat shanks…GOAT SHANKS! What on earth does one do with the shanks of a goat? No idea, but the girls saw merit in them and purchased them along with a dozen oysters, a kilo of mussels and various weird and wonderful varieties of sausage that they bought from a tiny local smallgoods firm directly opposite where Bethany attends Polytechnic as an art student. Their fridge is like Aladdin’s cave and always contains something new and most interesting. Their shelves are full of weird and wonderful Korean concoctions along with various weird grains, strange brands of noodle and couscous and all sorts of unusual sweets and biscuits. I now have to think of what to get someone who lives in the “Paris” sector of Melbourne for his birthday and what to get my gourmet daughter for her birthday 7 days after my son’s. I have a week or so to think about it but the clock is ticking…

Steve was determined to not miss getting a home grown tomato this year. We started late…VERY late and this is the sum of our most delicious tomatoes that have been raised in the glasshouse.

Stretch was complaining about how cold it is moving from Western Australia (hot) to Tasmania (cold) when you are a stretchy bean filled naked rubber chicken. Apparently Stretch is working on it…

Figs and Juglans regia (English walnuts…even though they come from Persia…go figure!) collected in Beaconsfield and subsequently eaten (figs) and stratified (walnuts…apart from 1 that Earl decided to crack and sample and find wanting…)

Hi guys! It’s Monday and Steve is racing around town having a wonderful time on his own. Steve likes to establish, maintain and keep up an alarming pace whenever confronted with shopping and town and despite my best efforts I am totally unable to keep up with him. Aside from my 2 steps to his 1, I have a “curious mind” and need to pick things up…turn them over…sniff them (which has gotten me into trouble more than once I can tell you!) and generally savour this new and unfamiliar product where Steve grabs it, bungs it into the trolley on the run, pausing only to pay the checkout chick before they arrest him for motorised shoplifting. He will be munching his way through a couple of Macca’s sausage Mcmuffins (both held in one hand) and slurping noisily on a boiling hot beverage (most probably Gloria Jeans…) with the other hand…driving with his knees in the expert way that only someone who has lived most of his life in enormous cities knows how to do. I panic at the first sign of a brake light, but he lives vicariously enjoying every thrilling heart stopping minute (of our 100 000 odd population teeny tiny city) of the chase. He phoned me about 30 minutes ago (I have been commenting on some great blog posts that I got in my inbox today) at 7.30am to tell me that he had done all of the shopping and was just waiting (Mcmuffins in hand) to get the dogs meat, my stuff (can you hear the impatient sigh?) at the health food shop and then he is off to get a brand spanking new razzmatazz phone from the Telstra shop. Our 24 month contract is up and he has the desire for a smart phone burning a hole in his psyche at the moment. After doing some research we found the perfect phone for regional use (most important) to get coverage out here and that will allow him to play “Need for Speed” whenever he wants (no doubt with Mcmuffins in the other hand and driving with one foot…). I could care less about mobile phones…so long as they are able to be used for the purpose of “Phone” (obviously hidden under all of the aps, games, music etc.) and have nice easy steps to get there I am happy. Steve is a techno geek and loves new things and will be messing about with whatever he ends up getting for hours muttering under his breath at regular intervals about GPS…MP4 etc. and speaking that foreign language that people who love technology attempt to pass off as normal conversation. Have fun babe…just make sure that I can press something to phone a friend should the need ever arise!

I would like to call this photo “What you lookin at Willis!” for all of you who are older than 10 and remember the sitcom Different Strokes. Pingu could have gone one of two ways after her last attempt at scaling the Pearly Gates. The first time Earl broke her leg and left her for dead (although she was very much alive and only playing possum…) the second time she was standing at the gate waiting to be let back in to her rightful home or be fed a piece of bread, whichever came first when she made the mistake of getting a teensy bit too close. Earl seized the day/moment and pulled her under the gate and Steve came out to find feathers all over the deck…Pingu coloured feathers! We thought for sure that she was dead and were not at all surprised as she liked to stare through the gate at a slavering Earl on a regular basis. She was, in fact, relatively unharmed after her plucking as Earl had stupidly taken his mouth off her and she ran and then flew straight off the 3 metre drop from the deck to the ground. She was waiting for her bit of bread at the bottom of the steps! Now, as previously mentioned, this would leave you one of two ways…scared witless and terrified of EVERYTHING or…in no mood whatsoever to tolerate any sort of aggressive behaviour and with a massive chip on your shoulder…Pingu chose the latter. She can now be found terrorising the feral cats and stealing food out of their mouths. She runs at them full pelt with her wings out and pecks any part of animal that she can. Bezial is now allowed out to wander around with impunity as he totally ignores the cats and the hens (with age comes wisdom…) but Pingu ran up to him and decided to check him out tempting fate severely. She has decided that he might be alright and didn’t actually attack him but she follows Earl (on the lead) at a safe distance now… watching and waiting for her chance to pounce! That’s one ANGRY little bird!

I love finding like-minded souls on the other side of the world. Back in the olden days (20 years ago) when I was actually alive (shock HORROR!) I didn’t even think about the “other side of the world”. It was like thinking about the moon and anything “American” or “English” was consigned to history, newspapers or social studies in school. Now, with technology (specifically the internet) making the world a much smaller and more immediate environment, I am able to wake up, settle down in front of my PC in the wee small dark hours of the morning and slowly wake up with a cup of tea nestled lovingly in one hand and the other one caressing the mouse. Do I love my newfound “overseas” friends? Damned right I do! I don’t know these people who share their passion, humour and essence across the miles but I consider them soul buddies (as wanky and hippy as that sounds) because whenever I get one of their carefully considered (although some of you might want to consider using the spellcheck every now and then!) content rich posts I am getting a little glimpse of their lives way over there in the U.S.A. or the U.K. or Canada or any of the other places that I regularly poke my nose into to have a careful sniff around. I found a really great blog when I was nosing around at The Soulsby Farm. A fantastic blog in its own right and a great source of information and cheap makes for we homesteading pioneers (read poor sad fools who have fallen prey to weed infestation and under the spell of animals en masse) and right there on the blogroll (some people actually do look at them you know…) I discovered Hanna and her wonderfully honest blog “This Garden is Illegal”. I will give you a little soupçon of Hanna’s fantastic way of looking at things and her great writing skills here in her latest post…

http://www.thisgardenisillegal.com/

Not only is she informative, money wise and clever (all A+ features of a blog that I want to read) but she is funny, wry and honest and this elevates her right up there with the best. Go check out her blog and you tell me that she hasn’t got an edge on writing about gardening and its foibles. I could most probably write all of this post today if I wanted to but we are planning on being bums up in the garden for the rest of the week and so I would no doubt miss out on telling you about how one of our new roosters has turned into a rapist and is just about to say hello to God, I will no doubt be covered in leech bites and will resemble something out of a John Carpenter movie by the end of the week (bring on the Jehovah’s Witnesses then!) and we will hopefully have had many opportunities to take interesting photos for you to ooo and ahhh over. Welcome to everyone who has recently subscribed to the blog by the way. Cheers for your faith that I will be able to amuse you and inform you whilst performing acts of super human strength out there in the jungle of a garden that we call Serendipity Farm. Someone on the road to Beaconsfield got pigs. Now I know that it isn’t like “got nits” or “got worms” but for me it is almost as contagious because I WANT PIGS. I love them. They are most probably the closest animal to my own personal state. Pigs are smart (tick) they are funny (tick) they tend to run to seed (tick…tick…tick…) they spend their lives looking for somewhere to wallow and cool down (oh MAN that’s a tick!) and love nothing better than standing next to a tree rubbing their large expanse and grunting in extreme satisfaction. I figure I must have been a pig in my past life. Steve wants goats and in particular miniature goats. My daughters ate goat shanks the other day and have been lauding the delights of said goaty meat ever since so you might want to think about those goats VERY carefully Stevey boy… Harvey (The Tassie Farmer) thrust pigs into my semi-awake mind this morning and coupled them with Eliza Wood who is a country livestock morning presenter on our local ABC who has rare Essex saddleback’s on a property up in Penguin (YES we have a town named penguin…sigh…) and who recently had an open day on her and her partners farm. Lots of rare breeds of things and all no doubt VERY exciting but you lost me at pigs Harvey. I sat there daydreaming about how Brian up the back (the tree felling neighbour with the sanctimonious wife) would LOVE to have pigs living in the bush block adjacent to his property (who wouldn’t?) and how they would fit in most incredibly well with the rest of us here on Serendipity Farm. Indeed…should I ever want to head off into town on secret nefarious business I could just put a pair of my jeans and a sun hat on one of the larger ones, plonk it down into the middle garden and let it do what it did best and Steve would never know the difference! It is with regret that I stop typing here and leave some space for future “events” to occur. When I get on a roll it is like a wellspring opening and the words just want to keep tumbling out. See you later on in the week 🙂

I allow my mind to be gloriously and most vicariously innovative and exciting. I try to learn all sorts of new and interesting things and tend to slide right off the Richter scale when it comes to weird and wonderful “stuff” to cram in the few spaces left in my mental capacity but as chaotic and exciting as my mind is, the rest of me is the exact antithesis of chaos and I love nothing more than to be soothed by routine and a dearth of change going on at any given time. I mentioned this only because I have just gotten hungry and have ventured into the previously foreign territory known to others as “Breakfast” recently. Working hard in the garden needs a degree of staying power and last night’s tea simply doesn’t cut the mustard when you need to lift, heft and hack on a massive scale especially if you intend on carrying on the process rather than making one fell swoop at glory. Staying power aka “energy” has been an elusive dream of mine for quite some time. Since I started eating something in the morning I have had energy for the first time in many years. Coupled with eating nutritious food and totally knocking out sugar and white refined products I have suddenly developed a new spring in my step and have lost 6kg without even trying. I think I have discovered a precious secret here about “weight loss” but at the moment I am still in familiar territory and when I have lost 10kg I will let you know about the true nature of my new eating regime. My breakfast this morning (and every morning if the truth be known) is “some minute oats”, “some dates cut up with a pair of scissors” with boiling water poured over them and set aside to absorb said boiling water all topped off with a finely chopped apple. Might sound boring but it tastes lovely and keeps me going till mid-afternoon when I have my main meal. I used to eat 1 enormous meal in the evening but now I eat 2 meals and something nutritious if I get hungry in between. I use olive oil in my cooking and I eat however much I want to. I am a big eater and so if anything is going to make me fall off the wagon it is portion control. I can live on broccoli and carrots (and have done so before) but if you make me weigh them out I am outta there! Gone are the days where I would get “funny” and start minimising my portion sizes, cutting out entire food groups and trying to scrape every last skerrick of fat out of my diet. It’s there because we need it folks to metabolise some of our most important vitamins and minerals and without it we look like deflated balloons (skin etc.) and apart from working hard in the garden we are walking the dogs 5km a day. Easy ways to lose weight and get healthy without even trying. I added some ground cloves and a pinch of ground cinnamon to my breakfast today and it tastes lovely. I know that at some day in the future even I, with my endless need to categorise and follow a nice sensible routine, am going to get a tad bored with this meal and so I am already looking out for interesting nutritious alternatives. In my travels I found a recipe for fermented muesli (An Instructable) which really caught my eye. I love the idea of using my dehydrator (second in cost and lack of use only to the “you-beaut” $1200 blender) to make this amazing healthy looking muesli containing equally amazing probiotics. I am a sucker for a bacterium, and even found an instructable for harnessing your own little greeblies to work for you (isolated from buttermilk should I ever find a live source in Australia that is…). This brings me back to my life’s work. I have a fever… A FEVER I TELLS YA for hunting out how to make basic things and compiling them. Recipes for healthy home-made margarine, baking powder, sourdough starter, potato yeast as well as how to make just about everything that you could possibly need/want yourself. Bugger the middle man (my arch nemesis…) bring on “do it yourself” in a way that it actually relates to our inner need to feel competent rather than societies need to foist all kinds of consumerist goods that we don’t need and can’t afford in the name of D.I.Y. Does anyone else get “Better Homes and Gardens” magazine? Has anyone else noticed how it is just an enormous advertisement from cover to cover? D.I.Y. sells BIGTIME people and don’t think it took the middle man long to work that one out and harness themselves to all of our grindstones as we did the work and they flogged the products. I have dabbled in all sorts of weird and wonderful food rituals over the past few decades and was originally one of those poor lost souls that bought each and every new super food and gadget that popped up promising eternal life. With age comes wisdom and I would like to think, a healthy degree of cynicism for these sorts of claims and products. I would even join a sceptics society for new food fads should they ever develop one. I do, however, make sure to check out as many informative food blogs as I can and use bits and pieces, recipes, hints, tips and anything of worth. A good magpie never wastes information and I would classify myself as a “Top Bird” in the magpie confraternity :). Here is a link to a PDF template of home-made seed packets. Only a “Top Bird” would find and share this sort of thing (can you see me preening my feathers?). I plan on using this template a lot and working out how to print some pretty (also pilfered) images on the front of my packets to enable me to both use collected seed and be delighted by the process. Take your own delight and get printing! (And when you do…could you let me know how you did it…sigh…). The link below also gives you a few predesigned templates to get you started (guess I had best only save tomato, sunflower and pea seeds eh?)

http://www.finegardening.com/how-to/articles/make-your-own-seed-packets.aspx

Here’s another great blog just waiting for you all to trundle over there, find a few minutes peace and quiet to have a little look-see over a nice beverage of your choice (chocolate biscuit optional but preferable). All sorts of lovely crafts and fun things to do all revolving around “Gardens”. Love it, just subscribed to it and will be going there often.

http://gardentherapy.ca/diy-rock-spiders/comment-page-1/

Veggie burgers waiting to go into the oven and Copycat (I will take the secret to the grave!) Hobnob (U.K.) biscuits fresh out of the oven. Even when we couldn’t climb the stairs we still managed to eat…

In one of the videos about permaculture that I found online (somewhere in the ether) I was made aware of (discovery was “mine” they already knew about it…) a most interesting premise about soil. Topsoil is precious. I already knew that…I had it drummed into my head by my poor long suffering lecturer James when I was completing certificates 2 & 3 in horticulture. I dare say he was quite glad to see the back of me because I was one of those students who always wanted to know “why?” and “how?” thus making him have to come up with answers. Usually I had found my own answer by the time he gave them to me so I stopped asking after a while but the value of topsoil was one thing that we learned very early on in the piece. Australia is known for being an inhospitable arid place populated by a highly poisonous population of just about everything and what isn’t poisonous wants to kill you anyway. We get hot dry conditions and our soils are ancient and can’t afford the extreme weather events that we are starting to see as a result of our continued pillaging of natural resources at our own detriment (anyone outside looking down might just be wondering why the human race has suicidal tendencies…I know I am!) and as such we all need to be building our topsoil for future generations. Preventing it from drying up and blowing away is a good start so incorporating organic matter and mulching and getting decent soil holding root systems (preferably arboreal) into place are not a bad start. I watched a most intense, passionate thin man telling me about how the most amazing soil is produced underwater every day. Leaves, twigs, insects, anything organic falling into water and becoming subject to anaerobic bacterial activity forms amazing soil much more quickly. I must admit to being a little bit sceptical about this. Scepticism is a very healthy thing. It allows you to exercise your right to choose what you believe in and gives you the impetus to go searching for proof and information to back up said claims. I promptly forgodaboudit as is my usual way when confronted with information for more than 10 minutes…too much knowledge…such a little brain… something’s gotta give!  I was reminded of this interesting piece of information when Steve was fixing the guttering and drain system on the side of our new wood shed. We had removed a massive ancient blackberry shrub that was reclining all over the surrounding area and that had a really REALLY bad attitude. Deprivation had made it hard and lean and it really didn’t want to give up its position of power. Once we had put paid to its sequel by grubbing it out of the ground Steve headed up the ladder to clean out the slurry in the guttering. He called me over to take a look at the “amazing soil” that was coming out of the guttering. I have no idea how long the leaves and twigs had been falling onto the wood shed roof and into the guttering but they had rotted down in a puddle of stored water to a rich, dark wonderful smelling soil. I wonder if we can “make” our own soil by using water to facilitate a speedier process (waiting several millennia is a little out of my ability to wait…) and if that sludge in the bottom of the duck pond/boat could be put to good use somewhere in the garden? Having little money to spend on luxuries like additional soil I am starting to turn to more adventurous ways to get what we want around here and thanks to the internet, there is no shortage of wild eyed, hirsute, dreadlocked thin people lining up to tell me how to effect change on a shoestring budget.

Ok…time to bite the bullet! The weed species that have been allowed to run rampant for 20 years need to be taught that they have a new master and his name is pain! Here we go…

 Take that Elisha’s Tears! (Leycesteria formosa, follow suit blackberries, osteospermum daisies and twitch grass and you can just about forgedaboudit Rosa canina your asses are MINE!…

The first person to comment on how that “crown lifted” conifer looks now is going to have said comment inserted where the sun don’t shine… just a warning folks! Apart from the Truffula Tree, this area can now be considered cleansed brethren! Do I hear an AMEN?!

While I was wading through the blackberries, Steve was pruning, raking and generally clearing out the first garden “grassed” (HA) area. It now doubles as a lovely sandbath for the hens

What do you think? Not too bad for a water stressed garden at the end of summer

The view now from the stair end of our deck

If you haven’t yet gone to check out the blogs on my new blogroll more fool you! I am not going to force you to go there but it’s you that are missing out. I am anything but magnanimous in my desire to spread the word about sustainability and one of my favourite sites “Permaculture Power” had a most interesting full length documentary called “Garbage Warrior” about “The epic story of radical Earthship eco architect Michael Reynolds, and his fight to build off-the-grid self-sufficient communities.” I watched most of this video tongue in cheek because this man is a typical 60’s hippy with accompanying utopian dreams and some of his “Earthships” were bizarre to say the least. In saying that, I was totally engrossed with what he and his friends were and are trying to do. Using garbage like old tyres, beer cans and rock hard New Mexican soil baked under the sun for 9/10’s of the year and frozen solid for the remainder removed from the ground with brute force and inserted unceremoniously into the tyre walls to create thermal mass. They used different coloured bottles to give jewel coloured stained glass effect to their buildings and despite taking years to build, they were very cheaply constructed and totally off the grid. Wouldn’t you like to be totally off the grid? So would I! Now I just have to learn how to make my own composting toilet (I have actual plans…), plumb that sucker in (might have to take a plumbing course at Polytechnic in my gap year 😉 and get Steve drinking again except using cans rather than bottles…”it’s for the sake of the earth Steve…GET DRINKING!” If you would like to check out this bit of hippy environmental history and you can turn a blind eye to the architects annoying accent and outbursts of manic enlightenment, Harley Davidson and enormous F200 SUV while he is spouting all about how the earth is going to hell in a hand basket because of humanities actions (apparently it is “do what I say…not what I do” in this man’s case or perhaps he has bought some trees in Guatemala and is therefore allowed to produce as much carbon dioxide as he wants…hmm) this is a really informative documentary and no doubt it will spur you on (like me) to continue saving your bottles (I have 2 wheelbarrows full already), aluminium cans (NOT aluminum…) and heck…after watching the poor sods try to remove some of that hard baked New Mexican soil to fill their tyres I feel positively decadent about our rock filled clay bollocks soil! I feel a garden shed constructed out of tyres (on the property…dad was too tight to pay the $5 each to throw them out so we got them left to us along with Serendipity Farm), beer cans and Serendipity Clay. Who knows where this will end? Most probably with Steve in the mental asylum, but at least we will have lots of “Thermal Mass” in all sorts of unexpected places on Serendipity Farm… Might have to rename it “Earthship Farm”! Here’s that link…

http://permaculturepower.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/garbage-warrior-full-length-documentary/

I think this post is going to be gargantuan. I have SO much to share! I went hunting on some of my friends Facebook pages to see if they were all doing well (as none of them post regularly and I just wanted to see if they were doing alright) and on Florida’s page I found a link to a “Britain’s got talent” entrant called Jonathan Antoine. This 17 year old boy was wearing a Jimi Hendrix tee-shirt, a pair of track pants and had long curly hair and was very large. The girl that accompanied him was very pretty and well dressed. As they came out onto the stage you could see Simon Cowell (the chief judge) mouth to the judge sitting next to him “and you didn’t think it could get worse”…You could feel the lack of interest and disdain dripping from every word that Simon uttered and it was almost as if he wanted the act over and done with before it started. “Do you think that you can win?” he asked them somewhat incredulously and only the girl answered. The boy fumbled a little bit at the beginning of the song and started a teeny bit early but after glancing at the girl they started to sing and it was the most amazing sensation to be listening to someone who at 17 rivalled Pavarotti. This kid, shy, grossly overweight and bullied who had suffered a nervous breakdown and was no longer able to go to school thanks to “normal society” and its need to be perfect, wiped the floor (and Simon Cowells gaping maw) and had everyone giving him a standing ovation. Simon had to eat his words (once he found them again) and admitted that they were listening to a future star. Thank you so much Florida for sharing that with me. Now we just have to hope that “normal society” don’t stuff this amazingly talented kid up by “grooming” him to within an inch of his life and turning him into a money making machine to his detriment. If you haven’t watched this amazing performance I urge you to check it out here.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kt3Utn4mjeg

Awesome eh? Good luck Jonathan, although with that incredible natural talent I doubt that you are going to need it!

Look at this lovely little Cercis canadensis (Judas Tree) that we discovered hiding underneath a mountain of blackberries alongside the driveway. We also found a lovely weeping camellia, lots and LOTS of weird and wonderful bulbs all in the first flushes of growing and all sorts of foundation plants just waiting to be given a helping hand after we weeded all of the invasive species from over the top of them.

Can you see that nice camellia to the right of this picture? Can you see the Clivea miniata? Nope?…neither could we till we liberated them from underneath this mass of blackberries  and (I am guessing) Brachycome Iberidifolia or Swan river daisies that have taken over every available bit of space that the Erigeron karvinskianus (seaside daisies) have left vacant. We also discovered under this mass a Daphne odora, a dead specimen of Cistus ladaniferus and an almost alive one that I don’t know why I am mentioning because in my frenzied secateur offensive I clipped off the only piece of shrub that remained alive…sigh…

Here we have a wider shot of this area. It’s cram packed full of blackberries and Vinca major (Periwinkle) and any other invasive species that could take advantage of 20 years of freedom to explore their natural surrounds.

This shot was taken just around the corner from the last shot and shows that this area is indeed somewhat overgrown and in serious need of attention by two penniless horticultural student hippies who have been avoiding this mess like the plague! Can you see 2 specimens of Brachychiton populneus in this shot? Neither can I and I know they are in there!

There one is! These poor sorry suffering specimens of Brachychiton populneus have done their level best to survive in less than sterling conditions for a very long time. One of them is stunted and on its last legs and the other is weeping sap at an alarming rate. Even though we have cleared out under them and have given them back their sunlight we severely doubt that they will make it. We have been growing Brachychiton populneus from some locally sourced seed for a few years now and we can replace them should they die, but I feel an incredible camaraderie with all of the long suffering plants that survived their 20 years in the wilderness with my horticulturally challenged dad and to arrive where they are now and die is incredibly sad to me

We are always accompanied by our feathered friends whenever we venture out into the garden in any capacity. Here, we have Big Yin and his girls clearing an area of newly exposed insect life and injecting their own special brand of highly nitrogenous fertiliser onto this poor denuded soil.

Remember what this area looked like only a few hours prior to Steve and I launching our offensive? Go back a few photos and check again… After a bums up, secateurs flying, whipper snipping marathon that ended with us sitting on the deck being slobbered on with impunity by happy pooches because we were too tired to defend ourselves. The sense of accomplishment is what is keeping this old hippy chick going and it would seem that hard work and great results are somewhat addictive…you are going to be seeing some interesting things happening on Serendipity Farm, fueled by some newly invigorated hope filled land carers :o)

We have been laying low like Brer Rabbit around here for a while. It’s lucky we have only just started on the briar patches in that case isn’t it? Steve and I spent Wednesday and Thursday of this week totally changing our aspect. We have been collecting wood, removing blackberries from the poor long suffering plants along the driveway and generally skirting all around the outside of having to deal with the massive problem of the overtaking blackberries. We have been working really hard and over the last 2 days we most certainly effected change! We started in the enormous conifer on the driveway and removed a massive clump of wild briar roses that had been growing there for as long as I had known this place (2004) and got stuck into removing the weedy species from the garden next to the conifer. We fully intended on “bumbling around” which is our way of saying “taking it easy” for the day as we had really done a lot of work the week before and were just going to work to rule for a few days to recover. In the end we did a solid days work and totally changed this area. We had to remodel a tall thin conifer that now looks somewhat like a weird helter skelter lollypop but we can plant things underneath it and make it look less like something out of Dr Seuss. We then decided to tackle an area of the garden that I doubt dad had ever bothered to deal with. It was absolutely cram packed full of blackberries, Periwinkle, dead shrubs and trees and a massive tangle of dodder (a native mistletoe species) that was threatening to take over the entire area. In the process we found a nest with 4 eggs in it. Speckled Bob (one of our original hens) had been felled out of her last nest by Steve dropping a tree right where she used to lay her eggs and had only just made this nest and it was plundered. We know it was Bob because she headed straight to the nest and looked into it to check her eggs were still there thus allowing us to spot the culprit! Steve pruned the trees in the area and crown lifted as we proceeded and I waded in with my trusty secateurs and dealt with the blackberry invasion. They were none too happy with my efforts and despite vanquishing my arch nemesis (for now…) I am covered in blackberry bites…so much so that the mosquitoes left me alone last night as they couldn’t find a bit of me that hadn’t already been punctured.

It’s Good Friday today as I type out this bit of my post and last night, after working hard in the garden and being almost incapable of moving due to extreme fatigue, I set myself the task of making hot cross buns for the occasion. We don’t like shop bought hot cross buns. They always let you down by being stale and tasteless and so last year we made our own. Mum was here at the time and we set about making what ended up being stodgy and heavy buns that although Steve and mum ate them stoically, I just knew that they were being polite when they muttered encouraging words about them. As someone who earned her living from cooking before we moved here I figured I could do better and so last night, scratched, knackered and resilient I set about melding 2 recipes that I had found to make 1 successful recipe and hopefully at least a few buns that would be edible and in fact, tasty, today. I made the dough and set it to prove and then noticed that the buns took 12 hours to rise! It was 6pm at the time and so I decided to form the buns into their bunescent shape, put them onto a buttered baking tray and after buttering the tops of the buns, slid the entire kit and caboodle into a massive big black garbage bag (sans garbage) and shoved them into the fridge till today. I got up early this morning and removed the bag of buns from the fridge and put it up on the bread warmer to sit while we walked the dogs. When we got back I made up the cross mix and did my best to put the crosses on and we then cooked them on the bbq (our old work-horse oven that we used for a year when we first moved here and the stove was broken). Steve, and the dogs, pronounced them delicious and light and fruity and full of flavour which made me very happy. Sorry I couldn’t give you light fluffy hot cross buns when you were here mum but I dare say you are smiling wherever you are that I at least got to make 1 batch well :o)

Here we have our newly crossed buns after they emerged from their enormous black garbage bag to be baked in the outside bbq because it was early and we couldn’t be bothered lighting the fire…

Here they are, fresh out of the bbq (oven?) and glazed with a tasty mix of brown sugar and jam melted in a saucepan (Simon Rimmer style)

The proof is in the eating and these babies were delicious! Full of cinnamon, ground ginger, cardamom and ground cloves (who would remember to buy mixed spice when it was coming up to Easter?) they were a very interesting mix of whatever “sweet spice” I had in the cupboard. Steve had some toasted today and apart from me forgetting a batch and setting off the fire alarm they were, apparently, delicious!

We walked the dogs in Beaconsfield the other day and I collected a lot of fallen walnuts from a Juglans regia tree. My motto is “Waste not want not” and as no-one was collecting these fallen nuts I decided to take avail of their tasty neglect and they are now stratifying in peat in the shed ready to spring to life (hopefully) in spring. I also collected some lovely ripe figs that I had for my lunch later on. Nothing like figs picked perfectly ripe from the tree to make you know the full meaning of happiness. I had to wonder if the pairing for figs and walnuts was merely a culinary thing as they are both ripe at the same time so that would make them seasonally available at the same time as well. I managed to collect some more walnuts (also regia) from another tree on our walk around Bonnie Beach yesterday so we have a decent representation of local specimens of walnut so hopefully choosing nuts from trees growing well in the local area I will get a good germination rate and they will be adapted to the local growing conditions. We also collected some Washington Hawthorn berries to stratify and grow as well. They have really beautiful autumn colouration and edible berries and massive thorns making them a really good choice for using for hedging around Serendipity Farm. The native birds will love them for habitat and for food. The specimen that we got the seed grew from seed spread by birds so it shouldn’t be all that hard to get ours to grow. We can also take cuttings (hard and semi-ripe) in winter and summer respectively. With our hard work in the garden, Steve and I are both starting to get a bit of hope that we can make this garden ours.

I celebrate Easter in my own way. Steve was looking up why Easter is at different times every year. This came about because Easter fell on April 24th last year and this year it is April 8th…that is quite a variance! It turns out it is to do with the Vernal (lunar) equinox and that it is all about plastering religious ceremonies over the top of pagan ceremonies. Easter, Eostre, oestrus Esther and symbolic fertility all linked to the moon and tangled into each other in a melding of religious beliefs. I actually believe that Jesus died for humanity. I also believe that he rose from the dead. That is about where my actual beliefs veer massively from those of most common religious teachings. My dad was an atheist and mum was “Church of England” whatever that meant to mum I don’t know as we were never privy to her understanding of “church” in any way other than a vague need to adhere to it’s guidelines. My aunty used to drop by and pick my sister and I up to take us to Sunday school and we both fell into attending church. We had some interesting times and far from falling away from God, he has always been part of my life. I look back on my earlier understanding and cringe. Church isn’t where God is, he is everywhere and in everything. I once explained my concept of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit to my daughters. I need to explain here that none of my children are mindless vacuous shallow creatures and every single one of them has an excellent brain that they occasionally use when promoted. They all have some very interesting ideas about “things” in general and after I explained my concept my 2 girls both told me that I was mad and most probably would be stoned by the members of the Auld Kirk church for my beliefs. I guess my children are not the only unconventional thinkers in our family! I don’t think it’s all that hard to digest, but it has taken me a fair while to arrive at this point and I have had to sift through a fair amount of life and literature to get to where I am happy to be. Whatever you believe let Easter be a time of contemplation, gratefulness and thankfulness for your life and everything that you have and are.

We left Earl and Bezial on the deck watching us as we worked in the garden. Earl likes to keep us guessing and has a most chaotic way of acting so that he just lures us into thinking that he is a “good dog” and suddenly he strikes like a canine viper. Earl mastered table jumping at an Olympic level not so long ago and so we really should have been more sensible leaving things on the table when we headed out to work in the garden for hours on end. Steve headed up to the house yesterday to get us a cold drink and noticed Earl eating something on the floor. Earl was halfway through chewing and digesting his large leather collar that we had bought from a man at the markets especially for him. He had eaten past the tightest hole on his “Shackles of oppression” and there was no point in attempting to remove the collar from him as he had done his worst with it and rendered it useless. Earl is going to have to wear a large black heavily studded collar that we used to have for Bezial until we realised the effect that it had on passers-by when we walked him. Earl had not only eaten his Shackles of oppression, but he had sampled a walnut (only 1) and found it lacking. He had selected a walnut, cracked it and had a taste of the nut and the remains were left on the rug under the table which is where Earl strews his spoils of war (and their remains). I guess we were very lucky that he didn’t decide to eat Steve’s new mobile phone, but perhaps he was warming up to tackling it. Luckily we will never know because Steve arrived to stop him from sampling anything else on the table.

I have been doing online surveys for a few years now. I started off with 1 group in answer to a referral from my son (for which he got 200 points) and just kept going. I am now doing surveys for 4 survey groups and have received $170 up until now for my efforts. I just got $140 of gift cards in the mail from one of my survey groups and have $130 to be claimed in another group. It’s actually good to be able to have a say in consumer goods manufacture and make my opinion heard whilst gaining some kind of reward for my efforts. I am going to stop dealing with one group because they make it incredibly hard to claim rewards whereas the other groups are much easier to deal with. Here’s a shot of my latest haul and also of what I am going to spend $100 (the Bunning’s vouchers) on.

Here’s my “winnings” from my reward surveys

And we are going to buy one of these D.I.Y. 3 spotlights for the lounge room with the Bunnings cards. Gotta love the barter system eh? I give them every tiny little bit of information about myself including my underpants size and they give me a loungeroom light a win-win situation!

I had to pay the library $1 for an overdue book on Wednesday. I hate forgetting to take library books back to the library and incurring fees and most begrudgingly paid the library the money in 5c pieces. It’s MY protest and I can be as petty as I like thank you very much! I picked up my next book from Mary Anne Schaffer’s list and it is going to be a doozie of a book to read by the look of it. It is called “Covenant with Death” by John Harris and is “the tremendous story that traces the fate of one battalion of men from the time they obeyed Kitchener’s pointing finger until the morning they ‘climbed over the top’ to meet their baptism of fire – and death”. Ok, so that is pretty intense isn’t it! I am a sooky la-la (thanks for that Kym, it suits me down to the ground :o) when it comes to things like that and couldn’t bring myself to watch the final episode of Black Adder thanks to it being about just this topic. I took back my copy of “Under the Tuscan Sun” due to its boring, shallow and most uninspiring of content even though I had been waiting for it for months and ended up coercing the librarian into ordering the large print copy for me. Nothing is worse than anticipating a great read and being sorely let down. I am still waiting on Flaubert’s parrot to arrive. I was assured by T.A.L.I.S. (online library site) that it was “in transit” on Tuesday which meant that it should have been there on Wednesday to pick up but it wasn’t so I guess I am meant to read “Covenant with Death” at this point in time. How coincidental that I am to read this just before ANZAC Day eh? I am obviously meant to be digesting this book while I remember the lives that were senselessly lost to humanities need to elevate themselves to a position of power above the masses. What a total waste of life that we most certainly didn’t learn enough from. I am really starting to get a feeling for what made Mary Anne Schaffer tick and what moved her and filled her with compassion and the desire to put pen to paper. Each one of these “favourite books” that I read gives me a little taste of what she felt when she read them. Apart from 1 shameless romance novel and one that I can’t get because it isn’t in the library thanks to being banned because it explained how to make a bomb, the majority of books on her list are soul feeding comfort food that are leaving an indelible mark on me as much as they apparently did on her. My favourite to date has been Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. I loved this book and I loved how it was written and can’t wait to get stuck into my secondary list (other books by the authors that I enjoyed from the initial list…I LOVE my lists ;o) when I can read the rest of Louis de Bernieres no doubt wonderful books. If you like to read,  this man is a true story teller.

We have been “Flat out like a lizard drinking” (a little tip of my hat to our Forefathers colloquialisms… in fact forget forefathers, my father was a great one for colloquialisms “stone the crows!”…”Stiffen the bandicoots!”) This week and I have had to really drag myself tiredly to the computer to tap out these faint pathetic utterings this week. So tired…so little sleep thanks to Earl shoving us off the bed most nights and acting as a thermo-nuclear heat device. We have done so much this week that I can’t even begin to fathom it all and I love it! I haven’t had time to miss sitting about doing nothing because we have been busy cleaning out forgotten corners of Serendipity Farm and tackling the big issues rather than sliding them under the mat for another year. We have actually effected change this week and I am so very proud of we two penniless hippies for our dedication in crawling out of bed each morning to walk the dogs and iron out our spines as we walk from the day befores hard slog. Hard work is addictive. We had a day off and I wanted to get back outside and into changing our vista. We did heaps today as well but I am going to use what we did today to start next week’s blog. I don’t think I have room for any more photos do you? Have a fantastic week this week and remember not to sweat the small stuff that’s what we are doing so you may as well put your feet up and enjoy the sweat free ride!

To bee or not 2 bee gnat is the question

Hi All,

Ok, so that was lame…VERY lame…but it got you looking at my post didn’t it so it worked 🙂 The post also has a little bit about insects in it and a bit about jellyfish so while you are here to chastise me about my lame pun filled post, you may as well have a look at the post over a cup of mental tea on Serendipity Farm. You never know you just might like it here and want to stay…

Lets start our photographic evidence (some might say forensic looking at this…) about what we have been up to on Serendipity Farm this week. We had these bamboo screens plastered all over the 3 metre high wall that we put up in town to minimise our forced cohabitation with the troll when my dad was alive. Our daughters are now living in the house in town (with no troll in sight) and asked us to take down the Berlin Wall so we had these screens left over and so we decided to put them to good use. The garden in front of these screens is sad. It is full of Cape gooseberries, tiny native raspberries and some azaleas that are proving incredibly hard to kill. Forget delicate things, azaleas are survivors people. After being hacked to death they are all growing back and some of them are flowering.

All this week I have been expanding my mind and attempting to redress a few years of stagnation in body and soul. It’s really easy to sit back and let life lead you where it will but you run the risk of not having much of a life at all and in being perpetually scared because being reactive is being out of control and being proactive gives you a modicum of choice. Along with that choice you also get the chance to shuffle people out of their ruts. If someone does something unexpected or reacts in a way that is different to the norm it isn’t only the “Doer” that has to think and thus starts a most interesting chain of events. I doubt that first sentence is going to rival Moby Dick any day soon but it was where my mind was settling on Sunday last week. Steve was in his shed cleaning it up which apparently gives him a great degree of joy and so it is now understandable why he makes such an awful mess every time he uses his shed. I can hear him howling outside and doing extreme injustice to some band on LAFM. Thank goodness for Chilli FM by the way. It has taken all of the crap music from LAFM and left us with “all of the best music from the 70’s’ 80’s’ 90’s and today” meaning everything that wasn’t manufactured on some countries form of “Idol” or spliced by a DJ. I am not going to run every DJ down because there are some very clever people out there making some amazing music but the problem is…most of them don’t make it to the airwaves and we get some watered down hash of 80’s pop spliced together with any recognisable riff that they can pilfer and BAM! Just like the Spice Weasel, we have a cloud of dust that delivers no flavour to our musical palate and that leaves us jaded and world weary.

Here’s the reason that it is always wise to call before you rock up to Serendipity Farm. Should we not be here…the boys will be and as you can see they take their job “watching” very seriously…

We also have killer chickens roaming all over Serendipity Farm. This one is particularly dangeous. She has taken out 4 Jehovah’s Witnesses, an encyclopedia salesman and a morman and that was in the space of a week…enter at your own risk.

It’s now Wednesday and we have really been making a difference this week on Serendipity Farm. Last week I gave up sitting on the PC and it seems like a lifetime ago (and several leech bites) since I sat here safely tapping away living an entirely surreal mental life over the school holidays. We are back at Polytechnic now and armed with our work and as we work from home, our lives can be planned around when we study. We have a month off before our next meeting with our lecturer that encompasses his trip to the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show and Easter and so we figured we had a bit of time up our collective sleeves before we needed to get stuck into completing our latest task (with the aid of Google Earth and a well labelled copy of the plans to the block to assist us) and so with my newfound desire to effect change on Serendipity Farm we decided to throw ourselves into reducing and removing the various piles of debris that we created over summer and couldn’t burn. We are very mindful of how wasteful burning is. We have spent the last 3 days working our way through these piles of debris and removing all of the limb wood, logs, kindling sized wood and allowing the leaves to remain in situ (as mulch) and the brushwood is going to be burned and the resulting ashes and embers will not be wasted either. We plan on baking potatoes in foil in the ashes and the feral cats will savour the warmth from the fire like they have on previous debris removal attempts. We almost removed Houdini with our last fire because she was hunkered down with her latest lot of ferals in a shrub that got scorched when the flames went up. She steadfastly refused to give up her hiding spot and is a most formidable mother despite being the smallest of our hens. We have piles of logs and limb wood all over the place now as we have steadily worked our way down from the house paddock around to the front of the house. We have heaped up the brushwood to enable us to collect it all and take it around to our metre squared fire site (so that we can get a permit to burn) and render it ashes.

Never let it be said that we don’t take advantage of natures bounty. These hazelnuts were selected from a large quantity of hazelnuts given to us by our neighbour Glad’s daughter Wendy. Wendy has several trees and very generously donated some to us. I ate most of them over a period of a few weeks and these select few remain to be stratified along with these Juglans regia (English walnuts) that we found on one of our walks popping out of their little husks and begging to be collected and stratified

I think this is what is colloquially called an “Ark”. I think it is several cubits long and quite a few wide and whoever made it appears to be heading down the Tamar River to higher ground…

When we were clearing the blackberries out of this poor long suffering rhododendron we discovered this leprechaun nest. We have spotted several of them darting around Serendipity Farm and now that we have isolated them down to this communal nest we should be able to wait them out and collect their pot of gold the next time that we get a rainbow

I can’t say that I can even remember working as hard as this, getting as dirty as this or being on the go quite so long as this in a long time. Steve and I are hauling logs, hoisting brushwood on the end of long poles, have a newfound angst at all things “wattle” and “cotoneaster” because whenever they are culled (the New Zealand word for killed…) they remain stubborn and difficult to deal with right up to the bitter end. I am covered in scratches and had some of my precious life fluids removed by stealth when in a shaded area of the garden yesterday. We had to stop cutting up logs because “a man” appeared on the driveway and we had to stop and find out what said “man” wanted. It turned out he was from the water board and was trying to isolate our water meter so that he could change it over to a new meter. It’s just lucky that we were home because our water meter is nowhere near the front of the house where any sane person would think that it would be. The poor man would NEVER have found it all the way up the back paddock and halfway along the fenceline where some bright spark decided to put it. When we were looking at our block plans the other day (and raising a silent prayer up to God for giving us Degrees, Minutes and Second readings for the entire site CHEERS GOD!) we noticed that all around our property were roads where there are currently none. We know that there is an easement between our property and Frank’s next door because Frank has already called “dibs” on it should council ever release it to the land owners. There is also apparently an easement just behind the house at the rear of the property for the very same purpose but our nasty neighbour at the back obviously assumes that we are too numpty and red necked to even know about anything as technical as an “easement” and has decided to simply assimilate it into his property without prior permission…are you starting to see why we don’t like him? We directed the poor water board worker, who had himself been bitten by a leech the day before whilst being kind to some neighbourhood chickens that had materialised when he and his workmate were eating their lunch. His bite site was a rather embarrassing one as the leech had slithered down the back of his pants and situated itself between his buttock cheeks (always honest at Serendipity Farm is my motto…spare not the sensibilities of my readers as that is everyone else’s job) and I was most relieved when my 2 leeches had the decorum to situate themselves on my lower back and leave a representation of a walrus gone Dracula on my person.

Not too long ago this white hen would have been taking her life into her own hands walking into the “Lion’s Den” like this. This conifer houses most of the feral cat population on Serendipity Farm on and off throughout the day. With the burgeoning population  of poultry exploding all over Serendipity Farm the feral cats are now significantly under represented and have had to take a back seat to the hens. It is a common site to note hens stealing cheese right out of the mouths of the cats. Nature is a most interesting master and the hens now rule this roost!

The price of operating our house phone has increased to a ridiculous amount and so we have decided to use a more sustainable method to contact friends and relatives. We did a bit of research online and discovered a site where we learned to use smoke signals to make up messages and Telstra can bite us now because we can bypass their robbing asses!

This is a bunny plant (Oryctolagus cuniculus). I grew it specifically  for easter. As you can see the 2 green leaves truly represent a rabbits ears and this amazing plant produces easter eggs that ripen on easter morning. I have NO idea how it is able to ascertain when Easter occurs each year as I am clueless about it’s whereabouts until someone reminds me that it is on its way. The small trees behind the bunny plant are money trees. They take a really long time to grow and most probably we will be in our dotage by the time they start to produce the coins that precede the notes that these trees are held in high esteem for. At least the kids will get something from all of our efforts. Maybe we can graft some note scion onto our coin rootstock?

Hard physical slog and making sure that I eat my evening meal mid-afternoon has ensured that I am now sleeping like a baby. I haven’t got time to miss sitting about here wasting time because we are doing things and making a difference. Steve is taking full advantage of this because he knows me of old and thinks that all of this activity is going to be stuck in the “failed crafts closet” along with the lead lighting and the manufacture of kefir in the not too distant future and he is trying to save himself some solitary man hours by using my new found desire to get “stuck in” to the max before it recedes, dwindles and dies for the year. I am ever a cyclic person (something about women and the moon and water or something…that’s my excuse and I am sticking to it!). I can’t blame him for thinking like this but I am here to stay this time. Not only am I feeling satisfied and content at the end of my day (some might call it knackered out) but my previous gym training has decided to allow my muscles to recover and take on forms other than “flabby” my least favoured muscle form of all and I am starting to understand what keeps people working hard in the first place. Forget bungie jumping and base jumping, this is as close to adrenalin as this woman is going to get! We are walking the dogs first up as we have to leave them on the deck while we work around the house. We found some Juglans regia (English walnuts) falling out of their husks and collected 8 of them (roadside benefits of walking the dogs) to stratify along with the biggest and juiciest looking of the hazelnuts that I shared with you in a previous post and they are now settled nicely in their potting media waiting for springtime and new life. If anyone out there can smuggle me some Juglans sieboldiana var. cordiformis (Heart nuts, a relative of the walnut and pecan) I will be eternally grateful to you and would give you my first born child but he has told me to stop offering him for slave labour on the open market because he is too busy at work to mow lawns, make people’s dinner and generally wave large feather fans and peel grapes (party pooper!) so I will have to find some other way to recompense you 🙂

European wasps have 2 phases. A sugar phase and a meat phase…can you tell which phase this little fellow is in? He is attempting to eat the boys dinner and he is VERY lucky that he is situated on the bbq out of the reach of Earl because Earl takes pilfering of his dinner to heart.

When we were walking the dogs the other day we decided to go to Bonnie Beach, a very pretty walk around the old gardens at Kayena. There are some lovely old trees in this area but for once we were more interested in what was drifting off the pontoon than what was growing in the earth. We decided to walk the dogs out onto the pontoon because the tide was low and the oysters were exposed. We have a plethora of oysters on our local river bed and at certain times of the day it is very unwise to walk out to the water unless you want your shoes shredded and to get an instant infection. Bezial is part water dog and you can see the gleam in his eyes and his faraway expression whenever he gets anywhere near water and as the oysters were beckoning, we decided to allow him to get closer to the water on the pontoon. When we started walking out we noticed lots of the big white jellyfish slowly manoeuvring their way through the water. They are really quite graceful and despite thinking that they were just prisoners of the tide I watched one that had gotten too close to the rocks do the equivalent of what people in small boats with outboard motors do and “whack it in reverse” and head back out into the free flowing water. The jellyfish themselves were most interesting but what really interested us was how little fish that appeared to be leather jackets were swimming out from the rocks and swimming right next to the jellyfish hunting for any excess food that they might be finished stinging and scoffing. What a clever symbiotic relationship! The jellyfish are called “Jelly Blubber” or Catostylus mosaicus and are apparently very delicate. If you want to learn more about them check here…

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

We also saw schools of tiny little fish and much larger fish that we thought might be cocky salmon. Cocky salmon are the young version of the ubiquitous Australian Salmon. This fish is nothing like its European counterpart but is an excellent sports fish and is good eating if it is bled as soon as it is caught which confuses a lot of tourists on our local beaches in salmon season when they see fishermen with large fish stuck upside down in the sand. It’s just gone 7am on Thursday morning and we have a big day ahead of us. We have been working our way through tasks that we have been unable to do and some that we have been putting off. Yesterday we cleared a large stand of ancient blackberries that had been clinging against the side of the wood shed and that were threatening to move in. We removed an old ramshackle fence between the house and the area of property behind the house and opened up the area to make it easier to walk around the property. We want to get on top of Serendipity Farm and need to finish off the clear up before we can get stuck into making it really ours and effecting the changes that we want to make here so we have a few solid weeks of hard slog before we can start planning and planting out. We also have some serious pruning to do to open up the jungle down in the second garden but we are dropping a tree in that area and so we will be forced to work there after the apocalypse. Nothing like dropping a tree in an area to effect change!

Here is a load of wood being carted up from the front gates to dry out this year to be used for next years fires. We had to remove these mostly dead hakeas from the driveway and their death won’t be in vain as they will be used in all sorts of ways as well as being used for our wood fired stove. We have some plans for using up some of the spindly tea trees that we have to remove from the teatree garden in order to allow the remaining trees to grow properly. We are going to use them to make possum barriers around our vegetable gardens. Stay tuned for our prototype in the coming weeks

Here is another one of those killer hens. Note it has made itself a den where it can drag its unsuspecting prey back to dismember it in peace and quiet. Note the graveyard right next to the hens den. These hens cost us a lot of money but what price security?

Here is our newly tidied up (no piles of messy debris thanks to our fire off to the left…) first garden. See those 2 giant mushrooms that grew after the last rain? Being someone who loves mushrooms I am proud to have these Guiness World Record Largest mushrooms growing right here on Serendipity Farm.

Did you notice the blog roll in the right hand margin today? I got the idea from a few blogs that I had been to and handed over the “discovery reins” to the techno maestro Steve to deliver me a blog roll to share my favourite blogs with you all. Hopefully I can run that sucker for miles because I am FULL of fantastic blogs to share. I am being decidedly picky and making sure that all of my dear constant readers will be able to get at least something out of at least one of the wonderful blogs listed. I have always been interested in nature and how things are interrelated and work. I like to pare back everything to get to the simple natural essence of things and I am most interested in fungi being the predominate species on earth and insects. I like to take a leaf from Annie from The Micro Gardener and see “Pests” and “Weeds” as prospective mates that I haven’t yet learned how to harness for the benefit of Serendipity Farm. Everything has its good and bad sides and we tend to focus on the bad when it comes to pests, diseases, weeds etc. Where would we be without penicillin? Where would be without lactobacillus? 2 prime examples of humans being curious and adventurous enough to mess about with some natural processes and make them their own. Weeds are fantastic things. We should all yearn for the ability to not only grow, but thrive, in harsh environmental conditions. Forget trying to eradicate them, we should be trying to isolate just what it is that gives them their tenacity. They are pains in the neck but they are also indicators of our soil conditions and just what is missing or in overabundance in our soil. Like weeds, pests are just adventitious little insectivorous wanderers who are taking advantage of good conditions. It’s up to us to find ways to use these little babies to our advantage. My hens are currently making short shift of a mini plague of small grasshoppers. They are all over the place but here on Serendipity Farm they are hen food. Some bright spark in the warmer areas of Australia has harnessed the native honey bee and is selling hives to people who want to farm their own native extra sweet honey. We can’t have them here in Tasmania but we do have bumble bees and various other bees that all come for a visit. I found this interesting specimen when we were walking the dogs the other day. I have NO idea what it is. It’s either a bee, a fly or a wasp (see…I am destined for a career in entomology obviously!) and it is most decisively deceased. The closest I got to working out the identity of this little fellow was an Amegilla dawsoni which are the largest bees around. Weird and freaky they are typical W.A. specimens (I come from W.A. I rest my case) and are otherwise known as Dawson’s Burrowing Bees. As we are in Tasmania and quite a long way away from W.A. I figure my detective work may have led me down the path to taking a wrong turn at Albuquerque somewhere, but these bees can regularly be found trying to get out of the windows of our home. No idea why they come in, but they most definitely want to go out once they get in. Perhaps they don’t like dogs… check out all about our endemic Aussie bees here…

http://www.aussiebee.com.au/beesinyourarea.html

I think it’s time to post this post now. It’s a bit higgledy piggledy today and hopefully it has something of interest for you. I made bread and fishcakes today along with some cauliflower cheese. While the oven is on I try to make sure that we use it to its full potential to take advantage of all of the heat generated. The bread is just about due to come out of the oven and will be duly stuffed into the gaping maws of various creatures waiting under the deck for their regular titbits. Steve will get a bit and the dogs will also share some toast in the morning (along with the fishcakes that they just shared with Steve). Life is good albeit tiring on Serendipity Farm and it’s been great to share this week with you. See you all next week and to all of the wonderful blogs that I subscribe to…keep those great posts coming! By the way… I haven’t gone stark raving mad…It’s April fools day somewhere around you reading this post so I am taking a little creative license with the timing as it’s also the end of daylight savings and we are entering the realms of mathematics here so you are just going to have to work with me on this one and accept that you are all April Fools! 😉

Gravity is my Bitch

Hi All,

Did you miss me in your inbox every day? This post is going to be long!  I must admit to enjoying the freedom to add little bits to posts whenever something interesting happens rather than having to think up things to say. I also like the freedom to take photos of interesting things rather than having to take them for the sake of a daily post. This week where I have abstained from posting has most certainly revealed a few things about me to myself. The very first thing that it has revealed is that I used the computer too much. I would spend hours here researching, posting, hunting for things and was spending more time online than I was out there in the great outdoors. We have collected an enormous amount of dry firewood from the property and have saved ourselves a fortune in the process. All of you constant readers will know that we are doing another Diploma this year in landscape design. I am saying “sustainable landscape design” because that is where my heart is. I could care less about standard gardening and commonplace ideas and would rather scrape by sustainably than live a life of mass consumption. Steve and I have been noticing all sorts of ways to save money, reuse and recycle things around Serendipity Farm and are starting to notice that our attempts are paying off. As we are penniless hippies living on the breadline we need to ensure that our ‘income’ (such as it is…) not only stretches to paying our bills but that it allows us to do what we want to do on Serendipity Farm. We have some future wants including large and small rainwater collecting tanks and we want to buy a wind turbine because Serendipity Farm is one of the windiest places that we have ever lived and it makes sense to use what is available. We were spending about $80 on booze a fortnight and decided to give it up for our savings and our health. I decided to give up a lifelong bad habit of dieting and simply learn how to eat what my body needed. Paired with at least an hour of walking the dogs a day and I have managed to lose 5kg (yes Nat…I got out those scales!) without even noticing that I was even doing so. I feel better, my poor long suffering knees are feeling great (despite my determination to get them to give way at every available moment) and I am starting to discover what it is to have actual available energy when you want and need it thanks to not starving myself and feeding my poor long suffering body what it needs to function.

A little  Philadelphus to mark the felling of a large tree in the first garden and the subsequent squishing of most of the tangled overgrown Philadelphus (Mock Orange) and a fair percentage of blackberries in the process. You win some…you lose some…

The early morning breakfast board. The bread is for the 5 older feral chooks and Houdini and her 7 mid sized baby chooks and the cheese is for the feral cats. We have added a small bowl of tiny cheese bits for Effel and her babies. Please don’t tell me that “Cheese isn’t good for cats” because these are feral and you know what? Dead bits of frog, mumified possum and bin scrapings are probably not good for cats either but I dare say this lot would jump at them in an instant so a little bit of daily cheese is the least of their worries

This is a  Carpobrotus acinaciformis or Pigface as it is commonly called around here. It is usually found on the shoreline of sandy beaches and dunes and is a most interesting salt tolerant (just about everything tolerant if the truth be known) succulent.

Usually they have red or pink flowers but this one appears to have a sort of apricot colour.

Here you can see the base of the flower and this is where it starts to get interesting…

Here is what happens when the flower drops and a fruit forms. The fruit is entirely edible and Australian Aboriginals eat them. We have this plant growing on Serendipity Farm and as mentioned, it is almost indestructable. You can walk over it, it has lovely bright shiny  mesembryanthemum flowers and will grow in just about any soil type. All that plus it is a native and I figure that this great ground cover is going to feature in more than one place on Serendipity Farm

I am, however, a little bit miffed. Steve…who no-one would call “fat” has just lost 6kg by doing nothing other than giving up booze. Men have it all over we women (especially we women who are of a ‘certain age’ and who nature and gravity are conspiring to bring down to earth with a massive bump…) when it comes to metabolism and Steve had a head start thanks to genetics. I am pleased to announce my new “diet”. Eat more food in the morning and lunch time than you do at night…add lots of veggies and cooked beans to your diet (stop pulling faces…it works!), buy a dog and walk it and get your ass off the computer and out into the great wild outdoors with your poor long suffering husband who usually has to do everything himself because his dearly beloved is sitting on the P.C. engrossed and you are too polite to get a crowbar and evict her. This week, after realising just how much time I spent on the computer, I decided to check my emails in the morning and nothing else. I have stuck to that apart from study where we had to do a bit of typing, and in place of messing about accomplishing little online, I have crocheted, I have read copious quantities of books, I have wandered about outside sucking delicious fresh air into my previously “cooped up” lungs, I have helped Steve as he lumberjacked, chainsawed and lugged wood from all sorts of areas over Serendipity Farm and have discovered that gravity is not just something that you learn about in science and that it CAN be my friend. When you have finished huffing and puffing your way up a very steep slope (like the steep slope that can be found all over Serendipity Farm…) to a large pile of chainsawed logs, you can use gravity to your advantage to throw those round logs down the hill and once they stop rolling (say by hitting the fence for instance…) you can then load them into the trailer that you can actually get to this bit of the property (because the rest of the property is overpopulated with rocks) and then transport them to the wood shed. I never knew how satisfying it could be to really get stuck into hard slog and then stand back and look at your mounting pile of firewood, knowing that you haven’t had to pay anything for it other than a little bit of fuel and chain bar oil for the chainsaw and a bit of petrol to get the car and trailer up to the top paddock. I have a new found respect for Steve and his amazing capacity to move around, lug heavy things and keep going and by sourcing our firewood from our own property we have reduced the amount of fuel and energy that we have to use and the garden is much tidier after our efforts.

We passed this most interesting of gates on one of our walks this week. The little dog was barking his head off and I could hear his owner telling him to be quiet and asked her if I could take a photo of her interesting planter box. She was more than willing for me to do so

Ecclectic sustainable artistic gardening and xeriscape (water wise) to boot! Good on you attractive young hippy lady with a small child on your hip. Cheers for letting me share your wonderful repurposed gate and this pretty windowbox

I don’t know if there is anything sustainable about this wonderful house boat but the elderly couple that allowed me to take this photo seem to be leading a most interesting life on the tideline in their rustic home. I wonder if the fishing is good?

Isn’t this a really lovely dry stone wall?

This picture was going to be a nice long line of delightful artisanal craftwork for you to enjoy but fatty refused to budge from rubbing his nose on the lawn so you are stuck with Bezial in the shot

We walked the dogs a whole lot and we have spent time relocating Effel and her 4 squintillion babies all over the place. They started down the driveway in a large clump of agapanthus but with bad weather on the way and our advanced knowledge of Effel and her terrible mothering skills, AND the fact that most of these little sweet fluffballs are actually blue Wyandotte’s and might be worth $20 each in a few months we decided to try to keep as many of them alive as possible and relocated them to Steve’s shed in Pingu’s old cage. It only took us 2 days to realise that Effel was NOT going to be happy cooped up inside a tiny little hay filled cage and that we were going to have to think about a slightly longer term solution for Effel and her babies. Knowing that they needed to be isolated from the other hens made it somewhat hard as we had removed the chicken wire in the chook roost when our hens started to reproduce exponentially and they started to fill the small bit of the roost where we had previously thrown our clucky hens whenever they wanted to hatch out a clutch of eggs alarmingly and so we had to confine Effel to the outside enclosed area of the coop. We decided to reuse (LOVE that word and it’s application :o) Pingu’s cage that Effel and her fluffballs had been living in for 2 days and cut a door into the front. After cutting half of the wire from the front of the domed cage we then covered it with 2 tarpaulins to make sure that it was weatherproof and we stuffed it full of hay to keep the little darlings dry and warm. We didn’t want the hay getting wet should it rain so we mounted 2 old wooden louvered doors from an old pantry cupboard that had completely disintegrated but we kept the doors for just such a purpose as this, on some treated pine logs and then put the new fluffball home on top. That evening, when we were making sure that Effel got her babies into their new luxury pad we noticed Effel sitting on 2 babies and the rest huddled in the cold in a corner…soon after a most frustrating (for us) but hilarious (to anyone watching) bout of running around chasing tiny chickens who have an incredible turn of speed and who were most determined to hide UNDER their new cage rather than in with their mum we managed to rake the babies out of their hiding places (yes RAKE!) and hurl (sorry place gently) them in with Effel all the time muttering under our breath about how we were going to decapitate Effel at the next sign of cluckiness. The next day we removed the tin, we took Hebel blocks and placed them all around the outside of the cage to stop the chicks from hiding underneath the cage and mounted a nice new longer (less of an angle to get up into the cage) wooden gangplank for the babies to climb up inside their new home. It seems like we have spent the whole week fussing over Effel and moving her all over the place but finally it seems like we might have sorted out the problems and everyone is still alive and we assume, happy.

This is a Rosa rubiginosa L. (Wild briar rose) that has become a bit of an environmental weed here in Tasmania. I am going to take advantage of its apparent glee for spreading all over our local area and am going to harvest the hips (fruit) to use in making wine, jam and syrup. Why waste one of the best sources of vitamin C when it is just going to waste?

This is the sole walnut that we were able to isolate from our Juglans nigra (Black Walnut) tree. It is quite a large tree and the rats have been taking advantage of its bumper crop of walnuts this year. I am thinking about tethering Earl to the walnut tree to see what the rats think of him

This is what a fresh walnut looks like. It was white and sweet and nothing like a regular dried walnut kernel. I savoured it slowly and will be tethering Earl ealy next season and awaiting a rat pelt jacket…we cant waste anything around here you know!

The temptation to “just have a little go” on the computer has slowly given way to an uneasy feeling that I have been wasting a whole lot of time online and that I have to do something to make up for it. The lugging of the wood was in part due to this feeling. Steve is very happy that I am actively starting to “do” physical things around the place. I regularly do a MAX music survey where I am asked my opinion of some short bursts of music. I do this, because I need to address the obvious bias of the young towards total crap music and ensure that the rest of us (not young) are able to turn on radios and hear something that won’t make us cry, vomit or pull our hair out in frustration. Let’s get one thing straight…I HATE manufactured garbage American/Australian/U.K Idol “music”. It’s NOT music people…it is carefully crafted phaff that garners bits and pieces from anything that has made it big and the people that “sing” it are primped, stuffed, anorexic people who are there because they look or sound like someone who has managed to make it big. Real music is born of passion and talent, not of a mishmash of platinum selling hits bound together with well-known riffs and sung by plastic ken and Barbie dolls on steroids. Thus it is my duty to ensure that all of the easily led mass consuming children of today are balanced out by an aging penniless hippy hell bent on promoting real music. I vote up groups that are original and that actually sing and I vote down crap and Beyoncé (can’t stand the bird). In saying that…after the last survey where I promoted Gotye and bucketed Katie Perry I was asked what my favourite song of the month was. I chose “somebody I used to know” (Gotye) and then my explanation was that I really…really…really…really…really loved it. I won a C.D. Great you might say, but it was a C.D. of crap music! AARRGGHH! I just did a quick phone around and palmed it off before I have even taken receipt of it to one of my daughters who dabbles in “crap” music on a regular basis. It’s even going to her house rather than here so that I don’t even have to be offended by touching it.

One of our trailer loads of nice dry wood that we have been collecting this week

This little Astroloma humifusum or Native cranberry is a Tasmanian native groundcover and apart from the small red flowers (that took me on a merry dance when I was trying to find out what this plant was because they look like heath flowers) it has an edible fruit. Another thing that is growing all over Serendipity Farm that is most welcome to stay

This skewed photo (reminiscent of old Batman episodes) shows the new home of Stretch. Stretch is a horrifying mix of plastic, beans and stretchiness that has taken on the form of a rubber chicken. Stretch was purchased many years ago when we lived in Albany on the lower South coast of Western Australia from the $2 shop for (coincedentally) $2. When we moved to Tasmania 5 years ago, I gave Stretch to mum to look after as she couldn’t bear to see him get thrown out. When I went back to Albany for my mum’s funeral and travelled to her little unit with my sister to help her sort out some of the contents I found Stretch in one of her cupboards. I decided that Stretch had been languishing in W.A. for too long and that his fame (or infamy more likely) should spread to Tasmania.

Don’t let his flacid stretchy naked body fool you…beneath that benign rubber surface lies the cold hard eyes of a killer! Look deep into the eyes of Stretch and be afraid…be VERY afraid…

I also decided that with some of my new found spare time that I would take a few extra books out of the library. I ended up with a very eclectic pile of books garnered from the few meek mild mannered shelves at the Exeter Library. I have never perused the shelves there before because, to be honest, there aren’t all that many of them. I was surprised at the range that I discovered and selected a book about Terry Pratchett (my favourite author), a book by Bodger from Scrapheap challenge all about living sustainably and minimising your carbon footprint, a book on “hot plants for cold climates” full of delightful tropical looking plants for winter wonderlands like ours, a book about “down to earth garden design” that isn’t really what I thought that it would be but is interesting reading anyway and last, but by no means least a book called “Bust D.I.Y. guide to life”. I didn’t really look at it in the library but saw D.I.Y. and decided to give it a go. It turns out that “Bust” is a magazine founded by women for women and aimed at “real women” rather than the hopeless, consumerist, neurotic anorexics that “womankind” is becoming thanks to the best efforts of the media and gay fashion designers. I have never heard of this magazine before but this book was a real eye opener! Forget all about “cucumber packs” for your eyes…this book tells you how to repair relationships, bury your dead and make your own sex toys! Now I don’t know about you, but any book that is going to tell you how to make your own sustainable sex toys is alright by me! I don’t think that I will be making many sex toys but I will be making some of the woven bracelets made out of embroidery thread and there are some interesting printing projects for fabric and wallpaper that amused me along with home-made shower curtains and some most interesting recipes. This book is great fun and everyone should take it out of the library or buy it to support women like this who are trying to tear down the stereotypes of what makes a good women’s magazine. If I can find this magazine, I am going to subscribe to it.

“Well looky what little Early has found here eh?”…a nice stash of bottles ready for the taking…

An action shot of the descent from the table of a dog who knows that he really shouldn’t be on the table sourcing his own supply of plastic bottles before they are offered but who could care less about being told off or the opinion of his protesting owners

I have some very interesting people reading my humble little blog now from all over the globe. I have no idea why they are reading my posts because when I have gone to their blogs to have a stickybeak at their lives I am totally in awe of these amazing people and how they are living and what they are doing. Fantastic photographers with great senses of humour, amazing sustainable blogs, people travelling the world and sharing their horticultural, sustainable lives with us in daily posts and some amazing people sharing all sorts of fantastic plans and knowledge. I love you all! I don’t know you personally, but thank you so much for sharing your blogs with me, let alone reading this whacked out little attempt at communication with the rest of the world. I promise you that I am getting so much more from you than you are getting from me, but should you ever find yourself lost and scared in Northern Tasmania (not hard to do…) please feel free to drop in on Serendipity Farm where you will get a warm welcome, a nice hot cup of tea and we will even be good enough to point you in the direction of the nearest airport where you can safely hightail it out of Australia’s equivalent of the Ozarks. The only thing missing is the alligator’s and to be honest, global warming is most probably going to deliver them into our waiting laps in no time flat. I have been letting my hair grow longer and after brushing it after my shower this morning, and after scaring the dogs with my howling whilst removing all of the knots, I realised that should I be that way inclined…you know… really REALLY sustainable, that I could most probably weave something out of my own hair. I just read that book that Florida recommended to me “Lambs of God” and a fair bit of human hair weaving went on inside the covers. I wouldn’t want to wear a human hair jumper as I would imagine it would be right up there with a horse hair couch, but I dare say you could use it in some form of artistic expressionism involving textiles. Do you see what I have been reduced (or elevated) to? I am starting to think of all sorts of weird and wonderful things because my brain has been freed from the relative security (your security, not mine) of confinement online to creative expression out there in the big wide world. Apart from the study days that have harnessed my thoughts and prevented me from making human hair underpants, there hasn’t been a whole lot to keep me safely out of the way of the rest of humanity. We have walked the streets of Sidmouth, Rowella, Beaconsfield, Exeter, Launceston, Georgetown and Kayena and I have been spotted collecting discarded soft drink and water bottles on these walks. I dare say the bus driver that waved to me this morning was lauding my community spirit to the kids on the bus as he noted my arm full of these bottles. I would love to be smug about my rubbish collection but I can’t. It is my year of living honestly and I have an ulterior motive. I am typing this on Thursday and we are off to town tomorrow (or yesterday as you are reading this on Saturday night/Sunday morning depending on where in the world you are) and apart from wheeling our computer and study workstation (desk) into the spare room and closing our door to stop Earl from removing all of the stuffing from our nice new king sized bed mattress (he started nibbling it last week) we have to leave our house to the mercy of Earl. I collected all of these water bottles, coke bottles, iced tea bottles and even a 2 litre juice bottle from the roadside verges so that I can put them all around the house in the vain hope that Earl will eat the bottles rather than anything else that he decides to lay eyes on. I promise that I will insert the remaining mangled shards of plastic into the recycling bin so in a way, Earl is helping us to recycle and clean up Australia, but I don’t have a lot of faith that everything will be fully intact by the time that we get home from our meeting with our lecturer. Steve has a lot more faith than I do in Earl. After our last meeting Earl hadn’t eaten anything. The next day, after a lovely long hour and a half walk he started eating the mattress. We don’t really know how to explain Earls desire to eat things as it transcends all of the literature written about “why dogs run amok”. “Day are bored” say’s Cesar Milan…Earl is NOT bored…we just walked him for 2 hours all around the neighbourhood…he peed on every single light pole, tree and several rubbish bins, he sniffed up a lawn full of grass, he rolled on the gravel verge 77 times, he ran, he jumped, he saw cows, he saw goats, sheep and chickens…he even saw a goose…HE IS NOT BORED! Why is he eating our house? Because he likes to. That is what we have decided. Now we didn’t have to pay $500 for Cesar’s C.D. course or do dog psychology 101 to find that out, we just had to see how happy he was when he was eating the bed…the bottles…the toys…Pingu…pieces of wood out of the wood box etc. Earl just likes how things feel in his mouth. One day he will stop doing that and we will be able to breathe a sigh of relief. Until then, we have to take evasive action and should we forget and leave something out we have really no one to blame but ourselves so its bottle scattering on Friday for me…

This photo was taken over the water at Georgetown when we were walking the dogs yesterday. As you can see the weather has adapted to it being autumn now with a passion and we only just missed the downpour that those clouds were holding in our honour before we got back to the car.

Much as I don’t like being in photos SOMEONE had to hold those leads as otherwise carnage would ensue. I am looking a bit like Richard David James of Aphex Twin fame…sigh…oh well…I guess that’s better than some of the people that I could look like! In case anyone out there is admiring my sense of style (HA!) and would like to drop in to their local clothing purveyor to copy my look you can’t!  I am proud to anounce that my entire ensemble was sourced from various thrift shops and that the thrift shopping in Tasmania is brilliant. I am most proud of recycling classic clothes rather than buying into the need to consume precious resources to follow fashion which is nothing more than a marketing ploy to sell more clothes. I am constantly amazed by the range and extent of clothing that you can pick up in thrift shops and even my Doc Martin’s were sourced from a Thrift shop for $1. Cheers to everyone that donates so that both Charity and our precious world resources (and my bank account) can be spared their respective denudations (is that a word?!)

I am going to leave it there for today. I dare say I will be able to add a bit here about our meeting with our lecturer and Earl’s behaviour for tomorrow. I am really enjoying my time out in the real world. I guess what I thought was my control base was really a bit of a prison. The real world is fun too. I am just going to have to develop a bit of a balance between the two. Oh MAN am I tired! It is mid-afternoon Saturday and it’s the beginning of a personal epiphany. Steve got up this morning at 6am as he wanted to take both dogs for a walk in the dark. They love spotting wallabies and possums and rabbits and the excitement factor makes up for walking their usual route. We are trying to save petrol and Earl wouldn’t care where we walked but Bezial is a walk snob and expects to be given a different vista each and every day or he balks and refuses to walk. It is difficult to get a 40kg dog to move when he is stubbornly digging in his heels and dragging 40kg of stubborn dog up hills is no fun. We learned to give Bezial his different walks and he will allow us to do the same route approximately once a fortnight. We have to pay an exorbitant price for fuel (10c a litre more than Launceston) out here so we try to make sure that we don’t have to put any extra fuel in when we don’t have to and so we have taken to subterfuge and trickery to lure Bezial into walking the same way twice in a fortnight. It worked and the dogs got back home and tumbled through the dog door to greet me and slobber all over me just as I had gotten out of bed and had the kettle on ready for my morning libation. I had spent 30 minutes lying in bed thinking about life. As mentioned previously in this post there are some amazing bloggers reading my blog and exponentially more whose amazing blogs I am reading. I have developed a deep thirst for good quality information especially regarding the environment, the truth and sustainability (with a few closet sittings of food porn thrown in for good measure). I tend to be quite introspective and think a lot about things and have done so most of my life. After my divorce, I promised myself to always simplify my life and be honest and up front with even the most challenging of concepts and events. I have discovered that this might hurt bitterly at first but is always the quickest and cleanest way to deal with things. Whilst lying in bed this morning I was thinking about Serendipity Farm and just how much work needed to be done around here. We have plenty of conundrums going on including feral cats, chicken population explosions and various piles of debris growing exponentially every time we start to clear out the undergrowth. My epiphany came when listening to U2 singing “it’s a beautiful day” on the radio closely followed by David Bowie and “Changes”…I listened to the words and discovered that I really DID want to get stuck in and do something here. I wanted to stop procrastinating and start “Doing”. I got up, told Steve about my idea and together we just spent 5 ½ hours working to remove the usable wood from the piles of debris that we generated in the heat of summer where council gave us the perfect excuse to ignore the mountains of wood and branches by posting a “Fire Ban” sign at the end of the road…we have been faithfully observing this fire ban with secret glee because it has been stopping us from having to do much and today we took the bull by the horns and reduced 3 of the piles down to nothing, stacked wood up for the winter, cut up kindling wood and removed a weed tree and reduced it to compost sized bits. Steve chainsawed up logs, I collected them and lugged them to their resting place and the hens clucked and got highly excited at the prospect of insects spraying out with the sawdust from the back of the chainsaw. I am absolutely knackered but I am also feeling serene and complete. You are witnessing a woman who has decided to “get stuck in” and over the next few weeks, with the perfect conditions of autumn under our belt I will share how we are going to tackle the tangled mass of Buddleia globosa, Hebe’s, Abutilon, Philadelphus and acres of blackberries at the front of the house. I am most determined to clear this area out and plant out some of our potted plants. It’s so much easier to work for hours on end when the weather is nice and cold and you can relax in front of a warm fire at night time and soothe your aching body whilst feeling content about your accomplishments.

I think I might finish up there folks. I have noticed that this post seems to be almost as big as 7 regular posts…I am almost over my need to turn on the computer every time I walk past it. I am reading Frances Mayes “Under the Tuscan Sun” and am about to attempt some of the weird and wacky crafts (not a euphemism for ‘sex toys’ by the way 😉 in The Bust DIY guide to life (by Laurie Henzel and Debbie Stoller should you want to take it out for your own personal use…to read the articles of course!) and I am feeling more centred and happy than I have since mum died. The temperature is apparently going down to 4C tonight and we are now able to wake up to LAFM rather than the ABC. The old clock radio would only allow us to play ABC on it and it was dad’s old radio… this new radio (installed since Earl ate the cord of the old one) will allow us to play everything EXCEPT the ABC! How incredibly ironic. Well folks, this is it…your weekly post just about to be posted hot off the press. Hopefully it was worth your wait and your weekly fix feeds you for the rest of the week. Thank you and welcome to all of my new blog readers and despite being in awe at how amazing your blogs are, it made me smile to see so many of you signing up to get regular posts. I love being able to read all of your posts and now that posting daily is off limits, I sip my morning elixir as I sit reading these gems and know how it feels to look forward to someone posting. See you all next week and to my newfound blog posters, Cheers for my early morning wake up call.

TIMBER and fire futures

Hi All,

First I want to talk to you all about something…many of you may have noticed that my posts occasionally appear to have been written in the past and then suddenly you will see a bit added that is somewhat random and may not have much to do with the post in general. Let’s just say for curiosities sake that I have invented a Serendipity Farm time machine. I have put flux capacitors, twiddley knobs and all sorts of weird and wonderful hoozamagigs that I am not going to explain because hey…I might want to manufacture them and make a bit of pocket money at some time in the future. Just a little aside here…it would be a good thing if we keep this little secret between ourselves because otherwise I may suddenly “disappear” and not be posting any more (courtesy of the C.I.A. or some other “interested party”…). Back to the time machine. Now this thing DOESN’T run on plutonium by the way…apart from me not having a ready access to it and having no idea how to manufacture it from raw materials (nor in fact having any desire to do so as I was born with a brain…) it is being run on an entirely sustainable and renewable source of energy (let’s say something along the line of Tesla coils…) and that I am able to hop my posts from one day back and then forwards and that I take avail of this sometimes. Let’s just say that because it is a whole lot more interesting and romantic and gung-ho than the actual truth and for the sake of your sanity (and I would probably have to kill you if you found out…) you just accept that OK? There…that wasn’t so hard was it? A suspension of disbelief is all that it takes…you all watch television don’t you? All of that was to lead into me spending the morning of Monday doing manly things with Steve. No…I wasn’t spending “Labour Day” drinking beer in the shed, scratching my private parts and watching football…I was out doing some hard physical labour and toting logs while Steve cut them up with the chainsaw and then split them with the log splitter. And before you say ANYTHING about how come I am talking about Monday and it is actually Saturday? Remember… the time machine… (Wink wink…)

I had been up for just over an hour before I took this shot of the sunrise…what am I going to do when daylight savings stops next month?!

An early morning lumberjack with his challenge

As you can see these trunks are right next to my compost bin and Pingu’s house…

Steve has already cut his tree on the other side and is now cutting his wedge hole

Sorry these are dark but I was hiding behind a tree MILES away from this and zooming in for you to see…this is the wedge cut

Steve is using his block splitter to knock a wedge shaped bit of wood into the chainsaw cut. He has already cut the front of the tree and now he is tapping the wedge into this cut to slowly tip the tree where he wants it to go

TIMBER!

Now I have been trying to stall this tree felling event for a while now. I am a natural worry wart and Steve is a natural gung-ho manly man who likes to get stuck in before he engages his brain sometimes. After having a chat with some manly friends who both said “Piece of piss”…which is a masculine Aussie colloquialism for “Easy peasy” with regards to chopping down the 2 smallish trees and with everyone scorning my obvious “girly” fears, Steve was able to isolate an actual date (Labour Day) to get me to assist him in cutting down these trees. When I say “assist”, what I mean is hide behind a VERY large tree as far away from the actual event as possible taking pictures. Just another quick note here…we don’t recommend that anyone do this with the minimal safety equipment that Steve had on. Get yourself some good safety gear before you do this but for today’s little effort, Steve decided to go nude… (Sigh…). Both Steve and I have undertaken and completed our chainsaw licenses through our Certificate 3 in Horticulture and both of us know about tension, compression and how to read wood. In saying that these trees were a very easy and predictable drop and they were both stone dead. I would never allow Steve to cut down live trees because they are totally unpredictable with how they are going to react. Wait till they die and THEN cut them down :o). Ok, now all of that safety (or lack therein) has been discussed let’s get down to what we did. I took lots of pictures but as it was pretty early (7.30am) some of them are quite dark. Because I was being a sooky la-la and hiding behind a large tree the stupid flash kept going off and making the picture even darker so you will have to bear with me, but here is the progression as it happened…(oops…maybe I should have put the first 7 photos here…but you get my drift…)

The Lumberjack is fashioning himself a rudimentary chopping block (I feel like David Attenborough doing a commentary…)

It looks like Steve is gesticulating at me in a most Italian and derogative way but it’s just my early morning photography…I am not all that good at the best of times but this is BEFORE my first cuppa and I can’t be held responsible for my actions

Now it’s time for the second, smaller trunk to be felled. By now I was more blase about Steve’s abilities and was only half a mile away (but still behind a tree…it doesn’t pay to get TOO cocksure…)

Hey…I actually got this one falling! Action shot (another tick from my “must do before” list…)

Admiring a job well done…not a single tap was flattened…no hens fell in the wayside and Pingu is entirely 3 dimensional and the compost bin lives to feed the possums another day

Ok that was a lot of photographic documentation and I am tired and need to head off to get a cup of tea now after all of that exertion… ok, back now and ready to tackle the rest of this post. We have a wood burning stove that doubles as a hot water system in winter and that requires regular food or it doesn’t work. A pretty simple concept and something that we are well aware of. My “trick knee” has been telling me that winter is going to be a hard one this year. Our elderly neighbour Glad told us that you could tell how hard a winter was going to be by the brightness of the cotoneaster berries. They are flame red this year so perhaps they are trying to tell us something. Never let it be said that I ignore nature’s signs because I have most definitely learned to do so at my own peril. I figure we are due for a very cold dry winter and as such we are going to need enough firewood to keep the stove operating effectively for the winter and most probably up to about October when it starts to warm up a bit and the last frosts occur. Over winter I use the wood stove extensively for drying clothes in front of, heating the entire house, cooking all sorts of amazing things and lots of staple foods like bread and for heating our hot water. It is very efficient and doesn’t need an incredible amount of wood to heat up the top plate and the water so if we don’t need to cook anything in the ovens we only need to keep it “ticking over” and we use very little wood in the process. We are learning all about this old way to cook and by the end of this year we should have a good handle on just what it takes to get our stove to do what we want it to do. There are all sorts of knobs and things on the stove to open and close flu’s and to direct heat all over the place. Steve, being the technology genius, has taken it on himself to “learn the ways” of the stove. I hope he teaches me because apart from being good at lighting fires (past life) I have no idea about how to get this baby working well.

This is how close those trunks were to my compost bin…

Steve and I have both commented that there is an optical illusion going on in this photo. The area where these trees fell is nowhere NEAR as big as it looks in this photo. Lots of delicious wood for warm cosy fires in the freezing cold winter so I can wear tee-shirts when it is stormy outside

The hens were all going ballistic to be let out before Steve started up the chainsaw. Chainsaws = grubs so the hens weren’t particularly upset when he started it up but as soon as he started to use it on the tree they all took off inside their coop. Here they are coming out very VERY slowly to look at the carnage…

It doesn’t take our courageous girls long to get curious and come out to see what is going on

Here is what the fallen sentinels looked like from the deck (Note we haven’t planted out the Claret Ash yet Nat…we did learn at least 1 thing from James…that was plant in the autumn…

Most of you will be aware that Steve recently had a haircut. His hair was previously pretty long for him and had been dyed blond a long time ago and gave him a decidedly gypsy swashbuckling look. Once he got his hair cut he looked like a different man. He had said that he wasn’t going to get his hair cut until we finished everything that we were going to do on Serendipity Farm. Once he realised that his hair was going to tangle up on a daily basis (welcome to my world!) and that he was going to have to brush it (shock horror!) and that we are most probably going to be working on getting Serendipity Farm “finished” for the rest of our lives he decided to bite the bullet and get it cut. Now that he has had it cut it needs to stay cut and with our frugal life I told him that I was going to cut his hair…here is what he thought of that…

And this is how happy he was when I told him that I was only joking…

I decided today that I am going to only post once a week now. I figure that familiarity breeds a bit of contempt. With our studies taking up more of our time and with our newfound efforts in the garden at Serendipity Farm we have a lot less time to do what I have been doing for 8 weeks over the holidays. I love posting for the blog but am starting to find that my posts are starting to contain very similar things. I started the blog as a way to keep in the loop with family and friends interstate and I think that my daily long posts appear to have been doing the opposite thing to keeping in touch. I get the sneaking suspicion that some of my “constant readers” are not reading many of my posts. I know how easy it is to hit “delete” when my inbox is too full in the mornings and I don’t want Serendipity Farm to become something that is easy to delete. I look forwards to my weekly posts from some of my blog subscriptions and think that a week on Serendipity Farm will yield a much rounder and more fulfilling post for you all to read. I haven’t run out of words I just want to remain relevant to family and friends and be something that they look forward to receiving so you will get a post from Serendipity Farm on the weekends now. It will contain everything that we have done through the week and lots of photos to describe it. Today we will be taking out another tree and no doubt that will be in next week’s post. This will be my final daily post for Serendipity Farm. The time that I spend here typing out posts I will pour straight back into the garden. Steve and I have a renewed energy and drive to get stuck into the garden now that the weather is cooler and we can burn some of the piles of debris that are littering the landscape.  Our new study course is also giving us a lot of impetus towards directing our efforts into our sustainable future here on Serendipity Farm. When you are trying to set up a permaculture based sustainable lifestyle for yourself the initial processes are the hardest and we figure we had best get stuck in now and make it happen. With our trusty Earl nibbled pig skin copy of “Creating a Forest Garden” in hand and a new appreciation of looking at small chunks and dealing with them on a regular basis rather than being overwhelmed by the big picture, we are going to affect change here and when spring gets here we will be ready for it. That doesn’t mean that I won’t allow myself the odd intermittent post…I am somewhat addicted to posting and it is a bit like when your children leave home (or live in one of your homes away from you…) and suddenly you miss the little buggers so don’t be surprised if you get the odd mid-week post to salve my need to type or I might have to channel it all into a book somewhere. We are noticing small trees growing where we have cut the grass consistently in the back paddocks and left it lying on the ground to act as mulch. We are seeing native heath flowering, wallabies visiting and are starting to think about how we can redirect the massive problem of storm water that thunders down our steep sloping block to our advantage. The more we learn the more excited we get about being able to apply these principles to our own situation. Steve whipper snipped the teatree garden area yesterday. Prior to our arrival on Serendipity Farm just on 16 months ago the area was covered in forget-me-nots up to our knees and a massive invasion of Periwinkle (Vinca major) that was taking advantage of a series of fallen spindly teatree (Melaleuca alternifolia) to climb out of the sea of forget-me-nots and reign supreme over the invading hoards. The whole area was a sea of blue and purple and whenever anyone walked through this area they emerged out the other side covered in sticky forget-me-not seeds and usually after at least one trip incident thanks to the tangle of thin Vinca stems. We have been pretty consistent with whipper snipping this area. We wanted it to return to a state where native wildflowers could return and native grasses and we are starting to see that since the competition from the exotic weed species has been reduced, the native plants are starting to return let’s just call this a short term seral community thanks to nature and her never-ending desire to reach equilibrium.  It’s an exciting time for us here and with renewed energy and a desire to get “stuck in” we should be able to really make a difference over the coming autumnal period and into winter on Serendipity Farm. We have quite a few overgrown shrubs and small trees to tackle and while the weather is conducive to working outside and the trees start to lose their leaves and return to a dormant stage it is the perfect time for remedial work and removal of dead, diseased, dying, deformed and in our case “demented” foliage, branches and most probably entire shrubs that have overgrown exponentially and are trying to move to Glad’s place next door by osmosis.

If you look REALLY hard up against the side of the shed you might be able to see, just behind that blue tarpaulin, our first stack of wood that we cut

We found Effel Doocark’s nest! It wasn’t easy as she is a crafty old minx but she made the mistake of revealing herself at lunch time yesterday just after we had taken a break from our studies and were tossing a bit of bread to Pingu over the deck railing when I noticed her amongst the bread scoffers. She has been sighted over the last week and then almost immediately she disappears without a trace. We decided that we were going to follow her the next time that we saw her and thus began the saga of the Doocark hunt. Our prey was a worthy opponent. She knew almost instantly that she had been spotted and set about a most impressive array of defensive action based on subterfuge and decoy. She waited until she thought that I wasn’t looking (my covert mother ability to look out of the corner of my eye when I was staring straight ahead didn’t let me down) and as soon as she started running off in her hilarious hen gate down the pathway leading to the area of garden where we had suspected her of bunkering down I alerted Steve who was hiding on the bottom step of the deck stairs. He took off after the crafty old minx who was rapidly receding into the distance and she suddenly veered off to the left which is most definitely NOT where we thought that she would be nesting. On inspection Steve discovered that she was employing guerrilla tactics and was attempting to divert our attention away from the true direction that she wanted to take (the crafty old hen!) and he spent the next 20 minutes sneaking from large agapanthus clump to agapanthus clump to disguise his presence. Effel kept spotting him and taking evasive action but eventually her need to get back to those rapidly cooling eggs took over from her desire to evade and she ran full pelt back to a massive clump of overgrown driveway lining agapanthus right near the gate at the front of the property! Steve lost her then and was just about to come up and admit defeat, whilst isolating where she might be, he hadn’t managed to spot her from that point and so I came down and we set about Effel isolating in earnest. We got a couple of old teatree branches and started to lift up the agapanthus fronds and poke around inside them. They are most interesting things when they have been stuck in the same place for years and small ones grow on top of larger ones with long aerial roots draping to the ground and in amongst one of these ancient monsters Effel was sitting as still as a statue. She never moved once even when she knew that she was rumbled. That wily old hen had led Steve a merry dance for 30 minutes all over Serendipity Farm and so we decided that she deserved her peace and quiet and pretended not to have noticed her and headed off elsewhere. Effel must make that long upwards (our driveway is very steep and is enough to deliver a mild dose of “winding” to anyone unfit and overenthusiastic enough to climb it quickly) journey at a full run (because that is the only way that Effel knows how) to get a drink and some food because there are no food or water sources anywhere near where she has nested (apart from the Tamar River). What a brave old girls she is and how tenacious is her need to find somewhere away from any predator’s and despite her giving us nothing but jip I totally admire the old girl. I might even take her a bowl of water and a scoop full of seed down to the bottom of the driveway today to reward her for her tenacity. Here is a little newsflash courtesy of that Serendipity Farm time machine that I am able to use to go back and forth in my posts. When taking some grain down today to Effel, we heard squeaking and managed to count 6 babies. It is so cold today that we decided to rehouse Effel in the shed with her babies, knowing what a bad mum she is and not wanting any of the poor little things to perish in the cold down next to the gate right next to the Tamar River and the wind. We can see that we have a few little blue Wyandotte’s like their mum in the group and when we got the dog carrier that Earl arrived in and headed down to collect Effel and her babies we found not 6…not 7 but 12 babies! Effel and her babies are now safely ensconced in Pingu’s old cage in the shed until Effel’s babies are big enough to survive curious cats (about 2 weeks old) and “the masses” (as we shall call them until they start to be more than fluff balls and develop a bit of character…that is apart from “Owl face” who Steve has already named). We give away 7 hens and we gain 12 babies…No wonder we are overrun with chooks and are only able to find 1 egg a day at the moment…the hens are taking advantage of the 4 acres of overgrown shrubs, trees and massively invasive weed species to tunnel themselves impregnable fortresses. I have noticed that every single nest that we find has been situated right in the middle of a blackberry bush. Now that there are 3 roosters crowing on Serendipity Farm and they show no sign of attempting to destabilise the existing governor (Big Yin) they are taking their harems to various different areas on Serendipity Farm and setting up all sorts of covertly created nests. The hen problem is rapidly approaching the feral cat problem, indeed one day the hens might just deal with the cats for us as there won’t be any room left out there in the jungle for the cats to live in.

That’s a bit easier to see isn’t it? That cage covered with the blue tarpaulin was where Pingu lived for a while when Earl broke her leg. She is now living in the old duck enclosure most happily in transition between this cage and moving in with the rest before winter. The cage shown here is now cram packed full of Effel and 12 little blue wyandotte fluffballs…the cutest little things that you ever saw. Notice the hens in the background pecking insects (mainly termites) off the wood that we cut from our felled trees. Sustainable living involves using nature to clear out your pest species. Our hens scoff their weight in insect life every day and if they EVER let us know where they are laying eggs, they will just about pay for themselves on Serendipity Farm…Steve did find a nest with 17 eggs in it (thank GOODNESS Houdini didn’t decide to sit on that one!) the other day and Effel had 14 eggs (all hers) all up in her nest so there are some enormous clutches of eggs around here…

Here is our pile when we chainsawed a few more logs to top the pile up. This pile is now safely in the wood shed up behind the house that used to be the boat shed. We are saving up our wood futures and just like Fry said from Futurama…

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

I am sure that there is some sort of lesson in there for you lazy bollocks feeding from the grid while we slave for our wood, but I am starting to think that perhaps Fry might be right!

Steve was going to make a chair but decided to make himself a nice chopping block from these stumps and I dare say they will be well used by the possums climbing into my compost bin…

We are off now to cut down the first of 3 trees that need to be removed from the garden in front of the house. I realise that we may be taking habitat from wildlife but if any of these trees fall they will be taking OUR habitat and so it is survival of the fittest at the moment and we have to remove these old dead trees before nature and winter do it for us. Now that we know that Effel isn’t ensconced in the blackberries where we are going to fell these trees (yes we are WELL aware that felling trees into blackberries might result in difficulties later on when we need to log these trees but this is the lesser of all of our considered evils as anywhere else would result in massive flattening of existing shrubs) we can drop them with impunity. 1 of the trees will fall into the jungle area that we haven’t dealt with yet. Hopefully none of the feral cats are hunting birds in there when we drop the tree…

Note the hens have gone from being somewhat scared of the chainsaw to totally ignoring it because it is the heralder (if there is such a word) of delicious insects and even when we have cut up our logs, we still have limbwood (in the foreground) and kindling wood to cut up…nothing is wasted in our trees

Steve wanted me to take a couple of pictures of his shed for him. He tidied it up the other day and it won’t stay in this state for long (indeed Effel and her 12 babies are making short shift of the ‘nice and neat’ and rendering it ‘hay filled and smelly’) and he wanted it documented for posterity and where better to put something for posterity but a post? (Yeh I KNOW that was lame…I would say punny, but you can have your own opinion on that)

Here is the last of the numerous photos for the day. Steve’s shed was still tidy and Effel free…We had yet to load all of that wood into the trailer and take it up to the wood shed and unload it and I wasn’t full of soup like I am now  (lets just stop while I am ahead)

I forgot to add a site to one of my posts in the last few days (too many words in my head and my muse is Billy Connelly…) and because we are finding all sorts of really valuable websites and databases about water wise xeriscape plants I would like to actually share this one with you. It’s no fun living somewhere where the sun kills EVERYTHING that you plant out and that water is something you actually have to think about. I would imagine that some inland areas of Australia are right up there with the Kalahari desert and the dry canyons in America but there is ALWAYS a solution people…you just have to think outside the local nursery box. Sometimes you might have to buy some seed and grow your own (like we do) if you want something that the local nursery selling bog standard phormiums, pittosporums and cordylines haven’t even heard of let alone stock. Don’t you love how anyone these days thinks that they can run a nursery? The same problem exists with Health Food Shops.  Here is a great Australian website and sorry to all of you wonderful readers elsewhere in our big beautiful world but you are just about to find out how WE feel whenever we hunt for information pertinent to what we are interested in and have to wade through all sorts of mental arithmetic involving seasons (you are the reverse of US not of you by the way…) Here it is… we are using it to compile a basic list of plants that are pretty much guaranteed to grow in our local conditions. If you look hard enough you will notice that these plants are even trademarked and so you may even be able to communicate with your local nursery because they may have a book “somewhere” with these little babies listed…now you just have to use hand signals to get them to understand what you want…

http://www.floraforfauna.com.au/

It’s a little bittersweet to sign off now for the first time where I am not almost immediately thinking about my next post. Hopefully the quality and content of my weekly posts will make up for them not being every day and that all of you dear constant readers will be able to settle down on the weekend to a nice long letter “from home” over a cup of tea and some toast. See you all next Sunday morning (Aussies) as I will be posting the post on Saturday night. I am off to help Steve cut up the tree that he just felled…but that, my dears, is another story…

Beware the Ides of March

Hi All,

Yes…it is March the 15th. That didn’t mean anything to me either until I heard the D.J. on the radio this morning saying that today was the Ides of March and it reminded me of the Shakespeare play “Julius Caesar” and here you are…a nice and most convenient name for my post for today. Yesterday was a hot day for Tasmania and last night was too warm for this time of year. I remember when we first moved to Tasmania and were looking forwards to escaping the Western Australian heat of February but it turned into a scorcher and because Tasmania is a very green and lush island when it gets above 25C the temperature is accompanied by its best friend humidity (my nemesis) and when it did start to cool down it was the coldest winter in years and my youngest daughter Bethany and I both got chilblains and this condition was so foreign to us we didn’t know what they were. We have had a couple of nice mild wet summers and winters…the growing season hasn’t been halted by extreme cold in winter but this year we are back to hot summer and by my mental calculations…a cold winter to come. At least we know that it is cyclical and is a crucial part in the 4 year cycle of the enormous black cicada’s with red eyes that spent this year clicking maniacally in the top of the trees trying to form a deafening single note repeated to infinity to drive all humans in the close vicinity somewhat mad (is that why people go “Troppo”? It isn’t the heat and the humidity…the cicadas finish them off!).

Just a note on how unobservant I am…we must have walked past this interesting willow tree 20 times as it is on the way to the dog park where we let the dogs roam free and I have never seen it once until yesterday when we were walking the dogs at Gravelly beach

Just call this “chaos photography”…it’s really amazing you know…the camera just sets itself, it focusses on whatever the heck it wants to and you are just the physical means to press the button to take the shot…avant garde guys…(not crap photography…)

Check out this amazing repurposed credenza (which is what we Aussies would call an office bench) and how this clever little vegemite has managed to take something that was left on the curb to be scrapped and turn it into something beautiful, functional and extremely practical. It is things like this that make Instractables a most valuable site indeed.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Scrap-Credenza/

Then check out this lovely handmade tansu (step cupboard) featured in the same newsletter for Instructables. I LOVE this site. It is everything that makes me smile…a sense of communal sharing, people who are incredibly talented and able to solve problems and think laterally coming together and giving the rest of us the plans for how to make and do things that we might otherwise have never thought possible…

http://www.instructables.com/id/Nojo-Design-Large-Step-Cabinet-February-2012/

I keep going on about all the free stuff out there for the taking. Not only is this information free, but it gives us a great deal of power in our own lives. Whenever we make something for ourselves we not only cut out the middle man but we stop being consumer based and start making do with less. We are renewing, recycling and we are giving ourselves something to feel justifiably proud of. I have mentioned before that I came from a single parent family that lived on the breadline. I have also mentioned that for most of the time my siblings and I were not really aware of this because we had all of our basic needs met. One thing that I was a little bit touchy about was the stigma that went with wearing clothing that came from a thrift shop. Back when I was a child (not really all that long ago in the scheme of things but it was last century so I guess that makes me older than 12…) there was a degree of stigma associated with thrift shops and a lack of money in general. My mum worked very hard to shield us from our situation but as an adult I am well aware of how hard she would have had to work to keep our small family afloat. She lived a sustainable life because she had to. I dare say she would have been most happy to bypass thrift shops but they were our chief source of books, clothing and furniture back in those days. Now days I take great delight in walking into a thrift shop. They make me feel like I am on the brink of winning something. I have no qualms about raising my not inconsiderable posterior into the air whilst rummaging through boxes and shelves of someone else’s cast off items. I no longer feel cheated by circumstances, my societal view has totally changed and I feel like I am making a positive choice for our future whenever I choose to buy used clothing, furniture or other goods. I actively avoid buying anything new whenever I can. Apart from the sustainability of purchasing recycled and refurbished articles as a foil for exponential consumerism, I often get things that were built or made years ago before  built in obsolescence was a mandatory consideration for consumable items. I prize old things. I actively seek them out and feel lighter in spirit and soul whenever I am able to rescue something that isn’t trendy and that has seen a life of service prior to my taking on its ownership. I count myself immeasurably lucky to have been born and raised on the breadline. I don’t have all that far to fall when it comes to giving up my consumerist ways…I haven’t ever really been able to be a mass consumer and have had to live on my wits and problem solving abilities to get me to where I am today debt free and willing to have a go at pretty much anything that will advance the cause of sustainability on Serendipity Farm. My heroes are people who endure, much like the meaning of sustainability in the first place. It came from the Latin “tenere”, to hold; “sus”, up…”holding up” is a synonym for enduring and our human ability to change and endure is the baseline premise of sustainability.

How is this for lazy bollocks Tasmanian council workers? Do you reacon that this tree is over the need to be staked yet guys? I didn’t bother wasting your time showing you a photo for every single tree in a row that had a stake like this growing out of it. Call this “Future Chainsaw Grief” but you know what? When future councils are cutting these trees down they DESERVE to have their chainsaw teeth removed!

Here’s the plan…all of these oysters (not sure what kind…don’t care…vegetarian…) keep shedding their very hard “skins” and this little black duck has decided to look into collecting said middens of oyster shells that are a total pain to the council because apart from having to get bulldozers to heap them up into middens they are a safety issue as they cut dogs (and anyone not wearing shoes) feet to ribbons, then washing them thoroughly (to remove all salt) and then crushing them roughly and then using them for mulch on the garden…what do you think? Our soil is reasonably acidic here and a bit of applied oyster shell lime might not be a bad thing…

Isn’t this a lovely wooden boat? There are heaps of them going for pennies in Tasmania and this one is up on the slips having its hull mended. I just think it was beautiful, most probably because of all of the wood…I am a sucker for all things wooden

Here is a really amazing deal…you go to this site…you put in a few details (real or fabricated I don’t think it matters as it sent me straight to the download site even though I fabricated most of the details) and you get access to 20 free e-books to do with permaculture and sustainability etc. Awesome content and all free. They have some amazing prices on their regular stuff as well but I dare say the postage would be quite expensive (from the U.K.) so I would go to “The Book Depository” for anything that you wanted (free postage to Australia and low low prices). Here is the link for those free books should you want to take advantage of them

http://www.green-shopping.co.uk/books/ebooks/free-ebooks.html?limit=all

I have gotten carried away with posting this weekend. Now that I post at night time and we are studying in the day it is difficult to find the time to post and so weekends find me with a bit of time and a whole lot of posting to do so that is when I get a few posts up my sleeve. I have to type out some more recipes from a few books and read a couple of books as well. I have the most amazing Captain Corelli’s Mandolin sitting on the desk looking at me accusatorily because I keep walking past it and touching its cover on my way to doing something else. It’s like top quality Belgium chocolate and I don’t want to guzzle it all at once…I want to slowly savour every delicious piece and am reading it in little well savoured chunks and allowing it to seep into my psyche slowly. Hopefully “Atticus” is going to feed my need for good literature like Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is currently doing with great aplomb. I then have an Australian author to tackle who has previously written crime novels and who has branched out into what Florida assures me is world class quirky stuff. Florida has read “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” and must have found it as delightfully soul quenching as I did. She recommended Marelle Day’s book “Lambs of God” and by the blurb on the cover it promises to be a really good read. If it is, I can guarantee that I will be adding her crime novels onto my secondary book list (Please God let me live long enough to read all of this exponentially increasing list of books!) Since I gave up food as my solace from the world, I have taken up devouring books in its place. I am being fed with elegant sufficiency to say the least and as far as I am aware they are totally calorie free. Well done Nat by the way…you are looking fantastic! Nat gave up smoking and has taken up eating nutritiously in place of substituting food for smoking. It isn’t easy to go cold turkey (I know…Steve and I gave up booze…) but it is really rewarding and now that my body is starting to realise that it isn’t going to have to cope with any more boom and bust situations, it is starting to tentatively heal itself. No more feast and famine for me! I am feeding my body what it needs to heal itself first and perhaps as a side benefit I might lose enough weight to make me healthier. I guess it is like living sustainably…you have to go through a bit of a mind swap about how you are going to do things. Nat has a sparkle in her eyes that was decidedly missing at the beginning of the year; she is one of the lecturers at the Polytechnic who has been subject to WAY too much change in a very short space of time. Having mum die in January left me emotionally depleted, stressed out and feeling very tired. You would expect that to be the case but coming back from holidays and having the equivalent amount of stress levelled at you in the form of job cuts, workload increases and job insecurity is not far from what I had to deal with. I commiserate with anyone involved in education, health and law in Tasmania at the moment and hope that the worst is over now for all of you and that our state government don’t decide to give themselves a 38% pay raise for their atrocious misuse of public monies like they are postulating at the moment because our tubby little state premier is NOT above suffering the same fate as Marie Antoinette and there are not many of us still eating cake Lara…

What do we have here….

PIGS!!!!!!!!!

I LOVE pigs…one day I am going to get a pig or two (they like friends) and we will have pigs on Serendipity Farm. These little slips were on their way to their new home after being bought at auction in Launceston. Hopefully they end up somewhere nice with lots of delicious blackberries to rootle and live a nice long life.

Where have all the flowers gone?

Hi All,

Good old Pete Seeger back in 1955 decided to pose this question to those of us willing to listen. I wasn’t willing to listen at that point because I had yet to be born, but as soon as I “was” born, music became my second favourite thing. I was always told that at the age of 2 and upon hearing my Uncle Wallies latest Beatles album blaring from the stereo and arriving in force in the kitchen to the dulcet tones of  “Aint She Sweet” was to be seen gyrating unashamedly to the beat. All I can do is thank God that youtube hadn’t been invented then and that my mother and her kin were not privy to any form of recording material as I dare say I would be like that poor horizontally challenged kid that would most probably quote the day that he decided to film himself waving a broom around like Luke Skywalker and post it to youtube as the most stupid decision that he has ever made and might have to take on the robes and mantle of a wandering Buddhist monk to escape the fallout. If you don’t know what I am talking about…this kid was the very first person to suffer the effects of being “hit” repeatedly and shared around all over the world…the very first example of how the net can turn you overnight (whether you want it or not in this case) into an international phenomenon… I will just find out for you where this kid is today (because I know how lazy you all are and you won’t be bothered to do it for yourself…)

http://mashable.com/2010/06/03/star-wars-kid/

That is the article about where he is today and what he is doing as well as the original video of him as a bored teenager filming himself. How could he possibly know that he would go “viral” online and that he would get 900 million hits! Be careful what you say and do online because you just never know where it is going to end up…

This is Meg. She gave me permission to put this photo on my blog and I would like to introduce you all to her because she is a very amazing woman. Meg is always on the go teaching people about gardening and taking all sorts of disadvantaged students and teaching them the benefits of gardening. She has numerous university degrees and is the most enthusiastic and supportive person that I know. She is standing in the lower garden at the Polytechnic where we study. Cheers for loaning me “1 square foot” (book) Meg and for not complaining when I forgot to give it back until now :o)

 This most interesting and balanced garden and recreational area was designed by our lecturer. Each year the Certificate 3 students have a “project” to construct and our project was this lawn, the Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Silver Queen’ that are at the moment small bushy looking things with yellowish tops in the picture (behind the lawn) were grown by our class and we did a lot of the planting in this design.

Our class split into 2 groups…our group and the numpties (lol) and our group planted that flowering plum tree on the left whereas the numpties planted that tree that you can’t actually see in the background because it has no leaves…there was a degree of competitiveness between our groups because that’s human nature and I guess it keeps you working harder than you would otherwise work when you are competing with another group (clever James)

Our class laid the straight bit of paving (along with acres more paving…can you tell that I DON’T like paving?) and we planted most of the plants that you can see in the immediate vicinity in front of the Chamaecyparis. WE RULE :o)

All in all we are suitably proud of how we implemented our lecturers design. Steve and I asked if we could irrigate the lawned area when we were constructing it. We figured it would be the smartest thing to do to install irrigation before the lawn was planted rather than for it to be dug up later on and thankfully our lecturer (now, not then…) agreed and it looks like the lawn is doing alright (apart from one of the students apparently thinking that he/she was mowing a golf club…)

The bumble bees are buzzing and bumbling around looking for something to pollinate. They are hovering around the clematis waiting for it to flower in earnest. Just about everything else has died of in the extended dry period or succumbed to the early autumn that we appear to be having. There are Easter lilies (yes thankyou Nat…”Amaryllis belladonna”) all over the property that are no doubt being most jealously guarded by the biggest fattest bumble bees but the rest of them are slowly bumbling around mentally singing that old Pete Seeger son to themselves…

These crocus are very pretty and are some of the only flowers still going strong. The easter lilies are all on the decline and the agapanthus are all seed heads. Poor bumble bees…

 My poor long suffering bumble bees who are still waiting for the clematis to open would love a few minutes in these crocus flowers

You just have to love Dwayne Johnston a.k.a. “The Rock” when he can come up with stuff like this off the top of his head when beefing up the “John Cena vs. The Rock” wresting match coming up. They are both hilariously funny men in their own right and good actors to boot. Together they are having a really good time with this match and here is a little taste of what one side of the equation is touting…

Rock history lessons 1 & 2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91BJaogkxBY

And here is another little amusing bit of candy ass entertainment by a nice bit of eye candy himself…

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

FRUITY PEBBLES is all I can say to that!

I have been doing a little bit of research into the authors that I really like from “The List” (Mary Anne Schaffer’s list) and have been checking Marele Day out. She is an Australian Author who really interests me and when asked about why she started writing she gave this very insightful answer that touched a string inside me because when we write we are expressing that inner unique voice that no-one else usually hears…

Marele Day

“I think when you are travelling it is a way of hearing your own language. I don’t mean by that, just English, but one’s individual language”.

Wasn’t that poignant? Apart from researching authors I am now getting all sorts of really interesting posts from some really great blogs sent to me on a daily basis. I get up earlier than Steve (at 6am) after I listen to the news and the breakdown of the main stories I get up when it is still dark, pat Bezial and give him permission to get on the bed to snuggle up to Steve…Earl is already there and has been all night but Bezial apparently needs permission (and sometimes a heft up…). I then head out to the kitchen where I look out the window at the darkness and get a kettle on the stovetop for a nice mind awakening cup of tea. I say “cup” but what I really mean is “bucket”. My first cup of tea (and most of my subsequent cups) has to be 600ml or my mind refuses to wake up. Simple as that really so I need to indulge my brain especially when I have hauled it out of its nice comfy sleep pattern where it was just starting to formulate a dream about the news broadcast that it had semi listened to. Once that first cup of tea is in place in front of me I settle down to check out our emails. Now that I know how to work the tags, I am starting to get more people checking out life on Serendipity Farm and I usually get a few interesting people from around the world liking last night’s post. I am posting at night because we are studying in the day and it takes a while to upload photos etc. and so I do it at night which also allows me to take full advantage of when most of the rest of the world seems to be awake. I got a really interesting post from Anthropogen this morning about Masanobu Fukuoka who was a Japanese farmer, scientist and philosopher who was celebrated for his natural farming techniques and revegetation of desertified lands. He chose no-till, no herbicide grain cultivation farming methods that are traditional to many indigenous cultures and when combined created his particular way of farming that he called “Natural Farming” or “Do Nothing Farming”. He wrote a few books, scientific papers and a few other publications and in the 1970’s came to fame for his ideas about observing and integrating with nature’s principles and cycles.

This next bit I pinched straight from Wikipedia so I had best give you the page so that you can check it out for yourselves should you be interested…

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

And here is another Wikipedia page about the clay balls that really interest me and that I am going to start manufacturing with our own clay on site and native seed that we are going to collect locally.

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

Here is that bit of pilfered information (remember I am laying NO claim to authorship of this bit of information at all and should anyone want to sue me I am a penniless student hippy who is unafraid of going to jail for her principles because I get my education paid for, my teeth fixed for free and 3 square meals a day …what have I got to lose so sue me…you will get sweet bugger all and you will be doing me a favour :o)

Natural Farming

Fukuoka called his agricultural philosophy shizen nōhō (自然農法?), most commonly translated into English as “natural farming”. It is also referred to as “the Fukuoka Method”, “the natural way of farming” or “Do-Nothing Farming”, despite being labour intensive.

The system is based on the recognition of the complexity of living organisms that shape an ecosystem and deliberately exploiting it. Fukuoka saw farming not just as a means of producing food but as an aesthetic and spiritual approach to life, the ultimate goal of which was “the cultivation and perfection of human beings”.

The five principles of Natural Farming are that:

Human cultivation of soil, ploughing or tilling is unnecessary, as is the use of powered machines

Prepared fertilisers are unnecessary, as is the process of preparing compost

Weeding, either by cultivation or by herbicides is unnecessary. Instead only minimal weed suppression with minimal disturbance

Applications of pesticides or herbicides are unnecessary

Pruning of fruit trees is unnecessary

Clay seed balls

Fukuoka re-invented and advanced the use of clay seed balls. Clay seeds balls were originally an ancient practice in which seeds for the next season’s crops are mixed together, sometimes with humus or compost for microbial inoculants, and then are rolled within clay to form into small balls. This method is now commonly used in guerrilla gardening (of which Bill Mollison one of the inventors of Permaculture is a proponent) to rapidly seed restricted or private areas.

This is what happens when a local redneck takes a pile of rubbish to the local tip and finds out that this tyre is going to cost them $5 to dump at the tip.

Look at these delicious looking grapes…I wonder why they are still sitting there on the outside of the fence and haven’t been eaten by passers by? Perhaps the 2 large Rottweilers that jump up at you as you walk past and scare the heck out of you might be the answer?

Forget truffle dogs…we’ve got BEER DOGS! Worth their (not inconsiderable) weight in the amber fluid

This is a lovely gnarly old Rowan tree. I really liked the way that the branches were more like strangler figs than Rowan. Perhaps it is trying to escape?

Lastly we have…(wait for it…) Carbon Footprints :o) I can’t take all of the credit for that one…I will share the groans as Steve noticed these pavers and said that I should bring your attention to them. We might even get a pair of them and sink them near the gate on the front verge…

Here is Anthropogens post. This man is a heck of a researcher and makes me (who stays up late into the night hunting) look like a rank amateur. He is a chief source of information regarding everything environmental and to do with horticulture and agroforestry. I think he has developed the ability to fly because each post is from a different continent and he posts daily. An awesomely useful blog by a most awesome blogger. Cheers Spencer…at this rate I am going to have to share my Diploma in Landscape Design with you…

If you are interested in your own urban guerrilla gardening or if you simply want to scatter these clay seed balls around your property to germinate as and when nature dictates here is a really good tutorial to make them

http://heavypetal.ca/archives/2011/01/step-by-step-how-to-make-seed-balls/

And here is another really good blog post about making them and if you are anything like me, you now have 2 more websites tacked onto the end of a massive great word document waiting for you to check out in more detail when you “have time”…

http://freedomgardens.org/2010/10/04/make-your-own-seed-balls/

And last but by no means least, here is a youtube tutorial for how to make these amazing little seed bombs that will germinate when the conditions are right for them. Check it out and take note of all of the fantastic things on the right hand side of the video and prepare to be spending a good deal of time hunting through this lot fascinated and learning and doing your soul and the world good…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWyduWsoy8o

And that lot came from just 1 of my inbox posts! I also got a query about “If you had unlimited land what sort of animals would you have?” from another blogger…interesting question and one that needs to be answered with my head rather than my heart (or my most vivid imagination) so no cows… too much work and too expensive to keep, no elephants or gnu because apart from the prohibitive import duties and extensive quarantining I am not sure that Bezial would ever recover from watching an elephant walk past on the driveway below where he parks himself on the deck. I chose goats, pigs, geese, turkeys, rabbits (in chook tractors) and hens with guinea fowl and fish in the form of aquaponics. Now to work out how to house, feed, purchase and live with all of them! Next we have Anthropogen again and a fascinating article about biochar which is apparently being investigated as an approach to carbon sequestration to produce negative carbon dioxide emissions so it has the potential to help mitigate climate change via carbon sequestration. It can apparently increase soil fertility, raise agricultural productivity and reduce pressures on forests. It is a stable solid, rich in carbon and can endure in the soil for thousands of years. All of this information has been drawn directly from Anthropogens post and if you want to learn about biochar which is produced by smouldering agricultural waste (i.e. covering burning biomass with soil) in pits or trenches. It is a most fascinating way of recycling, reusing and ultimately reducing our carbon footprint whilst boosting the soil fertility so I am right on this one!

http://anthropogen.com/2012/03/11/terra-preta-biochar/

Now we get to my Instructables newsletter which always leaves me feeling like I owe someone something because I always get something great out of it. Today there is a huge range of projects including…

http://www.instructables.com/id/Super-Mario-Mushroom-Cookies/

As you can see…who wouldn’t want the recipe for the cutest and tastiest Super Mario Mushroom biscuits…we call them biscuits here for any Americans reading…our scones are your biscuits by the way…and you pinched “Popovers” they are actually Yorkshire puddings!

This next instructable goes to show you just how wide a range of people post their project instructions here. This man is a most interesting looking man who has invented an alternative to a saxophone…

http://www.instructables.com/id/Jumbo-Sax-Tootophone/

Please don’t think that everyone posting project instructions on the site is mental. There are some amazing Instructables detailing all sorts of amazing concepts…home-made tesla coils, how to use various software applications and all sorts of scientific, clever, environmental and just plain insane stuff to keep your mind operating and ticking over for the next century. Go there…indulge…let your mind imbibe and come away amazed at just how diverse and willing to share the human race really is.

Are you starting to get an idea of what the first hour of my day entails? I get mentally stimulated by the tea…then the posts and with all of these amazing ideas pumping through my system I am fortified for the day. Some people have breakfast as their first meal of the day…my first meal consists of a head crammed full of delicious information and for this meal, I don’t need to check the ingredients. I don’t really care if my brain puts weight on from all of this brain candy because sometimes you just have to live with the consequences of your actions and this one I am willing to wear.

This isn’t even going into things like posts from a food pornographer (remember the not so closet food blog lust?) and one from a raw foodie in Canada who freely shares some amazing raw food recipes that I occasionally like to mess about with. So many posts…so little time!

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