The confessions of a self-absorbed hierophant

Hi All,

I made it! I managed to stay up till after 12 for the very first time in years! Steve and I stumbled out of bed at 5am so that he could go fishing and I could get my very first post of 2013 up and running. It’s amazing how hung over you can feel without even having a drink ;). I have had a most interesting few days. In preparation for my 2013 ethos (I like to have a goal and a theme 😉 ) I have been “doing” lots of things. I want to be a better (read less lazy) cook this year and create a lot more “from scratch” things. I want to hone my skills this year so you can expect a lot more tutorial type posts and interesting recipes…at least photos of what we cooked. I made Steve a savoury pithivier the other day and rather than use milk to make the base sauce, I used white wine. It was delicious apparently and the leftovers got recycled into a huge quiche the next day using zucchini, our own eggs (14 of them…we have 9 dozen to get through and rising!) and some of our spinach. I want to become more organised and condense my processes down and get Serendipity Farms cycles integrated better this year. We are composting everything that can possibly be composted and it is amazing how something turns from a problem into an asset with a little bit of knowledge. Finding ways to effect positive change on a shoestring is what warms the cockles of my little penniless hippy heart. I found out an incredible amount of information last year and stashed it away for future use. I learned how to make hugelkultur gardens, how to ferment, how to grow a sourdough (even though Herman is still in cryogenic stasis as I type those words…) and how to do all sorts of things from scratch bypassing the consumer dollar in the process. We spend our money locally as much as we can and have stopped buying supermarket meat in favour of our local butcher Nigel from “Nigel’s gourmet on Tamar”…he didn’t give me anything to plug his business there folks…his quality produce was all that needed me to laud him and there are so many small primary businesses out there that could use a bit of a capital injection from we the public. The supermarkets are insidiously replacing all of the branded products on their shelves with their “own labels” to maximise their profit margins. Check out the back of these products and take note that they are not supporting Aussie farmers in their endeavour to rule the Australian consumer dollar…they are importing cheap foods from goodness only knows where and packaging them here in Australia to try to make them look better. Don’t support them if you have any other option…even penniless student hippies can choose to shake their moth eaten sock into their open hands to the benefit of Australian producers.

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The quiche of a million eggs for your perusal!

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Here is a photo that Steve took from his aluminium coracle whilst pootling around on the river the other day. If you look REALLY closely (or if you click the photo and make it bigger…) you might just be able to make out what that red blob is up on that deck…its me! Our house is only really visible from this position in the river and from here you can see The Auld Kirk Church, Steve’s shed and our house and those rocks in the foreground actually belong to Redwood island which Steve is conveniently anchored near to give you a bit of perspective. All of those trees are pretty much ours and the area in front of the house used to be landscaped and terraced garden…not any MORE it isn’t! 😉

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These tyres contain the entirety of a packet of seed that we were given to us by the funeral directors back in 2010 at my fathers funeral. At the time Serendipity Farm was in no condition to broadcaste seed around but we found this packet the other day and decided that our veggie garden needed some flowers to confuse the predatory insects and so Steve built this little tyre garden while I was away at my daughters house. As you can see there is a plethora of possibility here in this tyre…not being an annual person myself, I have no idea what these little green babies are (hopefully not weeds!) but whatever they are they can at least get to see the light of day from their packet and act as little first defence soldiers in the war of integrated pest management

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My little Moringa oleifera that I have been gestating in the glasshouse that will eventually be planted on Serendipity Farm

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The fecundity of the well fortified old compost heap…

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This is an old beer can…one of the cluckies who had been hunkering down for over a month in the new chook pen (before it was a new chook pen to be exact!) was actually sitting on it. I bravely checked under her and was duly repelled with great gusto and all for this remnant of my dad and his drinking buddies…sigh…

I have some dried fruit soaking in the last of the Christmas rum ready to make boozy Eccles cakes for Steve today. Steve has been steadily working his way through the Christmas booze because he wants to give his liver a bit of a rest for lent this year and wanted to start early ;). When we were taking the dogs for a walk up the highway the other day I found a tiny little metal spoon bowl that had become separated from its handle. I have NO idea how it got to be on the side of the road but I picked it up and we brought it back home and Steve make it a handle out of a Serendipitous twig and took a bit of adventitious rust off it and now it sits proudly in the cutlery draw, given a new life by someone who saw it’s intrinsic value. Steve has managed to get on top of the list of spoons that needed to be made and I even got a massive great Spoondle (a cross between a spoon and a ladle). He got creative for Roz’s spoon and decided to make a cross between a wooden spoon and a spatula…the Spatuloon is born! I love that we can both make spoons. The end results are startlingly different and entirely personalised to our own view of the wood that we are working with. I also love that the small pieces of wood that Steve cuts his spoons out of get recycled into small spoons and the remainder get bagged up ready for fire lighting futures. The sawdust gets swept up and bagged as well to use for odour control in my indoor compost bucket and for increasing the suite of organisms in our compost heap. By the way folks…add all sorts of things to your compost…add leaves and broken up twigs from all sorts of plants and trees and tip your beer can dregs into your compost bucket… they all add something exciting and new to your compost brew and make for adventurous growing seasons and who doesn’t love to see what amazing fungi grow out of their compost heap! I know that composting will never be the same for me after opening up the compost bin at Polytechnic in my very first compost turning event and seeing fungi mycelium threaded right down through the compost pile…the fecundity of it all excited me along with the cycles and processes that were initiated by what went into that compost and got me wanting to grow my own fungus…I LOVE fungi :o).  Earl has been getting restless whenever his snout manages to get within sniffing distance of the bowl of walnuts in Steve’s music room…he has personally asked us to do another spoon draw so that he can reintroduce his questing nose into that bowl full of walnuts as he loves to crack them in half and leave them lying around for foolish barefoot hippies to find… another spoon draw is on the horizon folks :o)

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Pinky my dear younger sister’s new spoon in its finished but raw state…

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If you can take your eyes off that spiders web in the top left hand corner for a bit, you will notice that the spoon is now a different colour. It has been rubbed with Eco-oil, a natural food safe blend of orange and tung oil that gives wood a lovely lustre and enhances its natural beauty

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You can tell that these hands belong to Steve…firstly by the hairy arms and secondly by the long fingernails…murphy’s law states that all guitarists must grow their fingernails at an exponential rate because fingernails get in the way of playing…

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This is my Spadle…its huge and pot ready and I can’t wait to wave it about like excalibur over my head when diving into cauldrons of bubbling harvest futures

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A selection of wooden spoons that Steve has made since he decided to become “The Spoonman”

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Earl wistfully prodding the walnuts with his nose

Not long after I found the little spoon bowl on our recent walk I noticed a large tree growing on the road verge and my horticultural bones started to twitch…”Steve…I think that might be a chestnut tree!”…my horticulture spidey senses were on full alert and indeed it WAS a chestnut tree! I haven’t seen an adult chestnut tree in flower and it was a very interesting thing to behold. The flowers are long and pendulous and have a very “interesting” fragrance…not entirely pleasant but my guess is (assisted by the clouds of flies and beetles covering the tree) that they are not aiming at bees and butterflies to pollinate them. I could see tiny chestnuts forming on the ends of the branches and another free food source has been isolated. I am definitely going to plant some chestnut trees out now. If they will grow on a road verge with no outside source of irrigation they are definitely a tree for Serendipity Farm. As we were walking back to our car I noticed a red clover (Trifolium pratense) plant growing in the gravel on the side of the road…again my horticultural senses twitched because deep in the over clogged information highway of my mind something put 2 and 2 together and came up with “bonus!”…I did a bit of research when I got home about red clover because I hauled the red clover plant out of its desert gravel pit and put it into one of our incredibly useful dog dung bags (we use them for horticultural purposes more than their intended use!) and it is sitting in the laundry sink happily bathing its toes in fresh water as I type this. My ethos is “never let a chance go by” and I am glad that I didn’t because this baby had a HUGE root system and because it was covered in seed ready to broadcast if it was worth cultivating. It’s always a good sign if your query results in 2 results lauding the health benefits of said red clover before you get to the Wikipedia entry and apparently I learned something in my horticultural endeavours because I found out that red clover has been used for centuries as a metabolic diuretic, an expectorant and a blood purifier. It contains lots of nutrients and phytoestrogens to balance hormonal activities and is being researched for its uses as a natural treatment for cancer, menopausal symptoms and skin disorders. It makes a pleasant cup of herbal tea and 1 – 2 tsp of dried flowers infused in 1 cup of boiling water for 15 – 30 minutes is all it takes to add this delightful natural remedy into your diet. See what a bit of knowledge can give you? I am going to spread the clover all over the place on Serendipity Farm…I am going to infuse the “lawn” with it, I hope to attract bees from all over the place by having a lot of it growing here. Knowledge is power of the highest degree and the kind of power that this freely sourced knowledge can give you is immensely empowering to those of us living on a shoestring

Trifolium pratense red clover

This is a lovely stock photo of red clover…MUCH better than I could take for you so you can acutally identify it in the wild using this shot

Pirate Ship

I am hoping that I can sneak this photo by the internet trolls… I am going to give full kudos to The Examiner our local rag for this shot. Its of the pirate ship that I talked about not so long ago and a Melbourne man built it from scratch and has been sailing it around since Christmas… I don’t know about pirate but at $5 a person to take a sneak peak on board, he might just be rolling in dubloons by the end of the season!

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Here is what the little found spoon looked like after I extracted it from the pocket of my jeans

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Here it is resting on the twig that I picked to be its new handle

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And here is what it looks like now after a bit of a clean up and a nice new twiggy handle 🙂

We are off to take some rubbish to the tip tomorrow. I have a plethora of amazing books to pick up from the local library as it opens again on January 2nd and Nigel slaters complete back catalogue appears to have landed in my request box ;). We try to combine as many things as we can into a single trip and tomorrow (today really but I typed this yesterday 😉 ) we will be walking the boys in Exeter, heading up to the tip and perusing the tip shop for any hardwood that we can find including floor boards to make spoons and spatulas with, going to the local op shop to see if anything new has arrived and picking up my weights worth of free books from the library. I don’t know why more people don’t take advantage of the library. I know it is easier to just buy a book but when funds are tight, it’s not an option and when time is an asset that you have plenty of, typing out the best recipes from a good cookbook isn’t an issue and if you run out of time you can just request it again :o). I have a wonderful selection of books at the moment ranging from vegan cookbooks by the iconic Isa Chandra Moskowitz, a vegan pioneer who has, along with her good friend Terry Hope Romero, dragged vegan food kicking and screaming out of the “too hard” box and directly into the oncoming path of mainstream society. I purchased “Vegan cupcakes take over the world” in a selection of vegan cookbooks from the U.S. a few years ago and now we have “Vegan pie in the sky” (on my desk waiting to be typed out) and “Vegan cookies invade your cookie jar” is waiting for me to pick it up tomorrow…I get very excited whenever I get near the library. It’s a knowledge thing…a fundamental ingredient in my makeup that gives me a “good dog!” pat on the head whenever I head into that hallowed hall of literature and I never cease to amaze myself at how greedy I can be when it comes to books. I never have a spare space on my library card of 15 allowed books and regularly use my dear non-literary husband’s library card to shamelessly hog 15 more books. I can never hope to get through all of them in my allotted 3 weeks but whatchagonnado eh? 😉

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You wanted pictures of the veggie garden…you GET pictures of the veggie garden…this is the view from the house side of the veggie gardens…

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And this is the view from the other side…that blue tarpaulin still has some of the organic compost underneath it waiting to be used to fill duckies old boatpond and used as a raised herb garden

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Some of the rainbow chard that I cut to give to the chooks surrounded by sage and cucumbers and snow peas

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3 different kinds of zucchini, some chives, some snow peas, some cucumbers and a rustic attempt at allowing the cucumbers to go viral

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English spinach, beetroot, sage, cucumbers and those exponentially grow-before-your-eyes zucchini plants

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The spinach and beetroot bed…beetroot leaves are delicious by the way and every bit as good as silverbeet

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Looking back towards the corn and silverbeet

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Tomato mania! I am standing up taking this photo and you can see how crazy they have gone!

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A bed full of lettuce, rocket (going to seed but still tasty), capsicums (peppers), jalapeno chilli’s and more! I think you will all agree that our summer veggie garden experiment appears to be paying off 🙂

I think I may have stumbled onto the next greatest thing in vegan cooking…I am saying this because I know that Hannah, the vegan degustatory equivalent of Albert Einstein reads my blog posts…I hope you are reading this one Hannah because I am sharing my new found secret passion with you right here…right now. I LOVE cheese…I love it with a passion rivalled only by my love for potatoes (and butter…and bread…and…well you get the picture!) and I have sorely missed that cheesy flavour since I went over to the bright side of the street where the vegans hang out in the hipster side of town… it was one of the main reasons that I stuck steadfastly to my vegetarian past and stubbornly refused to cross that dairy free line. Eggs…no problem…cheese and butter “NOOOO!” but cross I did for health reasons and here I am still lusting after that deep cheesy flavour that comes from well-aged cheddar and I haven’t found a vegan alternative yet. I do love the taste of aged nut cheeses and I like vegan homemade yoghurt but the nut cheeses are expensive to make and while I was staying with my daughters they introduced me to something revolutionary that gave me back my cheesy hit without any effort on my part…magic! We had a complete weekend of cooking; we made homemade pizza and 12 different Korean recipes and Asian sago pudding and delicious icecream and all sorts of things. The girls had cheese on their pizza along with all sorts of weird things. They like to experiment with their food and often take recipes to their limits in the process. They have all sorts of unusual multicultural ingredients in their home and as they are going through an Asian phase at the moment they had purchased lots of Asian products in tins and jars to experiment with. Apparently my youngest daughter Bethany had bought a jar of Chilli bamboo shoots on a whim and after opening the jar and trying them she didn’t like them and the jar had remained on their fridge shelf gathering the fridge equivalent of dust for a while. When we were considering what to put on my vegan pizza Madeline (my eldest daughter) said “why don’t you put some of those chilli bamboo shoots on it?”…never one to shirk my duty to try new things I agreed and thus was born my newfound addiction to these wonderful fermented little shreds of vegan cheesy happiness. They taste almost identical to aged vintage cheese. If you don’t believe me Hannah, head down to your nearest Asian food store and buy a jar of Double Coins Chili Bamboo Shoots and see for yourself. I know you are a very innovative girl and are not averse to trying new things and I am sure that you will be able to integrate them into some of your wonderful vegan recipes…time to start a new trend Hannah and you will be right there at the beginning :o). Don’t say that I am not a generous blogger :o). I just let Earl (who likes to stand up and give me a kiss when I am typing on a regular basis) a sniff of the chili bamboo shoots and he started licking his lips and attempting to insert his doggy tongue into my precious jar of cheesy vegetable goodness…Earl is a cheese fan of old…I rest my case!

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Here it is Hannah…it might not look very promising but these fermented little strips of pure cheesy flavoured goodness were enough to lure Earl to attempt to stick his nose into the top of the jar and Earl is a true cheese afficionado of old! Check them out and let me know if you don’t agree that these shards of vegetabley goodness are not a craze waiting to happen 🙂

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We sprayed the roosters past wishbones and were going to thread them together to make a garland for the Christmas Tree but completely forgot them and so they will have to be this year’s project. We are going to spray some of them red and some gold over the top of the green but we only had green spray paint at the time…

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The end result of an experiment to see what happens if you dehydrate a whole raw egg…what happens is that you get something surreal that the dogs ate with gusto!

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A quick mercy trip to deliver a fridge to my daughters resulted in an impromptu trip to Launceston. I took lots of photos and will share them with you over the next few posts as this post is crammed to bursting! I just wanted to share this one with you to show you how pretty Launceston is 🙂

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The genius of street art…what is it? Not sure, but it does resemble my 5am face should I ever be foolish enough to look in the mirror at that unGodly hour!

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This is OBVIOUSLY the next fashion trend for the season…Steve and I will be sure to embrace it fully the next time that we visit…

So much for me cutting my post size down for 2013! I guess you have to work at “resolutions” don’t you? You can’t just expect to go cold turkey on your muses right up…I hereby give you 300 less words this post! I expect lavish applause and multiple congratulations for that… (Good luck getting me to repeat it 😉 ). See you on Saturday and have an amazing rest of the week my wonderful dear constant readers :o)