Holy macaroni I am almost famous!

Hi All,

Just sipping my tea while I read my RSS Feed Reader can make me excited. I just had to share this. I posted a comment on this ladies blog about how I make my non-dairy kefir and she ran with it! Aside from crediting me as “Karan” my method of feeding non-dairy kefir has now gone mainstream! I hope this gives vegans and people who can’t consume dairy for whatever reason hope that they, too, can eat this valuable food and gain the benefits 🙂

http://www.culturedfoodlife.com/non-dairy-kefir-wants-a-date/

And here is the original post that got me commenting and that spawned the post above. Narf7 IS that masked “Karan” 😉

http://www.culturedfoodlife.com/cashew-kefir/

Sorry to love you and leave you but I just had to share my brief brush with fame. The new Website (tenuously called “Seeking Sanctuary” but open to suggestions) is being formulated at the moment as we are both on holidays from TAFE and working hard to get our sites (Stevie-boy has one as well) up and running in the new school term on our own server. I really like my new site and hope that you will all like it as well and as soon as it is up and running and we are ready to transition “The Road to Serendipity” to it’s new home you will all be the very first to know :). Have a lovely day wherever you are and whatever you are doing today folks 🙂

 

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Life, death and the endless progression of OH&S in between…

Hi All

There has to be a degree of irony in me, hunched over…floppy spined, myopically peering at my monitor with terrible lighting and trying to show the world how enlightened I am about office OH&S…does ANYBODY listen to or care about this stuff?!!! Come to think of it, does anyone ever stop eating peanut butter because some rake thin anorexic plastic “expert” in the health field tells them to? If we were ever vaguely inclined to follow “expert” advice we would have dangled on our parents every word…we would have learned to “fly right and steer straight” immediately as we were told and we would have made something of ourselves rather than arriving at 50, dazed and confused with only “windswept and interesting” as our chief saleable asset.

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The young rooster on the right of this image died this week. He was never a “normal” rooster and spent his days sitting in this coop with his sisters keeping them company. He wasn’t prone to leaping on hens or crowing. He was gentle, beautiful and like so many of his Byron reading compatriots, he died too soon. R.I.P Little Boy Blue. In saying that, there are chicks hatching out all over the place on Serendipity Farm. The same day that Little Boy Blue died, another hen emerged triumphant and bedazzled with fluffy chicks…the poultry cycle of life goes on…

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When all else fails eat fruit!

That brings me to today’s post… I have managed to tear myself away from OH&S for a whole blissful day. It doesn’t even bother me that it’s grey, dreary and raining outside because I didn’t have to try to wrap my poor addled brain around another “Act”; “Award” or “Industry Standard” when it couldn’t comprehend the first Act, let alone the last that I tried to stuff into the one remaining brain cell that appears to be on the ball. Today I got to sit here and type out interesting and sustainable hints, tips and anecdotes about how to live better with less. Steve and I have almost finished our websites that we have to create from scratch for our final assessment. Mine is called “Sustainability on a Shoestring” and despite it being entirely fictional, not available to the naked eye (apart from our lecturers …) and just something that we had to knock up at the last minute I have developed a motherly sort of fondness for it and am driving Steve nuts by my need to make it look good and function well. “No-one can see it!” is his mantra…”I can see it” is mine 😉

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This shower door is about to be changed to a clear glass door that doesn’t get stuck when you are trying to open it with shampoo in your eyes because you forgot to get the bottle of conditioner that is over on the window ledge…Steve was given the shower door by a friends mum who is renovating and who didn’t need it. I doubt she realises how happy she has made me with her generous gift. Now I can open the door blinded by shampoo and not worry about having to call Steve to free me when the door sticks when I am halfway out of it…

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My container of bread ties (still haven’t worked out what to do with them but I will!) and some of the bottle tops I am collecting on my early morning walks with Earl. If anyone out there drinks anything other than Boag’s beer and would like to send me a few bottle tops please feel free to let me know 😉

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What happens when you discover some “fresh” pineapple that you juiced, put in a bowl in the fridge and promptly forgot about that when you rediscovered it and gave it a sniff (as you do) and realised that it was halfway to being pineapple vodka and you cleverly decide to pour it into the top of a bottle of second fermented Kombucha erupts like Krakatoa …”VESUVIUS”…that’s what happens

I have just finished off the last of the text for the various side panels, spry tabs etc. that we are required to show our lecturer to satisfy this unit. We are using Dreamweaver to create our sites making it a much easier process than having to write the HTML ourselves but I am still clueless about what most of it does but can see it has great possibilities. The best bit is that we got to buy the Student version of the Adobe suite at a significant discount because students = poor (damned RIGHT they do!) and educational institutions don’t want to force us into becoming shoplifters in order to satisfy their requirements. Lucky really because I suck at pinching things, unless they are cuttings when I am able to abrogate my guilt long enough to snip off a stray tendril and call it urban guerrilla gardening 😉

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“I know what will make all of this study better…a litre bottle of homemade Kombucha…”

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And another one…

I spend a lot of my life in the dark. It’s my choice, getting up at 3am seals the deal but if I want to get some quality “me” time to study, to read the blogs that I follow and to research the things that I am interested in I have to find an alternative to daylight hours where we tend to be studying or working in the garden. I now love getting up early and am firing on all cylinders by the time I wake Steve with a coffee at 7am after indulging my brain to the max with a wealth of fantastic possibilities that I have just waded through for the last 4 hours. Fennec foxes have enormous ears and narf7 has small ears…fennec foxes manage to navigate their way around in the dark with ease and agility where narf7 has bruises on her legs and hip where she bumbles hopelessly into furniture and walls…coincidence? I think not!

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“What say we have another one?” I reckon I am starting to feel a bit like Keith Richards in that photo about now…

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I am stuck inside the house when outside it looks like this…

One interesting thing that I have noticed about the dark is that you can see your brain sending messages to your eyes. Seriously…if you are sitting in the pitch dark and close your eyes you can see little chains of light where your brain is communicating with your eyes…in my case it is saying “watch out she is just about to bump into another table!” but as my eyes are officially closed (or I can’t see the synapses…) it’s too late…”OUCH!” I can, however, manage to find the correct place to spray the air freshener in the toilet in complete darkness…maybe there is a chance for future employment opportunities for my amazing newfound skill?

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And this…

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and this!

Earl is almost 3 and is just starting to “get it”. I must be a late bloomer because here I am at 50 and I still haven’t “got it”. One of life’s mysteries is that we only start to make sense of all of these lessons that life throws at us on a regular basis when we are past the point of impetuous youthdom and it leaves you wondering “surely it would have been so much better to have learned these lessons BEFORE all of those stupid mistakes we made?” I am left to believe that maybe we need to have made lots of stupid mistakes to “get” the life lessons in the first place…my head is starting to hurt with that conundrum so I might just leave it there for now folks as I have to keep a few functioning brain cells in reserve in order to complete our studies before next Thursday when the last of our units is due in.

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Some of us are enjoying the lovely weather

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Note the lack of a care in the world and the amazing growth in that garden bed under the deck that we only planted out in April this year

I have been busy fermenting potions in between doing the hard yards with study and am learning how versatile cultures can be. My last batch of kombucha was flavoured with ginger and rosewater and turned out to be really delicious. It takes the mother SCOBY 7 days to culture a batch of black tea with sugar in it. I choose to double ferment the mix by adding a litre of juice to the results and fermenting it for another couple of days before putting it in the fridge. The results are fizzy and delicious and with summer promising to be long and hot I think a large quantity of kombucha in the fridge will be a definite asset. I have also been using my non-dairy kefir that I now make with homemade sesame milk (rather than the organic homemade soymilk that I used to make it with) to culture the sesame pulp left behind after making the milk. I use the resulting fermented  mix to make hummus that I ferment for a day at room temperature. One very interesting thing about fermenting hummus is that it rises up alarmingly in its bowl a bit like sourdough starter does. I guess that means that the culture really likes beans. Whatever it means the results are really delicious and I am enjoying seeing what else I can ferment

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Fermented sesame seed pulp and some leftover cooked dried chickpeas and borlotti beans that I have been using from the freezer

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The hummus before it decided to rise up out of the bowl and threaten to take over Serendipity Farm unless I took it to Cuba

I have been having porridge in the morning made from finely ground buckwheat flour and sunflower seeds that I add a bit of date paste to and cook. I then top it with sesame milk with a bit more date paste in it and a dash of rosewater. Now that the weather has started to warm up I might be able to start drinking my green smoothies again but if today is anything to go by, winter hasn’t quite given up yet. By next Thursday our course will officially be over. Steve and I are working as hard as we can to knock these final units on the head but they can’t be finished soon enough in our minds. We are really going to enjoy the free time that we get in between this course and the start of our next course and  hopefully we will get lots of time out in the garden in the coming month to make up for all of the time that we have spent chained to the PC.

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The view out of my kitchen window this morning. Note the Grey Cuckoo Thrush sitting on the deck rail waiting for her early morning cheese cubes to be put out on the window ledge and note also how grey and rainy it is because I am not chained to the PC being forced to study OH&S until my brain melts…Murphy is a bollocks!

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Its still grey out there but at least the grey cuckoo shrike has her cheese and I have a cup of tea and suddenly, after a few sips… all is right with the world again 🙂

Christmas is getting very close. I know it is because all of the advertisement’s on the television keep telling me it is. Is anyone else incredibly jaded by the mass push towards commercialisation this year? It started back in October and suddenly we are lighting Christmas trees mid-November and come mid-December we will be implored to buy next year’s Easter Eggs… what should be a time for people to get together with their families and friends to see out the old year and be thankful for our lot has been hijacked by the need for massive pre-Christmas profits. The spirit and the message of Christmas were born of humble circumstances and I think the still quiet message is slowly being drowned by all of the Christmas sales. Has anyone else worked out what they are going to do for Christmas this year? Neither have we! We were going to have a very quiet Christmas like we did last year but now Stewart and Kelsey are here we might all get together at my daughter’s home on Christmas morning and have Christmas breakfast together…or we might not…whatever we do it will be in the spirit of Christmas and nothing to do with how much we spent on food, drink and presents. Steve’s one stipulation is a bottle of brandy so that he can make the brandy and chocolate milk that he remembers from a long ago holiday spent falling over in Greece. Sounds like a plan Stevie-boy! 😉

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A little Cassia fistula growing amongst the forget-me-nots. Cassia pods are used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine so this little guy is welcome on Serendipity Farm

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From one gorgeous thing to another…These marvellous track pants were inherited from my daughter Madeline who was about to throw them away because they were torn on the bottom. I decided to cut them (mainly to stop me falling over the frayed bits) and what you can’t see here is that one side is at least 10cm longer than the other even though I SWEAR I measured them! I mention this so that all of you wonderfully crafty folk out there realise that some of us are not as gifted in the crafty stakes as you are…but we are doing you a HUGE service by suffering the slings of craftless arrows that rain down on us whenever we pick up needles, hooks, material or dare to sit down at a sewing machine…we bow before your creative genius but some of you were born for craft greatness, some (like me) just have to satisfy ourselves with being born fashionistas…The jumper is warm. Narf7 cares not for fashion folks and its darned lucky that she doesn’t because if I EVER went out wearing this ensemble, I would be committed. The black socks that I am wearing in this picture were stolen from Steve’s side of the wardrobe by “moi” and were subsequently eaten by Earl when they were abandoned (foolishly) on one of my outdoor forays. Socks are not safe on Serendipity Farm…they are an endangered species

I think I might love you all and leave you there for today. I fear I am probably not at my best after a week of brain numbing rehashing of boring statistics. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible on Serendipity Farm but for now, this pays the bills so rehash we must! See you all next Wednesday when I will probably be giddy with happiness thanks to it being the final day before we are set free from our shackles of oppression…can you tell I’m a bit over this? ;). Have a great week folks and enjoy what you are doing wherever you are doing it 🙂

Narf7 bakes bread and loses a leg

Hi All,

Today we are going to take a little bit of an aside from my usual blog post format. Firstly, I didn’t lose a leg…I was just borrowing a quote from “Father Ted”. I have been communicating with a lovely lady in the U.K. called Joanne who hosts the wonderful blog “Zeb Bakes”. I found Joanne’s blog through a compilation bread blog site called http://www.wildyeastblog.com/category/yeastspotting/ that is one of the most incredible places to find just about any “bread” you could possibly want. Joanne posts some of her wonderful homemade breads to this site and that’s how I met her…through some of my exuberant comments to her blog.

http://zebbakes.com/2013/08/10/date-syrup-kefir-bread/

And here’s a follow up post for anyone wanting to try the recipe but who wanted to only bake a single loaf…Joanne is such a thorough and caring person when it comes to her blog followers…

http://zebbakes.com/2013/09/08/post-script-date-kefir-loaves/

This kefir raised bread couldn’t have come at a better time. I pulled Audrey, my sourdough starter, out of the fridge to feed her and discovered that she had decided to commit suicide. Rather than a yeasty scented mass of dough, she had gone belly up and was exhibiting a scent wholly unbecoming of a sourdough starter. R.I.P. Audrey, I did you wrong. I also found out that starters aren’t meant to be kept in fridges for extended periods of time and you are supposed to feed them regularly…that would be more than once a month…sigh…”BAD NARF7!”…I am a murderer! I tipped the squalid remains into the compost bucket where her now green and fuzzy remains will add a new suite of organisms to the resulting compost. I was just getting my head around the thought that I was going to have to make a new sourdough starter when along came Joanne with “The Recipe”…

I had asked Joanne about “Date syrup” a product that she had discussed in a post because I had never heard of it. I make date paste to use instead of refined sugar and after talking to Joanne a bit we started discussing kefir etc. Joanne posted the following post about using kefir to raise bread rather than using sourdough starter or a commercial dried/fresh yeast. I got VERY excited about this idea because I make kefir regularly using homemade organic soymilk sweetened with homemade date paste. I found that my kefir grains (sent to me by one “Rabid Little Hippy” who gets a HUGE hug across The Tasman for being so babelicious and such a generous blogger) adore the sugar in the date paste and I can tweak the fermentation of the kefir by the amount of date paste I choose to add. I have also experimented using other sweeteners and can’t see why using something like coconut sugar or rice syrup wouldn’t give you a similar result. Bread can also be baked with water kefir so I decided that I was going to give it the old college try and attempt to bake a loaf or two…

Joanne is an amazing blogger. Not only did she give us this wonderful recipe to tinker with, she actually wants us to get stuck in and inject our own take on the recipe. She tried making a gluten free variety but it didn’t work and asked if I would have a go at making a non-dairy version for people who either choose not to have dairy or simply can’t…there are a lot of us out there. I have linked to Joanne’s Post so that you can all go to her wonderful site and see it in person…she even gives you a PDF download of the recipe! Sorry guys, I am not quite up to that yet but give me a few years and you never know…at the moment, the best I can do is take Joanne’s recipe and add myself to it. I have bolded Joanne’s instructions in ”parenthesis” so that you know when I am quoting her wise words…the stupid words are entirely of my own design so please don’t judge Joanne for them, I take full responsibility ;). I am going to post my images here in a slideshow format. They start at the point where I had mixed the preferment ingredients together and end with the final bread. The last few images are of the bread the following day just before Steve made heavenly smelling toast with it…all in all this bread is wonderful and it won’t be the last time narf7 bakes it.

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Narf7 Bakes Date Paste Non-Dairy Kefir Bread

(This is where Joanne had put “Started” and had given the time she assembled the preferment) Started – err…no idea really but it was before lunch time and after breakfast so that narrows it down a bit for all of you bread detectives out there ;). The room temperature was reasonably cool here in Tasmania but we do have Brunhilda, our large wood fired oven slowly ticking over all day and so I would imagine the room temperature would have been around 20C.

Make a preferment with: –

  • 150g room temperature water. I used rain water
  • 200g fresh kefir which I make with homemade organic soy milk to which I add homemade date paste (I soak a packet of dried dates in boiling water to cover and once the dates are soft, I puree them to a smooth paste in a blender. To 1 ½ litres of homemade soymilk I add 300g of homemade date paste and this is the basic food for my kefir grains to feed on). Note, you can use mature water kefir in this recipe as well. Not sure how it goes but Joanne mentioned that another blogger that she knows of has made bread with it so it is possible. Mine was “milk” kefir though so don’t quote me on it 😉
  • 250g strong (bread) flour. I used regular strong white bread flour from a local Tasmanian flour mill
  • 50g extra date paste

“Mix these well together and leave in a covered bowl for approximately 18 hours in a warm room (20 – 22 C)  at which point it should be bubbling and thick and looking ready to go.” Note – I put the mix on a proofing rack over Brunhilda to make sure it bubbled enough but prior to putting it on the proofing rack it was bubbling albeit a bit slowly so I would imagine it would just take a little bit longer at a colder room temperature. Kefir keeps fermenting even when stored in the fridge and I have to open the lid of the container of fermented kefir that I keep in the fridge to make sure the lid doesn’t blow off.

Ingredients for the final dough:-

  • All of the preferment (as above)
  • 850g bread flour. I used the same white strong bread flour as I used in the preferment
  • 282g  water (again, rainwater)
  • 20g salt (I used sea salt)
  • 30g melted butter
  1. Using a Kenwood Mixer I put the starter in first, added the water and then the flours and mixed for about three minutes on the lowest speed. I did this too but my mixer isn’t a Kenwood and it started to list sideways somewhat alarmingly midway through the process so I decided to hand mix the dough from that point on.
  2. Leave to develop in the bowl for 20 minutes. I covered the bowl with cling wrap for the duration.
  3. Sprinkle the salt over the dough and trickle the melted butter in while the mixer is going and continue mixing till the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Again, my mixer had a bit of a hard time with this dough and after allowing it to dance across the counter for a bit, I liberated the dough and hand kneaded it for a short while to make sure the butter and salt were evenly distributed.
  4. You may need to adjust the dough with more water if your flour is very absorbent. Mine wasn’t and the proportions above were just fine.
  5. 5.       (If you mix by hand then go with a more traditional order of ingredients, i.e. mix the water and starter together and add these into your bowl of flour.)
  6. I will let Joanne talk you through the next bit because I had never done this before…”I took the dough out once it was reasonably developed and put it into a big bowl, covered with a tea towel, and left it for about three hours. During this time I folded it in the bowl twice, as much to see how the fermentation was progressing as anything. Folding in the bowl is simply picking up the dough from one side and pulling it out and over the main bulk of the dough, like light kneading except you don’t put it on a board. You can put it on a board. There are no rules here!” I followed Joanne’s instructions to a “T” and figured that I would fold the dough once an hour and each time I folded the dough back onto itself, it had risen double, and I took this as a very good sign!
  7. Again, Joanne is the real bread baker here so once again I will let her talk you through this next bit…”Once it was showing good signs of activity and had increased in size by roughly a half. I weighed it into two equal portions.  Then I split those two portions in the ratio 85:15 using the % function on my scales. If you don’t have one of those, it would be about 135g for the small ball to 765g for the main ball.
  8. 8.       With the first portion I made a boule which I divided into four quartiles with a thin dowel rod and made a smaller boule with the small ball and put that in the middle.
  9. 9.       With the second portion I made a pointy ended baton and then a plait with the remaining ball which I placed along the top of the dough – because the dough had such a long second prove this didn’t come out quite as I had hoped but I like the effect that it gives anyway. A good way to create a nice looking effect on a loaf if you are finding slashing difficult.
  10. I put both loaves on baking paper on trays and tucked them inside clean bin liners to prove.” You can tell that Joanne is a real baker, I attempted to put my bread on a baking tray but realised that I had no way of stopping it for sticking to the bin liner so ended up putting it into 2 bread tins rather than have to fall on the ground twitching when the top of the bread stuck to the bin liner and deflated alarmingly (“FOOL ME ONCE BREAD DOUGH!”…)
  11. Second proof time was about three hours. Be patient, these are just as slow as a more traditional sourdough to rise. I need to point out here that my bread took less time to proof. For some reason it rose fast and it rose incredibly well. Just as good as any regular yeasted bread that I have made in the past. Proofing it on the bread rack over Brunhilda may have had something to do with it but who knows…I was just happy that all of the steps were going like clockwork and I wasn’t going to stick a spoke in any wheels just to ask questions 😉
  12. 12.   Egg-wash the crust with a mixture of egg yolk and kefir whey and sprinkled a few sesame seeds on top for interest.
  13. 13.   Here’s what Joanne said…”Bake in a preheated oven (with steam) either on the trays or slide them off onto a baking stone or kiln shelf which is what I use rather than a stone.” I just put the bread tins into the oven…no steam, no smoke, no whistles, no bells just a hot oven.
  14. “Starting at 220 ºC for the first twenty minutes and then dropping back by stages to 190 ºC for the last ten minutes of the bake.  About 40 – 45 minutes in all.” We had been stoking the fire to make it get hotter and inevitably the oven that we had the bread in kept getting hotter and we had to put the bread into one of the cooler ovens (I have 4 ovens to choose from in various stages of “hot”, how spoiled am I?) but the damage was already done and the bread top was a little “over-caramelised” but not beyond saving in the photo-shoot (and that’s all that really matters right food bloggers? 😉 )
  15. “Leave to cool on a rack as normal once you are satisfied the loaf is cooked; a nice hollow sound when you thump it is a good sign.” Being a natural fuss-budget I wasn’t entirely satisfied that it was cooked and tossed the loaves back into the oven for 5 minutes upside down once I took them out of the bread tin. It was probably overkill in hind sight but I wanted my bread to be a success…I had a lot riding on this.
  16. Wait till the bread is cool before cutting it.

Or if you are Steve and I, you will cut it when it is hot, soak it liberally in butter and Steve will eat 4 slices just before his tea and will feed a further 2 slices dripping in butter to the slavering hounds waiting below…we are ALL class here on Serendipity Farm. I am sure that most of you will have the diplomacy and willpower to wait until the bread is merely lukewarm before descending on it like wolves but whatchagonnado? My excuse is that I wanted to take photos of the crumb…it’s MY excuse and I am sticking with it! ;). The bread was amazing…the bread rose beautifully with no added yeast aside from the kefir whatsoever…the bread was almost textbook wonderful to bake and I couldn’t believe that I was able to replicate this amazingness being that the baking conditions were almost certainly directly inverse to those that Joanne’s dairy kefir were subject to. Let me clarify it a little bit further…

  1. Joanne is a wonderful bread baker and I am a bread plebeian
  2. Joanne used dairy kefir and I used something strange that I keep making because I SWEAR it is alcoholic (“HIC!”)
  3. Joanne is at the tail end of summer and Narf7 is on the tail end of winter
  4. Joanne created a wonderful recipe that anyone can follow and that a bread idiot couldn’t stuff up (I know they can’t, because I didn’t 😉 ) and I am waffling in excited stanza’s that are probably confusing any poor wayfaring baker from the ether beyond belief
  5. Joanne gave you a PDF…I am not even going to PRETEND to know how to do that so my regulars can just do one of two things “forgedaboudit” or “head over to Joanne’s blog and get yourself that delightful PDF and revel in its amazingness like I did when I downloaded it”
  6. Joanne cared enough about her blog followers to do a follow up post that clarified any issues in the first post and that gave interested people a choice whether or not to bake 2 loaves (the original recipe) or reduce the recipe down to 1. I won’t be offering you the same courtesy folks. It isn’t because I don’t love you all, it’s because why would I try to tweak perfection? Just head over to Zeb Bakes and check it out there.

Joanne, as a well-known bunch of geriatric Aussie rockers with a Scottish lead singer would sing loudly and proudly, “for those about to rock…we SALUTE YOU!”. You both “rock” and deserve my “salutations”. Please consider this most pathetic husk of a blog post that isn’t even worthy to crawl on its belly next to your post, a humble experiment designed to be for the greater good. Your recipe is great…mine was good. From this point on I can refine this bread. I can tweak it and mess about with it and I can include bread in my diet once more and for this, I owe you so much more than a bit of experimentation. Thank you for sharing this recipe and for allowing us free reign to tinker with it…consider it non-dairy tinkered and I offer the torch up to braver bloggers than I am to run with the Gluten Free recipe because that is a step too far for one Narf7 to take folks!

Here endeth the post…that’s it, that’s all folks…you can all go home now and revel in the fact that you can make bread WITHOUT ADDING SOURDOUGH OR COMMERCIAL YEAST. Yup…my job here…is DONE! :o)…except for today’s word cloud that is…here it is folks in all it’s bready goodness for you to enjoy…

Nondairy kefir bread blog post

Holy crap I turned into Denise Scott!

Hi All,

Did you all miss me on Saturday? Don’t tell fibs! You were all happy to get a solid 15 minutes to yourselves without having to wear a literary snorkel and come up for air at regular intervals thanks to my completely bolshie disregard for the use of correct grammar. Who needs commas and full stops when you can just go on…and on…and on… ;). I blame the liberal Australian school system in the 70’s where we were being used as experiments. I think my own personal school experience shows that liberalism DOESN’T pay! Glad they got over their need to go all existential on our young tender derrières and that a generation of 40 something’s (rapidly approaching 50 something’s) can’t spell or do complex maths.  Steve has been away and I have been left here to accomplish studying by myself. It was bound to end up in tears and with me almost burning down the house but he has NO-ONE but himself to blame, leaving a technophobic Luddite in charge of the computer. I spent all yesterday twiddling my thumbs and wandering around the house finding “other” things to do (remember, Pinterest was unavailable to me so whatchagonnadoeh?!) because when trying to follow our lecturers wonderful video of how to convert a video to Roto scoping, our Adobe tool to convert didn’t look like his and by the time I fiddled a bit I had rendered it completely different. I didn’t want to erase the program (also accidentally but there must be a bit of wishful thinking going on there 😉 ) so I had to leave it till Steve came back to sort it for me. I pride myself on being a pretty knowledgeable person but technology and “programs” in general leave me cold and twitching. I really can’t fathom how most of them work until I get practicing and I can’t practice on this one if I just stuffed it up! ;). The highly pathetic thing was that Steve got in, said “easy fix” and reset the program and showed me how simple it was to do what our lecturer’s vid wanted us to do. The problem was I am a creature of sequences…I am like the dreaded computer in that aspect (like repels? 😉 ) I need a series of processes to get me from “A” to “B” and if there is a break in transmission in any of the sequences I just never arrive at “B” till it is fixed and I can progress. Steve jumps straight in at “J” and then doubles back. He instinctively just knows how to deal with technology and I am eternally grateful that he does. My natural instinct is to hit whatever isn’t working or shake it around or if it is being really bolshie, throw it off the deck. Luckily Steve is able to rescue most technology from my grasp before I get that frustrated ;). I couldn’t progress through the video from “A” to “B” because my program didn’t look (or act) like his. How was I expected to follow the process if my program was different!!! Steve has officially been elevated in my eyes to necessary technological genius. That pretty much guarantees that he is safe from rat poison in his coffee no matter what he does 😉

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This image was to show that you Americans used to call “cookies” biscuits like we do! When did it change? Was it after that Boston tea party where everyone decided to bollock of the English or was it the civil war and when the Yankees won they decided to change all of the names so that they wouldn’t be aligned with the Brits? Either way…here’s the proof that cookies ARE biscuits!

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Butter, sugar and dates, a match made in date cake heaven

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One of my experiments with making apple butter with no added sugar. The end results are scrumptious. All I did was simmer these apples and those dates together till they turned into mush and all of the liquid evaporated leaving me with a delicious caramel flavoured apple paste that can be used in all kinds of things…now I just need to experiment to find out what!

After having to align dialogue and audio to our latest media assessment I am officially disillusioned with my voice. I was labouring under the false apprehension that I had the dulcet tones of a radio announcer. I learned that the reality is that my voice is a sad cross between Steve Irwin and Denise Scott. I realise that most of my dear constant readers have NO idea who Denise Scott is. Denise Scott is a wonderful Aussie comedienne “of a certain age” who much like myself grew up prior to mummies being concerned about their daughters sounding like Aussie fishwives and who just let us drawl our way into adulthood when our ingrained speech patterns could no longer be dealt with even by the likes of one Henry Higgins…sigh…here is a picture of Denise.

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Denise is the one on the left. The other “lady” is Judith Lucy, they are seen here in their Short and Girly show. Hopefully they won’t be too grumpy that I used this image. I consider it promotional material and as a blog that supports strange and interesting (the feminine equivalent of “windswept and interesting”…) women I consider it my duty to promote their show…(do you think I got away with it? 😉 ). I think I might need to make myself one of those costumes by the way…I need something to wear out on my 50th birthday…

And here is a 17.35 minute Youtube video of Denise in prize form. Feel free to just listen to her Aussie drawl and picture narf7 hiding under the bed with Earl or if you have 17.35 minutes to spare you can sit down, grab a cuppa and laugh your bollocks off at Denise doing what only an Aussie Sheila of “a certain age” is able to do. I promise you, you won’t regret donating 17.35 minutes of what is left of your life to this healthy pursuit…what have you got to lose folks? 😉

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nk5KkGs_SE

And here is what she sounds like. I am going to post a link to our animation. I am NOT going to post the audio quotient of it. After listening to Denise Scott you will know why. I am officially traumatised by this whole experience and after posting my assessment off to my lecturer I am going to slither under the bed with Earl to share 2 pints of good ice cream and I might even let Earl lick the spoon with me…

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Earl telling Steve that his dirty socks might be past their use by date…

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The gallon jar of New Yorker chocolate chip cookies that I found the recipe for on Pinterest. It is good for some things aside from wasting time 😉

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More excess kefir grains…these things just keep on getting bigger and breeding! I put the teaspoon next to them to show you the size of them. If living most of the time in non-dairy milk is harming them I can’t see how 😉

Not only did I have to upload my Aussie drawl to my lecturer but I had to do something technical unsupervised! I may just have burned down the house by accident folks…I had to download Google Drive so that I could share Steve’s animation (MUCH bigger than mine) with our lecturer because it exceeded the size limit on our TAFE website. I also had to zip our animations involving me first finding where “zip” was on our computer (admittedly I IMMEDIATELY phoned Steve up knowing that he was still in phone range and able to be reached), second putting the animations and their accompanying movie clip into the zip folder and thirdly sending the zip off. As mentioned, mine was small enough to slip under the TAFE Nazi size limit ruler but Steve’s was well over the limit. As he is over the limit, Google can “Drive”. Get it? I made a pun folks. Well “I” thought it was funny! ;). All of this technology has my brain whirling and I don’t know how to “share” Steve’s uploaded document in Google Drive with our lecturer! I just sent of a missive to him dumping it fair and square into his lap. You want me to wantonly engage in random technology sir, you show me how!

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How pretty is where we live? This was taken by my humble little Fuji point and click camera off our deck last evening as the sun was starting to set. This makes all of the blackberries, the weeds, the rocks, the clay, the everything else (possums and wallabies I almost forgot them!) worth it 🙂

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I zoomed in on Redman Island so that you could see the reflections in the water. I want to get a kayak and pootle around these waters, a great way to get upper body and back strength…I had best get an industrial sized life jacket as I can’t swim 😉

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A little clump of lilies up for another year down in the wilderness part of the garden

Next I have to wait indoors near the telephone. Steve ordered some camera cleaning fluid, some camera cleaning swabs and a blower to hoof the miniscule specks from his new camera lens so that it no longer looks like it has measles in every photo. He was unaware that heading out at night time in the freezing cold trying (unsuccessfully) to get an elusive shot of the Aurora Australis would result in no image and a whole lot of water spots. They certainly don’t tell you about THIS when you are paying over a considerable portion of your children’s inheritance to purchase a new DSL camera do they! I will keep my little point and click any day rather than have to either pay someone $100 to clean the lens or learn the precarious art of “how not to stuff up your DSL lens and have to buy a new camera”.

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This is a Brachychiton populnea that we grew from seed. We have lots more like this one and it has been planted next to a large specimen that is on it’s last legs thanks to borer predation

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Another Brachychiton, this time a rupestris or “Queensland Bottle Tree”. A lovely little specimen that we also grew from seed. They aren’t supposed to grow down here…this little man has other ideas about that!

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You probably can’t see the “canopy” of this Brachychiton. It’s a discolour and has taken off like topsy. It was half this size when we planted it earlier in the year and it absolutely LOVED our hot dry summer. In the background you can see our inherited tractor. One day it will get fixed but for now lets just call it an oversized piece of garden art and be done with it!

Back to the story…I got sidelined…never happened to me before in my life! 😉 So he ordered his innocuous enough products from Melbourne, just over the brine from us and discovered that it couldn’t be sent in the post because camera cleaning fluid is listed on the “DANGER WILL ROBINSON” list of things not to send through the post. O…k… so it had to be sent via the ferry and then delivered by a local franchise of “Star Track” a delivery service. He ordered the products on Monday and on Thursday he got a card left in the mail saying “signature needed”…sigh… so he phoned up Star Track and the nice receptionist pulled up the details and told him that all he had to do was leave the signed card in the mailbox and Bob would be our ubiquitous uncle. He dumped the card into the mailbox and headed down on Friday to find another card in the mailbox along with the first. This one had “SIGNITURE REQUIRED!!” underlined 3 times…so we phoned and found out that apparently this humble little delivery requires an electronic signature from the customer…sigh…just wondering why the receptionist couldn’t have told us that at the time? We phoned…again…and were told that they would redeliver on Monday…today. I said “get them to phone me 10 minutes before they get here so that I don’t have to camp on a deck chair for the entire day awaiting their majestic presence.”

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This is an Indian Hawthorn. They are quite happy in dry conditions and so this one is doing really well here on Serendipity Farm

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If you want something that you can use as a hedge, that is an Australian native and that could care less about cold, dry, wet, clay, sand whatever you want to throw at it get yourself a Westringia fruticosa. They will grow on a hot tin roof

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This is a grevillea. Not sure which one but I think they must be endemic to Tassie because there are lots of them around here growing in the wild.

Is anyone out there getting the picture that Steve isn’t here today? Well he isn’t! He is off with a mate and has left poor narf7 to cope, alone, with nightmares of technology swirling in my head…sort of the anti-sugarplums of the Christmas story AND I have to hightail it down the driveway to sign a card by some pompous delivery guy that I am most DEFINITELY going to give stink-eye to when he gets here! That means that I can’t walk Earl until the parcel has been signed for and delivered…that means the furniture isn’t safe. So far he has satisfied his testosterone by barking at the feral cats from the deck several times and forcing Bezial to play rough house with him. I know that soon it isn’t going to be enough to roll Bezial over on his back (pretending to be dead all the time) like a turtle and he is going to start nudging my elbow and bringing toys for me to chase him with around the house. Ignore that at your own peril narf7!

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A large clump of Dracena with a large palm tree peeking out from behind it

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The same palm tree taken from the other side and surrounded by Senna…yes…the kind that yields pods to be used for limbering up your digestive tract 😉

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This is a Mahonia or Oregon Grape. It is just starting to flower and after flowering it will produce electric blue fruit that jam can be made from. Last year I left the fruit too long and something scoffed it so this year I am going to keep checking and jam shall be MINE!

I experimented on the weekend. I made a batch of date paste like I normally do and then I decided to use up 3kg of small granny smith apples that were threatening to go over to the dark side and make applesauce. As I was pouring boiling water over my dried dates I suddenly had an epiphany moment…”what if I added a packet of dried dates to the applesauce? What if I then cooked them both down till they were thick and reduced and made an apple/date paste?”…good thinking narf7! So I did. And then I went all experimental again and did it with pumpkin and dates. I love the flavour of both of them but think that the pumpkin butter might just need some spice to give it more oomph. I have 11 jars of unctuous brown thick all natural fruit based pastes in my fridge to be used in all kinds of ways over the next week or two. I might try making my non-dairy kefir with some… I might also mess around with soaking almonds and making raw almond butter out of them which I inadvertently managed to do while I was trying to process some soaked almonds to make almond flour the other day. After using half of the almond paste to make my friand’s and crossing my fingers that they would work out (which they did) I then wondered how to use the rest of the paste? I tasted it and it was lovely so I added some date paste to it and used it in my morning pumpkin porridge.

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Here’s part of the reason why the wilderness area remains a wilderness area. That is a HUGE palm tree behind those blackberries…whatever lives underneath it is welcome to it! 😉

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A very trustworthy dog having a bit of a sniff around outside our front gate. I am standing at our front gate taking this image and the river is just on the opposite side of the road

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If you thought that growing azaleas was hard and that they were delicate think again! This azalea has spent the last 20 years down at the bottom of the property with bucklies and NONE chance of getting supplemental water. It seems to be happy enough with it’s aggie mates. Mass planting keeps soil moisture in and that’s what I plan on doing here…planting the wazoo out of Serendipity Farm so that it naturally forms cycles of growth and decomposition that perpetuate the cycles. All I have to do is get those cycles going…(and get myself motivated! 😉 )

The fully enclosed garden is scratching on my subconscious. I can feel it reminding me that all of the various seeds that I have littered all over Serendipity Farm are going to need to be planted out soon so that I can get them into the garden for the start of spring. Frankly, that’s a terrifying thought! We are still missing a wall, a gate and the roof at the moment and nothing much has happened up in the garden since I last posted about it aside from the odd chook invasion. We are being promised 3C days for the foreseeable future and our workload is conveniently huge allowing me to bury myself in study and avoid the fact that there are entire decomposing trees inside the 3 standing walls of the veggie garden where in a few short months some crazed idealistic part of me has visions of green fecundity. I wish I had bought more ice cream…”MOVE OVER EARL I AM COMING IN!” 😉

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Another one of our leaf piles, this one full of decomposing oak leaves under one of Glad’s massive big oak trees. Bezial had a bit of a dig, and is enjoying his freedom

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Here is the reason why you didn’t get a closeup of those snowdrops. Mr E decided that he absolutely POSITIVELY had to follow Bezial and as he weighs more than half my body weight, I didn’t have much say in the matter 😉

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Bezial investigating.

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In a few short months this entire area will be completely covered with lush green oak tree branches and you won’t be able to see the water. Deciduous trees give you a lot of bang for your buck when it comes to landscaping and are well worth their upkeep 🙂

I am in the process of writing a weekly post for a wonderful conglomerate blog called “Not Dabbling in Normal”. As you can see by the name of it, I am perfectly cut out to post in this blog. I am waiting on one of the co contributors to get back to me to show me around the ropes but at the moment I am footloose and fancy free on Mondays for now. With Steve off and gallivanting around the countryside I can get down to working my way through our next study unit. There won’t be any Steve to call on when I undoubtedly hit a brick wall so I am going to have to suck up my bolshie Luddite ways and just try to work it out for myself.  It would seem that the universe is telling me to “get over” my Pinterest addiction. The problem with Pinterest is that it is a combination of pretty pictures (the lure) with the added bonus of taking you (usually) someplace that you can find what you are after; usually a recipe or a pattern thus taking away from time spent searching nicely. That makes it highly addictive to knowledge hounds like narf7. I have been spending a bit too much time on there hunting and pinning and suddenly I find that Pinterest is having a few problems. It won’t let me pin! It’s not just me, it’s happening all over the place so I am being guided forcefully by the universe to get back on track and stop living my life in a delicious online community where I get to control the knowledge flow, again, like crack to we little black duck knowledge hounds 😉

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The Ash trees are telling me that it is going to be spring soon

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The one image that Mr E would allow me to take of the new veggie garden before we hurtled off after Bezial. Note the dead trees that need to be cut up as base material for garden beds

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This is what our entire first paddock looks like…sheoak needles all scratched up to blazes thanks to a herd of marauding chooks that must have drumsticks of iron with all of the energy and passion that they put into it…they certainly take their job seriously 😉

The veggie garden is calling me. I have been taking the dogs for a bit of a walk around the property lately and the veggie garden is telling me in no uncertain terms that I need to get bums up in it. I have trees to cut up and use to layer in the base of garden beds. I have that mountain of horse poo that is mouldering away nicely and I have piles of leaves with tarpaulins all over them waiting to be distributed nicely over the branches and the horse poo. I also have a plethora of loose chooks all doing their level best to scratch up everything inside the area. We have to get 4 more poles sunk (a new addition but needed to support the netting over the top and the fat possums that are going to try to trampoline their way down to my precious vertical growing veggies) and the final net wall up (already cut and ready to put up) and then get the door (donated by our good friend Jen, she who used to be in the witness protection but who can be outed with impunity now) up and suddenly that space will be all mine :o). I will be hauling rocks from all over the property to form garden beds. We have lots and LOTS of rocks. We are positively rich in rocks and for once, I am happy about it! We also have a new shower screen door that a friend gave us from a recent renovation. Our current shower screen door was from the early 80’s and wants to keep coming off its rails whenever you least expect it. This is a solid toughened glass door that opens out and allows you out of the shower where our current door sometimes doesn’t without a fight! We didn’t have to pay for it and it is in amazingly good condition…BONUS!

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This is the first paddock, the back bush block is just behind that fence to the rear of the image. You can see that there are rocks…these are only the rocks on the surface…once you try digging you are always going to find more of them to add to the piles…sigh…

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Our humble little home :o)

I have just about hit the 2800 mark that tells me it’s time to stop waffling and time to bugger off and let you good folk have a break. We have had some gloriously sunny days here in Northern Tasmania, frigid but sunny. Brunhilda is my new champion and has been working for us this year and has been on a nice lean diet of lovely dry wood keeping her happy and productive and very economical. It has only taken me 2 years to learn how to manage her but finally we are at a point where we can work together and both enjoy the benefits. I don’t think of her as an inanimate object, I think of her as a friend :o). Well, that 2800 mark just got crossed and it is time to let you head off dazed and confused after another assault by the literary equivalent of a rush attack by narf7. Have a great day/week and remember to stop and admire the daisies, the bees LOVE them and there is a daisy for every single climactic condition on earth…I wouldn’t be surprised to see them on the moon! ;). See you next Wednesday folks :o)

Invasion of the Choko

Hi All,

It’s 3.13am Thursday morning and I have decided to tap away here for a little bit because I am waiting for my RSS Feed Reader to load. After it reached 525 posts and my eye started to twitch involuntarily I decided to head off for a bit and distract myself. Steve and I are juggling studies and dog walking with our annual winter wind-down. I have almost knitted a pair of gauntlets. I live in the knitting world between day and night. I spend a few short moments of my time knitting furiously before I start to fall asleep and have to lay my needles down and go to bed. Usually I am pretty tired by this point and have to make sure that my half asleep brain remembers to put the knitting back into my knitting bag and hide it in the spare room. There are always a pair of eyes watching me when I knit. I must admit, the pair of eyes has learned not to jump on me and steal my wool while I am knitting. I figure the pair of eyes turning 3 this year might be part of it but it is a small victory and something to be celebrated. When I was untangling the wool that I got from my daughter earlier in the week (and no Bethany, you STILL can’t have it back! 😉 ) he trotted past the tangled heap on the table and did a classic double take. He trotted back in a most interested way and after I told him “NO” he trotted off to a safe distance away (obviously my “NO” has a personal space…) and proceeded to watch me like a hawk for any signs that my defences were down and he could launch in to take possession of the delicious tangle of fun on the kitchen table. Alas…my defences didn’t drop and he didn’t even get to sniff the wool.

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As soon as Earl realised that I had picked up my camera to take a picture of him completely upside down with his legs in the air, both he and Bezial decided to turn away…party poopers!

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Steve thinks I am not going to use this photo and the next one. Earl is looking decidedly demented in this shot 😉

Earl isn’t like other dogs. Earl is as close to a wild dog as you are going to get without adopting a wolf. Up until now we have often felt like we are walking a tightrope with him because he just did what he wanted to do and we didn’t know how to deal with it. There were times when we first bought Earl when I would look into his eyes and see “alien”. He just felt completely and utterly foreign to me. Not a dog, sort of a bunch of muscles from mars. After numerous attempts to try to train him he seemed untrainable. It would be easy to think that Earl was stupid. He doesn’t listen, he eats the furniture and even after the humans go spare he still does what he wants. Nothing worked and unlike Bezial, he didn’t learn from his mistakes, he just kept making them.  He obviously thinks he rules the roost but something has happened to Earl over the last 6 months. He has decided that he loves us. He even loves his fat old sofa buddy Bezial. In allowing himself to love us he has also allowed himself to start fitting in to the hierarchy here. He is starting to listen to commands. “NO” is something he understands now. I don’t ever think he didn’t understand “NO” I just think he chose not to worry about it. Now he wants to please us and get cuddles and have us say “Good Dog!” and pat him. Earl is an attention hog. He loves nothing more than being loved and it’s lucky that Bezial could care less about cuddles because Earl is always there to lap up any attention that anyone wants to give him.

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I think this is priceless…all 3 of my boys looking completely and utterly doo-lally! SHHH! Stop laughing…Steve will hear you! 😉

Now the following image isn’t going to make an OUNCE of sense to anyone outside of Australia and of a “certain age” but here it is anyway…doesn’t Milo bear a canny resemblance to Steve in this image?! 😉

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If Steve EVER finds this post it could be enough reason for a divorce! 😉

Where I said earlier that it would be easy to think that Earl was stupid I meant that he never seemed to learn anything. We spent 6 months trying to teach him the benefits of shaking hands. He eventually learned it and if you pull out a treat bag that little front paw is straight up in the air. Earl is the least “stupid” dog I know. What Earl is, is his own dog. He might have a feral edge a mile wide but that edge is completely tempered with how a dog should act. The problem is that Steve and I aren’t dogs and Bezial doesn’t think that he is one either and Earl is trying to teach us the ways of the pack. Obviously he is top dog in his pack order but after 3 years he is starting to see that there are benefits in allowing the pink hairless ones to think that they are the boss. There are some quality games to be had when you drop the toy that you are holding. Dropping prey is foreign to a dog. Why would you drop your hard won fluffy squirrel for another dog?! Earl recently showed me how clever he was. He often brings a toy in to the computer in the afternoon and presses it gently onto the knee of whoever is using the computer at the time. It’s his way of saying “a game would be nice around about now, you obviously need to check off that seat before you start to resemble Bezial…” it is also the precursor to his long and convoluted series of stages that he goes through before his meal. He brought the toy to me and pressed it onto my knee looking up at me with enormous doe eyes. Earl is VERY good at doe eyes. Nature gave him Chinese eyes but he has learned to open them wide and can melt hearts with those eyes. I think it’s the fact that you don’t expect that adoration and innocence from that body.

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Admittedly this doesn’t look tasty. It looks like something that might once have been tasty but that has passed through the digestive tract of the enjoyer and is on it’s way to the sewer. It is, however, delicious! This is date paste that has had a good slug of Jack Daniel’s, a splosh of Hazelnut liqueur, a glug of Stones Green Ginger Wine and a gargle in some delicious maple syrup (all with the complete acceptance of my daughters who owned all of these ingredients 😉 ). It tastes like scrumptious smooth fruit mince and I am going to make some coconut vegan vanilla ice-cream and swirl some of this gorgeousness through it.

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This is a choko that has broken it’s banks and that is growing. I am happy for it to grow, in fact, I am ecstatic! Jean of the wonderful blog “allotment adventures” has been waxing lyrically about choko’s for a while now and has reignited my memories of these humble tasteless vegetables. I have eaten them boiled and this is what turned me off them BUT I have also enjoyed them immensely without even knowing that they were in what I ate. They are carriers of flavour, sort of the green vegetable equivalent of tofu (except nothing like it 😉 ). They work well in jams, marmalade and eke out the prize tasty ingredients by being content to stay in the background while the prized fruit shines. Love them or loath them, Serendipity Farm is about to have a choko vine :). Those strange looking things underneath the choko used to be red Jerusalem artichokes. For some reason once I put them into this bowl and they all deflated! The white stuff is not mould but is flour (Steve is a messy cook 😉 )

Earl and I have a special bond. Apparently he sees me as his property. He knows that as “property” I have my disadvantages. One of them is that I go ballistic at a moment’s notice. To own property like me you need to be dedicated. I am like owning an old degrading WW2 bomb, I am unstable and I am dangerous. I might look barnacled and benign but beneath my pock-marked surface I am ticking and Earl knows it. I would like to think that he has decided that I am his mistress. That I rule the roost here and that I am to be listened to but I fear I am barking up the wrong tree and Earl has just decided to let me do what I want to do so long as I keep scratching him in the right places, cuddling him and telling him he is a good boy and I let him sleep at my feet on the bed. There is a whole lot more to Earl’s love than that. I am doing him an injustice there. When Earl loves, he adores. If he was a human he WOULD be a Viking. He would be all man muscular and handsome and when he fell in love it would be that amazing real deal. There would be roses and feet being swept off and forever and lots and lots of fluffy squirrel donations but he isn’t a man, he is a dog and that makes him a little more manageable. He is satisfied with his lot aside from a constant need to be the cream that rises to the top. He knows that Bezial was here first and that Bezial has a part of Steve’s heart that he will never be able to fill. I give Earl that love that he craves and as the only “bitch” in the family I qualify for his undivided attention and Earl IS learning to fit in now. I wouldn’t trust Earl with anything other than a human but with a human I would trust him implicitly. Earl is the sort of dog that you could send your 10 year old child off with and KNOW that nothing was going to happen to them. He instinctively knows how he is supposed to act. There are no fears in Earl (aside from squirty water bottles and a strange terror of noises that come out of mobile phones that send him running) and I know that if any of us, Bezial included, were ever to be attacked he would fight for us to the death. I know that like I know the morning will come. I love Earl and my early fear of his animalistic alien-ness has mellowed to acceptance and real love. We have an understanding now that runs much deeper than the here and now and Earl and I navigate through our day’s one fluffy squirrel at a time.

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Lastly…you tell ME how you pronounce that without the library lady jumping over her desk and washing your mouth out with soap! 😉

Sorry about the bad photo but it was raining and a bit dark today so the flash kept going off. Here’s todays library haul. James Wong is a legend and the other 2 books are some recipe books that I have been interested in messing about with. The black book has some most interesting recipes in it “crack pie” and “cereal milk ice cream” are only 2 of the choices but I am having fun going through the yellow book that has recipes for making your own ramen…now who wouldn’t want to know how to make good quality ramen!

It’s windy and rainy and thundery and lightning and absolutely LOVELY! It’s great to have a bit of foul weather for once and to know that it really is winter. The weather worldwide seems to have become somewhat confused. Steve and I have been so grateful that we bought Brunhilda when we did. She is certainly paying for herself now with endless hot water, free cooking and house warming. We have been cracking through our media course and are learning heaps about Adobe Flash and have recently been animating household objects. Steve animated his coffee cup and I animated a set of 3 Babushka dolls that I picked up somewhere. Lots of fun and another feather in our caps should we ever need to look like Indian Chiefs. I am lusting after getting out into our new veggie garden. I need to source some hay but at the moment we are starting to prep ourselves for the impending visit of friends and family for my rapidly approaching “big” birthday. There is snow on Mount Wellington Kymmy! We can go up together and make a snowman. I want to post a picture of Kym and I making a snowman and throwing snowballs at each other (not sure how I am going to take a photo of us BOTH throwing snowballs but hey, leave it with me! 😉 ). My sister Pinky is coming over as is the son-and-heir and his Texan sweetie Kelsey so there will be quite a few more than usual hovering around Serendipity Farm.

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Here’s my gauntlets so far. It’s just about time to swap over to that brown wool so I am going to have to bite the bullet and cast off!

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These are my daughter Bethany’s. I forgot to take them off when I borrowed them the other day and only remembered halfway home so Steve will be taking them back on shopping day. I wonder if anyone out there would know where I could find a pattern (and the knitting ability) to make a pair of these? I LOVE them!

Steve headed off and took a few motion blur images of Glad’s little waterfall that runs through her property. She was out raking leaves (not bad for 91) and said “Knock yourselves out!” when we asked her if she minded us taking photos. She recently burned the junction where the waterfall meets the outflow pipe (into the Tamar River) to remove all of the oak leaves that were clogging it and its lucky that she did because this recent rain has caused the stream to flow wonderfully and it would have backed up into her garden if it was full of leaves. The roosters are crowing in unison under the deck. I wouldn’t care so much if they weren’t situated directly underneath me. They are big roosters and those large lungs are apparently there to increase the noise. We just discovered that one of the smaller “hens” is a rooster. It is going to be a most beautiful rooster because it is a cross between Big Yin (a standard golden Wyandotte rooster) and one of Effel Dookarks offspring (She was a blue Wyandotte) and it has a lovely grey tail. We might even keep him and see what he looks like. The other 2 are living on borrowed time. We were recently given the bones from a piglet purchased from a local producer by our friends. They were ostensibly for the dogs but Earl is “funny” about bones and when he saw how many bones were on offer he started to strut around and we decided to stop a problem (with Bezial) before it occurred. He got a couple of bones (that he promptly ran off to hide with his nose) and the rest went into a stockpot with lots of water while I was away. If I had been here, I would have done something with them but Steve just let them simmer till they reduced down to about ¼ of their original weight and the next day they had turned to jelly. The dogs didn’t want to even contemplate eating it. They are VERY fussy for big dogs. The feral cats got it all and enjoyed every single jelly filled mouthful. I think Steve just made instant canned cat food…”Jelly meat anyone?” 😉

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Here’s the back of them. Note the cute mitt conversion kit that…

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Flips over when you need your fingers to be warm

I am just finishing off todays post whilst waiting for my RSS Feed Reader to download todays haul. I have dumped a few peripheral blogs that I no longer read and am tailoring my blog feeds to what I am now interested in. My interests tend to evolve on a regular basis but revolve predominately around vegan food and recipe blogs and baking sites along with some gardening and environmental sites. Most of the blogs that I follow post infrequently which is amazingly lucky for me because I have so many of them. I have almost managed to get back to a maintenance level where I empty my feeds every day. It takes me about a week of intensive shuffling to do it after a weekend away. I am going to have a LOT of feeds after my week with Kym but there is an option called “The Panic Button” that you can press that eliminates all posts older than a specified date (you choose) so I might just have to get ruthless on them or die trying to eliminate them. My choko is sprouting nicely, my gauntlets are almost finished and now I found a tutorial reminding me how to cast off, I should be able to finish them soon :o). That should tell you how long it has been since I last knitted! We are enjoying using rainwater in our kettle to make our daily beverages now. I also use it to make my kefir. I have been batching up my excess non-dairy kefir and freezing it in ice-cube trays ready for warmer times when I can get back to drinking green smoothies for breakfast without sustaining frost bite of the lip.

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These are my lovely rainbow wool socks that my son bought for me one mothers day a few years ago. Earl “redecorated” them :(. I am in the process of pulling what is left of them apart, re-joining the hand dyed wool together and then I might just attempt to recreate a pair of those lovely hooded mitts. I know that they will probably be HUGE and I won’t be able to do or feel anything with them but as they are chunky wool, at least I won’t have cold hands!

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The biscuit barrel is starting to get low…time to bake some more! That’s my non-dairy kefir doing its thang next to the bickies

I just found an excellent blog site (that I promptly added to my feed 😉 ) all about making and using worm wicked water beds. An excellent resource and here is the website for anyone interested in this wonderfully water-wise way of vegetable gardening…

http://www.jas49580.blogspot.com.au/

And here’s another great blog with free PDF’s about soil mycology and how to build and use water wicking veggie garden beds. You can now get an idea why I never manage to get entirely through my RSS Feed Reader…I keep finding new and amazingly useful sites! 😉

http://www.wickingbed.com/

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This is one of Steve’s sponge cakes. He just tossed this one together for a friends birthday tomorrow. He will be taking orders when he recovers from the effort 😉

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I KNEW this choko had designs on taking over Serendipity Farm! This image was taken this afternoon…the image at the beginning of the post was taken about 2 hours earlier…it is growing exponentially! By Wednesday we will all be trapped inside and it will be demanding to be fed…actually…look at the end of it. it bears an uncanny resemblance to “Audrey” from The Little Shop of Horrors!

It would seem that I have fallen prey to the dreaded lurgy folks. Not bad, but definitely making me feel tender and sniffy. How lucky am I that I can settle down next to Brunhilda and fall asleep over my knitting or a book. Steve is off hunting Aurora Australis somewhere in Deviot. Apparently there are sun spots at the moment and that means a greater than average chance (60% if you care) of seeing the Aurora Australis from the Southern states of Australia. As Tassie is about as far south as Australia gets (apart from our vested interests in Antarctica…) we have a good viewpoint. Steve has plans for taking some time-lapse photography tomorrow involving the river and some yachts. This wind brings the yachters out en masse. I think I might be just about to call this post done and dusted folks. Today has been “smooth”. Not bad to be smooth when you are sick, just coasting along and nothing major…just “smooth”. Tomorrow will hopefully be just as smooth and won’t have me crusty and with a handkerchief permanently welded to my nasal area. Wish me luck and see you on Wednesday :o)

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At least if the choko manages to eat me, it will get its just deserts! 😉

Green Tea, Chainsaws, Moonshine and Redneck Rock down on the farm…

Hi All,

A terrifying thing has just happened…I headed to my “Blog” folder on my PC to look for the beginnings of a blog post. I usually have one or two ideas stuffed up my collective sleeve (I collect things in my sleeves so I am allowed to abuse the vernacular, mostly dirt and dog hair but whatchagonnado when you live on 4 acres out in the bush?) but today I found nada. Nada isn’t a good start folks…nada…zip…zilch…whatever you want to call it means that narf7 has to pull her finger out and get cracking with something for her dear constant readers to pore over with a microscope (you don’t? I am assured many do! 😉 ) for a Wednesday. Hump day arrives and narf7 has responded by being in recovery from her complete and utter addiction to Pinterest last week and by actually doing some work for once. Yesterday I spent the day removing rope and sundry “things” from a massive length of ex-fish-farm netting. The sundry things consisted of a huge amount of sludgy green algae (I removed it with that collective sleeve I mentioned earlier…), assorted chook manure that I kept finding thanks to the chooks being out now and most curious about what I was doing, several white plastic rings that I have NO idea what they were meant for but that made Steve excited to be the new owner of (for “own” read “throw in shed to make more mess…) along with so much thick nylon rope people are going to start talking about us unless I decide to find a tutorial for how to make a hammock that has a half-life.

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Here’s the view from the deck looking over the water at 7.30am on Monday morning and Steve just caught the sun coming up…

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And this is exactly the same spot the last image was taken but at 7am on Tuesday morning…it doesn’t look like the same place does it?! Anyone else think that we are in for a bit of rain in the near future? ;). Note, neither of these images have been Photo shopped.

We have been busy collecting wood and waiting for rain. We have various piles of debris on Serendipity Farm that we would like to imagine that we left there for the specific purpose of allowing the leaves to fall from the branches and mulch the denuded soil, harvesting smaller branches for a hugelkultur base for our soon to be realised ENORMOUS fully enclosed veggie garden (typing that just made me tired…) and for harvesting the larger portions for making Brunhilda the equivalent of a tasting platter. In reality we just piled them up whilst doing the metaphorical equivalent of putting our fingers in our ears and yelling “I CAN’T HEAR YOU” loudly…over and over again. Now we have to deal with our metaphoricals in a more physical way and after poring over ideas to make me look like I am a clever and savvy horticulturalist, environmentalist and permaculturist (all the “ists”) I came up with the idea to use the big bits for firewood. It’s amazing how much wood you actually get out of piles of ex shrubs. Steve and I know…we have been harvesting it all week.

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Ferals enjoying the autumn leaves

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The maple tree has finally started dropping it’s lovely red leaves

The weather for our winter so far (all 5 days of it) has been that glorious mix of crispy squeaky cold mornings and lovely sunny days. I love weather like this. It makes you feel clear headed and full of purpose (even when you aren’t and are just dragging along behind an overexcited dog hell bent on urinating on every shrub he sees). Today we cut more ex-fish farm netting and we collect more firewood. It might not sound interesting but when it all comes together it is both productive and delicious. I have been cooking a lot lately. Lots of wholesome soups and delicious Stromboli’s and my mind is starting to turn to food adventures. I am considering making a sweet Stromboli. How does adding some more sweetener to the dough and some kind of dried fruit and sweet spice sound? How about when I flatten it out (easiest dough to work with folks…) I spread over some grated apple and cinnamon sugar or grated chocolate and orange zest or jam and more sultanas, but this time they have been soaked in rum? Then I roll it all up, tuck in the ends and bake it for the sake of a happy man. I could call it “Stromboli Poly” and could serve it with custard and thick pouring cream. I reckon it’s a date!

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As you can see, we aren’t short of a few leaves here on Serendipity Farm. Do you like where we chose to put the craypot we got for $5 from the progressive garage sale?

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A close up of a vegans nightmare 😉

I got up at 2am this morning. I don’t know if it was the pressing need to write a blog post or just that my mind is a bit twitchy today. I am off to my daughters this weekend and my brain has gone into planning overload. I want to bake up a storm. On the phone yesterday my youngest daughter Bethany told me that they had bought me a tray of friand pans and had also bought me some Matcha green tea powder. They couldn’t find me any locally so they imported it from China! The food miles are prohibitive but apparently I have a certificate with my bag of fluffy green powder to assure me that it is “Genuine Green Tea”. I can only begin to imagine why they would feel the need to issue a certificate with their green tea…I don’t want to imagine it any more…all roads lead to adultered milk powder with stirred in spirulina ;). We are going to have a great time this weekend and I am taking the ingredients for making waffles over with me. I am also going to take the ingredients for friand. Apparently “Friand” is a peculiarly Aussie word for the French “Financier”. They are one and the same thing but we Aussies love to take something and make it our own (just ask the New Zealanders, they have been saying that we pilfered lamingtons, pavlovas and goodness only knows what else from them for years! 😉 ). I have been lusting after friand pans for a while now and whilst I can’t justify buying a set of pans for a single use, I CAN accept them as a gift 😉

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Steve has had Stromboli’s on a regular basis ever since we trialled them for The Virtual Vegan Potluck last month. As an Omni, he has smoked csabai and bacon and feta on his Stromboli’s along with grated cheddar cheese which I hadn’t grated on yet in this picture. This is the Stromboli pre-roll…

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And here it is post roll. You get a good look at our kitchen in the background. That board resting on the floor was designed to fit snuggly over the gas cooktop on that section of cupboards to the left at the rear of this image so that we can use it for extra preparation space. We don’t use this cooktop much in winter as Brunhilda is on pretty much 24/7 so it’s a good idea to utilise the wasted space when we need it the most, when we are up to our armpits in bread dough etc. over the cold winter months.

I have to report to you that Steve will be my guest poster on Saturday. I was twitching about having to get this post AND Saturdays post done yesterday and Steve gallantly came to the rescue. Steve is an attention hog folks…don’t let his mild mannered beatific smile lure you into any false pretences that this man is a benign sideliner…no sooner is my back turned then he has plans for this space. Apparently he is going to give you a history lesson for Tasmania “Steve style”. I just wanted to mention here that I can’t be held responsible for any content that my wonderful quirky Aquarius husband inserts here on Saturday…just hold onto your rollercoaster seat and get ready for a decidedly “side left” experience! I have given him free range so long as he doesn’t go on about religion and politics. He seemed a bit crestfallen there as just about everything going on in Tasmania at the moment has something to do with both and that is where he got the idea about history…you can’t go wrong with historical events…they have already been and Wikipedia has more than enough of them for the average bear. He didn’t really like what Wikipedia said. It bored him. He is easily bored so he is going to rectify that by adding in his own interpretation on events. Good luck…make SURE to affix your safety belts and don’t tell me you weren’t warned when I get back here on Wednesday 😉

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Glad allowed us to take a few shots of her driveway when we were talking to her the other day. See all of those leaves? That’s about 1/8th of the leaves to be raked and claimed by yours truly :). I love it when helping your neighbour is also helping yourself :). The road you can see at the end of Glad’s driveway drops off straight into the river on the other side.

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Aren’t these oaks lovely? The minister for the Auld Kirk church next door to us was buried in Glad’s garden somewhere as her home used to be the church manse. I wonder if Glad knows where he is?

I’m back. Did you miss me? I have been outside collecting wood and cutting net while the sun shone which wasn’t all that long to be honest but at least we were able to get some of what we wanted done. Steve has been wrestling with his chainsaws which have both apparently gone on strike. I decided to retreat to the safety of the house to protect my delicate ears from the ensuing stream of profanity and decided to finish off this post. I have fed Audrey and she is ruminating nicely on the kitchen bench. I like to give her a little bit of time out in the warmth of the kitchen to make up for the fact that she pretty much lives in the fridge. I have also transferred my milk kefir grains from their twice weekly dunking in “real” milk to a container of homemade soy milk made from organic beans and date paste. The grains LOVE date paste. I have been watching them closely to see if there was going to be any negative connotations with putting them into non-dairy milk on a long term basis but haven’t seen anything yet. If anything, they appear to grow faster when they live like this. I guess they know that they are going to have a nice holiday in regular milk every couple of days and have decided to make the best of it. I get the feeling that certain sections of the yeast/bacteria symbiosis that forms the complex relationship we know as kefir grains love nothing more than fruit sugar. I had read that you can double ferment kefir by adding fruit to the finished result for the kefir grains to continue to feed on. I use date paste because they seem to like it a lot. They actively feed on it whenever they are added to the date sweetened soymilk and I have started to get adventurous with my combinations

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I was talking to Roxy, our friend who lives down the road on the way past her home yesterday and as she volunteers in the local Beaconsfield thrift shop I asked her to keep her eyes open for any hand knitted jumpers that I could buy and unpick for the wool. She said “hang on a minute” and came out with a bag of wool. This bag contains 5 balls of a lovely khaki green wool. Not sure what I am going to make with it but I think I might make Steve some fingerless gauntlets

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She also gave me a large bag of hand spun wool that she had spun herself. I will be making myself some gauntlets out of this gorgeousness. I love sharing. We gave Roxy and Guy a whole lot of potted plants to plant out on their property and Roxy, in turn has been very generous back with veggies and this lovely wool. Developing community allows one mans trash to become another mans treasure. Roxy said that she had knitted herself enough beanies, gloves and scarves to last her a lifetime and I was welcome to the rest of the wool. I will try my hardest to do it justice. Any suggestions for patterns (pointing me in the right direction online) would be most gratefully listened to 🙂

I am not all that sure that my adventurousness is being rewarded. I have combined the finished kefir with some homemade coconut milk that I made a while ago (from fresh coconut meat not dried) and promptly put into the cold part of the fridge and promptly forgot all about. I found it the other day when I was hunting for cheese for a sandwich for Steve. I opened the top and it didn’t smell “bad” so I decided to throw it into the kefir mix. Not so sure it was a good move…it tastes nice but it seems to have added something explosive to my kefir mix. The kefir has started to bulge alarmingly in its 3 litre plastic milk container. I opened it this morning and the lid blew off! It is über fizzy, tastes lovely and as I have been adding more date paste to keep the mixture fermenting it is certainly using what I give it. I figure that I have made a sort of date, coconut and soy hooch. I tossed in a bit of leftover almond and oat milk this morning and the kefir assimilated it like the Borg. I don’t know what I have created but I feel like Dr Frankenstein once he lost control of his creation…it may yet go over to the dark side and need euthanising but for now, it’s great fun and so long as I remember to release the gasses from the finished kefir every time I go to the fridge, I shouldn’t have to clean up an almighty mess any day soon. (Note to self…remember to use it all BEFORE you go away for the weekend… 😉 )

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This is what “real eggs” look like folks. Those feathered Somalian pirates do have some benefits. The problem is, it is getting increasingly harder to find where the crafty minxes are laying!

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Remember that tree that rotted and dropped and is being propped up by another tree right next to the house? Well it’s still there…sigh…

The chainsaw just started and kept going so I figure that means “SUCCESS!” and it might be safe to step outside and check if the bit of drizzle that we have had so far is adding anything to our rainwater quotient. Steve now sounds like he is trying to play “The Chainsaw Song” by Jackyl (a band from the 80’s folks…I hadn’t heard of them either…) on one of his long suffering chainsaws. To illustrate what I am talking about here is a link to the song…watch it, and then you will understand what I mean…incidentally…I would like to apologise for the 30 seconds of “Kardashians” that you will be forced to watch before the actual video commences…please feel free to get a bucket in readiness for the inevitable vomit response that will highly likely occur…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A52p9jc-gOo

Now let’s get something straight from the get-go…Steve and I both LOVE this song. We are apparently both Sidmouth Rednecks in the making but manage to stifle it most of the time. You can be sure that we are both jumping around the kitchen for the duration of the song (and I dare you to remain seated…its catchy folks 😉 )…aside from that you might be forgiven for thinking that Bon Scott from ACDC has somehow taken possession of the lead singer of Jackyl…he hasn’t. The man’s name is “Jessie James Dupree” (somehow incredibly fitting) and aside from being a pretty good and most athletic singer in a redneck band, you may have seen him in the heinous approximation of a television show called “Full Throttle Saloon”. Much like Mr David Lee Roth who is also an athletic and very good singer, Mr Dupree seems to be squandering his talents. At least Mr Lee Roth is driving an ambulance…Mr Dupree seems hell bent on getting Mr Lee Roth as much work as he can handle.

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This is an Osteospermum daisy. It is my nemesis. I decided to share this photo with you because they do look pretty but they aren’t welcome here along with their Vinca major mates!

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Since we cleared out all of the competing undergrowth from around this lovely Protea it hasn’t stopped flowering. It’s probably the happiest plant on Serendipity Farm

Steve appears to have a desire to become an aging redneck. His hero is a now deceased man called Popcorn Sutton. Popcorn Sutton made the best moonshine in the U.S. Steve is in awe of the mention of his name. He has an uncanny ability to dance just like Popcorn Sutton and wants me to video him doing his hillbilly shuffle so that we can rotoscope him for posterity. Should this strange (and somewhat disturbing) video ever eventuate, I promise to share it with you all here on The Road to Serendipity, cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye folks! By the way…what is it about half naked men with long hair that appeals to me girls? Give me an 80’s Pearl Jam clip and I am gone! ;).

Here is a “Doodied up” version of Popcorn Sutton dancing…marvel at those moves folks and know that Steve has been studying them intently and can replicate them in minutiae…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E575kEtKRBs

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Finally we see fungus! Anyone who has been hanging around Serendipity Farm and this blog for long enough will know of my undying love and respect for my fungal companions here on planet Earth. I have NO idea what this fungus is, all I know is that they tend to grow on tree stumps and rotting wood in large clumps like this.

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Isn’t this pretty? My love for fungi knows no bounds 🙂

I might make this a slightly shorter post than usual and leave it here folks. It is starting to get late and it’s already almost dark at 2.45 in the afternoon! I have my evening routines to start at 3 when we feed the dogs and everything flows from there till about 7pm when we get to both sit down (after racing around after animals all over the place) and have a well-earned rest. We think Frank and his wife have headed off to Canada as they have been strangely quiet on the Western Front. We did see a good friend who used to work at the Alanvale Polytechnic when we attended horticulture lectures there for 2 years (Hi Nat :o) ) who used to be the head groundskeeper. He wasn’t ANYTHING like Groundskeeper Willie from the Simpsons and was more like Mr MacGyver (Mr Smarty-pants fix it with string…) from the hit television series of the same name that back in 1985. Corey could fix ANYTHING and was/is the most laid back person I have ever met. Today we saw him driving a truck load of gravel for a new house being built right next door to Frank’s house.  So we have impunity to see just how many roosters we can populate Serendipity Farm with in the 6 months that Frank will be absent without leave. Let’s take some bets on how many shall we? The winner takes them all! 😉