Hava nagila!

Hi All,

Aside from being a most catchy song that I have NO idea what the words are and would no doubt make a fistful of Jewish people collapse hysterically laughing on the floor should I EVER be stupid enough to attempt to sing my erstwhile version in their close proximity, the name Hava Nagila means “Let us rejoice”! I have SO much to rejoice that I often feel guilty for having the odd whinge about how rocky our soil is and how many weeds we have here on Serendipity Farm. I just got back from a visit to my daughter’s home in Launceston. I had a really great time with them both and we spent a large proportion of the time that we had together cooking. My daughters are amazing cooks. Neither of them has ever studied technique or worked in the industry but they are very adventurous and tend to pair some very interesting ingredients that I would never think could possibly work together but incredibly…they do! The first night we had chilli. I had vegan chilli made with some ingredients that I had brought along with me (oh ye of little faith! 😉 ) and it was delicious. I think there is still a bowl of it in the girl’s fridge and I am sure that they will find something creative to do with it. On night 2 we had an amazing feast. The girls have recently become enamoured with all things Korean and had purchased some Korean cookbooks and some mixed cookbooks with Korean recipes in them. We decided to have a go at some of the recipes and ended up spending a marathon 5 hours preparing and cooking 12 dishes that were all amazing and that teamed up to make an amazing feast. We made cucumber salads, spinach side dishes, 3 different kinds of “pancakes” ranging from a very normal pancake type batter topped with spring onions (which we couldn’t buy at the local shop and had to sub the next best thing…leek…so from hereon in, wherever I specify “spring onion” you will have to insert “leek” 😉 ) and chillies through to a very inventive recipe using dried split green peas (which we couldn’t find in their local small supermarket on the day we wanted them but found the day after…go figure!) and rice cooked together then pureed and combined with various finely sliced vegetables and cooked like pancakes. The girls eat meat and so made some rice balls filled with smoked salmon and avocado which are technically not Korean and were based on a Japanese recipe BUT they were amazing and I had oyster mushrooms, pickled ginger and avocado in mine. They also had some marinated Korean chicken drumsticks and a pork dish that I can’t quite remember what it was but it looked good. We ended this marathon degustatory event with some simple but incredibly delicious yeasted pancakes that looked more like doughnuts without holes and that were stuffed with crushed palm sugar, roasted peanuts and cinnamon and that were amazing.

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Steve says that this truck is a transformer…the only thing that I can see it transforming is an empty space into a space full of wood chips…

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Another “Steve” shot…apparently this is ANOTHER transformer…I think we are being overrun by them!

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Right behind a new estate in Exeter are the remains of an old abandoned orchard. Steve, Bezial, Earl and I went exploring today and found all different kinds of apples, pears and even a nectarine tree out in the open and just waiting to be scrumped by possums and wayfaring Sidmouth Scrumpers

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By the look on his face, this scrumper has had enough of wandering around old abandoned orchards and wants to return to the civilisation afforded by 2 streets back to the main street 😉

On night 3 we could have been forgiven for having something very simple but not us! We went the way of the home made pizza. The girls used a cookbook that mum had given us last year full of homemade pizza recipes and as I have had more experience cooking with yeast, I made the dough. We made 3 batches of dough because we made a pizza for Steve (because he had obviously been a bit jealous of our cooking exploits over the weekend) and one for the girl’s dog Qi who has an adventurous palate for a dog and who gets very interesting meals. The girls made an almost “regular” type of pizza topped with chicken, a spicy hot salami, pine nuts and “other things” that I didn’t really notice as I was busy slathering tomato paste on pizza bases and ensuring that the cheese flow kept going. They also made an interesting combination of prawns, chicken, various other things (again…applied while I was otherwise occupied so I would only be speculating about exactly what went on) and coconut. I don’t think that Beth was enamoured of this pizza but Madeline seemed to like it. Qi got a meaty pizza and Steve got his favourite things (hot salami, chicken, onion, capsicum, chilli, mushroom and vintage cheese) and he has stashed it in the freezer for a delicious quick meal for the coming week when we have to finish off the chook pen and are too knackered to cook (smart man! 😉 ). I typed out lots of recipes from the cookbooks that the girls purchased and they gave me a couple of CD’s by a Korean band called Winterplay that do some really good covers of popular songs and I will be listening to them whilst trying to wade my way through my 1000+ rss feed reader blog posts that struck terror into even my seasoned mass blog reading heart when I got up this morning. If you would like to hear them and check out just how good this band is you can hear them covering “Don’t know why” a Norah Jones hit and can see why I really like them

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVhzK01Jmq4

That’s my bit for spreading the love people…I would have NEVER heard of this wonderful band if it hadn’t been for my adventurous daughters and their adventurous palates…it’s time spent like the weekend that I just had that reinforce the value of family and of simple time spent together. No matter how ragged or crumpled your family is, it’s the closest thing to “you” that you have. Spend time with your children…spend time with your parents…heal those wounds (if there are any to heal) and get back together with the people that really do matter the most, your own flesh and blood and the people that will tell you the truth (sometimes with great gusto 😉 ). I love you girls and can’t begin to thank you for that wonderful weekend…even Bella Lugosi in Chandu the Magician, a 1932 movie that we watched to fill the Bella free zone that Beth needs to quench on a regular basis. We even watched Lilo and Stitch which I really hadn’t watched before and that I enjoyed disproportionately to what I thought that I would. I especially love this drawing that was on the fridge and that we have used as a family in joke for years without me even having watched the reference for this joke…

http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=2vmiiw4&s=5

In a word, I did all sorts of things that I don’t usually do. I adjusted to Madeline’s stringent washing up rollcall and exactly how to put it back where it goes…I slept with Qi and learned how to contort my middle aged body into the human equivalent of a pretzel to accommodate her desire to spread out over as much of the bed as she could possibly take up and I adjusted my getting up time to fit in with the girls going to bed time. Who would have known…a change really IS as good as a holiday :o)

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Stage 1 of banksia flower development…

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Stage 2…

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and finally stage 3

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If you can avert your eyes from the insect nuptuals going on towards the top of this shot (I can’t pinpoint it exactly for you because I am averting my eyes!), this is a bottlebrush flower

Peter Cundall, Mr organic garden show ABC television presenter himself and who lives not too far away from Serendipity Farm told us that this was going to be a bit of a stinker this summer in Tasmania. Stinker as in heat…not as in smell. I tend to agree with him because things run in cycles and they tend to be 4 yearly in Tasmania. We have mild years and hot years and this just so happens to coincide with our first year in Tasmania where our first full summer was a real eye opener because we thought that we were going to be cold and we discovered just how hot it can be here and our first winter was so cold we got chilblains and didn’t even know what they were.  We are more aware of the seasons here now and know it is going to be hot when we start seeing the cicada husks stuck to the
grass. This year we can hear them getting the band tuned nice and early and by the time mid-summer gets here they will have coordinated themselves into a wall of united stomach rasping. We won’t see them for at least 4 more years because their life cycle takes that long for them to reach adulthood and emerge from under the ground. At least the native birdlife get a “Hava nagila” moment of their own with plenty of free clicking protein for all!

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

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Aside from me looking like I am doing some sort of a sailors hornpipe dance you can begin to get an idea of how lucky we were to get not 1 roll, but 2 of these rolls of ex-fish farm netting. There are about 50 more of them up for grabs and we will be putting our hands up for as many rolls as they would like to let us have. We have also removed that blue rope and are storing it in Steve’s shed for posterity…(I think “posterity” is like “hoarding” 😉 ).

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Looking back the other way towards the house. We will get 4 x 2.5 metre x 20 metre lengths of this netting that should be enough to enclose our wayfaring chooks and keep them from digging halfway to China in their endeavours to have dustbaths all over Serendipity Farm

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One of the Brachychitons that we liberated from anarchy and chaos earlier in the year that hadn’t flowered in years and that is absolutely covered in flowers this year. Now all we have to do is pull all of that dead dodder from around it’s leaves and it might stand a chance of surviving for a few years more

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A cicada husk…one of many (it’s going to be a noisy Christmas this year on Serendipity Farm!)

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A close-up of garnet particles used to sandblast the Batman Bridge before it gets repainted

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Christmas wreath (and all sorts of other project) futures!

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Harvested willow…the rest is up to me!

It’s suddenly Wednesday and after heading over to Exeter to send Steve’s mum a calendar and pick up some library books and giving the dogs a good walk in the process we spent the day productively by measuring one of the large rolls of ex-fish farm netting that we got a little while ago. We were told that it was 20 metres long by 10 metres wide and after measuring it we think it’s probably a good estimate. We should have enough in a single roll to complete our chook shed reno and the other roll can be used to fully enclose our vegetable garden. We have been promised more of this precious commodity in the near future and we are going to get creative with it and use it to protect our small possum weary orchard and other areas that we don’t want the possums to invade. We cut a 2.5 metre wide strip from the first roll using the knives that we bought for grafting. We haven’t grafted much with them but we have at least used them for something! In the process we liberated 20 metres of strong thick nylon rope and tomorrow we will liberate 20 metres more. No idea what we are going to do with all of the rope but you can never have enough rope out in the country ;). After we finished cutting the rope from the netting we folded the netting up and set it aside…part 1 of the chook shed. By the time we finish we will have 4 x 20 metre long segments that we are going to attach to poles that we have already installed where we want to re-educate our chooks into who is the boss around here. It was getting pretty warm under the hole in the ozone layer that is our bright blue sky here in Tasmania so we headed off to put some stakes into the veggie garden to hold our rapidly growing tomatoes and prevent them from lying against the bird netting and being nibbled by waiting varmints. I guess the varmints are pruning the wayfaring branches for us but for now, they have been trussed up and the varmints are going to have to wait. I took a few photos of how our vegetables are going and it’s amazing to see how quickly vegetables will grow when you give them enough sunshine, food and water. The only thing that grows faster is the weeds :o(

We headed over to the East side of the Batman Bridge where there is a free camping ground and a large willow tree just waiting for clever locals to harvest to collect some willow canes to make our Christmas Wreath from. I had a bit of an altercation with a local redneck who had been racially abusing some Chinese tourists but nothing that Earl and I couldn’t handle ;). I heard on the news today that 52% of Tasmanian year 8 students are not able to meet the benchmark for mathematics. That joins our dubious honour of having 1 in 2 native born Tasmanians who can’t read or write adequately. Education needs to be pushed hard in this state. I guess it has worked to our politician’s advantage, up until now, to have an uneducated and unquestioning public who leave politics to the “experts” but now that the forest industry is on the verge of total collapse it is rapidly becoming obvious that most Tasmanians are ill equipped to do anything other than cut down trees with chainsaws and a subclass of bored, unemployed rednecks is going to be a significant problem for tomorrows politicians and the heinously understaffed police force that was cut to the bone recently in a vain attempt to reign in the budget deficit. I sometimes feel like banging my head on the wall when I (stupidly) watch the local news. I am not a particularly politically motivated person but blind Freddy could see just how inept and self-serving our politicians are and the really REALLY scary thing is that there isn’t any viable alternative for us to vote for. It’s equally as scary how quickly I can turn rabid whenever I consider our endemic politicians so I might just stop RIGHT THERE for today :o)

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Some Serendipity Farm “Yellow Nugget” cherry tomatoes

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One bed staked…

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and the other…

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Can anyone “splain” to me why this tomato plant seems hell bent on only growing horizontally? Nick (our ex-long suffering lecturer) took a most entrepreneurial view of our crazy tomato predicament and said “save the seed…make sure it stays true to type and only grows horizontally and then sell it for vertical and hanging baskets…make a fortune!”…cheers Nick, but I think you have us confused for entrepreneurs rather than lazy bums…(our subterfuge worked! 😉 )

We are still getting used to having time on our hands to do things other than study. It has been lovely to get stuck into working around the house and we have even started using the calendar that comes with using Google as our home page to keep us moving in the right direction. I picked up Dawn French’s first fiction work today from the library and am going to give it a whirl around the dance floor and see how she twirls. I also picked up the cold climate permaculture book about Hepburn Springs by David Holmgren because I now have time to read it from cover to cover like it deserves. Helen, the library lady, had put a book aside about making your own beauty products for me. She sometimes sees a book that she thinks that I might like and puts it on the shelf along with my ordered books. Cheers Helen, I like the look of some of the recipes inside and goodness only knows I can do with a slather or two of natural unguents if they will lend me an air of respectability once in a while ;). We have a full week of sorting out the chook house and then finding homes for 20+ hens. If anyone wants some prime year old egg laying (if you can find them 😉 ) hens, let me know. I had entertained giving them the chop and filling our freezer but entertaining and doing are 2 very different things. Roosters can be rationalised but hens in their prime cannot. After we make the chook coop we will be hurling ourselves headlong into all sorts of projects that we isolated from our Tuesday meeting where we had a bit of a confab about what direction we wanted to go in (preferably forwards) and how setting a few goals might actually cause us to follow through on a few of our plans.

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The rocket, lettuce, perpetual spinach, capsicum and chilli bed

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Not too sure what you do with perpetual spinach but at least we have one! 😉

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Aren’t lettuces pretty?

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Can you see the adventitious little tomato plant that grew from last years compost placed reverently in this garden bed? We think that it is one of Wendy’s lovely heritage tomatoes and it has a sibling in the next bed going great guns. I will let you know what they turn out like…by the way there is an aphid on the tomato…it won’t last long because the veggie gardens are seething with little lizards that seem to be doing a sterling job on cleaning up the tiny grasshoppers that have been attracted to the veggie garden like moths to a light. A fine example of integrated pest management at it’s finest 🙂

It’s time to think about posting this post now and after I do, I will head up to the veggie garden and will pick some mushrooms, some lettuce, some rocket and some spinach to make Steve a side salad to go with his evening meal. Living close to the ground is about as rewarding as it gets and I am going to have to get pretty close to the ground to harvest that lettuce! See you all on Saturday when we may just have that chook yard sorted out and I might just have some photos to share with you of some stunned looking enclosed chooks and Yin with his beak through the netting protesting his newfound confinement…Tasmania is a penal colony of old sir…get used to it! 😉

By the way…anyone who would like to have a chance to win Steve’s hand made spoon has 10 days to let us know. At the moment there are only 10 people in the draw and Earl thinks that they are pretty good odds. We have a lot more walnuts than “10” so please feel free to enter the spoon draw…only 10% of you want to win? Think of Steve’s pride! 😉

Earl is my Muse….

Hi All,

Our 4 years of horticulture have just flown past. In 4 years we have managed to pack in Certificates 2 and 3 in horticulture and a Diploma of horticulture with a soon to be Diploma of Landscape Design following suit. It’s amazing how much information can be crammed into your head before it bursts. I still haven’t reached bursting point but I sometimes thing I am getting close. You NEVER stop learning when it comes to gardening and nature. All of these (usually self-proclaimed) garden equivalents to Gordon Ramsey who easily impressed gardeners aspire to be are merely skating on the surface and tend to be more marketing tools than true information highways. I tend to head over to the alternative side whenever I want to find out truly useful information but am as prone to envy as anyone when it comes to a really spanky garden. Steve and I are not natural gardeners. I shared Nat’s little piece of heaven with you all on Saturday and our garden will NEVER be like hers. We are too lazy and our sentiments and aspirations lie elsewhere (predominately in the gastronomical arena of edible plants). Whenever I drop in to Nat’s house I can spot something desirable in one of its stages of envy inducement glory. I gave up long ago with my aspirations to a gorgeous cottage garden cram packed with glorious perennials BUT I can use some of the principals of cottage gardens to help us get what we want on Serendipity Farm. Cottage gardens are mass planted. Cottage gardens have tiers and levels and borders…cottage gardens mass all different kinds of flowers together and in so doing they promote natural pest control and the massing minimises the weeds. There are many incredibly self-sufficient perennials that truly deserve a place here… I just have to sift them out of the hard work basket and work out where I can put them (most likely the side garden) so that they are close to the house so I won’t forget about them. The Catalpa bignonioides (try saying that with a cold 😉 ) or Indian Bean Tree that we bought 2 years ago from our fellow horticultural lefty mate Andrew at Red Dragon Nursery that has been only barely hanging on to life in its too small pot and its regular water stressed environment got planted out a few months back and is leafing up now. We planted it on the fenceline between our place and Glads as one day it’s going to be a gorgeous tree and it can get full sun where it is. Just a quick aside, I just checked how to spell “bignonioides” and found out that the leaves secrete extrafloral nectar as well as regular nectar in the flower in an effort to attract pollinators. What a clever plant! We have decided that we are going to plant a row of Brachychitons down the fenceline from the top of the property down to our woodshed. I can only imagine some future visitor to Serendipity Farm marvelling at the eclectic mass/tangle of plants and wondering at the minds that decided to use the eclectic selections of plants that we are choosing and what was in our minds to do so.

We took the boys to Paper Beach on a lovely cool still day and Steve took some lovely photo’s with his phone

I love the round stones on the riverbank and covet them beyond belief. It’s just lucky that I am aware of how unsustainable it is to pinch river stones or I might bring a rucksack with me every time that we visit this lovely beach

So we are plant rebels! Who cares! Someone has to be :o). Most Brachychiton species have edible seed. They thrive in dry conditions and you won’t get much drier than our back block. They were grown in Tasmania and some of the seed was collected in Tasmania so it is from established stock that has acclimatised itself to our conditions, in other words, it has provenance. Something with provenance has been grown in local conditions and is more than happy to survive and flourish. They are the perfect plants to grow in your garden or on your property because they have a proven track record. I like to check out peoples gardens in the local area. I am naturally nosy but that isn’t why I wrangle Earl in from his rabbit hunts and his sniff fests to crane over someone’s fence to attempt to see what they have thriving in their garden. I do it because if it’s happy on my neighbours property there is a good chance that it may be happy on ours.

River grass contrasting with the pure still river in the background and the 2 black swans made this a nice photo

I really liked this persons fence. The gates appear to be hand made

This photo is to give you some idea of how massive this oak tree was. The house is underneath it and is totally swamped by this enormous specimen. We couldn’t even fit it all in the shot as we would have had to back up into the river to get it all

I want to trade this wonderful man for our stupid prime minister. He is living a sustainable life by choice not postulating about it and doing deals with China behind her back to sell us and keep our economy afloat on the books. Check out this inspirational article about the President of Uraguay. This is one politician that I would actually invite into my home to share a meal. Bravo Jose Mujica you might be “The world’s poorest President” but you are one of the richest in human spirit :o).

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20243493

It’s a pity Jose isn’t the president of the United States of America isn’t it? Imagine how easy it would be to change over to sustainable ways of doing things with someone who lives it every day as his creed in the top seat? Oh well…we live in hope :0).

I am SO envious of this little segment of wasteland between a house and a shed that we spotted in Exeter today. Obviously the home owner used this area to throw their green waste that obviously consisted of a proportion of potato. Isn’t it both amazing and ironic how well vegetable grow when you could care less about them? 😉

If a boat wants to head down the river into Launceston we get to see it heading past Serendipity Farm. This little tug boat is off to be serviced in Launceston. We also get to see the Astralobe, the boat that goes to Antarctica, when it comes in to be serviced. Life on the river is never boring 🙂

I just got another example of how life can give you a belly laugh when you least expect it. “Aubergine”…for 1, we don’t use that word here in Australia. We call them eggplants…but I was trying to find a really delicious looking recipe that I saw on an episode of “Andy Bates Street Feasts” last night. The recipe was for a vegan burger that started by cooking all sorts of curried things in a large pot and then adding coconut cream and THEN adding polenta to soak up all of the liquid and the resulting burgers were shaped and fried and looked scrumptious. They then kicked it up a notch by using Khobz flatbreads instead of burger buns, adding all sorts of delicious chutneys and salads and folding them up into a nice neat envelope shape that was open at the top and eating them. My kind of grub! Anyway…I was hunting for the recipe and after finding it, I copied and pasted it into a word doc and as usual Word took offence to some of the spelling. It usually takes offence to Americanisations where the words have been changed but this time it wanted me to change “aubergine”. Fair enough…I don’t use the word aubergine so lets just change it to eggplant and be done with it. I clicked on Words suggestion and it wanted me to change aubergine to aborigine! That might not have been such a terrible swap apart from the context of the recipe that wanted me to take said aubergine/aborigine and peel and dice it! I had to laugh…I guess you had to be there 😉

It may not be the most beautiful of gates but I love my new rustic garden gate :). It has given me the ability to head out to the vegetable garden whenever I like and it has given Earl the newfound joy of being able to lay in wait and terrorise passing chooks

This photo is looking back towards the new gate. The star pickets and white bird netting contain the first of the little figs that we planted out. He will soon be joined by his 3 siblings because he has responded so well to his new home.

It’s suddenly time to post my hump day post and we have been flat out fixing up things in our designs. It would seem that we raised the bar in our designs and our dear esteemed lecturer Nick has raised his expectations right along with them…sigh…oh well…I guess we were back to the drawing board on a few things! We have just finished off the work and hopefully Nick will be happy with what we have changed and added and our next meeting might be our penultimate meeting. I plan on making a celebratory cake…maybe a nice orange and almond flourless cake with an orange glaze? Who knows…maybe a coffee and chocolate spongecake…whatever we make it usually goes down well for morning tea. I have really enjoyed studying the way that Steve and I have been studying over the last few years. Studying online gives you the freedom to work at your own pace and so long as you are disciplined, it’s the best way to study. There have been times that we kept going long into the night to finish something off and there have been times that we haven’t laid eyes on a book for months. Flexible delivery is the best of all worlds. It doesn’t use precious physical resources in a classroom situation and it allows people to work at their own pace and effectively receive 1 on 1 tutelage. Steve and I attend our meetings together and poor Nick has to juggle us both but I think that it really works well because we have different strengths and weaknesses and we are able to work well together once we know what is expected of us. Nick has always expected our very best and we have always strived to give it to him…plus 10% 😉

Earl in his element. As you can see, this is the part of the loungeroom that we have given up on and have allowed Earl to systematically disassemble whatever he finds in his mouth at any given time. He is munching on one of Steve’s t-shirts that he stole this morning…sometimes Earl’s games start a little bit too early for us and racing about the house after Earl with an “I am the Stig” t-shirt in his mouth is too hard for us at 7.30am

A man and his buddha

Earl has been helping me to write this post. He wants it known that he is my muse. This morning he was trying to sing something to me and I am obviously pretty stupid because I didn’t get it. I can see him staring at me sometimes as if I am brain dead. I know that I am not very good at my doganese but I have come to it fairly late in life and can’t be expected to learn new tricks all that fast. Earl spends most of his days trying to get one or the other of us to let him out of the gate…preferably unleashed but if he MUST he will wear a collar. Due to his penchance for attempting to ethnically cleanse Serendipity Farm of all domesticated and wildlife, his days unleashed have been few and far between and usually as a result of some bloody idiot forgetting to shut one of the gates before releasing the hounds after their walk. Earl is part alien part feral and part ADHD dog. He spends his life actively pursuing life on the other side of the fence and apparently I am the weakest link in the chain and as such his telekinetic powers of persuasion should be able to get me to do his bidding. As a muse Earl sucks. The “music” that comes from within is manic. The creative thoughts are terrifying and the literature pure horror. When Earl gets bored he eats things. His latest trick is to sneak into the spare/middle room when I am stupid enough to go in without shutting the door behind me (which is all the time…) and pinching walnuts out of a large container of them that I didn’t get around to stratifying this year. Once he gets the walnut it’s game on until one of us gets bored and then its a quick “crunch” and the walnut falls neatly in half suddenly becoming a very boring game and something to be shunned. I get to pick up the slobbery bits and deposit the walnut into the compost bin. Good try Earl…today isn’t your lucky day…I am wearing my tinfoil hat! Alien BEGONE!

A newly thin Fatty after recently giving birth…sigh…we now really REALLY have to deal with the exponentially exploding cat population on Serendipity Farm

This is Steve’s favourite little female feral that he has called “little pig”…don’t ask me why but she is very tame and may just end up being caught, sterilised at the vets and become part of life here on Serendipity Farm 🙂

I don’t usually type my post straight into the wordpress arena. I might actually save it before I hit “publish” because wordpress has a habit of losing entire sentences of prose and rendering the author hair free and rabid. I have cooked Steve some interesting curried pasties with home made curry paste, mashed potato, onion and cheese to be wrapped in puff pastry later on. I have been on a roll this week with making tasty meals and hopefully this one will fit the bill tonight. We finished off our studies at 4pm and after racing about to feed the seal eyed dogs (who want their evening meal at 3pm promptly and BOLLOCKS to daylight savings…) and sorting out what has to be done at the end of the day I find myself running short of time. Its that springtime thing again combined with it being the end of the year very soon. I am slowly getting used to waking up at 5am aside from my brains attempt to sabotage me into sleeping in by having me in deep dream sleep mode right when the alarm goes off. I have learned that precisely as the alarm goes off the automatic radio track has the “good” song on. If I lay in bed too long I end up with the “bad” song…good song = creedence…bad song = katie Perry…The first song that I hear in the morning usually stays with me all day and I have learned to quickly get up in the throws of the good song and turn off the radio before the bad song starts playing and sticks in my head to torture me for the rest of the day. I guess the universe is telling me that old adage “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”…it might make a “man” all of those things but it makes me “sleepy, dopey and grumpy” and as all of you know, that’s just on half of the 7 dwarves! Talk about a weird way to start the day! Ok, you get off lightly in the posting stakes again. If Nick gives us the OK it will be back to having the time to actually contemplate our navels whilst choosing what to do with our days rather than study…Study… STUDY as our sole option. See you Saturday when we may have started our big chook run thanks to Steve picking up some ex fish farm netting with a promise of more to come. Once those ninja chooks are behind bars where they belong we can mulch the poor long scratched and suffering garden and cover it up to minimise water loss. Once that happens we can install some irrigation to keep everything (mostly us) happy and we can then start to do a few more pressing things around Serendipity Farm. Have a great rest of the week and remember…it’s just on a month till Christmas (just thought you might like to know 😉

Serendipity Farm is an Octopus Free Zone!

Hi All,

What’s going on here! We have just hit the spring equinox in Australia and I am acting more like the grasshopper than the octopus…remember the old story as told by Fry from Futurama? The one about the grasshopper doing all of the work and the octopus that mooched off his girlfriend and the grasshopper died as a direct result of the hard work leaving the octopus to take advantage of his hard yakka AND to rub salt into the wound he also found the money to buy a sports car…the message is DON’T think that spring is time to hoard your nuts…or is it? When you live close to the earth like homesteaders you need to be thinking ahead. Even G.M. monocrop farmers think ahead. Its part and parcel of living on the land and it involves all sorts of economics and futures and all sorts of things that make my brain spin BUT at its core, where I like to live in my simple mentality, it means “make hay while the sun shines bucko or sit out winter on an empty belly!”…that’s my take on it. You might get lucky. You might just be able to mooch off your girlfriend for the summer…driving around in her Volkswagen beetle and drinking beer on the beach while she works hard at the diner to pay the bills and your friend, who works in I.T. or Apple or somewhere profitable, squirrels away his money because he is a nerd and hasn’t got even a vague chance of acquiring a girlfriend UNLESS he goes on Beauty and the Geek…but that is another story! So enter your geeky I.T. I-phone 5 toting mate who talks in binary code and who bores the pants off you BUT makes you look amazing when he is standing next to you at parties and who earns a fortune that he foolishly spends on war hammer figurines and Dr Who merchandise from Think Geek who when your girlfriend wises up to your loser habits and tosses your lazy arse to the curb is probably good to mooch off minus the obvious side benefits. The grasshopperss of the world tend to be the workers and the octopi take…Take…TAKE!

Check out our rubber egg! It was found in the hen house after our early evening rooster wrangling event. Methinks that the poor hen that laid it was scared rubbery!

I wouldn’t recognise these 2 good dogs if it wasn’t for the hippy standing with them. It’s amazing what a pocket full of dog treats will do for a dogs behaviour isn’t it! 😉

Rubber egg number 2! Obviously the fear goes on…

This might look like a hillbillies back yard but its a Hill Williams back yard thank you VERY much! This covered heap is our dung futures heap and just up from that tree trunk is where we are putting our poly tunnels

Our constant companion whenever we head out to do any gardening…you just never know what delicious bugs are going to turn up when you follow those humans around!

Ok, so consider that my lesson on consumerism and elitism and how unfair the world is these days with the 1% rich getting richer and the 99% of us a.k.a. poor people propping up their sports car ventures. Here on Serendipity Farm we don’t have any octopi. It’s too far out of the city, we live on a river with no beach or surf AND we drive a sad little 4 x 4 and even though you can take the top off it, the dog hairs are so thick on the seats that it looks like we have flocked seat covers. In other words we are an octopus free zone here! To get what we want we have to work. We have to plan ahead. We use our God given brains to facilitate our futures and we think laterally about where we are going to get things that we need and always try to make do.  Reuse, recycle and repurpose are our creeds here on Serendipity Farm. Spring is a chance for us to plan for winter. We can plan what we need to store up for the cold weather and we can make our polytunnels to give us an extended harvest. We don’t get frost here much and so polytunnels should allow us to grow most of what we need for the whole year. Our chooks are old breeds and may not lay eggs every day but we have enough of them to produce copiously and with a side benefit that our predominately Wyandotte population lay right through winter so we don’t lose out on the egg front. We have all the acorns that we can squirrel away but no real use for them, however, I have learned from my online hunts that acorns can be made into flour that can be used to bake breads albeit of the flat kind. A good tip should the need ever arise. Always work with what you have lots of because you are pretty much guaranteed that you won’t run out of it. Acorns…you are our friends.

The corner where we planted out some of our maples and other tasty treats (can you hear the sarcasm dripping from my acidic tongue?… bloody possums!)

One of the clivea flowers that has just started to open. We found these clivea underneath a mound of blackberries and overgrown grass. It’s lucky I am known for my “careful weeding” and it wasn’t Steve and his whipper snipper that discovered them or there might not be this lovely display for us to admire!

This maple is called “Lockington’s Big Red”. It was developed by Don Dosser, a wonderful man who is better known for developing all sorts of Rhododendron’s than maples but we are honoured to have a Tassie bred maple on Serendipity Farm 🙂

Those straight trunks belong to Brachychitons that have been on Serendipity Farm for many years. They are not native to Tasmania and have been doing it tough for a while. Steve planted out 3 more Brachychitons of different species in this area to see if they grow. We grew them all from seed and hopefully they will like living on Serendipity Farm. We also planted out several different kinds of maples in this area as well

Instead of thinking about the long hot summer that we are being promised in Tasmania and planning what we are going to do for the summer holidays on the one beach in Tasmania that has actual sand rather than pebbles and oysters we are thinking about work. We are building polytunnels, a gravity fed chook run, planting out our potted babies, thinking about building a worm farm, changing our composting from a sad anaerobic system (too lazy to get out there in winter and turn it regularly) to an aerobic system (by pulling the roof off the duck enclosure that backs onto the compost bin and shovelling the compost from one side to the other). We have so many plans on the burner that we are going to be the leanest of squirrels by the time we get to the other side. Forget “why did the chicken cross the road?” here on Serendipity Farm they do what they want and you don’t question them…just ask the feral cats who are totally intimidated by them! We have “why did the squirrel not need Jenny Craig?” Remember my theory of living in the processes? You can’t get more alive than when you are up to your armpits in hot compost or knee deep in horse dung futures. You sleep better, you earn your evening meal and you feel like you have accomplished something deep and primal at the end of the day. Life takes on a new vibrancy when each day seems to be working towards the next. You start to feel as alive as the microbe teeming soil that you are trying to help along. All of your processes might initially be out of whack but after a while, using permaculture as your core, everything starts to cycle in a most pleasingly congruent way. One day we should be able to manage this place on our own without having to hide under the bed covers in fear of “Where the heck do we start today?!” as our creed.

This is where we put the maples and a cornus

Here’s a Miscanthus that will hopefully get to its full height of 1.5 – 2 metres

This is a dwarf bamboo that we have been told will spread. The person telling us was looking aghast at us for purchasing not one, not two but three of these “invaders”…I will tell you what Rog…you have less than a quarter acre of garden and we have 4 acres. I think that the spreading dwarf bamboo can have a bit of room to spread in don’t you? Besides…if it can squash out the forget-me-nots, I will buy 100 more!

Can you hear my teeth grinding as I type this? This poor little maple USED to have a lot more leaves than this. It’s the only maple (so far) that the possums have decided to sample more than a few leaves from. They did perform trapese acts on one of Steve’s larger maples and ripped of a large chunk but we think that whoever did it landed hard and has been avoiding a repeat performance. This goes to show that sometimes you never can tell what possums will go for!

Today we plant. We figure that the thermal mass of the soil and the high clay content is going to give our poor long suffering potted babies a better chance over summer. Once we get those mooching chooks into their gravity fed chook run we should be able to get our gardens mulched and ready for the long hot summer ahead. Thermal mass works with bulk planting as well. The more plants you have in any given area (especially ground covers) the more moisture you can retain in the soil. I am on the hunt for ground covers and am not averse to bending down and liberating a little bit from the edge of the footpath should the opportunity arise. Consider me a guerrilla squirrel. I will throw seed bombs into the nature strips and I shall take advantage of harvests unharvested. Squirrel, thy name is Fran!

Two snakebark maples that have been languishing in pots since we bought them a few years ago are stretching out their leaves and roots and breathing a grateful sigh of relief

A couple of low vibernums and a couple of slow growing taxus

Steve’s ducky friend following him around. It wouldn’t have anything to do with ducky being the recipient of all of the snails and slugs and slaters that our lifted pots revealed? 😉

I am excited about this one…ALMOND FUTURES! 🙂

This large broom shrub has a very interesting scented flower. Whenever we walk past it the smell is reminiscent of crushed peppery nasturtium leaves

Steve set the alarm clock for 5.30 yesterday but forgot to tell me. He hasn’t decided to be my personal boot camp sergeant, he did it because I asked him to because the dreaded Daylight Savings is rapidly approaching and this year I REFUSE to be the bleary eyed zombie that I am every year when I have to get up an hour earlier…to everyone out there just about to correct me and tell me that “it’s not actually an hour earlier it’s a better use of the day” BOLLOCKS! Daylight savings and I have a bad history and to this day I can’t for the life of me see any other reason for it than commercial gain. I won’t give you my tirade here for the day because I don’t have time. I have to cram in my rss feed read before Steve gets up and we head off into our day whipper snipping forget-me-nots and me hand pulling them in the hard to get places or where Steve’s maniacal “style” might just eliminate something precious. We also have to get stuck in to planting out more of our potted plants. We have just about gotten to the end of the easy stuff…the small pots and the things that had a definite place to go and now we are down to the pines that get to 120ft tall, the things that Earl ate the tag from and we don’t really remember what they are called or how big they get and the stuff that we aren’t sure if we want to keep yet. Tomorrow I am going to get Steve to set the alarm clock to 5am. I am going to revel in my 2 hours of rss feed reading time for about a week. I might even get a few things done in the mornings (but I doubt it) and I am going to be ready for you daylight savings…BRING IT ON!

This dwarf nandina is SO happy that we unhooked it from its blackberry overlords that it has turned the most lovely shade of red. I planted a little struggling camellia in the gap to the right of this little fellow.

This old flat serving spoon was found when we were walking in Exeter where some excavation work was going on. Its a lovely old French spoon and so I brought it home and stuck it in this cut off blue glass bottle with a couple of shiny mates to keep it company

I left the camera out in the shed last night when I took a few photos of what we had done, the clivea flowers and our dung future pile that we have covered up and rendered chook and duck proof much to their chagrin. I collected some eggs from the remaining chooks who are not clucky (not very many of them at the moment) and I got sucked into pulling out a section of forget-me-nots and promptly forgot. How ironic eh? As today is posting day I will be trundling around attempting to take some post worthy photos. I will be grappling with the recalcitrant “macro” and “super macro” to attempt to get the camera to not take extreme close-ups of the background leaving the desired object out of focus and almost unrecognisable. The camera and I have a somewhat strained relationship and like most things on Serendipity Farm it has an attitude. Some days it will take great photos without effort and the next, it is on strike. I admire people who can take good photos like I admire people who are naturally artistic and who are natural green thumbs. I guess I don’t mind being mediocre as long as I can get what I am trying to share out with people. Cheers to Kym for keeping her eye open for a rainwater tank on her holidays in Bali. That is one dedicated friend! Try to get one where they are offering to pay for the postage Kym…I am sure that there are HEAPS of vendors like that in Bali! ;). I doubt that even Kym’s amazing bargaining powers could affect that kind of deal ;). When I lived in Western Australia I never quite managed to take advantage of Bali being “Little Australia” and just off the top end of W.A. I remember when you could head over to Bali for a week for $500 and that included your flights and your accommodation! Unlike “The Rest of the World”…Australia is miles away from EVERYTHING and any kind of travel hurts us in the hip pocket. I read with envy about people jetting off to France, Italy, and Russia for the weekend and it costing pennies where if we were to do the same thing we wouldn’t BE there in a weekend let alone get time to set foot off a plane before we had to start our flight back home. My idea of a tropical getaway is heading up to Queensland to eat my weight’s worth of tropical fruit…it’s also something on my bucket list so I might have to think about that someday soon. If I can combine that bucket list item with another bucket list item to do a permaculture residential course in Queensland I might just be able to justify it all in my mind, “multitasking babe…I am just multitasking!”

I know this isn’t the greatest picture in the world but my camera was having a Primadonna moment and point blank REFUSED to use the flash. After having words with it, this is the best I could get. Does anyone know what it might be? It has square minty type stems and I think it might be a salvia. I got it from somewhere hot and arid and dry and am hoping that it might do what mints do best and send out roots in a glass of water

Gunns went tits up yesterday. A completely fitting epitaph as I used to liken the company to a bull with teets…completely useless! That doesn’t automatically mean that we won’t get a pulp mill in the Tamar Valley BUT anyone buying the permit is going to have a handful of problems aside from the obvious angry ravening hoards of locals, the high Aussie dollar and the high cost of labour in Australia we have the low price of wood chips and pulp and the ever decreasing call for white bleached paper for newspapers etc. as a lot of content recedes to online these days. Our corrupt state government are steadfastly refusing to give up this pulp mill BUT that is what got gunns bankrupt and in receivership in the first place…completely disregarding what the people want. I would like to say goodbye to our sad excuse for a premier at this point because she will be lucky to make it to the next elections as our state leader. I can’t for the life of me understand why every woman politician in a position of power in Australia seems to have a need to over enunciate their words making every speech a chore to have to listen to and a reminder of when childless adults talk to small children and all of us talk to deaf people, loudly and slowly. The Tasmanian populace might be somewhat lacking in the educational stakes BUT we are NOT…ALL…NUMPTIES…LARA…and you don’t have to speak so slowly to us all because we are mindless vacuous creatures who can’t comprehend big words. Our corrupt political parties and gunns didn’t realise who they were messing with when they took on the hippies. Tasmanian natives are an easily herded bovine lot who don’t prize education and could care less about anything other than footy and weekends as a rule. They go where they are directed and tend not to rock the boat and are easily hornswoggled and intimidated by weasely politicians and the sheer force of anything that appears to have a degree of power. When the hippies started moving over here from the mainland the nepotistic relationship between our politicians and gunns started to become glaringly obvious to these newcomers and for once in their relationship someone actually started to care what they were up to! The bully boy tactics didn’t work when you tried to dam the Franklin and you didn’t learn. Northern Tasmania has been a logging stronghold and gunns ran the show from go to whoa. They were loath to concede anything at all and held on to the flagship pulp mill with a stubborn refusal to give up until it changed into the figurehead of their ship and was the first thing to sink under the water when the whole shebang went down. Lesson to be learned to old school Tasmanian politicians, corporations, nepotistic industry and bully boys…most hippies are clever creatures who went to university and completed doctorates in law, commerce etc. and you can’t hoodwink them, talk down to them, negate them or bypass them.  Ignore us at your peril! Goodbye gunns. You lost your battle to steamroll your will over the people of Tasmania and you learned, too late, that paying politicians to get your way doesn’t always get you what you want. So long and thanks for nothing!

Here’s a good shot of one of the compound leaves of that plant. Definately a type of salvia I would imagine and I am hoping that one of you might know what it is. If I can’t get it to grow from a water cutting, I will get a bit of the root and give it a shot that way! 🙂

In saying what I just said I have a deep sense of sympathy for all of the 320 people who are going to lose their jobs thanks to gunns demise. Tasmania is not an easy place to gain employment and most of us are out of work. The official jobless rate doesn’t even begin to show the true picture because most of us are hidden from the statistics by being syphoned off into education, job training and working for the dole. We are a state of Centrelink employees and our leaders keep grasping at straws and taking reckless bets to try to keep themselves in power rather than getting together and actually facing up to the monumental task ahead of them to try to set Tasmania back on track. Stop having quorums, setting up committees, paying experts and grasping at straws and just face up to the fact that Tasmania is going to have to have a different business model to the rest of the mainland. What is so wrong with growing amazing food and crops? What is wrong with having a fantastic wilderness that people can visit? What is wrong with making Tasmania a truly clean, green state where people would want to flock to live and that implements green technology and uses all of this restless un and underemployed population to positive effect? It’s all too hard and we are going to have to get rid of a generation of politicians who are clinging to the old model tenaciously and stubbornly refusing to even consider life in Tasmania without the forest industry. Stop selling us off to anyone with a dollar in their pockets. Stop flogging our beautiful pristine precious rainforests off to open cut mines because it might give you someone else to do back room deals with and keep yourself in power a bit longer. WE CAN SEE YOU YOU KNOW! It’s all eminently depressing to be honest and I think that for change to happen in Tasmania it is going to have to rise up through the ranks and topple the tyrants. If the world could get rid of Sadam and Gadhafi, it can certainly prize loose our entrenched parasitic politicians! I am thinking of hiring out my rants to any leftist magazine that will take me…heck I will give them to you for free! Sorry dear constant readers, my frothing mouth needs to be wiped and my tirade here is done!

Bollocks! Not only have I had a delicious tirade in my post today, I have overshot my small post mark! Oh well…let’s be honest folks…It really couldn’t have lasted for long. Anyone out there having problems writing posts let me know. I have more words than I can cope with. I am juggling about 14 muses who are all blabbermouths and none of them have the silent disdainful composure that I am lead to believe muses effect. Mine are all collaborating and yelling in my ear at once and are all as overexcited about life as I am. Quiet you lot I am trying to condense! Sigh…oh well, at least I am consistent! I had best stop there and let you all get back to your lives and the real world. With a bit of hope, nothing politically exciting will occur in the next few days and your next post will be pristine and full of happy joy joy. See you all on Saturday…remember life IS great, hurl yourself into it and ride it like you stole it! 😉

The Rise of the Stickmen

In the beginning there was nothing…then there was something…then there was Captain Cook. By the look of it, Captain Cook went everywhere and linked all of the continents in a series of three massive world voyages. We owe a lot to Captain Cook as well as Captain Kirk, but that is another story! Today we will commence our party discussion on Captain Cook and how he forged the Stickman Party.

Aka Johnny Cash. Note the midriff buttons are undone…must have just come from a particularly large lunch with the queen…

Here is a picture of Captain Cook.

Here is a picture of his wife Elizabeth…one can only guess that she is the reason why he spent so long voyaging at sea

If you look closely, you can see where Captain Cook docked in Australia and in a different voyage pulled in to the bay right next to where Olalla nestles…

Here is where Captain Cook travelled

The vice president of The Stickman Party has torn himself away from his Friday activities (watching television) to share with you all his version of history via Captain Cook…

Captain Cook discovers Australia! (looks like the natives got to that Kangaroo first…)

Captain Cook greeting the natives in America somewhere…”history” says it was probably California, but does that pale skinned English gentleman look like he would want to spend time in California? No! Neither do we! We think he dropped into California to get a couple of oranges to stop the crew from succumbing to scurvy (yet again!) and then hightailed it off to cooler climes as fast as he could. History might not show him docking in Puget Sound but history also said that the earth was flat, that Australia was the edge of the world and ships would spill off the edge if they went there and that natives wouldn’t hurt you…

“Natives won’t hurt you Captain Cook!”…”oh…wait a minute…YES THEY WILL!”… too late old chap…a lesson learned in the name of history (and probably the reason why Christopher Columbus came with 3 ships, a lot of guns and a no nonsense attitude towards “the natives” 😉

A little known correspondence from Captain Cook to his wife on his deathbed goes as follows…

With his dying breath he pledged his allegiance to the queen, to his country and passed on his incessant need to wander the globe seeking truth, justice and the holy grail to a future generation of men willing to tell the truth as it really is rather than rely on the general perception and dictated that they shall portray the truth in tale and picture to enlighten the public about the world, the universe and everthing…with that he gave up his last breath and passed the flag on to an eagerly awaiting public and its only now that brave men are willing to take up his challenge and form The Stickman Party uniting around the globe to carry on the abandoning of familial duties to further their own curiosity.

And thus began the history of the Stickman Party…the truth tellers and the documenters of history as it REALLY is!

The day that I graduated from my sponge cake “L” plates

Hi All,

Is it just me or do your senses become more finely attuned in winter? Aside from the obvious “cold neurons” going off at random intervals everything seems to be condensed down and sharper. I guess it’s our traditional time when we hibernate. I am not averse to staying in bed for the winter but it would seem that “The Man” wants me out of bed and actively studying for the future. Its Thursday already and Steve and I are wading through the mire that accompanies a Landscape Design. As with most things…it’s an iceberg. That lovely plan that arrives on your desk (along with a not so lovely discrete bill that you probably (trust me) don’t want to open…) is the culmination of some poor sods hard mental labour. We really don’t think about how hard someone has to work to get something like that onto our desks until we actively try to do it ourselves. The same goes for the production of food…how hard is it to keep everything that wants an advance sample of our fruit, vegetables and grains away from our food without rendering said food inedible? A life of conundrums and questions besieges me and occasionally leaves me mentally exhausted. When Steve and I started out on our horticultural journey it was with very tentative feet. We were not entirely sure if our decision to work with plants was going to be wise. It was Steve’s first venture into even considering plants as anything within his peripheral view and he was a bit incredulous to say the least as to whether he could find much about them to keep his mind active. 2 months later this man planted a tiny Sequoia Gigantea seed that grew and the rest is history. Today both Steve and I have succumbed to our plant masters and are their willing and compliant slaves. We tend them…prune them…water them…sometimes mindlessly following their silent but endless requests but at all times rewarded generously for our servitude.  We have melded with the plants and it changed our lives.

What happens to Brunhilda with her first few chunks of wood…I call this “tea futures”! This is an amazingly good stove and I can’t praise it highly enough. We have had this stove burning now for about 4 months without stop and haven’t had to use that packet of late autumn firelighters that we bought aside from it’s initial lighting. It slowly simmers all night and rises like the sturdy, reliable, little black phoenix that it is every single morning no matter how many embers remain in its toasty little fire box…”I love you Brunhilda!”

Obviously I am not the only one who loves Brunhilda. After their morning walk the boys can usually be found (especially Bezial) in the positions that you see them here. Earl is only still because I bribed him by giving him Steve’s music room door wedge…Bezial is entirely content and when I think back to this time last year and remember the 2 of them huddling next to a teeny tiny little 1 bar gas heater that was our ONLY source of heat I can see why Bezial is luxuriating in Brunhilda’s heavenly wafting heat. By the way…the ONLY reason that lime green wood basket is still alive is because I cut off its handles and it’s full of wood. Earls inquisitive beak can’t get a grip on the sides and so it remains alive so long as we remember to fill it up with wood on a regular basis

This is the kind of photograph that you get when you have told a dog that he is too fat and that you are going to put him on a diet. A diet that doesn’t include fresh spongecake with cream.

Occasionally we find it necessary to poke Earl gently to ensure that he is still alive… does this look alive to you? “POKE POKE POKE!”

Bezial in the throws of Brunhilda love…we should leave them alone now to enjoy each others company…

We have a forecast of rain…rain and more rain for the next few days. The potted plants that we selected for rehousing last week are all still alive and the Luculia is positively glowing. It didn’t drop a single flower bud and is now a mass of soft pink tubular scented heaven right outside our bedroom window. The irony is that Luculia flowers in winter…and the likelihood of us having our bedroom window actually open in the middle of a Tasmanian winter is as slim as Posh Spice. The rest of our potted plants are sulking in their over cramped pots and wondering just what they have to do to get planted out. We have no inclination whatsoever to get out into the garden in the freezing cold and rain so it won’t be for at least a few days. Our studies have taken over from our plant overlords at the moment and I never would have thought that I would hear myself say this…but I am actually enjoying the process. Familiarity breeds more than contempt in my case…it breeds a rare form of happiness that comes with the ability to understand and actually follow the process. AutoCAD is a program full of landmines that are just waiting to pull the rug out from under any unsuspecting (read overconfident) person attempting to use it for any purpose other than a door stop (in its unopened package that is…). We learned early on that AutoCAD is a law unto itself. It will do what it wants…when it wants and our particular version appears to have a very strong will indeed. If we forget to save anything it WILL freeze and make us do it all over again. We have taken to kidding ourselves that we are grateful for the chance to do some more practice…remember “there are NO learning experiences in perfection…” that’s what we tell ourselves through gritted teeth in a vain effort to show AutoCAD that it can’t beat us and make us cry. This year these moments of confrontation have been few and far between because we no longer fear AutoCAD and are able to navigate our way through the endless seas of “process” to at least find the ballpark that we want to be in if not the actual fix for our problem. I guess we are learning and learning from home gives you the best opportunity to really learn because you have to sort things out for yourself for the most part. I mentioned in my last post that we had put in an expression of interest to undertake an Art course next year. We realised quite early on in the piece that AutoCAD is a fantastic program for creating exact plans but it is lacking creative flair and it’s difficult to create concept designs (the “sell” part of the equation) that are aesthetically pleasing. We therefore decided to learn how to turn our plans into eye candy and that’s why we are going to attempt to crash the Arts department next year. Do you think that they will be ready for the Pimblett’s? Probably not…but ready or not…here we come!

Proof that we do pound the pavements in order to give our dogs some form of exercise each day. Not that you would know it in Bezial’s case…

The boys eating their greens…when they find a good patch of grass it’s actually quite difficult to get them to stop eating. They are like mini cows

A nice shot taken from one side of Devil’s Elbow (the Rowella side) to the other (The Kayena side). We certainly live in a pretty place and are very spoiled with the scenery when we walk the boys

This photo was taken later in the day because in most photos you don’t get to see the detail of that bit of land covered in trees in the background but at a certain time of day in a certain light you can…I just wanted to share it with you all 🙂

We noticed (well Bezial the water dog noticed…) a little pathway down to the riverbank and decided to head down to see what there was at the end of the little track and found this delightful vista. Bezial proceeded to drag Steve into the water and Earl stood on the shore sniffing a dead oyster…dog heaven!

With the removal of the last 4 official roosters (I know that Effel has at least a couple overwintering in her flock) Big Yin has decided that he must have some sort of amazing powers as he just starts getting cranky at an emerging young rival and suddenly it’s gone. Using his amazing powers of chicken deduction 1 + 1 = KING OF THE WORLD and he has gone on an unprecedented nest building frenzy in a vain effort to increase the flock and fill it with little Yin’s. No doubt there are nests everywhere out there. We can hear chickens all over the place talking to each other in their nefarious chicken whispers. Big Yin can be heard making his “check THIS out baby…” sounds when he has rolled a bit of grass into a circle and thinks that it is nest worthy for his latest paramour. I must admit that having seen rooster activity on a somewhat large scale now Big Yin is an amazingly good rooster. He hunts for food for his flock, he warns them whenever there is danger and he gives the tasty morsels that he finds to his prize girls. He doesn’t hurt his girls either, unlike (tasty) roosters past and has earned his lifetime security here on Serendipity Farm. The problem that we now have is that our hens are getting wily. They no sooner start laying somewhere and we start collecting the eggs than they head off somewhere else and start laying there and Big Yin is ever ready to up sticks and make them another nest more remote and inaccessible than the last. I can see the day that we are actually overrun with chickens. Roosters will be crowing at all hours of the day and night and I will surreptitiously slip an anonymous note into Frank’s (who has been killing roosters since he was 10) mailbox saying “go nuts! You know you want to…”…until that day we will practice hunting eggs and will ready ourselves for spring and the oncoming onslaught of clucky chooks. I dare say most of our fecund flock will be laying low like brer rabbit in some form of briar patch but we clever humans have been active and have minimised those briar patches so that we can head straight to the remaining patches and be assured of at least 1 chicken occupant! We extracted Effel from her own personal briar patch just before winter set in and we can do it again chickens! Consider this war!

What to do with all those eggs? Make a sponge cake. The very first stage of making a spongecake…”First line your tin”…

At this stage I wanted to make sure that you got the gist that I am a darned good cake tin liner. This was to take your mind off the fact that I was, in fact, making an unassisted spongecake for the very first time…I have made spongecakes before and they have been sad sorry flat excuses for something edible that even the chooks refused. I wanted to break my losing streak and so put myself out there yet again to possibly fail…”Isn’t this tin lined beautifully?”…

These are the real reason why I decided to make a spongecake. 4 pristine duck eggs from our 2 girls given to us by Nat’s stepdaughter and suddenly starting to produce these. I know that duck eggs make amazing cakes because mum TOLD me that they did. I decided to find out for myself…

This mixer might be my handy dandy go to mixer that facilitates the manufacture of cakey goodness on Serendipity Farm but one day I am going to drop this thing on my head and kill myself! Perhaps a rethink of where we are currently storing this heavy metal mixer might be on the cards in the near future…

Notes about duck eggs…they are somewhat cloudier than hen eggs…the yolks aren’t quite as yellow…there were more whites in them and lastly the whites were harder to separate from the yolks but these eggs were uber fresh so perhaps that had something to do with it?

A juxtaposition in the cost of an item. The blender (admittedly only the base is present in this photo) cost just on $1300 and the packet of sugar was so cheap as to be negligable. Just a note to readers in the U.S. our sugar is manufactured from sugar cane where yours is mainly corn based or beet. The blender is amazing, high speed and can turn this sugar here into icing sugar in a matter of seconds. It can also (using the additional expensive goblet) turn grains into dust in a similar time frame. I bought this years ago and have only just started to use it to its full advantage. One of those “why on EARTH did I spend that…oh wait a minute THAT’S why!” moments. I also wanted to point out that buying sugar in a paper bag is better for the environment however the day that they make paper from bamboo is the day that I am going to be one happy camper…let’s all stop cutting down trees for newspapers eh?

This is the first sift of the dry ingredients (1 of 3) and has been undertaken using one of the sieves that I found in a cupboard after we moved in. I would like to continue using these older kitchen items as aside from being made to last, it gives a continuity to my dad’s partner Val who never had any children of her own.

If it acts like a spongecake…it sounds like a spongecake…it smells like a spongecake IT’S A SPONGECAKE! :)…Wait a minute…”thats not a spongecake…THAT’S a spongecake!…”

No words people…just get a fork!

By the way…the cake is curiously decorated because one half is Steve’s (thus the chocolately maltesers) and the other half has been designated “the dogs”

I was just thinking about winter again and how in winter we tend to become more insular along with better insulated. We look inside ourselves and the cold weather constricts our physical and mental boundaries. Come spring and everything starts to become active again and we look outside ourselves but in the middle of winter when it’s cold and rainy and bleak outside there is nothing so desirable as a nice warm spot and a good book. I have fallen by the reading wayside of late. I haven’t even finished my copy of “Tuesday’s with Morrie” and I have to take “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café” back on Friday unread. I am drawn more to homesteading books at the moment and a fantastic book that I discovered entirely by accident whilst reading a blog feed was “A Householder’s Guide to the Universe: A Calendar of Basics for the Home and Beyond”. By one “Harriet Fasenfest”. I have mentioned Harriet before albeit fleetingly and mostly because of her chuckle inducing name but this lady is no one trick pony and this book is gold! I have taken to channelling my envy and lust for buying books into a more productive (and less expensive) hobby of trying to gain access to these books through the library. Most of them soon lose that glittering “MUST HAVE” promise when you have waded through the bampf and found them more hype than hope. This book, however, is amazing. It’s one of those books that are actually worth lusting after and indeed pulling that moth eaten sock out from under the bed and extracting the readies to purchase this gem for yourselves. Aside from being one of the most elegant over 50’s women, Harriet has an amazing ability to write what we want to hear. No garbage…full of good humour and actual knowledge gold. What more could you want? (Take note girls who are reading this…my birthday IS coming up soon and aside from wanting a renewed subscription to “Feast” (cheers in advance Bethany…) this book would be most gratefully accepted as a token of your undying love Madeline. Go to “The Book Depository” as it ships fast, costs less and there is no shipping)…I love having adult children ;).

What do you do when you have been given a pile of lemons and you don’t actually use lemons for much and they have been sitting in a bowl for a week and are dangerously close to going over to the dark side…you preserve them for future lemony needs is what you do… first you get yourself a microplane and you remove the zest…

Aside from a boon for the compost heap, these lemon skins made the house smell amazing

Some more tools of the trade with the end results that I batched up into small bags and stored flat so I can chip some off whenever I need it. I love it when my practical side broadsides my lazy side and it is happening more and more often these days. The feeling of putting something aside for future use is exciting and hits just the right spot in this little black ducks homesteading heart 🙂

This was Steve’s tea last night…one home made chicken and mushroom pie in home made cheesy shortcrust pastry accompanied by oven fried chips in olive oil…all of the “Goldens” on one plate! Slather it with salt and vinegar and you have an expat’s chips shop dream on a stick 🙂

Ok it’s time to head out into the oncoming rain and possible hail, sleet and snow to walk the dogs. It’s not worth trying to reason with those seal eyes Steve…just get on your jacket and head outside.  It’s now Saturday so I guess you figured that we got back from our walk in one piece physically (but perhaps not always mentally). I am going to make this post a bit less wordy today because I have a lot of photos that require “ploise asplain” sotto voce Pauline Hanson style. To those of you who are not aware of who Pauline Hanson is (and let’s face it guys, most Aussies would rather forget her) she was a politician who was the face of a political party called One Nation. Her party was so popular because many Australians were feeling very frustrated about the liberal politics that were allowing Australia to be hurled down the politically correct line without thought of consequences but the party took it too far and ended up being more of a sad joke than a force to be reckoned with. Pauline was most noteable for her “Please explain” statements whenever she wasn’t quite up to scratch with what was being asked of her and she came off looking like a quintessential “Dumb Broad” and most certainly didn’t do women in politics ANY favours in their desire to be taken seriously. I have a sneaking suspicion that the reason that she was allowed to advance so far up the political ladder was so that she could be used as a reason why women shouldn’t be allowed into the upper echelons of politics…so…what have we done over the last few days?

  1. Walk the dogs…we ALWAYS walk the dogs…
  2. Study our brains out including plotting out a planting plan for our latest Diploma design that we are suitably proud of and will attempt to share with you AFTER our lecturer gets it first
  3. Cooking and preserving all sorts of things

That would be about it aside from playing Zelda (me) and watching horror movies on the television (Steve and Earl) and sulking (Bezial). We haven’t had time to solve world problems, find a solution for peace in the Middle East or re-inventing the wheel but we HAVE found a fix for Brunhilda’s metal firebox handle that has burned us for the LAST TIME! We have stayed cosy and warm through these short winter days and long winter nights and we have been industrious little beavers with all sorts of fixes etc. I have attempted to give my daughters strong mental and blog posty hints about my rapidly advancing birthday wish list and hopefully they have heard me…if they haven’t…here is a VERY good reason for you to get me the Harriet Hasenfest book “A Householders Guide to the Universe” from The Book Depository Madeline…Its under $20 with free postage and you can’t get a cheaper gift than that (aside from a bag of flour but you just KNOW which one I am actually going to like ;)).  Please feel free to ignore that bit of gratuitous gift wrangling…it’s one of the perks of being the mother of adult children…you get to give them a taste of what it was like when they were kids “MUUUM I NEED a Dr. Dreadful kit…I NEED a Stretch Armstrong…”… Cheers girls 😉

I think that making things for yourself is only hard until you get into the habit of doing it. Here we have the fixings for sesame milk (in the jug on the left) along with the wine bottle that I am storing it in until I can find a suitable container at the local thrift shop…almonds soaking for almond milk (my new tea topper of choice) and the container at the rear has the feral chooks bread cut up ready for early morning degustation and the crust free butter sandwich on the top is Pingu’s breakfast treat. They all get left overnight to be used and processed the next day…easy peasy!

2 of the “Must have” books on my list of “To Buy” books in the near future. I take them out of the library…I go through them with a fine toothed comb (my mind…razor sharp lol) and I ascertain whether or not the information contained within is valuable and precious enough for me to want to hock my right leg and if it is…I buy it…if it isn’t I take what I want (typing 101 and fast fingers Fran) or I just drop it back to the library with negligable cost to the moth filled sock under the bed. I have also found The Permaculture book of Ferment and Human Nutrition has been reprinted! No more lusting after this amazing tomb for me, I can buy myself one for my birthday…I LOVE books! 🙂

Even with his winter wool Steve’s large head is NO match for Earl and his enormous bonce. He accidentally headbutted me this morning…Earls love knows no bounds and he gives it generously…and I am lucky my nose wasn’t broken. Every single part of Earl is solid and weighs a tonne. Here you see him assuming his night time position on the back of Steve’s sofa unless he manages to wedge himself between Steve and the chair and lay full length between the two. Uncomfortable for Steve but HEAVEN for Earl 🙂

Well that’s it for today guys…we have some projects on the burner that I can maybe share with you on Wednesday but for today that’s all folks! Have a great weekend and I hope that Monday finds you

  1. Alive
  2. Happy
  3. Fully functional and able to get out of bed
  4. Finally and most importantly in a good mood and fine spirits ready for doing whatever it is that you are doing this week

I did tell you that this post was going to be photo intensive…I have 2 photos lastly that I would like to share with you. My mum died in January this year and it was particularly difficult to take in because she had just spent time with us over Christmas and then suddenly she was gone. She filled her suitcase up with home made Christmas cakes and preserves and when she died I didn’t have much of “mum” in my life any more. She had been my champion blog poster and is still the third highest on the list and loved all things Serendipity Farm. I had 2 little pots of jam that she had given us…1 she had made the week that she came over here that I couldn’t bring myself to use. I remembered them languishing on the back of the second shelf down in the fridge and decided that mum wouldn’t want that “sunshine in a jar” strawberry jam cram packed full of her own home grown strawberries and gelled to within an inch of its life (thanks to a batch that had been watery the attempt before…) to be stuffed to the back of the fridge…she would have wanted it out there on the counter top, slathered all over some heavily buttered toast and so today I let go of my need to keep my mum in a small jar and opened her memory up to be part of the day to day machinations of Serendipity Farm…welcome back mum…I missed you 🙂

Anti Pulp, please don’t sue me Jarvis Cocker

Hi All,

Despite my vehement desire to stop the proposed bell bay pulp mill the title of this post has NOTHING to do with this issue. On our walk this morning (time machine people…remember the time machine…) we ran into our long suffering neighbours Frank and Adrian who asked us if we had noticed a whopping great tree falling down right on the boundary fence between our place and theirs…our tree obviously…sigh…no, we hadn’t noticed and when we just went up to take a look at the tree it was completely rotten to the core, had a mangled and long dead possum skeleton in one of the knot holes (habitat?!) and someone out there is looking after us because it caused the bare minimum of damage to anything at all. Remember…the possum is skeletal and so departed the earth a long time ago so it can’t be counted as collateral damage. We figure the tree must have fallen down on Saturday when it was incredibly windy and we were out for 4 hours at the progressive garage sale because something that big falling down would have made a rather loud “CRASH!!!”… We can’t use much of it for firewood because it is rotten but we can heap up the logs in the corner of the property to rot down and improve the soils cation exchange (organic matter + topsoil = happy days…) and provide a little pile of habitat on Serendipity Farm although I don’t think that many of our invading hoards feel the need for natural habitat to be honest…they just move on into anything that will fit them. We are starting to feel lucky to have a few feral cats about as they are catching rats and mice that are attracted to the chicken food and this time last year we had to use baits…no such problem now! As I said…there are good points and bad points about everything.

This is the long dead tree that fell on the dividing fence between our property and our long (and still) suffering neighbours property

Here is the same tree after a bit of time and some hard yards with a chainsaw and returned to the property from whence it fell

As you can see, the centre of the tree was effectively mush and despite not getting much in the way of usable firewood from this decomposing beauty, this delightful “mush” will rot down quickly when the wrens and hens have finished picking at it and will improve the soil in this area

I decided to shield your eyes from the skeletal possum that was well past its mumification date and will just let you use your imagination should you wish to pursue that train of thought. Here is Effel and some of her lovely blue laced Wyandotte babies. As you can see…following me everywhere I go because “Human = food” appears to have paid off this time

We found several of these large borer grubs and Effel and her 7 babies had a feast that will ensure that I have 8 little shadows whenever I venture out into the wide outdoors

We headed off to Beaconsfield to delight our dogs this morning (Sunday TIME MACHINE REMEMBER!). We decided to park in the local school car park and as we headed off with the dogs I noticed that the fig tree that I normally predate had some figs on it. I have no problems eating fruit overhanging fences in Tasmania because the locals don’t seem to eat much fruit. I know…why would you have fruit/nut trees if you don’t actually use the fruit/nuts? No idea people, but their loss is my gain! I picked a couple of last figs to nibble on our walk that the birds hadn’t nibbled before me and noticed a spindly fig branch sticking out of the weeds underneath the tree. I tugged it to pull it up out of the weeds because it might not be “my” plant, but I still care about it and when I tugged it I noticed roots on the stem…layering… interesting folks! We walked the boys around Beaconsfield and I collected some more walnuts from underneath the tree that I got the last lot that are sprouting from. Again, the householder wasn’t interested in harvesting these nuts as they were lying on the ground and most of them had been eaten by rats. I collected what I could and they are now stratifying in the shed along with their second batch of friends (the first 5 that have sprouted are now overwintering in the glasshouse) and a bag of hazelnuts. We got back to the car and I headed back to where the fig tree was located and managed to find 3 long branches with roots on that I could remove from amongst the weeds. I used one of our faithful and always useful doggie doo bags to put the rooted cuttings into and filled it up with leaf mould from around the base of the tree. I can’t tell you how many times we have walked down the road with a large bag of something other than nefarious dog poo! We got back home and put the cuttings and roots into a bucket of water with seasol and Auxinone in it and then potted them up and staked them using the water that they had been soaking in to water them in. They will also overwinter in the glasshouse and hopefully will develop a good set of roots. Taking root or aerial layered cuttings allows you to jump a few years on with fruit and nut production when a nut tree usually takes 10 years to produce nuts from plants grown from seed or cuttings. A good substitute for Auxinone, if you can’t find it, is to use Berocca tablets dissolved in water. When accompanied by a good splosh of seasol, the Auxinone/Berocca’s give the rooted cuttings a better chance of survival and we get very few die on us so hopefully these tall cuttings will like their new home. At least they are vertical now rather than horizontal!

Here are those 3 figs in their new home where they will overwinter until spring later on in the year. Behind them we have our 2 bananas and their “humidity generator” a.k.a. a Monstera deliciosa that allows them to have their own little humid microclimate. They lived through last winter without their new friend so hopefully they will arrive in spring as happy little customers. We tidied out the glasshouse to prepare it for winter and its inhabitants for receival of the maximum light that they can get over the next few months

We are opportunistic whenever we see cutting material that we can use to grow plants for Serendipity Farm or for swapping with nursery owner friends for plants. The same deal goes for seed. There is something really primal about collecting your own seed and growing plants from cuttings. I dare say it harkens back to the days when our survival revolved around our ability to hunt and grow our own food.  I love waking up when it is still dark and quiet in the house and slipping quietly out of bed and heading into the kitchen where I can settle down to see what the world delivers me right into my inbox. I subscribe to some very interesting blogs and am usually not let down by the content of my early morning mental breakfast. I like to learn things. I was born to learn more than my fair share for some reason and where some might crave that first cigarette or that last piece of chocolate, I crave knowledge. I must add here that I crave knowledge for things that interest me! Should anyone want to indulge my quest for knowledge by sending me their old university mathematical physics or chemistry  textbooks they will be returned with “Not at this address” scrawled in bright red crayon (after I eat the first red crayon that is…). There are elements of all of those most noble of mind breaking concepts that not only pique my interest but actively make me swoon but too few to list here and so we will forget about them for the moment. I choose to learn what my mind needs to take in new concepts and sometimes that is maths…so I learn the bare basics to get me through and wing it as I go along.

Now I don’t know if you are in agreement with me here, but I get the feeling that there is something that smells VERY interesting on this bit of driftwood…

Steve took a few arty photos when we were at the beach the other day. I quite liked this one

And I REALLY liked this one

I am typing while I wait for my “dog pikelets” to cook. They aren’t actually my dog pikelets…I am home alone dog sitting while Steve does the fortnightly shopping 50km away and have 2 sulking dogs who haven’t had a walk yet. Much like children, dogs can be somewhat distracted from actively sulking by waving food under their noses and so after heading out to let the chooks out of their coop and having feral cats follow me the whole way looking pitiful and having seen them catch rats the other day thus earning at least something in return I decided to give the chooks, cats and dogs a bit of a cold morning treat. I headed in to the cupboards and discovered that there wasn’t all that much there that would interest a cat, dog or even a chook. We have reached that time of the fortnight where shopping becomes less of a chore and more of a necessity. I had to get creative with what was available…1 large container of out of date thickened cream (still smelling fine…)…3 free range eggs that our hens have decided to spring on us of late…1 tin of tuna found at the back of the cupboard…2 semi floppy carrots found in the crisper (note to self “CLEAN THE CRISPER”!…sigh…) add a bit of Self-Raising flour and a bit of left over lard from making pork pie pastry to fry it all in. An instant human heart attack but bliss for animal-kind. They don’t look all that bad and 4 of them have disappeared into the dogs so I think I am on to a winner. Consider that my recipe for hump day. Technically these would be fritters rather than pikelets but I have the ump with New Zealand (home of the fritter) at the moment for selling themselves to the highest bidder (in this case China) and for allowing themselves to be the food laundering capital of the world. Your reputation is plummeting New Zealand and if I check a label and see “New Zealand” on it, I won’t buy it because it is a veneer for “Chinese Import”. Almost all of our frozen vegetables are routed through New Zealand from China to give them a fake façade of clean and green and New Zealand is allowing this to their own detriment. That’s why these are pikelets (still semi-New Zealand but like Pavlovas and Anzac biscuits… WE MADE THEM FIRST! ;o).  There you go…I couldn’t let a Monday go past without having a bit of a rant albeit a small one (I will say this for the last time this post… Time machine people…that is how I can jump around from the past to the present so easily…)

I decided to use the 4 teracotta froggy pot stands that I bought for 20c each at the progressive garage sale on Saturday to good use in the kitchen. This little setup reminds me of  the  Discworld which consists of a large disc resting on the backs of four huge elephants which are in turn standing on the back of an enormous turtle named Great A’Tuin as it slowly swims through space. In this case… it is a disc of Huon pine resting on 4 small teracotta frogs who are in turn resting on my butchers block as it slowly wheels around my kitchen. If you don’t know what I am talking about here… you really REALLY need to get yourselves a complete Discworld series of books by Terry Pratchett and settle down for one of the most entertaining, humorous and enlightening journeys of your life

This is Steve’s $5 backpack from the progressive garage sale. We have been filling it with water and allowing it to soak to ensure that we won’t be killing off any of our precious babies with any prior contents. We will be using this backpack sprayer to apply seasol, powerfeed and worm tea along with compost tea…weed tea…liquid manure…anything natural that we can manufacture on site to give our garden an edge

I found this fossil on the beach the other day. No idea what it is but Steve swears it is an octopus… hmmm…does anyone have the heart to tell him that octopi do not have anything to fossilise? No… I thought not…lets just keep it as our little secret 😉

I am trying to be more proactive than reactive. It’s quite difficult because I think I was born to be somewhat reactive (as my posted rants about all things that push my buttons would tend to allude to…) and so this is new territory. When you wake up and the very first song that you hear on the clock radio is “Born to be alive” by Patrick Hernandez and it gets stuck in your head and you spend the morning singing an ancient disco song to a most ungrateful of audiences (if dogs could put their paws over their ears these 2 would…) you soon realise which side of the proactive/reactive fence you tend to reside. I would love to be one of those “Doers”. One of those people who jump out of bed fresh and ready for the new day. They have all of their ideas condensed down into perfect little dot points of action and after a healthy pre-planned vegan super food breakfast they race off to tick off their lives in sequence arriving at the end of their day satisfied, satiated and successful. I have been delving a little bit deeper into these sort of people and have made a startling discovery… they simply don’t exist! Behind every good man is a good woman and behind every “proactive” go getter/doer there are a team of hidden supplicants facilitating their every move. As much as I love Richard Branson, I dare say he just has to postulate an idea and it eventuates with a click of his fingers. Who wouldn’t be happy and always with a smile on their face if they merely had to suggest to make something happen with only the idea as “work” for the day? I know that there are people out there who are able to strategically work through their day arriving at the end satisfied and happy with their lot and they tend to live in the sustainable community living a hard life with all natural hippy rewards but perhaps somewhere along the way they learned to be a whole lot happier with a whole lot less? What I am trying to say is it’s all a matter of how you choose to see things. If you take a good hard look at what you actually have (not what you owe a stack of credit on folks…that doesn’t belong to you!) and make your peace with what you can and can’t immediately afford and learn to live within your means life can take on a whole different slant. Do you really need that investment home? Do you need all of that pre-made food that minimises your time spent in the kitchen to microwave…ding…eat…? What are we actually racing about attaining all this wealth for anyway? I read once, (I have actually read more than once but this is leading into a story and not a literal quantification of how much reading I have accomplished in my life ;o) that if someone gets an increased amount of money to live on…even one significant enough to allow them to save a lot of extra money…most people will simply adapt (more quickly than they would like to admit) to increasing their spending to absorb this amount rather than saving it. It’s natural human nature to want more and we are buying in to an ever increasingly powerful media and advertising sector that seem to be dictating trends rather than trying to get us to follow. We are eager to jump into buying a new car even though we only bought our old one 3 years ago…we need a new bed…a new toaster a new partner! Everything is geared at trying to get us to hand over our readies (whether cash or credit) to pay for something that if we really thought about it, we most probably wouldn’t buy. It’s a lot easier to be sanctimonious about people spending money when you don’t actually have any to spend yourself I will admit. There are entire multinational corporations of people selling “futures”… things that haven’t even happened yet! It is so very difficult to hear yourself think these days because everything has advertising in it including our emails (is anyone else heartily SICK TO DEATH of that bloody grey monkey on the incredimail advertisement’s?) and so the further you can take yourself away from the madding crowd and the more you are able to learn to hear that little inner voice telling us what we REALLY need rather than what society is telling us that we “need” the more likely we are to arriving at some point where we can be grateful, thankful and happy with what we have in our lives right here, right now. Our own private nirvana in our lifetime :o). GO AWAY PATRICK HERNANDEZ!…sigh…it seems that whatever song I wake up to on the radio in the mornings tends to stick in my brain for the rest of the day. I can be sweeping the floor and suddenly find myself whistling that song…throwing bread out to the chooks and I am humming it…I will be collecting the wood up in the paddock and loudly singing it sorry Frank (our neighbour) and today’s menu item is “Born to be alive”…a song that I didn’t even like when it first came out last century and am cursed to vocalise for the rest of the day.

Earl looking a bit the worse for wear after a particularly vigorous race full pelt around the house

If you look REALLY hard you can see Fatty, Felix’s sole remaining kitten peeking out of the conifer

The sight that greets me when I take Steve in his cup of coffee at 7am most mornings

I have mentioned before that I learn more about the real world by wandering around paying attention to what is going on around this 4 acre property than I have up until now in my life. I was throwing out my tuna/carrot/lardy goodness cakes (to keep me getting spammed by the Chinese-New Zealanders about just who invented pikelets/fritters…) to the waiting throng of chooks, sparrows and feral cats below whilst passing morsels sideways to the waiting dogs, when I started to notice interesting societal things about our little ecosystem we call Serendipity Farm. The cats have had to learn to get along with the chooks because it became pretty obvious that if you stalk a chook you get a piece of wood thrown at you. Not only do the cats not attack the chooks (apart from the odd fluff ball that doesn’t stay close to mum and who disappears “somewhere” in the ether) but they are actively afraid of them! This is NOT normal. Chooks are supposed to be afraid of cats but on Serendipity Farm where nature gazes from below up at a benefactor with attitude they learned pretty soon that the cats were not going to mess with them and have turned from terrified cat snacks into bullies who will steal food from the cats mouths. How out of whack are we?!  From the very first group of 8 point of lay chooks that we bought last year and that chased a terrified Felix down the pathway in blatant avian angst our chooks have attained a level of induced fear that would rival a biker gang in human terminology. They strut…they peck…even Pingu runs into the throng of cats and delivers savage blows to the top of their hissing heads should they dare to even LOOK at her. Our chooks are more dangerous than our dogs! Forget Bezial and Earl any burglars out there… you would be sneaking into the danger zone the moment you stepped onto the property. Be afraid… be VERY afraid!

All of this society 101 has sprung from several people over the last week telling us that they envy our lifestyle. Steve and I just turn to each other in wonderment whenever anyone would even think of wanting to do what we do every day. I guess it’s the grass is greener meets the photos that we post on the blog. No-one likes to portray the bad things about their lives and so we tend not to post anything depressing or sordid that might perhaps make someone think differently about us. My dad died on July 7th 2010 leaving us more aware of our mortality and suddenly able to call a few acres of land “mine”. “You lucky bastard!” (Said in Michael Palin’s voice from “The Life of Brian”…) and here it is if you are the poorer for never having discovered Monty Python so far… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EI7p2p1QJI Yes…we ARE lucky and we will always be grateful to my dad for giving us something that we would never have had otherwise but right there is where the scene of happiness and joy starts to fade into reality and hard work. Nothing that is worth having is easy people! We tend to look to the future to deliver us from our lives today and some of us spend our lives waiting for “the kids to leave home”, “retirement”, “that winning lotto coupon” rather than taking stock of what life has actually dealt us and learning to not only accept and live with it but find real happiness in our own personal circumstances. How many of you have watched documentaries about native tribes out in the middle of the South American jungle who despite their lack of anything that we would be able to identify as “wealth” are all smiling, curious and most happy members of the human race with the strongest whitest teeth I have ever seen. I wonder how people living a subsistence life can be so very happy? Is it because they are living close to the earth that feeds clothes and sustains them and they have discovered their niche within this endless ancient balance of cycles. They are living how we all should live. Simply, with few needs and it’s only when you start introducing societies “wealth” that problems start to occur. I dare say I am glossing over the squabbles, the human vices and the general need that we humans have to stuff up whatever we are given that would be present wherever 2 or more people group together to coexist, but in general they would deal with it themselves and they would be very aware of the consequences of their actions. I find it laughable that we in 1st world societies have so much and are always hungry for more when these simple people are very content with their lot. Serendipity Farm is our chance to make a difference to our own little plot of earth and see if we can’t leave it better than when we arrived on it just under 2 years ago. The process of change that we are taking and where we found out how to go about changing for the better is what this blog is all about. I am trying to be as honest as I can about our lives but am as guilty of the next person in omitting some of the more nefarious things or glossing over them with humour. Life is tough enough without being constantly faced by negativity and so I try to temper reality with humour as often as I can.

3048 words! How did I get to 3048 words! I only just sat down! Sigh…surely that word check on the bottom of Word is fibbing…I often wonder if there will ever be an end to the need to splash what’s inside my head onto a page. I don’t think that my muse (who is a combination of Billy Connelly and Leonardo De Vinci with a little smattering of Albert Einstein (probably the dyslexic bit…) thrown in) wants to give up any day soon so other than writing a “Dear Abbey” column, I guess you guys get it all :o). Thanks for listening to my outpourings. I sometimes think I should be paying you all for taking the place of a psychiatrist but to be honest, that should be something that our state government does for the safety of our state so you lose out this time. See you all on Saturday night/Sunday morning (depending on which side of the Equator you are) where we can take up this session where we left off…till then…”Domo arigato Mr Roboto” (because I can’t spell Sayonara)

A Fracoon is eating my library books!

Hi All,

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

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

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

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

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

Goat 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this bit…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A pocket full of walnuts and a pocket full of hope

Hi All,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hmmm…what do we have here?”…

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

Is it just me who finds this somewhat alarming?!

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

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

This is Mattie’s recipe that he invented

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

This is Bryanna’s take on this recipe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beware the Ides of March

Hi All,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do we have here….

PIGS!!!!!!!!!

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

Strider soup

Hi All,

I am a happy chicken because gunn’s (they don’t deserve a capital letter…) have just lost their prospective (and most shonky) partner who was going to bail them out of the toilet and give them the funds to get this massive great white elephant of a pulp mill up and running. I am all for looking after local businesses but when they are as corrupt and shonky as guns, I can make an exception. This is a case of the little men holding steady and refusing to give up against goliath. Hopefully gunn’s will come toppling down like the top heavy overweight plutocratic behemoth that it is! Are you starting to get the feeling that I am not enamoured of gunns or its politics? Tasmania is like the Wild West of Australia. If you had enough money (in the not too distant past) and were a big enough bully boy, you could pretty much do anything that you wanted in Tasmania. Times are slowly changing but you can see remnant pockets of corruption nestled in both the labour and liberal state government here and that makes it hard to work out who to vote for when it is time to vote. I want to make my voice count but when state government is this self-serving and has completely lost its ability to judge just who is voting for them and why they are in power in the first place, I don’t have a lot of faith in either of these major parties delivering any sort of positive statement to the people of Tasmania. We need jobs but not at the expense of our environment and we need health, law and education as well but they appear to be unimportant to our state government in the quest to achieve massive (38% is massive to me) pay rises for themselves when businesses are folding all around them and people are losing their jobs every day. It is a bit like King Canute in the state of Tasmania and our good lady premier is refusing to step down from her throne. I have a decided political lien to the beginning of this post today but I just heard about gunns partner pulling out and had to say something about it. It has been a most incredibly frustrating situation having no say whatsoever about this totally unsuitable development proposed to be built just around the corner from our home. The best our premier could say was “we need the jobs” and when queried why she was allowing gunns to be exempt from anyone complaining about the mill for 2 years, her answer was “we can’t afford the litigation”…sigh…that is what we have to live with out here. I figure there are a few of us that might need Frontier psychiatry…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLrnkK2YEcE&ob=av2e

Yeh…I figure after that I might actually need therapy!

This is a picture of a most contented Bezial. This was back before we got chickens and they took over the outside world. Bezial used to walk with Steve and I all over Serendipity Farm and if we stayed out in the bush too long (whipper snipping etc.) he would trot back to the house and lay on the deck keeping watch. He loves Serendipity Farm

Then Earl showed up…Bezial’s world turned upside down and is only just now starting to calm down a little since Earl turned 1

 This is a perfect representation of Earl. He has that look in his eye that shows that he is watching EVERYTHING and that nothing is going to escape this little brown and white dog…

It is Saturday morning and I have started to get up with the alarm (after listening to the news of course…there is a tiny bit of my dad in my genes that requires that much of me…) and sit here for an hour tapping away, checking up on my subscription posts sent to my email until it starts to get light at 7am and Steve can get up (I take him a cuppa) and we can head out to walk the dogs while it is still cool and crisp and all of those delicious wildlife smells are still hanging in the breeze. I was checking out the posts sent to our inbox and realised that I have some mighty stuff sitting there. Since I started using the power of Tags to add to my posts I am getting a lot more international people checking in and reading about Serendipity Farm and a fair few “like” ticks from some very well written and constructed blogs. It reinforces my belief that the internet is a most powerful tool for free information for “the masses” I realise that makes me sound like a communist there but it is difficult to separate the 99% of us living on salaries and wages and benefits from the 1% who control the world. I headed off to check out the blog of “The Sustainability Puzzle” who liked one of my posts enough to tick “like”. I know from my own blog hunting habits that it takes a fair bit for me to “like” a post so I take that as kudos indeed so “Cheers” Robert of The Sustainability Puzzle who looks a whole lot like Tobias (Toby) from Cert 3 so if you feel like taking a look (Nat) you can back me up there. Go check out his blog, it is very interesting and so informative that this little black magpie has had to subscribe to follow his posts. I can feel a wealth of free information coming my way that I might be able to share with you all and that will add to my militant outrageous indignation about how corporate greed is overriding the processes of change towards sustainability…

http://sustainabilitypuzzle.wordpress.com/

I have several environmental/sustainable blogs that I follow and I have several mind expanding sites including Instructables. Really folks, if you haven’t bothered to head over there and check it out you really are missing out on the most incredible wealth of information about how to bypass “the man” (that dreaded middle man that I have so come to loathe…) and learn to do and make your own “stuff”. Bollocks to paying someone out there to grummage (my own word so bollocks off spellcheck!) our precious non-renewable resources out of the ground to mass produce Brittney Spears tee-shirts and plastic toys to lure small children (and their surprising amount of pulling power) into fast food restaurants. Should you be desperate to have a Brittney Spears Tee-shirt why don’t you make your own? Learn how to screen print and make your very own amazing Brittney Spears (ech…is that an oxymoron or what!) tee-shirt and you might open up a market for sustainably produced tee-shirts that you can sell at markets and give yourself an incredible sense of satisfaction by producing them sustainably (use potatoes to print…think laterally!) while being able to make a bit of money. That’s what it is all about…think laterally to get what you want…do more with less… live simply so that others may simply live. Give what you are doing a bit of thought and take the extra 3 minutes to wash out a glass jar and toss it into the recycling. What are we saving our time for? We need to stop believing marketing and media giants who are making a (literal) killing out of our gullible (and if we are being honest lazy) need to be directed to what we want and need. We are developing into people who are “too busy” to think and choose. Once we give away our ability to reason…think and choose we have given away our basic fundamental right to what makes us human (our choice). I got quite heavy there didn’t I? You might be led to believe that I am some sort of environmental dynamo who spends her time wandering the Ethernet in search of ever increasing militant communistic incitement when to be honest I couldn’t be bothered with violent protest. You get more from your chosen victim with honey than you do with a stick and I choose to wave a honeyed stick to deliver my message. To be honest I am just as susceptible to anyone to some pretty pictures, some nice bright text and a few great recipes and am stepping out of the closet and straight into a 12 step programme to reveal my secret lust for food porn. I can’t help it, I am only human (and a greedy one at that who’s main vice is ingested with gusto) and I am only reading them for the article’s “I swear!”

Check out the latest at Ruth’s blog “The Pink Whisk”. She came second (SHE WAS JIPPED!) on the television series “The Great British Bake-off” and her blog is drool worthy indeed. She gives a light and humorous touch to baking and her cakes are delectable (the main reason I checked her blog out in the first place) and well worth checking out.

http://www.thepinkwhisk.co.uk/2012/03/grasshopper-cake.html

Again, I am so happy about how easy it is to share online. I hunted through that post above and found Ed Kimber’s blog (the guy that came 1st in The Great British Bake-off). I didn’t even know that he had one! This guy is someone who lost a tonne of weight and turned his life around and now puts his obvious love of food into feeding other people (a curious thing that happens to most people who lose a lot of weight…let’s just call it “food transference” and it tends to fatten up their nearest and dearest…). This guy is the king of techniques and perfect delivery. Check him out and see why he just pipped Ruth to the post…

http://theboywhobakes.co.uk/2010/01/grasshopper-cake/

And you can compare their different takes on the very same recipe. I am really excited about my new ability to isolate information that I am interested in. It’s just like cataloguing books in the library (I can hear you yawning but bear with me…) and is exactly what Google have started to do. I don’t know about the rest of you but I am online pretty much 24/7 when I am not studying, reading, crocheting and serving as general slave and scullery maid on Serendipity Farm and I “notice” things. Google searches are now watching what you are looking for. I went hunting to find out what a “Seral Community” was yesterday and once I had isolated the single entry on the first Google search page that had anything to do with what I was looking for (I DIDN’T want serial numbers or a serial crack for my illegally downloaded software…) and clicked it…Google set about the clanking of chains to make my next search completely compatible with my last search so it isolated “Seral” as a component of my next search, taking in to account that most people are hunting for something that is related to their last search. Good on you for that Google but it DOESN’T make me forgive you for attempting to “cloud” up our lives with a power hungry grasp for our free information. While it is still free I am going for it and am collecting and collating as much relevant content to what we are studying, my interests and to Serendipity Farm and its outcomes as I possibly can. One day I will have it all to share with anyone who wants it…perhaps Serendipity Farm will be the next Google? ROTFL! Narp!

I noticed this little teracotta dove on a brick gate post when we were walking in Rowella the other day. I really liked it because it wasn’t run of the mill cutesy and was a little bit different

I really liked this Hibiscus syriacus and when I was taking the photo I noticed that little insect sitting on the flower…on closer inspection the shrub was loaded with these little critters that were very quick and that had nefarious intentions. I am glad it’s not my shrub!

I quite liked this large planter. There are 2 of them in the garden on either side of a gate that doesn’t have any fence attached to it…just sitting in the middle of the garden on a concreted pole and latched onto another concreted pole. I am wondering if they are going to put a fence in or just leave it as a talking piece…it got me talking didn’t it?

The boys have been using their latent “ratting” powers to hunt for mice in the pantry cupboard. Our endeavours to ensure a rat/mouse free cupboard have resulted in Bezial being confused because he doesn’t have to do any of that sort of “dirty” work anymore…apparently that is what we bought Earl for…and Earl getting excited because of his close proximity to food and cat biscuits to be specific. In all it was a fruitless pointless exercise that exposed a gaping hole in the theory that the animals that live with us are “Wild Creatures” and should be treated as such. Our dogs are pampered sloths that require food (only the best), water and a king sized bed to recline on at night. They require that we do what they want whenever they want it and that we spend at least 50% of our waking hours walking them in ever more interesting places (can’t go to the same place 2 days in a row or Bezial balks and refuses to walk…) and spend our evenings sitting on the sofa acting as dog pillows or should we dare to do anything else (like me sitting here in the kitchen/living area typing or researching) one of them (paper…rock…scissors…LOSER) has to lay here sighing heavily next to me on the floor until I do the right thing and go into the lounge room to do my duty. It seems like we hold the Midas touch when it comes to creating ideal situations for our fellow creatures to live a life of decadent sloth. Our feral cats all lay outside oblivious to the tasty little morsels that would lure them should they be actual wild cats rather than fat sleek capitalist’s growing in number on a daily basis and creating slaves of our dwindling resources. The hens are just money pits who have decided to conserve their energy and suck up as much free range grain as they can…why lay eggs? They expend energy that you might be using to grow exponentially larger to take over the world! We feed cheese cut into small cubes to the local cuckoo shrikes, bread to the sparrows (who also take advantage of the free range hen food and the dogs bones laying around the enclosure) and anything else that wants a free feed drops around to eat grain, potted plants and anything else that it can lay its hands/beaks/feet on in the full knowledge that the dogs and cats are so full that they couldn’t be bothered to lift up their lazy slothful heads to attack them…life on Serendipity Farm is indeed “A Dogs Life”…

I really like this little old cottage and its lovely garden in Rowella. I love that Japanes maple that is starting to change colour quite early. That symbolises an early and hard (cold) winter…that and my trick knee…

This is the sea wall at Bonnie Beach. I just really liked the look of this picture and decided to include it for you all to see how the tides affect the banks of the Tamar River. I haven’t ever seen tides like we get on the river. They occur twice a day and mean the difference between a pebble beach for the dogs to walk on and suddenly water up to the top of this wall. When looking out of the windows in the day you can sometimes see Egg Island as almost able to be walked on from the point and at other times it is indeed a separate body. Interesting whirpools occur under the Batman Bridge and the jellyfish take advantage of these incredibly strong currents to coast in and out to and from the sea almost like they are surfing under water

This sunflower is pretty isn’t it? We grew it and it is in the glasshouse as it got a rather late start in its lifecycle and needed a boost to get it to flower. Like most “late” things this sunflower is actually quite small but Steve did his best to make it look humungous for you all to be dead jealous of…are you impressed?

We have just gotten back from our walk in Beaconsfield and I took a few photos of the stump left after the removal of the massive big Ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior) that was just removed from the park area opposite the main shops in Beaconsfield. I know it had to be removed because it was dangerous and there was no WAY that the West Tamar Council (remembering that they support the pulp mill…) was going to spend anything on bolting and bracing/cabling this ancient old tree who has been watching over this tiny mining community for more than a century but it had a real presence, and it is somewhat fitting that the removal of this majestic old tree coincides with the closing of the Beaconsfield mine very soon and what amounts to the end of the town. There are “For Sale” signs up everywhere and the locals are being stoic about their chances of keeping a sense of community but it is inevitable that once the only source of employment for 50km dries up, something is going to have to give. The natives steadfastly refuse to give up their blinkered view about how society should work…men go out to work…you buy a house…you have kids…you retire on your pension and you go fishing in your boat that you bought with your superannuation. Life is so much more complicated now and filled with so many choices (or so the superannuation, life insurance and general media would have us believe) and it’s “way too hard” to make up your mind about anything important any more…best you farm off your choice and your decisions to an expert…who just so happens to be one of my dreaded middle men! If you wipe out the experts you have to rely on your own ability to think both in black and white common sense and laterally. You have to suddenly develop problem solving skills and seek alternatives to your usual materials, resources, sources and you have to start weighing things up…thinking about consequences and taking responsibility for your own actions… in short…you become a responsible ethical human being who actually gives a stuff about other people and who thinks twice before negatively impacting on the world. Everything is habit and progression. If you don’t progress you stagnate…simple as that. We develop habits like callouses. They come with experience and life and our habits are how we choose to deal with what life delivers into our inbox. They are entirely up to us and are the result of our unique way of coping. The problem is that once we have gotten through what we have to deal with, we tend to wear our bad habits as little mental and emotional accessories, cluttering up our thought processes and getting in the way of us making any sort of positive change. I see it like hermit crabs pasting bits and pieces all over their shells (or is that shrimps making a hole? I am a horticulturalist NOT a biologist!) getting more and more weighed down until they either move house to a nice clean shell (take control of their negative habits) or simply sit put (stagnate) in their existing shell mounding it up with resentment, pride, fears and anything else that will excuse their bad habits and give them a sense of self entitlement for these behaviours. I don’t fancy sitting around in a pile of my own resentment so despite “hating change” being one of my problems, I am attempting to do something about my bad habits.

Here are our “ratters”. Note they are looking down which is where the pots and pans are…we thought this meant that they could sense rats… what they could scent was that container in the lower left hand side with the red glass knob that contains dog biscuits…sigh…

Bezial has decided that he has a better chance at getting that box of bird seed and Earl is wondering why the door that covers the fridge is closed as he has a better chance of opening the fridge and getting something alltogether more tasty…

Here is the place where that amazing old Ash tree stood. The area now gets no shade and will most probably just be turned into a grassy (water sucking) space devoid of any sort of character. I miss that beautiful old Ash tree already…

And here is Steve with Bezial standing on the stump of the tree. At least I have photos of this lovely tree and the boys will miss it if only because it was a great place to catch up on the Beaconsfield dog news and leave a little “article” of their own for the locals to ruminate over

The title of today’s post is the result of me ruminating mentally about a discussion that our lecturer had with us yesterday over a nice cup of freshly brewed coffee whilst sitting out in the sunshine watching another group of students tend a vegetable garden. That sounds good does it? Well sign up for Horticulture at the Alanvale Polytechnic, there are worse ways to spend your days believe me! We were discussing our exponentially increasing amount of chickens and how the hidden eggs are posing more than a stink bomb threat to us on Serendipity Farm. Every time one of our clucky girls finds an abandoned clutch of eggs at least some of those eggs are viable and ready to go. As soon as she decides to pluck that very first chest feather (symbolising her desire to sit on those eggs for a bit…) and settles down to 3 weeks of sitting, pecking and running from nest to food, water and back, we have the chance of more chickens. I thought that chickens were delicate little fluffy things that got eaten by everything but Houdini is an amazing mum and every single one of her chickens has survived and grown on. Her first 5 feral babies are now a firm clique here and with their own little rooster in charge looking out for them they live in an enormous Kunzea ambigua on the fence that borders Glad’s place. Houdini’s fluff balls are now small chooks and it looks like we might have another 3 roosters in that pack of 7 and suddenly we are being forced to deal with the roosters. This brings me back to what we were talking to our lecturer about. He appreciates a good sustainability moment and actually built himself a mud brick house on a bush block property out in the sticks near Mt Barrow. Tasmania is full of beautiful places to live and areas of wet and dry sclerophyll forest that lend themselves to being bolt holes for errant hippy sustainable alternative types who leap out of the wilderness to upset poor hard working salt of the earth forestry workers…hopefully you can detect the sarcasm dripping from my disdainful words there as our state is being held hostage by old school mentality that needs a severe update. We can’t keep raping and pillaging Tasmania for its raw resources, it’s too valuable a resource for that. We need to encourage effective food production using the abundant (at the moment) water that we have available, we need to think about harnessing some of the creative energy that is being postulated all over the place in arts councils, theatre and musical ventures and sorry to say, artistically temperamental people tend to severely lack common sense…there I said it! They tend to be too busy creating to think about the real world and whenever you let a group of “artistic” people together you end up with all sorts of fanciful ideas that are bandied about bouncing from one stage to another and very rarely getting off the ground. We need creative people. We need beauty and passion and creativeness in our lives to balance out the cold stark hard face of reality but we also need common sense and people who are able to implement (doers) ideas. Let’s all get together here and work out a sustainable plan for Tasmania. A REAL sustainable plan, not a pile of elitist ideas about “greening”; “ecotourism”;” “clean-green” or any other garbage bampf that our government and their spin doctors are touting at the moment to try to get us to part with our money. Note anything “Clean, Green or Sustainable” always comes with an enormous price tag…

So what do we do? First…we stop postulating and start implementing. On Serendipity Farm this means listening to something that our closet hippy lecturer posed yesterday and doing something about the growing rooster population on Serendipity Farm. Strider…Steve’s pet rooster has decided to spend his days attacking Steve. I am as “Sooky la-la” (Kym’s word and now common speak on Serendipity Farm…) as the next person but if you want to have a go strider…BRING IT ON! There is nothing so cathartic to your sentimentality (at least in my case) as something “taking the piss”. I will have to explain that to overseas readers…that is Aussie speak for challenging behaviour tantamount to pushing your buttons. Steve’s Stryder is “taking the piss” and as Steve is most probably too Sooky la-la to remove his head and stop the problem and as our lecturers idea of tossing all of the roosters into the shed and then releasing the hounds (what a terrifying picture that leaves in my mind!) is NOT going to be something that we are even going to contemplate, it is going to have to be good old fashioned “Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall” type homesteading on a Serendipity Farm scale. See…I DID  get around to explaining that title didn’t I? I just went all over the place to do so. I like to share my inner journeys with you here on Serendipity Farm and if you have a spare moment for a mental cup of tea and a bit of time to think about “things” we can share many a moment here in the Ethernet postulating all about the meaning of life…42 if I am not mistaken…see you all tomorrow