The rambunctiousness of Ravens

Hi All,

Does anyone else feel like they won lotto when they go to the library? It’s a treasure trove of knowledge and literature and my go-to place to withdraw myself a bank load of mental dollar bills. The library ladies both know me now…I used to attend Polytechnic in my first year and a half of studies and Helen; one of the library ladies was a “minder” (for want of a better word) for a disabled young man who was a bit of a handful. I think working at the library would be a gentle breeze after trying to manage a most determined, exuberant and often aggressive young man. The other library lady (whose name I am not privy to…) is also very nice. She knows me because I am the library patron who can’t be seen as she enters the doorway because of the staggering tower of returns that she is balancing precariously in a circus worthy attempt to have them all arrive on the library counter in one fell swoop…”Hello Fran”…and I am in! Aside from Nigel Slater’s entire back catalogue that I pre-ordered on my best friend “TALIS” (the state-wide library website where you can peruse to your heart’s content and order whilst wearing your pyjamas, eating toast at 6am and scratching yourself in a most satisfactory manner…all frowned on in the actual library but completely allowed when utilising TALIS)…The tiny space contains adventitious books…books that have been ordered and returned to the library in a most clever sustainable practice that the states libraries have decided to embrace where the book stays in its orderee’s library until it is requested again…I am severely tempted to order my 15 allowable books, Steve’s 15 allowable books and borrow my daughters 2 cards as well and keep ordering books to see just how many books the tiny rural kiosk of Exeter could physically handle but aside from being a reasonably nice person, I am far too lazy to apply myself with fervour to a task that doesn’t actually result in anything other than the annoyance of the library ladies and a breakdown in the relationship that I have built with them.

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As we were walking the dogs just outside our front gate we noticed the black “pirate ship” motoring underneath the Batman Bridge and decided to watch it head back out to sea. Apparently it is heading down to the Hobart wooden boat rally but it certainly cut a fine figure through the water on its way

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Bezial’s old walking haunt “The Swamp”. Just mentioning it makes his ears prick up and his tail wag and the other day we walked the boys around this wetland area that is subject to regular high tides that cover these pathways and keep the vegetation lush

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Steve, Bezial and Earl walking nonchalantly past this wonderful Illawarra Flame Tree (Brachychiton acerifolius) pretending that Steve isn’t at ALL interested in whether or not it has any seed pods on it this year as he may or may not have taken advantage of its seedy goodness in years past…

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Not quite “flame” but an example of the brillian colour of the flowers that bedeck the entire tree and make it a stunning street tree

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Seed pods! Steve may or may not be predating these seed pods on an indetermined day in the near future (is that vague enough do you think? 😉 )

I was able to take “Vegan Pie In The Sky” out again because it is a wonderful eclectic collection of delicious vegan desserts that certainly piqued my interest. I also took out another book again…The book is called “The Wilderness Garden” by one Jackie French. I have talked about Ms French before. She was a doyen of organic wackiness back in the 80’s before organic became the creed of the hipster. She wore weird hats made of vegetables and was larger than life…another larger than life lady whom I admire immensely is Ms Dawn French (note the last name…)…both ladies were once larger than life and have minimised themselves down to postage stamps…both ladies have out of this world senses of humour and each sports a healthy attitude of themselves and appear to be optimistic about the world around them and both are writers…what is the difference between them? Well 1 can write amazingly well and has a plethora of extremely useful tomes for the adventurous gardener and the other one can’t write herself out of a paper bag…I am sorry Ms French (you KNOW which one you are)…I am still smarting for having my faith in your ability to write so cruelly dashed by the sad piece of pulp fiction that I forced myself to read a chapter off not so long ago…my sensibilities STILL hurt ma’am!…the other Ms French had me enthralled from the moment I set my eyes inside The Wilderness Garden…the problem was I was first setting eyes on this wonderful book whilst sitting in the car waiting to take it back to the library! Christmas…you robbed me of my reading time! When I realised just how precious this book was to me I asked the library lady if there was a chance that I could renew it and apparently I could because I have this precious piece of life changing literature sitting in front of me on the computer desk as I type this post and I am gloating for all I am worth! It’s one of those “I am going to have to buy this” books. It deals with turning your property into a food forest for yourself and the local wildlife and living in harmony with the insects, the birds and the cycles…it promises no more fighting nature. Indeed it positively radiates with natural harmony and it also promises something more precious than integrated cycles…it promises that once the garden is established, it will be drought hardy, it will be extremely diverse, it will handle temperature extremes, it will allow us to grow a range of tropical plants on our property and most importantly it WILL work here in our Australian conditions… and you know why I have faith that it will? Because Ms French has been walking the walk for over 40 years now and knows what she is talking about.

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An avenue of very healthy looking trees in a back alley in Launceston

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Bezial having an adventitious drink of water from this fountain outside the library in Launceston

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Earl discovering that jumping up onto this “bench” might not have been such a good idea after all…

I will be immersing myself in The Wilderness Garden…I will be doing what Ms French endorses and I will be reporting back to you all with my results. You might have to stick around for a while though… it won’t happen tomorrow or next week and indeed some of the processes outlined in the book take years but it promises progress, honest cycles of fecundity (what a wonderful word!) and a sense of harmony with those cycles that is redolent with what we humans are supposed to live like. Ms French lives on just about 2 hectares (the same size as Serendipity Farm). She grows approximately 270 different kinds of fruit and the woman makes sense! Everything that flies from the page fits with my ethos and how I feel about the world. Ms French, you are my new gardening guru! Move over Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall… this lady is singing my song, in my country and with my conditions… consider this rat a ship jumper!

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I completely forgot about these senna seed pods and this little succulent that I collected ages ago…it just goes to show you how resilient succulents are!

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Redwood island where Steve likes to fish. You can disembark onto the island and fish from their if you like and it’s a lovely spot to have a picnic

You learn a whole lot about the world around you when you take the time to stop what you are doing and observe it. We knew that it was going to be a big year for the red-eye cicadas because of their breeding cycle and we were not disappointed when they started tuning up the band this year for their massive month long chorus of clicking. When we first noticed this phenomenon 5 years ago when dog minding for my father while he was still alive we only associated it with the heatwave that came with them. This year we have the obligatory heatwave but we also have time to pay attention to this most interesting cycle and how it benefits the local wildlife, specifically birds. I know that red-eye must taste alright because I found a dead one that I was going to take some photos of and Earl ate it. We had seen an influx of Australian Ravens on Serendipity Farm and thought that they were breeding but it would seem that they were here for the sexagenary cycle (5 year cycle that they maintain along with the Chinese…) of plenty. Not only had the raven population suddenly increased, but we started noticing other birds of prey…3 kookaburras, a plethora of cuckoo shrikes, butcher birds and their young and even an adventitious young hawk, all climbing around in the tree canopy to take advantage of the red-eye feast. Like Earl they appear to be particularly fond of these large black cicadas and the hawk had a very interesting way of flushing them out of hiding under the leaves…he beat his wings and cicadas flew out everywhere giving him time to pluck them out of the air around him while he sat on his branch munching. The ravens are particularly funny to watch. Aside from their constant communication, they are a very ordered group and mum and dad spend a lot of time coaxing their young to hunt for this free bounty of fat and protein. I have an affinity with ravens. Any bird with obvious intelligence is alright by me and ravens have it in bucket loads. Just head over to Youtube and check out “Ravens” and you can see some amazing birds using their minds to solve problems.

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An interesting selection of “stuff” in a wheelbarrow

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A nice big roll of ex-fish farm netting that needs to be cut in half with that little sharp knife inside that blue pouch so that we can protect the maple garden from predatory possums and wandering wallabies

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Back to that wheelbarrow of “stuff”…I have already planted out the red clover and am just about to take advantage of a little curveball that a glut of potatoes handed me…

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What happens when you forget about a 10kg sack of potatoes in the back of your pantry. After opening the bag and seeing their little tendrils waving at me I decided to make the most of the situation and use the new compost heap to grow some spuds! I used that wheelbarrow of organic compost to cover them…

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The spuds are now covered in organic compost and dead grass clippings and oak leaves and have been well watered in…lets see what grows 🙂

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Here’s that red clover in it’s heavily fortified tyre home. It didn’t even wilt after being yanked out of the ground in the heat of the day, stuck in a dog pooh bag full of water in the laundry sink for a day and then planted out. Hopefully it spreads its seeds far and wide and we end up covered in red clover!

I have been following a blog site about using container gardening to eliminate hunger. I love proactive blogs that tell you how to change your situation with a bit of spit and elbow grease and usually using items that have been discarded and that are usually free. Knowledge can give you a whole different perspective about what is and isn’t “worthless”. I love finding creative and attractive ways to reuse and repurpose items that would otherwise go into landfill. If you would like to see this amazing blog you can check it out here…

http://desertification.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/food-gardens-found-with-google-earth-science-daily/

and this Facebook page shows a really great re-purpose for wine bottles that we have been hoarding in our small shed in an enormous pile for ages now and that threaten to render us senseless whenever we are foolish enough to venture into the shed to get the lawnmower…we are NOT on the wrong side of alcoholism…we are just cleverly creating prospective art gardens 😉

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=340087336078044&set=a.233384676748311.57857.201890633231049&type=1&relevant_count=1

Steve and I recently saw an ad on a local noticeboard selling “craft wood”. It wouldn’t have interested us in the past but with Steve’s new-found interest in all things woody we took down the number and phoned up. The man that answered the phone is leaving the state and wants to offload his collection of craft wood so Steve will be heading to see him on Monday to potentially stock up on some lovely spoon futures. The seller has different kinds of wood including an orangey yellow wood called Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) that comes from Texas. While we were walking the dogs in Exeter we noticed a large shed at the back of where they have monthly market days where the Tamar Woodworkers Guild meets. Steve is thinking of looking into joining them…after all…who wouldn’t want to join a guild? The only concerns that I have are will he need a jerkin and tights? If so, he is on his own…I can’t sew for peanuts ;). We went to the tip and dumped some more rubbish (yes…it really WAS rubbish 😉 ) and I headed into their rusty container that doubles as a tip shop and found a lovely little glazed clay pot that someone had made with love and care. I can’t believe that anyone would throw out something like that and when I asked the tip manager how much it was, he said “to you…its free!”…so I have another little pot/bowl to add to my hoarded collection and another perfectly useful and attractive item is saved from landfill to my benefit. One day our children’s children are going to dig through our waste piles looking for useful things. They are going to marvel at what we threw away…

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The beginnings of a chunky oak spoon that Steve made for me

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Side on to show you how chunky it is. I like chunky things…they feel solid and reliable and real and I requested “chunky” when Steve asked me what kind of spoon I would like

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I think you will agree it turned out to be a lovely spoon. I especially like the wood markings in the bowl that look like an eye

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Steve’s hand holding the spoon to show the “chunk” 😉

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Steve decided to have a go at making some more “chunkies” from oak including a spatuloon and a spreader that also cuts cheese.

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Here they are finished with a nice rub of orange eco-oil and I really love them :o)

That’s it for today folks…here in extra sunny northern Tasmania it is hot…for Tasmania it is HOT. We don’t get a lot of “hot” but when we do, it tends to be oppressive and coupled with hideous humidity thanks to our endemic greenery. Its days like these where I remember why I don’t live in Tropical far north Queensland! Have a great weekend folks and see you on Wednesday for our cuppa and chat…hopefully it has cooled down a bit by then and we are back on track with our milder than the mainland summer :o)