Pasta sauce and preserving the harvest on Serendipity Farm

Hi All,

Another shopping day has arrived and Steve will be up at 6am for a quick cup of coffee and to grab the veggies and herbs that I have parcelled up for our daughters, the pile of seeds and a single eggplant (she is suspicious to the last! 😉 ) for our Friend in the witness protection and my library cards to pick up my holds at the library. I have been getting quite adventurous with some of my holds and am sure that one of the librarians is living vicariously through my choices ;). Steve loves the processes and the speed of shopping. He loves the mad dash to get to the shops just as they open and the natives are conspicuous by their absence. He gets the supermarkets to himself and now that we don’t have a massive shopping trolley full of groceries he can race to the finish line without having to feel guilty that they only put 1 poor girl on in the early mornings and that someone is muttering behind him because they only dropped in to grab a carton of milk on the way to the office. Steve has his little shopping processes and sticks to them religiously…starting with Woolworth’s and ending with picking up our chook grain from a local producer he drives like Sebastian vettel from shop to shop, out to Bunning’s (a large hardware chain store) to pick up our gas bottles and then back to town to see our friend in the witness protection at work and to pick up some tender baby leeks and black corn that she wants us to grow here to protect them from the heavy blankets of frost that she gets on her inland property (sharing means a more resilient seed bank). She bought some red flowering heritage broad beans and although I wasn’t in a position to grow them last year (before we built our raised beds) I handed them to Roxy, another friend of ours in the neighbourhood who grew them, kept half and passed the rest of the seed back to me and now I have some to share with our friend in the witness protection (I am going to have to start saying that as OFITWP 😉 ). We recently divvied up a stack of organic soil amendments that she had purchased and that we traded a stack of conifers for half of. Steve Solomon had recommended that we use these wonderful natural soil amendments and gave us soil prescriptions to remedy our soil nutrient problems (after we had a soil analysis) and all we have to do is mix up our amendments in the correct ratio’s to make our own C.O.F. (Complete Organic Fertiliser). If you would like to read a bit more about Steve Solomon who lived somewhere closer to Christi in Olalla Washington State (http://farmlet.wordpress.com/ ) than he did to us and then moved to Tasmania and is now a whole LOT closer to us than he is Christi check out this article in Mother Earth News. Steve started Territorial Seed Company in Washington State and now runs a small farm box business and develops new seed for our local conditions here in Northern Tasmania…

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/2006-06-01/A-Better-Way-to-Fertilize-Your-Garden.aspx#axzz2NowQKomN

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A basin of ripe tomatoes just about to be turned into unctuous Italian style pasta sauce

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Veggies and herbs

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Found spirulina! Once disgusting, now still disgusting but useful in my morning breakfast smoothies

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How much is in each tub?!!! I have 3 of them…should keep me going forever “I have an inheritance for my kids!” 😉

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Just be thankful…VERY thankful that you don’t have smellivision on your monitors 😉

I will be making pasta sauce with another large basin of ripe tomatoes that we harvested the other day. It’s the best way for us to make good use of our gorgeous ripe tomatoes and aside from a few damaged ones that are mouldering away in Steve’s shed to give us seed for next year’s tomato growing activities, the rest are being put to good use. We use a lot of “tomato sauce” in our house. Not the ketchup variety, but home made with onions, garlic, herbs and love. We used to use tinned tomatoes but now we won’t have to because I am freezing this homemade gorgeousness in small batches, enough for a recipe. There isn’t anything that you can buy from a supermarket that compares with the flavour of homemade. It might be an old cliché, but it’s true. The processes that need to be involved to churn out an endless supply of a specific product and have it turn out the same batch after batch render that product generic to say the least. So many additives are needed and the product ends up being beside the by compared to the process that gets it from its raw state to the can/jar on the shelf. If you can do it yourself, do it. It makes a lot of difference to your intestines, your self-esteem, your wallet and to your tastebuds. Rabid (Jessie from Rabid Little Hippy blog fame… http://rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com/ ) recently made something out of the wild hawthorns on her property. Aside from skewering herself on hawthorn thorns (kudos girl 😉 ) she got 3 jars of “something” out of a whole lot of nothing and made the most of the wild harvest that was sitting outside her door. I have to take a whip to myself mentally and flagellate myself because of my inability to organise and get out and harvest more blackberries this year. They were everywhere and my only excuse is that it was so hot out there I didn’t want to stand there picking them. A pathetic and most lame excuse indeed and one that doesn’t even wash with me! Lazy… sigh. I can make it up now with the bumper crop of ruby red haws that are presenting themselves like strumpets in the hedgerows and on the sides of the road at the moment. We also have glorious and fluorescent orange wild rose hips festooning the drab little shrubs in huge quantities this year. The long hot dry conditions have at least favoured some shrubs and we may as well take advantage of this. I am thinking “Membrillo” or the Froggy equivalent “Pate de fruits” or perhaps rendering them down into a thick paste and then dehydrating them into roll ups so that I can pull a bit off the edge to use to add flavour and texture to recipes. The hips will be made into syrup to be boiled slowly down or perhaps a type of rosehip molasses like pomegranate molasses to add a major hit of vitamin C to whatever I choose to use them in.

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Although the zucchini plants are sucumbing to powdery mildew at an alarming rate, the eggplants are soldiering on regardless no matter the weather

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I really love these long thin Japanese eggplants and will grow them again next season. Much quicker to fruit and ripen and they just keep on going…and going…and going!

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I thought this was a daikon radish when I saw it the other day…nope, an albino eggplant! I am going to attempt to keep some seed from one of these to see if it will reproduce true to type 🙂

As the pasta sauce simmers (and the dogs sulk on their respective couches by Brunhilda who isn’t even on to give them a reason to lay there) I will potter around sweeping the floor (a.k.a. moving the dust from one area of the house to another) and cleaning off the computer area. It’s really my area. Steve isn’t really interested in this workstation much. He would prefer to be “Off doing something” or watching television and playing one of his guitars at the same time (acoustically folks, he isn’t superman 😉 ). He practices scales while he watches TV. I spend my free time here researching. I have recently discovered several crafting blogs through Rabid and one of them belongs to Linne who is one of my new dear constant readers. Linne is a human dynamo! The things that this lady has done with her life proves her to be a true survivor and innovator of note and if you would like to check out her blog please head here… http://arandomharvest.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/giveaway/ her most recent post is about a very novel giveaway idea that she has come up with for her 100th post. I wouldn’t have expected anything less from this feisty and most wonderful lady than to donate money to a worthy cause in the name of the winner of her 100th post giveaway. The winner will get a chance to win a most gorgeous handmade quilt and know that the money donated in their name will be used to give secure safe water to a community. What better giveaway could you want? I love people like Linne…they don’t let life get them down; they just get stuck in and go lateral and find the answers. That’s my kind of peeps and whether you are from Canada (as Linne is) or Australia or Uzbekistan or anywhere else in the world your life can’t help but be more beautiful and poignant and meaningful if you actually apply yourself to living it wholeheartedly.  Linne puts me to shame on the craft fronts. I bow to her abilities and the crafty endeavours that she is involved with are endless. I dabble (rarely) in crocheting and will usually manage a row or two of knitting before either tension problems or Earl come to rescue me but Linne soldiers on and creates beautiful things from raw materials and is truly a wonderful ambassador for her ilk.

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What do you do with 2 litres of mature kefir?

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You drain it till it is quarter of its original bulk

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and you end up with the tangiest ricotta substitute you ever tasted 🙂

Linne and I were recently talking about how we need to preserve our traditions for future generations. The crafts that we do today for pleasure are the result of the necessities of the past and we need to be learning these crafts and pass them on. Linne mentioned a wonderful teacher who took their student charges out to learn from elders in the community. Aside from being a wonderful opportunity to forge community, imagine the skills that these children were able to learn? I think it is a wonderful idea. Apparently the teacher and children documented these forays into the community and what a wonderful learning exercise that would have been. Today’s political correctness would have that sort of community venture fraught with legal requirements and prohibitive insurance coverage rendering it near on impossible to do something as simple as share anymore and we are lesser people for our need to clog up any process with so many rules that we can’t actually do ANYTHING  anymore. Our parents and their parents seemed to manage alright playing on swing sets without a metre of soft fall underneath…sure they broke a few arms but they called it “experience” and were done with it. No-one expected “someone else” to pay for their own personal choices but now everyone seems to want to pass the buck. There are always consequences folks and even if we do manage to get someone else to pay for them, what goes around comes around and society is worse for our efforts.

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Freshly harvested walnuts “NO MORE FOR YOU RATS!”

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My work station to remove the husks from the nuts and toss them straight into the compost heap where they can leach to their hearts content. Note the chickens behind bars…a most satisfying situation 😉

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How disgusting do my hands look?!! I have to tell you that it was only 3/4 of the way through my shelling event when I rememebered that walnut husks are used to dye wood…and apparently fingers 😦

http://mysite.verizon.net/ELLshipmodeler/walnut.htm

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Some of the husked nuts showing you that we had a good walnut year this year

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They look like little brains…which is coincedentally what eating walnuts is very good for…your brain. (Note to self EAT WALNUTS! 😉 )

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Now I just have to let them dry out to store them in their shells

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This nut split while I was roughhousing it and the fresh nutmeat is very different to the dry nut we know well.

My new rss feed reader has me a bit flummoxed. It’s not that it is worse than Google read; it is just “different”. I am not a creature that likes change. I like my morning processes to be regular so that I can yawn and get out of bed, stumble to the kitchen (I am starting to sound like some song lyrics here 😉 ) in the dark and put on my clothes where I won’t wake Steve up. I then put the kettle on (still half asleep and half clothed because I have tried to put my shirt onto my leg 😉 ) and I turn on the P.C. and monitor to get them going ready for when my eyes have decided to focus on the same thing at the same time (Steve Buscemi doesn’t know that I borrow his eyes for a short period of time while he sleeps on the other side of the world 😉 )…my processes are my slow ascent into my days and each one primes me for my 3 or so hours of research, blog posting and eventual readiness to tackle my days head on (and at full speed once Steve and the dogs wake up at 7am) with a positive attitude and a readiness for what is ahead. I used to be a real grouch in the mornings and now I am practically Pollyanna ;). This new Rss feed reader is completely independent from a browser although I have to be connected if I want to update my feeds.  I can read to my heart’s content but at the moment it still feels foreign to me and hasn’t quite got me excited about my mornings. Google will be stopping their reader on July 1st. I am hoping that my feed reader (that currently syncs with Google Reader) won’t suddenly do a Millennium bug and “stop” when Google disappears. I have taken a backup of all of my information just in case it does (fool me once!) and will just have to head off (sighing heavily) with my tech savvy husband to find another feed reader that will support my 501 blogs that I follow (3 up from my last post 😉 ). Who would have thought that a Luddite would come to be so dependent on something technical eh? Certainly not this little black duck, but as a ducky style magpie my need to learn has overridden my bolshie need to stay put when it comes to technology and I keep forging ahead because it suits me to do so.

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Herman’s old sourdough pot being recycled to house flour and starter overnight for early morning cinnamon muffins

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After taking off the lid the sourdough is ready to be used in my muffins. I add kefir to my mix to ensure I get a really good rise and great flavour and digestibility with anything grainy

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The finished muffins. Poor Steve keeps getting more and more treats to eat and there is only 1 of him. Might have to start taking treats to the neighbours 😉

I should be reading my rss feed reader as I tap away here. It’s 5.42am and I will be putting the kettle on in a minute to make Steve his first and only cup of coffee till he gets home at around 11am. If I went with him (and God forbid…the dogs!) we would probably be still shopping at 3pm. Steve is a human one man dynamo who is able to negotiate the supermarket aisles with both speed and purpose, stopping only to help short elderly ladies to reach things on top shelves. Curiously babies and elderly ladies know with an inerrant instinct that Steve is harmless. He might appear to be a crazed trolley wielding maniac to most people but animals, babies and the elderly just “know” :o). Where other people tend to steer clear of us/him when we are on a mission (he is hardly “mainstream” material!) he is constantly being approached and asked for help by elderly ladies who he always helps. He is, despite his appearance, a most wonderful soul and always finds time to help someone who needs it. He is a crazy mix of incredible impatience that will have him twitching at a moment’s notice but an equally momentous stubborn streak that will have him labouring long into the night to ensure he is able to solve a problem or find a way to do something. We have to head out soon to attend our graduation for our Diploma of Landscape Design that we completed last year. We will wear gowns and will be presented with a bit of paper for posterity’s sake and will be applauded by an audience of our peers and who would care about it if we didn’t want to send Steve’s mum a photo of the event. Hopefully we will return to a home that hasn’t been desiccated by Earl and Bezial will be still mentally able to function and won’t be a dog perpetually mentally in the foetal position for the rest of his life. Earl has a way of making people twitch ;). We might even be able to meet our current lecturer at this event. Any lecturer worth their salt turns up to give their graduating students a bit of well-deserved kudos, after all, its these graduating students that keep lecturers in jobs. We will get Nat to take a photo of us in our silly gowns and if I don’t hate the results too much, you might even get to see them here…if you don’t…don’t ask! 😉

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I decided to use my mature kefir “ricotta” to make Steve a wonderful homemade lasagna. I had some of the aforementioned unctuous Italian style pasta sauce and decided to make lasagna sheets (after looking in the pantry and discovering that we didn’t have any…)

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Earl has developed a distinct love for raw eggs and anything containing a large proportion of eggs (think omelette, French toast and now egg rich pasta dough!)…don’t panic, he didn’t get that questing beak into the pasta, Steve removed him and all traces of his presence from the table quick smart! 😉

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A close-up of lasagne heaven

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Another case of “Not enough Steve’s” to eat what I make him…anyone want to be adopted (but only for mealtimes and coffee breaks!) 😉

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I would like to call this post “Windswept and interesting” and be done with it! (Note, Steve insisted on wearing those Cons to maintain his hippy dignity in the award ceremony…they worked…the M.C. (after delivering the correct Diploma spiel for me) announced Steve as “Steve Pimblett”… nothing else! Obviously he was so cool he didn’t need to pass anything to be given an award 😉

Another post is starting to draw to an end and I am constantly amazed at how avidly my muses direct me around the dance floor of my mind. I used to wonder at Stephen Kings ability to write book after book and now I know how he does it. He is harnessed to a flotilla of muses who are all forging ahead regardless and all he has to do is listen intently to their avid mutterings and he has his “words”. Mine flow out like overflow water from a rainwater tank and for now, they show no signs of halting. Whether that’s to your benefit or not I am sure you will work out for yourselves ;). I officially have 133 blog followers but I have more than a sneaking suspicion that most of them don’t actually read the blog any more. I have a close core of dear constant readers who grace me with wonderful comments and suggestions and I couldn’t hope for better. I am, indeed, a very lucky blogger. I get delightful regular spam that sometimes makes me “SQUEE” with delight because it is so hilarious…something along the lines of “I loved your blog and share with kids mine happy days you mate!” from someone called “BIG_willyforu”… how could you not love that eh? ;). Blogging has certainly made my life richer. It channelled my need to write and allowed me to quantify my own little world to share with the rest of you and sharing is what this is all about. I get the feeling that some people don’t really realise that. You can tell bloggers who are blogging in an attempt to elevate themselves up the social hierarchal structure…the “Look at ME” blogs and the “Aren’t I FANTASTIC” blogs…and I don’t follow blogs like that. I prefer real people who are open and honest about their lives and who like to share. Why would you want to follow someone who spends their posts telling you how great they are? Surely you should be able to work that out for yourself if, indeed the blogger is worth reading about? Every one of my 500+ blogs is worth it for some or other reason. They range from the blogging equivalent of rock stars to humble small blogs with very few followers and every single one of them is precious to me. If I follow your blog, you are one of the select groups of blogs that has made it through my rigorous selection criteria to get to where you are and I am a HARSH task mistress…a positive sadist when it comes to blogs so you can only begin to imagine how many blogs I reject ;). Ok, enough of this! We all have things to do this morning/today/tonight and we can’t be spending hours with narf7 on a quest to goodness only knows where…time to mentally disengage and head off into the real world and get “doing”… thank you all for sharing the time with me to read what I tap out here in my early mornings when my brain is fresh and raring to go…most of you won’t see much of 3.30am so I am glad to translate it for you. See you all on Saturday when goodness only knows what we have been up to but at least we are living it to the fullest :o)

Inspiration

Hi All,

What inspires you? What makes your heart sing and ignites your soul? Forgive me for waxing myself lyrically there but at 4.44am this morning (Sunday) I read a blog post that completely inspired me. I will post a link here so that you can all check out this amazing story and marvel at the level of dedication that one man was able to muster against a wealth of odds to create something amazing out of refuse and rubble and at 88, is still working on. Have you got an opus? Something that makes you get up every morning and that sends you to bed tired but completely content? Neither have I, but we are getting there 🙂

http://landscapelover.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/the-rock-garden-chandigarh/#comment-5338

I spend a lot of time getting inspired by amazing people out there. I can’t get over how clever and creative some people are! We all have something that we are good at but some people seem to be amazingly gifted and I am only wonder at the creative processes going on in their minds. Since we started working on design we have been learning all sorts of things about the creative process. Here I was just thinking that you slap a bit of paint on something or drew a picture freehand or just messed about a bit with some sort of medium but apparently there is a lot of thought that goes into art, design, music etc. The creative process usually has to follow an ordered process no matter how chaotic it may want to be…even anarchy needs to conform when it comes to web design ;). There are so many rules that you have to follow and it requires a degree of mathematics…thank goodness I covered rudimentary maths last year with landscape design and won’t have to bang my head on the wall this year trying to make it all come back from last century when I went to school…

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This nice foggy bank heralded a week of overly warm weather here in tassie that culminated in the second hottest day that we have had here this summer. The poor garden is on it’s last legs and I can’t wait for autumn!

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“NO PRISONER’S!” 😉

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Someone REALLY hates having his photo taken 😉

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It really pelted down raining today (cheers Port Hedland for that lovely cyclone that you are currently hosting 😉 ) and you can almost see the garden sighing with relief…you can also almost hear Steve and I sighing and doing “Paper, rock, scissors…” because we remembered that the guttering needs to be cleaned 😉

I have been trying to work out why cooking gives me so much more satisfaction than it should. I get the feeling that condensing your efforts down into creating things is immensely satisfying beyond the sum of the result. I think it’s another “living through the processes” moment and after reading Lynda Wallace’s small book “A Short Course in Happiness” I realised that a lot of the reasons why I feel inordinately happy for a middle aged penniless student hippy is that I am finding my happiness in simple processes. When we condense our thought processes and actions down into using what we have and our own mental alacrity in order to create something (especially if it is an original idea) we are giving ourselves a chance to explore the road to happiness. Making something is an outward expression of what makes us “us”. It is 5.59am and either “Stock” or “Pot” is crowing lustily underneath the deck just to my left. His processes are automatic and start as soon as his tiny little brain senses the dawn. My processes are often as a result of a desire. I want something, for whatever reason I can’t just go out and get something and so I have to work through a series of processes to give myself what I desire in a lateral way. I wouldn’t have ever thought that making things yourself, growing, cultivating, culturing, preparing and all of the other processes that begin with an idea/ideal and end in a satisfying dusting off of hands could give so much satisfaction, so much “happiness”.

I remember my grandmother doing all different kinds of unusual things. Back in the 70’s when I was a small child she always had something interesting for us to do when we got to her home. She had a large tin box with strange things in it. What was in the box on one day wasn’t necessarily in it when we next went. I remember a plastic spinning top, a box of dominoes, cards and my memories start to dim up a bit…it WAS last century folks! 😉 What I remember was that there were LOTS of things in that box. I also remember grandma making us small nets out of twisted repurposed (back then it was called “making do”…) coat hangers with some of her ex pantyhose stretched over the wire so that we could go fishing for the tiny shrimp in the inlet at the bottom of her property. I remember my sister and I arrived one day to new home made wooden looms that had silky smooth wood and my carpenter grandfather must have worked hard to make them. I often wonder if my grandmother was the instigator of this deep and most earnest desire to seek out and understand things. Perhaps my mum was right when she said that I always reminded her of my grandmother…perhaps I can see that now as a compliment :o). All I know is that if I am ever given the grace to become a grandparent, I, too, will have a large box that will change on a visit by visit basis. I will teach my grandchildren all kinds of things especially the incredible value of books and libraries and I will attempt to give them a deep passion for learning.

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Kefir production on target for Wednesday…we will soon be drowning in the stuff! 😉

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A nice pot of delicious rich pasta sauce made with local onions, our own tomatoes, some olive oil, herbs and lots and LOTS of garlic.

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Soon to be frozen ready for lasagne, spaghetti bolognaise and other tasty future tomato rich meals

Its amazing how fast habits, things that you do on a regular basis, become ways of life. It must be part of our human psyche to follow pathways of regularity. I have been eating a different way now for just on 7 weeks and in that time I have completely changed the way that I eat, the size of my meals, the content of my food and I actually have breakfast and have lost a fair amount of weight. It wasn’t hard, it was all just following little pathways that were initially new and that are now well worn grooves in my day. The same goes for getting up early. Anyone who knows me knows that I was a true died in the wool night person. I loved staying up late and would spend hours trawling the net hunting for information etc. and would go to bed between 12 and 1.30am most nights. Now I can’t make it past 8.30pm and as soon as my head hits that pillow I am gone! I sleep like a baby (unless Earl decides to sleep “on” me…) and wake up refreshed and raring to get up. The strange thing is that my initial reason for getting up early was to be bolshie! I didn’t want to be a hostage to feeling like a zombie for a fortnight after daylight savings crashed onto our doorstep last October so I decided that for the month before I would wake up a bit earlier in increments…15 minutes earlier each week, to allow me to make a steady transference to the hour block that they shave off in a day. I arrived at the day triumphant in the knowledge that my usual 7am wake-up was now 6am and they weren’t going to phase me THIS year! I then did what I usually do and thought “ok, so what if I keep getting up an hour earlier? Then I won’t have to do Daylight Savings ever…EVER…again!” And suddenly I went from being a night person to a morning person over a matter of months. I discovered the joys of those few quiet dark hours before Steve and the boys get up and all of that amazing time in the morning when my brain is raring to go and eager to take up new ideas. I now get up at 4am! YES 4am! I love it :o). I put the kettle on, I turn on the computer and cuddle Bezial who bravely stands guard all night on the sofa (Earl shamelessly takes the day watch and sleeps all night in the bed) and give him his early morning scratches and hugs. He shakes himself off and heads into bed and then the early morning is all MINE! I check emails and reply first, and then I head off here and check comments. I am a prolific commenter on other people’s blogs. If someone has put the effort in to share something precious with me, to give me one of their amazing recipes or tell me something that I didn’t know and am excited about finding out I want to thank them. I get a lot of replies from other blogs in the morning and its fun to read and reply to them first up. After that I head straight to my RSS Feed Reader and start wading through my morning’s blog posts. I have umpteen-eleventy-squillion blogs that I now follow and a 4am rising usually gives me enough time to deal with most of the posts for the day unless I get side-tracked by links in posts and then it might take a bit of night time reading to complete the deal. I have an eclectic mix of vegan food blogs, heavenly food porn (gorgeous photos and amazing recipes) that aren’t vegan, philosophical blogs, instructive blogs and blogs about sustainability that feed my mind and get it positively charged for the day. By the time 7am rocks up and Earl is prodding me with his nose to start the processes that eventuate at him getting a walk, I am fully charged, extremely happy (usually) and Steve gets his 7am cup of coffee and a wife who is raring to go for the day. I used to be the one lying in bed waiting for my cup of tea and stretching out the “getting up” process but no more… I am a changed woman and the possibilities of “Early Morning” only came about because I was being bolshie and wanted to take control of the situation…I wonder what you could do with your life if you tried? Do you have any habits that are dragging you down? If I can change my way of thinking, doing things then so can you. It really isn’t hard, its just a matter of starting. “Start where you mean to finish up”, another one of my grandmothers sayings and a most pertinent one for habit breaking and starting :o).

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Last minute ideas for how to use up some spare sourdough ended up with this interesting version of cinnamon rolls with a filling of chopped dates, grated left over hard caramel sauce from a sticky date pudding and lots of cinnamon

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After they were rolled up like a Swiss roll and cut I put them to prove in a greased and lined round cake tin until they increased in size a bit

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The finished results that are apparently very tasty 🙂

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Sourdough pizza prior to baking…

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And after…also, apparently, tasty 🙂

Does anyone else out there venture far and wide in their hunts for new and interesting food ingredients, how to use them and authentic recipes and cooking methods that contain them? Well I do! I love finding new things to do with previously unknown ingredients. It really excites me to delve into other countries cuisines, especially in the frugal ingredients that most of us wouldn’t think of using or don’t even know about. It’s nothing to do with elitism and everything to do with learning more about what is out there and available to eat. It’s the same thing that has me reverently placing foraging food blogs in my rss feed reader side by side with gorgeous food porn sites. When you love something you want to explore it all! ;). In my food travels I find a lot of recipes and links taking me to sites with recipes galore but all in languages that I can’t understand. A recipe that you can’t understand is an abject fail…UNLESS…you use your gourd and head on over to Google Translate and use it to translate the recipe for you. I must admit that sometimes the results are hilarious and totally incomprehensible BUT you at least have to try don’t you? And the worst you can get it a really funny read ;). I love finding blogs that skate along the fine line between Western cookery and their own culinary genius being applied to it. I found just such a site this morning and eagerly stuffed it into my Rss feed reader after exploring it for a bit to make sure that it was worth the stuffing. It most certainly was! Check it out if you would like to see some very interesting Asian takes on common recipes… http://ellenaguan.blogspot.sg/2013/02/longan-and-cranberry-yogurt-cake.html .

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The only eggs that we have had in a fortnight and all apparently laid by the same hen (the only one that has a free ticket to the next round!)

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One of our tasks for our course had us finding advertisments in various kinds of media that used “White space” to highlight and reinforce the subject matter and here is one of my examples…

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What do you do when it’s hot, you don’t want to pay “The Man” for his rubbish cordial and you have a freezer full of frozen fruit…you make your own cordial! This amazingly coloured variety is the result of a recipe for Lemon and Lime cordial that I messed around with so much that it hardly even resembles the original recipe. I used oranges instead of the lemons, I added a ziploc bag of frozen lemon juice, about 2 cups of frozen ripe mangos, the zest of the 3 oranges and about a cup full of ripe strawberries. These were all processed until smooth in my Vitamix blender and were added to 2 1/2 cups of sugar and then I added a tsp of citric acid and as much boiling water as I felt it needed to render it to “cordial” thickness. Steve is enjoying it whenever he feels the need for something other than coffee to drink and again, has pronounced it “tasty” 😉

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I needed to clarify just how “MASSIVE our harvest of potatoes actually was that I mentioned in the last post. Here you see the full extent of them being eaten by Steve for his tea last night…note the size comparison between the potato on his fork and the green pea next to it… I rest my case! 😉

Well we had a hard day today trying to find examples of design that doesn’t contain guide lines. And are planning on resting our poor addled brains this evening with a nice easy meal and an early night for me, and most probably some horror movies for Steve (his favourite genre). I am actually really enjoying this course (so far…) and we are learning an enormous amount. Steve will hopefully be picking up a copy of the student edition of the Adobe CS6 Design & Web Premium Student and Teacher edition so that we can start getting serious with Photoshop. So it’s all go around here at the moment. See you all on Saturday :o)

Bolshie broads and the lessons in a spoon

Hi All,

Steve is up to his eyeballs in wood shavings. He is out in the shed producing spoons out of Serendipity Farm wood. We have been hunting through our wood piles and have managed to find some Cotoneaster wood that is an amazing light fine grained wood much like oak and very hard. Steve is working on one Cotoneaster spoon now and has enough wood for another one and after that he will be working with some native Cherry (Exocarpos cupressiformis) that we plucked from our huge wicker man pile of wood in the teatree garden. Native Cherry is beautiful pink wood and if the moth larvae have left it alone it should make some very attractive spoons. We have been thinking about the dog’s diet lately as they seem to have fine-tuned it specifically to straight beef steak and each night we offer them a slight variation they turn up their noses and choose not to eat it. The food that we are offering them would be snapped up by most dogs, our boys are just spoiled and we are doing them no favours in the health stakes allowing them to continue eating only beef steak. Dogs, unlike cats, are not designed to eat only meat. They are NOT carnivores and are omnivores like we humans. In saying that…Earl is quite certain that he is the exception to the rule! Bezial is partial to mashed potato so long as there is a LOT of butter folded in. We have decided that we are going to have to do battle with the dogs on their stubborn and steadfast refusal to back down whenever we try to introduce fibre into their diet. We headed over to Georgetown today to pick up a large sack of dog biscuits. Little do the boys know but there are worse things than potatoes… they are just about to be introduced to the dog biscuit diet. For the next 2 weeks they are going to get dog biscuits for their evening meal. I am assured that dogs will only refuse their food until they are really hungry and the only thing wrong with our two is that they are incredibly spoiled and strong willed. Much like children, you have to give them boundaries and our boys are just about to learn an important lesson, refuse your meals at your own expense. Tonight they dine on Dr Harry’s finest ;).

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We visited our daughters today and Beth showed me some photos that they took over Christmas and was kind enough to allow me to share them with you on my blog…this is Qi. She is the queen of her street and God help ANYONE walking past on the footpath that she doesn’t like. Here you can see her performing a most useful trick for the camera…this trick has been known to get her all manner of tasty treats in the past… if it aint broke…don’t fix it!

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One of Bethany’s chalk drawings on a blackboard in her room…both girls are very talented artists

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Qi waiting for her Aunty Madeline to return from the shop before she is presumably allowed to get stuck into those presents under the tree!

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A white chocolate cake Buche Noel complete with chocolate acorns and a chocolate maple leaf on top

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Christmas dinner well underway…

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A mustard glazed ham covered in fruity goodness

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This cake has NOTHING to do with Christmas but everything to do with carrot cake deliciousness…it would seem that the girls artistic abilities drizzle over into their culinary triumphs as well :). Well done girls! I would sink my teeth into this beauty any day!

Another spoon has found its way out of a chunk of aged Tasmanian oak and into spoon form. Steve has decided to share his spoon making with me and has bravely taken on the task of teaching me to find spoons inside wood. He makes it seem so easy…a line here…a shave there…a bit of a look and the application of an auger bit or a hand held rasp and suddenly there it is…beautiful in its simplicity with smooth sides and wonderful grain. I have decided to make small spoons. Until today, I had wondered why you don’t see small wooden spice and condiment spoons apart from those mass manufactured Chinese imports but I now know that the return that you would get on them is far outweighed by their fiddly nature. I like fiddly things. I like untying knots in things, unravelling wool and Christmas lights. I like the process of taking something exasperating and releasing the calm. It’s a pity I can’t find it in myself to do the same thing but that is another story ;). Making smaller spoons allows me to use the offcuts from Steve’s bigger spoons, minimising the waste and allowing the wood to yield a lot more bang/spoon for our metaphorical buck. While I was digging through Steve’s offcut bucket I noticed a very large spoon blank that had been partially formed. When I say large…this blank was 2 ½ feet (76cm) long and extremely chunky. Steve had apparently discovered a bit of a flaw where the spoon basin meets the handle and tossed it (in his own words) “into the too hard basket”. I looked at this behemoth of a spoon and immediately felt an instant camaraderie. I, too, am a bit of a handful spoon. I am a bolshie broad. I don’t fit easily into societal moulds and bits of me hang over the side protesting loudly and waving banners and the spoon inside that massive chunk of wood called out to me and the deal was sealed. Forget those little spoons for a bit, my very first spoon is going to be a massive great Blackwood ladle. I used our Dremel and a special carving bit to remove all of the spoon that didn’t want to be there…I know it didn’t want to be there because I asked it. The spoon guided me around it saying “Don’t take that bit, I need that!” and “gently…gently…GENTLY! Can’t you understand spoonese?”… As I carefully pared all of the bits that weren’t spoon away, saving the sawdust for using in my compost bucket to minimise smells and maximise the suite of organisms that infest our compost pile, I thought about how Steve goes about making his spoons and how very different our processes were. We both let the spoon talk, but Steve let the spoon “out”…I think I have a bit too much of my German heritage in me to let some mad artist take over the status quo and I like simplicity, order and symmetry. Steve’s spoon has curves, angles and wends its way into being. My spoon is solid, heavy, deep and should last centuries even if it gets used to repel boarders on more than one occasion.

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A chunk of dry cotoneaster we culled from Serendipity Farm. Steve uses his chainsaw to cut a sliver from the side of the log and then runs it through his thicknesser to make a thick plank. He then draws a spoony outline onto the wood and cuts out the shape with his jigsaw

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After some serious rasping and shaping with an auger bit on an angle grinder he removes all of the bits of spoon that aren’t “spoon”…

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Almost finished aside from the handle and the final sandpapering

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Hows this for a massive great chunk of Acacia melanoxylon (Blackwood)? This is MY spoon/ladle and over the next few weeks I will be slowly allowing it to take shape (or…I will hurl it in a fit of pique across the shed where it will remain until some rodenty creature adds it’s own mark to my shame! 😉 )

I love to think of the spoons that we are creating heading off into the kitchens of friends and family. I love to think of the continuity and the simple day to day use that these spoons will be part of. Stirring preserves and jams while the kitchen resonates with discussion and music or simply being part of it all…these spoons will see kitchens that I will never see…they will be privy to amazing celebrations and the darkest moments in someone’s life. Babies might cut their teeth on the ends of these spoons, harvests will be put up, and stews will be stirred, strange regional specialties that I can only marvel at will be spun into existence and all from a chunk of Serendipity Farm wood that was destined for the fire. I thought about attempting to embellish them but something stopped me… most probably the inner German who likes things simple, unadorned and classic and that wants these hand crafted spoons to find their own voices and speak for themselves. I can see this becoming something that Steve and I can share. We are so very different and our interests are incredibly variable but this is one thing that we can do together, side by side in the shed and sharing a common bond of creation. It is going to take a LONG time for my ladle to emerge. It has promised to fight me every step of the way but in so doing, it promises to give me some precious life lessons in that process. I sometimes think that we bypass so many opportunities to learn and grow in life because they are tossed into the “Too Hard Basket”. It might be time for us to go back there and pick something out and give it a go…see if you can’t find whatever it is that exists inside your chosen chunk of life and pare away everything that isn’t it. In so doing, you might just find something precious

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This is the spoon that Steve made for Christi to give to her daughter who is getting married. It’s made of Tasmanian oak and has a very classic shape. It’s hard to get too artistic when you don’t know the person that you are making the spoon for and although this spoon started out with some “interesting” collar bones that Steve swears the spoon told him it needed, my Germanic need for Art Deco simplicity came to the fore and said collarbones are now only a memory (you can thank me later Molly! 😉 )

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The chunk of aged Tasmanian oak board that Steve used to create this spoon…another reason why we should take to heart the lesson “you should never judge a book by it’s cover…”

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We ran out of Eco oil (a blend of edible orange and tung oil) to finish the 2 spoons that Steve made but you can see them here with Christ’s winning spoon almost ready to be finished and sent and being guarded by Mr Steve Vai himself 😉

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And here they are after a nice rub over with Eco oil. It really brings out the natural beauty in these spoons. The first spoon is the cotoneaster spoon, the second is the Tasmanian oak spoon and the third is Christi’s winning spoon in Blackwood. We will send them next week and I hope that you enjoy them girls 🙂

I got the book that I won from Emily over at “Sincerely, Emily” in the mail today. If you would like to see a cracking way to use up some of your zucchini’s this season, check out her latest post that pairs potato and zucchini in a most scrumptious, innovative and healthy way…

http://emilysincerely.wordpress.com/2012/12/26/zucchini-and-potato-au-gratin-sort-of/

It’s a lovely book full of weird and off the wall creations that really makes my heart sing because I can’t be abiding with boring things and I love to create customised recipes because life is too short to eat lima beans if you don’t like them. I, personally, LOVE lima beans but I do understand that there are some of you out there (mad, foolish people that you are) who don’t and so I won’t go hunting for a lima bean recipe to share with you from the book but on opening the Index I get instantly excited by the possibilities. I might be the Sidmouth equivalent of Letitia Cropley (if you don’t know who I am talking about, head off and watch “The Vicar of Dibley” for goodness sakes… you are missing out severely if you don’t!) but there are amazing combinations in this book that I haven’t even heard of and I had heard of Gremolata before the chef that taught me commercial cookery so that is no mean feat in a book! I am going to treasure this book because it doesn’t only instruct, it educates. It doesn’t only share; it gives you the impetus to try new things…to experiment and in so doing, to create new recipes of your own. That’s what makes the cooking world go round folks and “Put ‘em Up!” A comprehensive home preserving guide for the creative cook from drying and freezing to canning and pickling by Ms Cherri Brooks Vinton is one of those rare tombs that you simply don’t want to put down let alone lend anyone. Please don’t ask me for a lend of my copy because I won’t be letting it out of my sight for a good few years yet. I have too many things to learn from it like… “What the heck are ristras?”…and “Heirloom watermelon jelly?” …and “Agua Fresca?”… and any book that talks about probiotics and kimchi in the same breath as “red hot vodka” and something as lascivious as a “Strawberry Blonde” (whatever that may be…) is one that is going to be kept in the kitchen, just out of reach of Earls questing mandible’s and right there where I can find it, amongst my wooden spoons ready for duty at a moment’s notice. Thank you SO much Emily. You have given me something wonderful and this coming harvest surplus is going to be such fun to preserve :o)

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My wonderful new cookbook and Emily’s lovely personal note to me included 🙂

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We picked up a few bags of soft toys for the boys to deconstruct on Christmas Day and included in one of the bags was this sock monkey… every man needs a sock monkey in his music room so Earl didn’t get to sample this one…”better luck next time Earl! You are going to have to be content with raiding the clothes hamper and stealing Steve’s dirty socks”

I am officially terrified of our vegetable patch. Steve, who just watered the veggies, is in agreement. The tomatoes have gone mad and have not only invaded the “Poland” of their neighbouring tomato bed but they have both joined forces and are threatening to go all Genghis Khan on the poor lettuce bed. Beetroot that are supposed to be “medium” are now exploding from their bed and the spinach that we were expecting to be lucky to get a few bunches from because it was so slow in taking off, has taken off with a vengeance and is rivalling the silverbeet (Swiss chard) for height and stature. I am not really complaining because aside from going exponential on our derrières the veggie garden is producing edible vegetables. I can only put it down to using compost as the base of our garden beds, lots of small chunks of decomposing wood for air and room for roots to grow and the wonderful black organic compost that we picked up in Exeter as the soil substitute that having to build upwards forced us to utilise. It has certainly excited us regarding vegetable growing and eating and its true folks…home grown veggies taste MUCH better. Steve is eating things that he would have turned up his nose at in the not so distant past and is eating them raw in salads. He didn’t even realise that he ate spinach and perpetual spinach in a salad the other day, he just raved about how tasty it was. You want your kids to eat their veggies? Try growing them :o). Our newfound excitement at being able to eat what we are growing notwithstanding, our terror is still rising. How much bigger can zucchini plants get! I have already cut off their Samson like locks army style in an attempt to allow my poor eggplants to get a bit of light and within a week they were towering over the poor huddled eggplants cowering beneath their enormous elephantine leaves. Not only are they growing faster than is physically possible, they are armour plated and cutting their leaves to put them into the compost heap without wearing gloves is a painful lesson that I will only have to learn once. Our cucumber crop is promising to be amazing as each of the 6 vines is covered in flowers with tiny little Lebanese cucumbers at the bases. I can hear my daughter Madeline applauding as I type that sentence and she will put our excesses to good use sliced thinly with some rice wine vinegar, mirin and sesame seeds. Our corn is magnificent, our silverbeet tastes delicious, our beans are going gangbusters and all in all we are having a great vegetable season.

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In the breeding season the local Cuckoo shrikes are hard pressed to find enough to eat while they are cramming their noisy brood full of insects and we give them a bit of cheese to help them out. Here you can see the rare large spotted nosey bird hunting for cheese…

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While we were in Launceston today I took a heap of photos to share our beautiful city with you all. I don’t get to go there often now and I really do appreciate it’s beauty. While I was taking a few shots of the Japanese garden near the library I noticed someone taking photos and realised it was me! Can you see how tired Earl is of me stopping and taking off the lens cap? 😉

Steve is going to head off and go “floating” again on New Year’s Day. I knew that he would love pootling around in his aluminium dinghy if he took it out a few times. There is something soothing about skimming a large body of water with only a thin skin of aluminium between you and a cold splash and it’s great fun to steer your little coracle between the drifting jellyfish that the tide wash up and down the river twice a day from the sea and back in a never ending cycle of jellyfish waltzing. You can be master of your own possibilities and should you manage to catch a fish you can get your wife to fillet it for you and cook it fresh from the boat…like veggies from a veggie garden to your plate, fish from the boat tastes amazingly good…unless you caught blowfish in your ignorance… Steve used to enjoy catching fish when we lived in Albany Western Australia. I worked strange hours as befits a cook and he would drop me off at work and head off fishing till it was time to pick me up and head home. He spent many a hot summer moonlit night with only the city lights and the sounds of the humpback whales singing their sea shanties in the harbour to keep him company. He would drop me off early in the morning on my day shifts, before the sun came up, and would make a beeline for the aptly named “Salmon holes” where accompanied only by a little Chinese fisherman who couldn’t speak a word of English but who using sign language to ask Steve for his unwanted fish heads and for a time they shared silent communion with the waves and the dolphins in the breakers and the sea, he would catch his bag limit of 7kg Australian salmon and then face the daunting task of carrying them back up the almost vertical steps half a kilometre (straight up) back to where the car was waiting. Salmon fishing is an Aussie male rite of passage. Something that “the blokes” do and that needs to be accompanied by an esky bedecked with beer and bait and tales of “the mongrel that got away” and “I bloody nearly had it!” echo semi-convincingly around the pub with your mates after a day of sunstroke and sunburn. What more could an Aussie bloke want? Aside from a bbq to slap the catch on when they got back and a doting wife with a fridge full of amber ale to keep the stories growing exponentially long after the sun has gone down and half your mates are asleep. Steve is new to blokish behaviour but it certainly hasn’t taken him long to embrace the amber fluid in its chilled form and I haven’t heard him “whinge” in a long time…”we will make a bloke out of you yet young ex-pat Stevie boy!” 😉

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Christof in Oz’s photo of the steps leading down to where Steve caught those salmon “You’re legs are like coiled springs young padawan!” 😉

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Generic touristy shot pinched from the interweb of the walkway running along the top of the cliffs above where Steve used to fish for salmon…beautiful, amazing scenery, good fishing and subject to random king waves that have swept many unsuspecting fishermen to their deaths in the past few years.

Well it’s time to wrap up this post and head off to embrace the weekend. It will be 2013 the next time we meet. We managed to all mill together over 2012 and we survived the Mayan apocalypse en mass…we learned, we grew and we shared and 2013 can only give us more opportunities for the same. I can’t wait to share it all with you and I just want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for coming along for the ride on Serendipity Farm…I know I tend to take you in the old 60’s land rover with the bung suspension and I tend to go through the back paddocks and hit every damned pothole on the way but you have to admit…sometimes I find something special to share with you and you are the very first people that I want to share it with every single time :o). See you on the Boxing Day equivalent of New Year’s Day…you would think that some entrepreneur out there would have cashed in on the possibilities but for now, your poor long suffering wallet is safe from New Year’s Boxing Day 😉