Wychwood and a heartwood spoon

Hi All,

I am officially in love…I am UTTERLY in love. Yesterday my friend in the witness protection and I had a horticultural road trip to visit the utterly bewitching Wychwood gardens before Karen and Peter are able to sell this most magical of gardens to some lucky person with both the money and the eye to be able to appreciate this gem of a property. After my “dei horribilis” on Monday, closely followed by her own dei horribilis on Wednesday when we dropped in to deposit some of our wayward junipers on her doorstep. We both decided that we needed to head off into the horticultural wilderness and Wychwood was the sirens song that lured us out of bed early and pointed in a direction that neither of us points very much. I met her at Exeter, midway between our properties and we continued on in her 4 x 4 which is much more reliable than “ole Bessie” our little workhorse. We took our time enjoying all of the quaint little towns festooned with unusual murals, topiaries; wooden sculptures ANYTHING to drag the tourist dollar up from Hobart and the south where all tourists are avidly pointed by the powers that be. Up north we have some gorgeous country and some really pretty places to visit and I have NO idea why people would go down to the South apart from trekking the last vestiges of gorgeousness in the wet wilderness traced by the Gordon river. Oh… and Mt. Wellington is a bit of alright as well ;). If you want to see real Tasmanians, come up north! They certainly lay it on thick up here…wine, potatoes, onions, hippies (yup…LOTS of hippies…), more potatoes…did I mention potatoes? ;). We trundled around upsetting people driving at breakneck speed in search of a traffic accident while we just sat in the left hand lane doing the equivalent of Steve pootling up the river. We didn’t stay on the highway long because highways are for chumps (and for big trucks and angry road rage ridden drivers…) so we ducked over and wended our merry way on the side roads less travelled and enjoyed the heck out of our trip. We stopped in Deloraine, a mecca for hippies and antiques and after a veggie sausage roll, our friend in the witness protection was ready to continue driving to Mole creek and beyond. Steve had hurriedly scratched down some driving instructions but what use have 2 chattering middle aged women in a large 4 x 4 doing 80km/hour and paying NO attention to the road signs, for instructions? We did what men DON’T do, and we stopped at Mole Creek to ask at the local Information centre (that’s what it’s there for folks! 😉 ) where Wychwood was and were given instructions how to get there by a very nice lady who didn’t mind at ALL that we were lost with no idea where we were…in fact, we kept her in a job in a job stressed market for another day…

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I took a million, squillion and 7 photos of Wychwood so I have had to limit today’s post to a few as we have to put Earl’s walnut draw for the Valentine’s Day spoon in as well so this photo is of the lovely little nursery at Wychwood, full of all sorts of healthy and unusual stock all grown as excess on Wychwood soil for lucky patron’s to purchase and take home to pretend that their gardens are some day going to look like Wychwood 😉

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A really nice idea. Karen and Peter like to pick a selection of the plants in flower and fruit in the garden on any given day, an herbarium for the punters

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As Edina from “Absolutely Fabulous” would say about the Wychwood shop…”Lots of gorgeousness sweetie…lots of little gorgeous things…”

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The garden had splashes of colour all over the place. Nothing gaudy and over the top because Peter told us that he prefers foliage and texture. My sentiments exactly!

After we learned that we only had to go up the road a little ways before finding our destination we trundled off again and suddenly there it was…unmistakable amongst bare fields full of sheep, an oasis of treed greenness that silently beckoned us into its folds. I have to mention here to anyone who has been shirking their “Dear constant reader” duties and not keeping up to speed on Serendipity Farm posts that visiting Wychwood has been a dream of mine for some time now. I have stalked Peter and Karen from afar for years…I follow Karen’s wonderful Wychwood posts on “Garden Drum” a most informative collection of expert writers that document their garden journeys and adventures and I follow her on Facebook as well. To explain Wychwood isn’t easy. In a nutshell it is 2 peoples idyll and passion that bled into a sheep paddock out in the middle of woop-woop miles away from the madding crowd that evolved over a period of almost 20 years to be somewhere that any garden gnome or fairy would lust after calling “home”. 2 ½ acres of gorgeousness to the max and every turn has something special…we were lucky enough to arrive on a less than promising day…no sunny blue skies and lots of prospect of rain and even though we were there for hours (I think I must have been abducted by aliens because it felt like 5 minutes…) only 1 other couple turned up while we were there and left long before we did. We are both horticulturalists so you can only begin to imagine the “Oohing and AHing” that went on. We were up to our armpits in precious things and everywhere we turned there was something to delight our horticultural senses. So many beautiful things and a mind full of possibilities…round buxus balls festooned their merry bumbling way across a lawned area reminding me of hedgehogs on their way to a saucer of water…Our friend got VERY excited…”I have just plonked buxus down in the sand! One day, when I have filled in the gaps it might look like this!”…delight, excitement, overwhelming prospects of reward at the end of the tunnel and we were gone…wandering aimlessly taking photo after photo and being constantly reminded of the possibilities that result from someone’s willingness to “Have a bash” and get stuck in and effect change on this sort of scale. These people are collectors…I was amused when I asked Peter what a certain species of Viburnum was that he had in the garden and he told me that it was called Viburnum rhytidophyllum. I then proceeded to tell him that I had found this very viburnum deep in the undergrowth of the jungle that we call Serendipity Farm. He was suddenly very interested and asked me where this plant had been sourced. I told him that the elderly lady, who had owned this property, prior to my father, had planted all sorts of things and some of them were still alive. He told me to ask her where she had bought this shrub from because by the sounds of it, it isn’t a very common shrub in Tasmania. Ida… you were indeed a plants woman :o)

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With the shop over to the left of this photo the exit into the garden has this lovely staged border of colour, texture and foliage height

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Borders are the name of the day on Wychwood as are the use of grasses and medium shrubs and trees to give interest to each garden bed. Note the Gunnera manicata’s HUGE leaves looking for all the world like enormous rhubarb

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To the left note the clever use of Rugosa roses acting as a hedge between one garden area and another and more massed planting and staggered borders to the right

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The garden is full of little pathways like this, leading you around corners in search of the elusive secret garden behind those shrubs

Karen and Peter have made the most of this amazing space and have carefully and lovingly created a slow evolutionary march of vegetation from their initial deciduous tree plantings, lots of birches, an interesting beech, Linden and various maples to the inbetweeners…the cornus and the well placed Sambucus in all of their glorious varieties and forms providing shade, flowers and fruit for the birds, bees and butterflies that were staggering lustily whilst twittering, buzzing and flittering around respectively. A most scrumptious ornamental Japanese grape vine (Vitis coignetiae) meandered all over the small but well stocked nursery a study in gorgeous green that we were assured by Peter, was not only difficult to propagate but that rewarded the autumn spectator with a show of vibrant red magnificence. There was a chook yard with hens protesting their incarceration along with a high hedged orchard that contained a single short fat pair of gorgeous ducks and a “Cranky Goose” signposted and warned and no indemnity taken…I am used to geese. My mother once kept a flock of 50 of them and I know what geese are like. This one was timid compared to mum’s geese and our friend in the witness protection wouldn’t even go near it and stayed outside the lovely wrought iron gate with her mobile camera switched on in hope that the goose would attack thus giving her fodder to amuse her friends…I gracefully emerged unscathed (to her disappointment I might add…) but well aware that the “Hissing” behind me was indeed a warning of beak-to-pants action should I overstay my welcome…I understand gooseanese implicitly! I will share more of Wychwood in the photos that I add to this post but I am still in a daze of happiness about yesterday and am cram packed full of possibilities. Our friend and I have plans…inscrutable plans for propagating masses of perennials between us so that we can mass plant the back end out of our properties. She is still in the “sheep paddock” stage but we have the benefit of there being some strong plant foundations here on Serendipity Farm but having to pare back the layers of debris and weeds built up over 20 years of neglect to reveal the poor long suffering survivors underneath. We did learn some interesting things from Peter who told us that he never fertilises anything…”nature doesn’t fertilise anything other than dropping leaves on itself so why should we?” He mulches with pea straw etc. for humus but although the soil on the property was sandy and infertile this garden towers majestically out of the hillsides and plonked down on Mole Creek like a little piece of heaven. Wychwood is for sale by the way… Peter said it wouldn’t hurt to mention it in my blog…obviously free publicity with the way that I have been gushing over the place but it truly is a magical garden full of enticing and exciting possibilities. If anyone you know would like to live in “Clean Green” Tasmania, nestled in a basin between 3 mountain ranges with a creek on the side of the property and a garden to die for, do a bit of Google searching and I am sure that you will find a real estate agent that will be more than happy to guide you through the processes of signing your life away…but in the process, gaining a little piece of paradise that I know you won’t find anywhere else :). We exited and drove off twittering with possibilities…

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Occasionally you would see something in the middle of the lawn like this large grass or a series of round topiary buxus like hedgehogs following their mum into the long grass…it was a clever way to separate garden areas and minimise turf, which is incredibly water hungry and prone to insect predation

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The drop dead gorgeous enormous leaves of Vitis coignetiae a Japanese ornamental grape vine with a hint of the colour that the entire vine takes on in autumn. One of the reasons why our friend in the witness protection and I are heading back up mid April this year

We decided on heading up further north to check out a nursery that we had been to a few times over the last few years. Big Pot nursery isn’t a patch on Wychwood nursery but it has 2 things going for it. 1. It is cheap as chips and 2. It has a whole lot more “stuff” than Wychwood. We had purchased some “pretties” from Wychwood. I bought “Rudbeckia triloba”; “Ajuga reptans ‘Jungle Beauty’ and “Monarda didyama” from Wychwood and considered $18 well spent. For an upmarket garden with a twinkle of gorgeousness that would lead a body to believe that there might also be a twinkle of expense involved with their nursery stock the prices were very reasonable and I know that the plants are healthy and vital. Heading over to Big Pot and the stock is somewhat less reliable and more higgledy piggledy in nature but from $2 – $3 for perennials and extremely reasonable prices for deciduous trees (most of the smaller stock was $6) Big Pot nursery is well worth a trip to budget mindful penniless student hippies and the sign saying “Liliums $2 each” had our friend twitching with excitement. I didn’t even look sideways at the gorgeous floral tributes because they do grow on Serendipity Farm…and they are eaten on Serendipity Farm before they are able to thrust out those gorgeous blowsy flowers so lilums and I are not mano-a-mano if you know what I mean. I trundled over and found…”Sophora microphylla (N.Z. Kowhai) a lovely small tree that has lacy leaves (that promise nitrogenous advantages to the soil surrounding its roots); Salvia corrugata with scrumptious deep blue flower spikes; Sisyrinchium striatum (a lovely hardy member of the iris family that has tiny butter yellow stalks of flowers and that is very hardy); Salvia elegans or Pineapple sage with its heady scented leaves and wonderful spikes of red flowers and Eryngium alpinum, a member of the sea holly family that I am going to carpet Serendipity Farm with variations of because it has stood defiant against the advancing hoards and they have found it wanting! A most perfect plant for Serendipity Farm ;). Our friend in the witness protection also broke a piece from her pot of Ajuga reptans ‘Catlins Giant’ that was heading off in another direction and that had adventitious roots and gave it to me to pot up and coax into fruition for our garden. We will both be collecting fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgare) and Queen Anne’s lace seed (Daucus carota) from weedy specimens in ditches over the coming few weeks as the seed heads ripen and will be interspersing the resulting plants with garlic…Wychwood had a lovely patch of mixed fennel and garlic just outside their vegetable garden as a beneficial attractant and a pest deterrent. There is so MUCH to learn about gardening and luckily, the best way to do it is free…watch your garden (such as it is…) wander around it at all times of the day (hint: use a torch at night time…just sayin’…) and just “look”…watch what insects are bumbling around…are there any birds? Lizards? Frogs? Over the coming season watch how the conditions in your garden change as the seasons change and check for windy spots, hot spots, dry spots and shady spots. Learn where the sun is at any given time of the day and learn how much sunlight the objects of your horticultural desire need…just watch, listen and learn from your garden. It has so many lessons to teach you if you will only stop bumbling about yelling and listen to it! (in saying that…I am still in the bumbling stages and most definitely in the yelling stages so perhaps it’s best to do as I say, not as I do for the purposes of this lesson O.K? 😉 )

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 I truely abhor photographs of “me” but in order for you to see this amazing edifice to fatherly love in the form of a kids cubby house that not only has this beautiful garden surrounding it, but it has sleeping accomodation inside and has 2 stories!, I had to post me too.  I appear to have lost one of my eyes and grown the teeth of a donkey in this shot…I scolded our friend in the witness protection for her lack of photographic skills but then I saw the photos that I took of her standing here on her phone and decided not to say anything about her lack of talent 😉 …

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One side of this pathway leads off to a wonderful grass maze that I will share with you in future posts and the right hand side leads off to an orchard…an orchard that apparently contained a very cranky goose…we were warned…but hey? When have I EVER listened to warnings eh?

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2 occupants of the orchard…cranky geese? I think not! These 2 ducks were quite small but incredibly stocky making them emminently squeezable…they obviously knew how cute they were and had suffered several squeezes in the past because as soon as I entered the rusted wrought iron gate into the orchard they hightailed it away from me as fast as those tiny waddling legs would toddle

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“SPOTTED!”…time to make a hasty retreat to the safety of the area directly behind the rusted wrought iron gate and our friend in the witness protection with her camera phone at the ready just in case the goose decided to attack…I had to sternly remind her that “Youtube is a fickle mistress”…

Bugger! I got so excited I put too many words in this post…I hope you are still here with me as I tap out these last few stanzas and tie up the string section for that last great “Huzzah!” Well here we are at the end of the post and most of you could care less about the gardening bit and want to know who won the beautiful Valentine’s Day spoon? Well (drum roll…..) Earl picked…

Congratulations to …..

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The Valentine’s Day spoon is going to Oklahoma :o)

http://s1101.beta.photobucket.com/user/bezial27/media/MyMovie-1_zpsd4563739.mp4.html

So to all of you dear constant readers who missed out, it will soon be “Mother’s Day” (well here in Australia it will!) so you will get another chance then :o). Till Wednesday, here is a photo of the spoons to choose from…

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If Little sundog wants to choose which spoon she wants and let me know in the comments section we can tee up how you are going to get your spoon. See you all on Wednesday 🙂

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What a Mingy Comumbus a.k.a. “Oh COCK!”

Hi All,

To find out what the title of today’s post means you either have to find Series 2, episode 4 of James May’s “Man Lab” or you need to get your fingers googling. No laziness here folks…this blog is all about educating the masses and how are you EVER going to get ejamicated without a bit of work from your side eh? Steve actually prefers his version (well…the version that he was hunting for this morning online and curiously finding nothing at ALL to do with it…) the “Mumbly Comumbus”. Steve loved this SO much he has renamed “The Tubby Piggins” to “The Mumbly Comumbus”…A fitting name for his little aluminium coracle…go look it up! I KNOW it is driving you crazy! ;). I had a Mingy Comumbus of a day on Monday. I went to town with Steve and the dogs to do the fortnightly shopping on a hot day when the dogs and I spent most of the time in the car because I can’t hold both excited boys myself and we were forced to endure extended periods in a hot car. I KNOW that dogs die in hot cars but so do middle aged women! We had the windows down and doors open (well my door was open, Earls door was decidedly NOT! 😉 ) but that doesn’t make up for having to sit in the sun while Steve dashed in and out of various shops hindered by an exponentially grouchy wife and 2 panting pups. I completely forgot half of what I wanted to buy in town because I was feeling so twitchy, I have lost my city legs and was swaying from side to side mentally the whole time I was in the city. We got home and Steve had to race out to go and pick up some more craft wood from a man who is moving away from the area but Steve teed up to buy some more delicious varieties of wood from so he had to be there for 2pm. I hurriedly opened the kitchen window to give the insistent cuckoo shrike some cheese cubes and in the process hit our knife sharpener that caused a chain reaction that knocked a little blue and white flowerpot that had been on mums windowsill in her tiny little unit over. The pot didn’t break but every single one of my lovely blue and white ceramic jam spoons that it contained flew out all over the place and shattered into smithereens…”OH COCK!” as James May would say…the day was just “one of those” days…we all have to bear them…it wasn’t particularly fundamentally “bad” but it wasn’t one that I would have chosen and we all need days like this to show us how good our normal days really are. Update: not all of my ceramic spoons are broken! I found one in the cutlery draw…Steve must have put it there and for once, I am glad of his absentmindedness about where he puts things after he washes up :o)

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Earl bagsed top bunk…

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“Is this how you drive? Why isn’t it going?”

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“I prefer to be chauffered…”

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“Any fish in here?”

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Tilly, Nat’s dog enjoying one of the dogs treats

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“So you won’t get up for me to sit down eh?”…

I don’t watch a lot of television but I do LISTEN to a lot. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen/living room because that is where my base station is. Our desktop P.C. is the centre of my day and I have invisible threads that allow me to head out and do everything that I do in my day but I inevitably end up back checking something, researching something that I thought of while I was bum’s up in the garden or making sure that I didn’t forget to do something. I was doing the dishes the other day when I heard that Tasmania is going to have the driest January on record. We have a very lean 3 months in Northern Tasmania over the summer period as it is and rather than see this as an imminent threat, I prefer to see it as a challenge. Enter my arid food growing guru Bev from the wonderfully informative blog http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/ she is my kind of problem solver. She uses a variety of permaculture principals on her property and reading about her exploits is both interesting and informative. I especially love her water wicked containers. In her latest post she shows how she has grown salad veggies in one of her wicked boxes and in arid conditions where water is likely to be limited these wicked boxes give you a whole lot of control over your food supply. I found a tutorial on how to make self watering raised veggie boxes here… http://www.josho.com/gardening.htm But I have to say that Bev had an equally excellent tutorial on her website that you can check out here… http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/preparing-a-wicking-box/  . Bev is also an incredibly generous gardener with sharing her hints, tips and spare seed. I am eagerly awaiting some parsnip seed that she managed to grow in copious quantities…no parsnips but plenty of seed and when life hands you parsnipless seeds, you pass them on! Lesson learned…no snips BUT a plethora of new interstate friends who love to collect seed and share as well. I am still ruminating the Aussie seed swap. I think it’s a fantastic idea and just because I have had to go back to horticultural kindergarten with my sideline into vegetable gardening

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One of Steve’s finds whilst pootling around on the river the other day…isn’t this place lovely?

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Part of the lovely house in the last photo and we think that they might be walnut trees

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Walking down the driveway to check the mail…

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And walking back up again…it’s no wonder Steve has skinny legs 😉

I have just realised why I am willing to be kicked out of bed at 3.50am by the dog and head out into the dark early morning to read blogs through my rss feed reader…it enlivens and invigorates my mind. I LOVE learning…I love the cut and thrust of replying to comments and sharing my opinion and I love that I can do it from the comparative safety of my own little kitchen miles away from the coalface of the original idea. I can wander through a list of amazing personally selected blogs that feed my mind and act as jumper leads to my day. I flick from amazing food blogs…lots of innovative vegan blogs and gorgeous foodie blogs with amazing recipes to cutting edge fermentation sites and sites where I learn how to make just about everything. Then I have my environmental sites. I hate depressing doom and gloom sites and refuse to frequent them. I love positivity in the face of insurmountable odds and that’s the sort of blogs I frequent…”the world is going to hell in a hand basket but we will be bullocked if we are going down without a fight…” that sort of site. I had best clear up now that I don’t frequent crazy stockpiling hillbilly “shoot the neighbour Brandeen…they are stealin’ our food stores!” sites that sort of site can make you crazier than you already are! I might occasionally veer side left to pinch a plan for a rocket stove or wood fired oven plan but I cover my eyes because I KNOW they are probably taking on other forms! ;). I have blogs in my rss feed readers that defy classification…one such blog I actually hoard. It’s called “23 Thorns” and if this man puts out a book I am buying it. I don’t care if I have to work down t’ coal mines for a month to do so, his writing is that entertaining. Check it out if you want to end up on the floor laughing…this man is the bomb! This link takes you to his series of “The Lowveld Posts” an absolutely hilarious look at the wildlife that inhabits his local area. You should go there merely to read about these amazing creatures in Africa and woven through his amazing posts that are incredibly well written (the man is a wordsmith) is a background of Africa warts and all…

http://23thorns.wordpress.com/category/the-lowveld-posts/

One day when I have more time available to me when I won’t feel guilty for taking perhaps an entire tea fuelled week, I am going to wade through every single one of this bloggers posts. He is the Patch Adams of blogs and I, for one, prefer 23 Thorns to chocolate! There…I said it :o). I urge you all to at least have a look at these wonderful posts that will hopefully bring a smile to your day :o)

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Steve got a shock when this seal shot out of the water right next to his boat the other day

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A visitor to Serendipity Farm hunting for insects (or maybe a drink of water?) on his way through

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Our friend in the witness protections front garden (well a bit of it) to show you how dry it is in our region at the moment

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Our friend in the witness protections all enclosed veggie garden doing as well as ours is. That compost is pure gold!

Today we are heading back into town. We need to get some fruit (for my daily green smoothie habit) and chia seed that I completely and utterly forgot on my “diem horribilis” on Monday. We are also going to visit our friend in the witness protection ostensibly to “visit” but really, for me to have a good perve at her fully enclosed garden and see how her partner Glen made it. Her veggies are also going great guns and she has runaway snow peas going crazy all over the enclosure. We can only assume that because of our widely varying soil conditions, our joint success has come from the rich organic compost that we purchased by the trailer load from Exeter Landscaping. I don’t think that they are going to benefit from my free plug there because their office receptionist, although eminently pleasant and approachable, is completely unable to navigate her way around their new website and completely bypasses it should anyone make a web enquiry…sigh…(and they wonder why Tasmania is lagging behind the rest of the world?). We have some young junipers and other hardy conifers that we don’t intend on planting out on Serendipity Farm that we are going to give her to plant out on her 40 acre property. She needs drought tolerant species that don’t mind getting their feet wet in the winter. Her property goes from arid desert in summer to swamp in winter and is festooned with possums and wallabies and rabbits at night time, all wanting to completely consume everything that she plants as soon as the sun goes down. Despite these drawbacks she is surprisingly willing to keep trying and her horticultural persistence is starting to pay off. I will take some photos of her garden unless it is starting to look like Serendipity Farm, dry, arid and like a 70’s Instagram version of its modern self all turned up corners and orange hued where I will allow her a degree of anonymity. We are also going to walk the dogs in the city again and also on Jenny’s property. They are going to have a ball! I have to say “Hi” and “Welcome back” to Nat, one of my best mates and a dear constant reader of this humble blog. She is back at Polytechnic working as a horticultural lecturer for another year which allows her to occasionally take a brief foray into the world of Serendipity Farm and keep her on the cutting edge of insanity on a regular basis. I do my bit girl… I do my bit! 😉

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Our friend in the witness protection gave me this enormous sack of silverbeet, carrots and snow peas…Earl had a bit of a sniff but found them all wanting

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My fruit haul including 7kg of bananas @ .90c a kilo, 5 enormous mangoes @ $1.00 each and some nectarines and apricots @ $4.99kg. I have enough fruit for green smoothies to last me a month!

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The bananas have already been frozen and just the mangoes and sundry fruit to go 🙂

It’s now 5.23. Bezial threw me out of bed at 3.50am and the young rooster that lives under the deck is tentatively crowing the new day in. Another series of processes is just about to begin and as they weave their way into our psyche let’s just hope that today isn’t a repeat of Monday and to make sure, I am going to hide that one remaining ceramic jam spoon! See you all on Saturday and remember to tell us if you would like to win the spoon that Earl will draw on Saturday morning. EVERYONE can enter. We don’t care if you live on the moon…we love sharing with you all and please don’t think that you can’t enter the draw because you live in Timbuktu…so do we! We know what it is like to live in the sticks and feel out of the loop and we love to share with fellow out of the loopers all over the world. Secretly, Steve wants his spoons to be represented in every single continent so I am going to have to work hard to market this blog to several underrepresented countries (Africa…”who wants a spoon!”…same goes for India, Russia, China, Korea, Japan…sigh…)… you have to be in it to win it folks 😉

A nod is as good as a wink to a blind bat

Hi All,

What the hell is she talking about now? At least I don’t bore you dear constant readers ;). What today’s post is about is communication. That vital synaptic leap between the brain of one to the brain of another… a mutual process of understanding we know as “communication”. You might have the best most amazing idea in the world…you turn it around in your head, you feed it with possibilities, you craft it carefully and lovingly…you sample it and it tastes sweet and you want to share it with your friends but unless you are able to take that kernel of an idea and plant it firmly in the damp earth of someone else’s mind you are lost. I spend my mornings reading blogs through my rss feed reader. I keep evolving with what I do and don’t like and regularly throw blogs into the ether to make way for amazing new blogs. My new blogs are all about possibilities…fermentation, making things yourself, xeriscape gardening (and one combines xeriscape gardening with vegan cooking… what’s not to love!)And what I love about these blogs is their ability to communicate their ideas and processes with a wider audience. I am a processes girl. I learn through following processes and getting familiar with those processes. When my guitar teacher (who ran away from his wife leaving her available to become my dad’s partner and who inevitably left us Serendipity Farm but that, my dears, is another story! 😉 ) told me that practice makes perfect…aside from lying, he was outlining the perfect way for me to learn. Not everyone learns like this. There are many ways that people learn. Some people (take Steve for example) learn on the fly. They like to hurl themselves into the “experience” and pick it up as they go along. That way of learning scares the hell out of me! I need to start at a point where I understand “something” about the process and work in incremental stages from there till I arrive at the other end. To see Steve jumping in at the deep end and swimming with the fishes of his creativity is like being probed by aliens…frankly terrifying. Are you starting to get a bit of a picture of how difficult it is to sometimes translate what is going on inside “my” head to that of my wildly arm waving Don Quixote of a husband? 😉

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“Well what do we have here then eh? A lovely little Aussie Christmas beetle (Anoplognathus montanus) still hanging about after Christmas Day…”

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“RUN!”…

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The fixin’s for a batch of Steve’s favourite calzones. He has gone from being very suspicious about the idea of a calzone to demanding them on a constant basis 🙂

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This is a Boozy Oatwell Slice…the hybrid result of a man who just couldn’t make his mind up “I would like an oat slice…but then that bakewell slice you made the other day was delicious…and I could go a batch of eccles cakes…” rather than bake 3 separate things, I combined them all and a new classic is made…AND Steve loves it! 🙂

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“Quick Steve…get the chilli and garlic spray…there is something in the vegetables!”

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“Beetroots conquered and divided SIR!” Not only do we get the root but we get the delicious leaves to use like silverbeet in whatever we want. Tonight I am having some in my soup 🙂

Serendipity Farm is all go at the moment. Not the sort of “go” that eventuates in enormous swathes of things being done, but lots of little patches of “done”. I am spending a lot of time in the veggie garden much to Steve’s surprise. He expected that he would have to be the brawn where the veggie garden was concerned but Dame Elizabeth and mum are spurring me on and won’t let me rest if something needs doing out there. Yesterday I was mulching everything with some of the tinder dry lawn clippings and dead oak leaves that we got from Glad’s place. They were perfect to grab handfuls of and shuffle between the plants. The veggie garden is looking suitably smug now in its new blanket of deceased vegetative matter and I know that once it rots down it can only add to the fecundity of the soil. I am already learning the distinct benefits of being a “Doer”. This is my year of “Doing” and instead of thinking about projects I am actively hurling myself into them. When I say “hurl” I mean Fran’s planning type hurl rather than Steve’s jump in with both feet hurl. When mum used to be in her garden for most of her days I simply couldn’t understand the attraction…what is out there?! Now I know. Mum’s final communication with me (aside from her stint as chief muse that is…) was received, planted and has grown to fruition. I finally “Get it” mum :o). The sum of the process is worth so much more than the little bits that make it all up. We almost had an Hitchcockian case of extreme vertigo when faced with the garden when we first got here. Nothing would have changed unless we stepped out in the faith that we could, indeed, make a difference. We are slowly introducing cycles to the property…compost heaps to take care of green waste, food scraps and anything that will rot down to minimise landfill and to maximise our soil; vegetable gardens to feed ourselves; chickens for eggs, meat (roosters), nitrogenous manure and spent hay bedding that can be used for mulch and composting and many more. Today I took another wheelbarrow of oak leaves and dry lawn clippings to mulch the strawberries that are in containers by the side of Steve’s shed. I can feel the information that I have been collecting flowing out of me as I work…”make sure to cover all of the bare earth so that you minimise soil evaporation…don’t use the green leaves, make sure you only use the dead ones to minimise nitrogen draw-down…Don’t plant those chives with those snowpeas! They release substances that limit the growth of the peas…” It takes knowledge AND action to effect change. Incidentally, if you would like to see a good companion planting guide check this one out via Sustainable Gardening Australia…

http://www.sgaonline.org.au/?p=6986

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One extremely squished ex-golden nugget tomato courtesy of “The possums”…

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How much more fortification do we need?!!! Aside from buying a long metal chain and situating Earl in the wood shed to the right of this photo, we are not too sure what to do next…barbed wire perchance?

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Lets just call these pears “Romeo and Juliet” because they are together and still alive only because the possums haven’t found them yet…say goodbye to Romeo and Juliet 😦

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The butterfly Romeo and Juliet…for some reason butterflies love to hide under this tarpaulin where I keep the grass clippings and spent oak leaves that we got from Glad and every time I open it up, I find a few dead butterflies…

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The potato futures that we tossed into the compost heap the other day are all starting to grow!

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Some of the recent items harvested from Serendipity Farm including the rare golden nugget tomatoes (well NOW they are 😦 ) and a bouncy ball that was found in the bushy area next to the Auld Kirk church…”throw it over to the filthy heathens children…we shall save them YET!”

I have been singing the praises of the Tamar NRM for a long time now. They are an amazing source of information and practical application for how to manage your land using natural resources. Amanda, the powerhouse behind all communications and the lady that keeps everything running smoothly and efficiently recently asked me if I would like to write an article about my attendance at many of their workshops last year and how it has affected what we are going on our property for their next newsletter and I accepted. I just sent her 2 pages of words which was very difficult to do because my muses would have liked me to write a small novella, but for the sake of those reading (most probably mainly farmers who could care less to be honest) I reined them in this time. You can only imagine how difficult that was! ;). I sent a few photos to accompany the article but it will be interesting to see what Amanda does with my words and photos and how it looks in the next Tamar NRM newsletter. I might even link it so that you can all see it. Well the possums did it this time! I was out walking Earl this morning because Bezial is having one of his sporadic limping episodes. It curiously coincides with Bezial running maniacally around Serendipity Farm like a mad dog but he insists it is NOTHING to do with that. Earl and I arrived back home to Steve twitching more than normal. Apparently, while we slept, the possums decided that waving their hairy little arms through the bird netting to grab the occasional snack wasn’t enough…they decided to chew their way through to our tomatoes! We had a beautiful golden nugget tomato loaded with almost ripe perfect golden little orbs that were completely trampled flat and all of the gold stolen. I WOULD phone the police, but after heavily fortifying the entire “fruiting” bed (containing anything that a possum would be vaguely interested in…) and throwing some ex-fish farm netting over the top for good measure (they might chew their way in from the top!) we realised that what we had just made looked suspiciously like we were trying to hide “something” amongst our tomatoes…the spotter plane, most fortuitously flew over right at that time and we are waiting for the cops to bust down our door and demand to be taken up to see our illicit grown products. Best not trouble them while they are plotting the downfall of the Sidmouth 2 😉

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This is the “Queen of Hearts” jam making spoon with it’s own little heart for Valentine’s Day. It was a very clever idea but Steve isn’t happy with the watermark in the wood on the spoon bowl so away he went to make you another spoon…nothing is too good for our dear constant readers!

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Enter the gorgeous Ms. Myrtle…a stunning example of a local Tasmanian wood and something that I want to enter the draw for, let alone you lot! You get to choose which spoon you would like should you happen to win the spoon draw…be sure to let us know in time for this Saturday’s draw!

Well it’s spoon day again! Steve spent a few hours making what he called “The Queen of Hearts” on Thursday. He made it out of a lovely piece of Ash but in his haste he didn’t notice a little watermark in the wood that made the spoon look a little discoloured. Ash is pure white wood and this little watermark is very distinctive. He went to the trouble to make The Queen of Hearts spoon a true jam tart spoon with a little heart and a smaller tsp measure at the end for tasting the jam…you have to hand it to him, aside from being a great ideas man (re- booze bus…) he tried to make this spoon for multitasker’s…”make the jam, feed the baby…make the jam, put sugar in your tea…make the chutney, add some spices and salt…” but that little watermark made him twitch…he rubbed the spoon down and now it feels like smooth bone…light as a feather. Ash is hard wood…it broke 3 of his blades but this spoon is delicate looking. I can see this spoon lasting through the tough times, much like the Ash tree that it was made from, it is a stayer. Not happy with the watermark, Steve headed off and came back out of the shed today with a gorgeous Tasmanian Myrtle spoon. It is the most gorgeous colour and is just as light and smooth as the Ash but now he isn’t sure what to do with the Ash spoon. He has asked me to ask you to see which spoon you would like for the draw. Anyone who reads this blog, who wants to enter the draw for a spoon, please let me know in the comments and I will put you into the draw. This spoon draw will be drawn on Saturday so you really don’t have much time to get yourself into the draw. Steve wanted it to be drawn and sent so it has a chance to get to the recipient for Valentine’s Day and as mentioned, the choice of spoon is yours. Earl is twitching with happiness to be drawing another walnut draw. Little does Earl know that I have added a few ex-Christmas nuts to the bowl and there will be a choice of walnut, Brazil nut, Almond and Hazelnut. Again, if you would like to enter the draw please get back to us ASAP to get your name in the draw…we already have 7 people on the list so don’t wait or you might miss out :o). I will leave you with this Facebook reply that my little brother made when I was ranting about our recent tomato loss to the possums…

”I feed my possums to stop them running amok, and it works but the possums here aren’t as invasive nor as big as over in Tassie…brush tails ringtails and pygmies are full after a piece of bread some apple and a dried apricot. And because I’ve been bribing them with food, the nectarine tree near my back door has tripled in size and is well loaded with good fruit…in saying that, when the fruit has a week to go from being ripe and pickable, I’ll be camping out there with a metal colander /strainer on my head and a fly swat chanting subliminal messages to them under my breath.!”…

Oh NO dear constant readers…it runs in the family 😉

When “The Booze Bus” comes to town…

Hi All,

We might like to imbibe a little of the amber fluid on the odd occasion on Serendipity Farm but don’t panic dear constant readers, we didn’t drink and drive and live to suffer the consequences…Steve just had a brilliant idea for a business. We are in NO position to take this idea anywhere and even if we had the money to facilitate its start-up, we have much better things to spend our money futures on than the rabid New Year’s delusions of a man fond of a tipple who is currently on the wagon…we were walking the boys this morning and I could see a light bulb of an idea switch on while we were talking…”I have a GREAT idea for a business” said Steve. “You know icecream trucks?”…Yes…yes indeed I know icecream trucks, or the legend of “icecream trucks” anyway as everywhere that I have ever lived has managed to maintain a severe dearth of the perambulatory frozen sweetened dairy variety of truck. “What if someone delivered alcohol to people…what if they were on the road from 6pm till 12 and were open for delivering booze to people out in the country who either couldn’t be bothered to head into town or who were unable to do so for whatever reason…”…yes…yes I can see where you are going Stevey boy…a constant stream of supermarket trucks up and down the Batman Highway delivering to our immediate vicinity has lent this idea a bit of strength…”It could be called “The Booze Bus” and the driver could wear a suit and a pork pie hat and dark sunglasses and could be called a “Booze Brother”…”…o…..k….. “And the bus could actually trawl for business like an icecream truck only instead of Greensleeves…it could play Tubthumping!”… I have to give it to him. The man can certainly navigate himself around an idea! No funds Steve…no endless tap on the keg of life is going to deliver you that dream any day soon but to anyone out there entrepreneurial enough to take this idea on board and take advantage of the fact that whenever there is an economic downturn and funds are low there is a distinct spike in the sales of alcohol and people go back to the movies…the masses have to have SOMETHING to entertain them…feel free to take Steve’s dream BUT there is one clause…when you are millionaires from the profits of another man’s dream…could you just send one of those booze buses down Auld Kirk Road with “Tubthumping” blaring as loud as it can and stop right out the front of the Auld Kirk Church, drop off a freebie carton (you owe him that much…) and make a broken man’s day? 😉

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The Booze Brother himself with his entourage…

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Looks like one of the entourage has left the building! Thems the perks of being a “good dog” when you go out…

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“Me Alone”…what happens when a dog thinks that he is cleverer than he is…this one thought that because I was making a cake, we were going to leave them on their own the day after (our usual polytechnic routine)…this one refused his tea…this one’s stomach was grumbling and THIS one won’t look at the camera…

Somer of Vedgedout blogging fame http://vedgedout.com/ has given me permission to blog about my experiences on her green smoothie challenge. She recently made a free PDF of this plan available for anyone who wants to start the New Year off with clean gizzards who doesn’t want to resort to falling prey to salmonella or a wandering gastro bug to give them the same results. I decided to try it because after taking a look at the plan, it certainly gave you a lot of choice and aside from the obvious health benefits, you might just lose a bit of weight in the process. I still have a few kilos to lose before I am completely happy to call my weight acceptable but I like to lose weight slowly now because years of yo-yo dieting has taught me that if you get something quickly and with very little effort or determination to change it very rarely lasts.  Admittedly it took me about 30 years to learn that but better late than never is my motto! I am really enjoying the processes of this plan. I like working through the choices and I am even enjoying my pond water with frog spawn. You don’t have to choose “pond water with frog slime”…I am just partial to it now. I add chia seed that has an interesting tendency to swell up and become decidedly frog spawny and I put tonnes of home grown fresh spinach into my smoothies so they end up verdant green and reminiscent of algal bloom on a duck pond. The best thing about this plan is that it gives you the ability to customise it to your own wants and needs. It is completely meat free and grain free (aside from a bit of quinoa in one of the soup recipes) but I figure that anyone could handle a week of this. I very rarely manage to eat/drink everything that I am supposed to eat in a day because there is so very much of it! It just goes to prove that you can eat a low calorie diet without feeling empty…you just need to be clever about what you are eating. If you like to eat a LOT (like I do…) then increase the veggies in your diet…eat HEAPS of them, especially the green ones because they tend to be low calorie and very filling. I no longer diet and if I wasn’t expected to weigh myself to share with the rest of the group of people worldwide that are undertaking this challenge I wouldn’t bother. I go by how I feel and I am feelin’ fine my dear constant readers…I am waxing lyrical, I am not grouchy in the mornings and I have lots of energy so I am calling this plan a success. You could technically eat this kind of food for the rest of your life. It is full of vitamins and minerals and it is positively brimming with vitality but I love my grains and starches and want to integrate them back, albeit in smaller portions, to my regular diet so I will be revisiting this green smoothie challenge on a regular basis to keep my intestines happy. I might do this once a month it is that easy to follow and I am someone who quintessentially bucks following “programs” of any kind. I heartily endorse this free program and anyone wanting to feel a bit healthier or lose a bit of weight feel free to head on over to Somers and download the plan. She is a most gracious host :o)

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Prime crunchy sweet organic home grown cucumbers 🙂

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A barrow load of chicken coop hay about to be used to mulch the capsicum garden

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What happens to rocket when you show it a good time…note the capsicum in the foreground (a bit of a “Where’s Wally?” moment 😉 )

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The pile of rocket extracted and mulching complete!

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A newly refurbished capsicum and chilli garden bed well covered in spent hay to keep the moisture in the ground where it belongs to cut down on watering in the month and a half of summer that we still have in front of us

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Possum invaders!…sigh…back to the drawing board!

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Bread clips from too many loaves of supermarket cheap bread 😦

I just tossed another bread tie into a small bowl that I keep them in. I once saw a blog post on how to turn them into things…to repurpose them but all I have is a bowl full of them. It stands as a constant reminder that I should be baking bread…baking bread is actually very easy and incredibly therapeutic. It doesn’t even take all that much time aside from the proofing so my only excuse is that I am too lazy to bake it and these little tags remind me of how I am a slave to the bread “man”. This recipe doesn’t even require the obligatory kneading! I have NO excuses… http://gggiraffe.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/no-knead-honey-and-oat-bread-ii.html I try to give myself excuses “It’s only for the chooks…Steve doesn’t eat much of it…it’s cheaper than making your own…” but it all ends up at the same place sustainable “FAIL!” I don’t like failing…I fear I have a type A personality and failure is tantamount to …well…failing! I know how to make bread. I make GOOD bread…I will feel a sense of accomplishment when I make bread BUT there is something stubborn and primal inside me…call it my middle aged child that bucks my desired ordered system and wants to read a book or go online or phone a friend…it’s a sad sorry state of affairs when you are having a parent teenager battle with yourself! “Get off your derrière and bake some bread and while you are at it, you could wipe those crumbs off that breadboard, put that washing on and you could wipe down that counter”…”You NEVER let me have any fun! It’s NOT FAIR! I HATE YOU”… a body could end up needing therapy if they allowed their teenaged selves to win!

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Isn’t this Stapelia hirsuita gorgeous? At this stage it looks like a beautiful purple hairy star…

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It then turns its petals up and forms an orb of foetid stinkiness to attract the blowflies and other carrion scavenging insects that it needs to pollinate its beautiful but nose-holdingly stinky flowers…we don’t care, its too beautiful not to love 🙂

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Myrtus communis (Common Myrtle) a wonderfule xeriscape plant that has edible fruit that are used to make a type of liqueur in the Med. I just love these flowers and might propagate some more of this lovely shrub for some of the dryer areas on Serendipity Farm

I was just considering retitling this post “Never mind the bollocks…this means WAR!”… We are fighting an ongoing battle with possums that sees them gaining ground in the night and us having to rethink our fortress and add all sorts of protective devices to the best of our abilities to stop the little buggers! Yesterday I removed an enormous crop of rocket that had gone to seed and was bitter and inedible. Obviously the possums thought so too because they had left it well alone, even though I now realise that they had been into the veggie garden questing for food! I thought that Steve had left the veggie garden open yesterday because the netting was loose. Steve had been checking out the size of his capsicums nestled amongst the tangle of rocket and I thought that he had just done his usual half-assed job of closing up the veggie garden when he emerged but today I realise that the rocket actually did a sterling job to protect the veggie garden against the possums that had tentatively pushed the netting till they were able to get in. Not so much luck today (for us, anyway) because the bitter rocket was gone and the tender capsicums were exposed and highlighted by a lovely empty garden bed full of easily navigable hay…you can guess what happened and they took some tomato with them and although I know that capsicums are perennial, the two that were completely decimated are most probably not going to bear fruit this year. We were walking the boys in Deviot today and stopped at the hall where the wonderful community of Deviot have built a lovely fully enclosed heritage apple, pear and herb garden and we had decided that we were going to copy their idea to build our much larger fully enclosed veggie garden. Steve, after inspecting the damage to his capsicums (not only did they chew the leaves, they took a single bite out of his precious first capsicum rendering it rooned!), has decided on using a large yacht mast that was left in the tangled pile of metal next to the veggie garden to erect a sort of circus tent style roof for the veggie garden when we make it in autumn (so that we have softened ground after the rains) and it will be fully enclosed in ex-fish farm netting. It will be a HUGE enclosed garden and good luck to the possums even getting a sniff at our coming season’s veggies! I want to enclose our small orchard eventually as the possums hoovered the pears from the last of the pear trees the other day. I didn’t cover them so I guess I deserve the dearth of fruit but I am starting to wonder at how many possums are parading the grounds of Serendipity Farm after dark there must be a veritable army of them!

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Our local “Loire Valley” equivalent “Marrion’s vinyard”. The West Tamar region is well known worldwide for its quality wines and this little vinyard is a fine example of its ilk

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Lonicera hildebrandiana (Giant Burmese honeysuckle) in a garden on one of our walks this week

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2 of the scented geraniums that I have grown from cuttings taken from plants on the road verge on past dog walks

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Bakewell slice made for a man who was lusting after “something sweet”…

Steve is off pootling again…he pootles at will now and spends lots of his time creating spoons out of enormous piles of wood shavings. I am using the wood shavings in my compost bucket and can’t wait to see the fungi that grow from some of the exotic woods that he is working with. I have just finished a week of green smoothie challenging and aside from losing 2 ½ kilos effortlessly I feel amazing! I feel bright and vibrant and clean and have decided to incorporate this plan into my everyday eating repertoire. If it aint broke, don’t fix it! I was broke…I fixed it ;). It would seem that the possums were held at bay last night with the measures that Steve and I took yesterday to curtail their night scoffing. Nothing was touched and I noticed that our eggplants are going gangbusters and since I mulched with hay around their bases they are taking off and are flowering all over the place. I love a good eggplant in the morning and these little finger eggplants promise to give us a good harvest this year (so long as the possums aren’t hatching any plans that is…). Aside from bouncing around full of good health I have a spring in my step because everything is starting to come together and work in cycles like I had hoped. Where we cleared out the side garden the buddleia is not only attracting bumble bees, regular and native bees and a plethora of exotic looking butterflies, it is shading everything underneath it and giving it respite from the heat of the sun. The garden is starting to take off how we want it too and I have been collecting seed and cutting material on our morning dog walks that I can then propagate or broadcast around the garden when we get home. I got some Washington hawthorn cuttings yesterday that we are going to trial and see if we can’t grow some of these valuable habitat plants that have edible fruit and that have the most amazing autumn foliage display. The thorns on these babies would dissuade the most persistent predator and if we can grow some, they will be planted around Serendipity Farm as hedging for the local birdlife to nest safely in. All in all I am feeling incredibly happy with my lot these days despite us remaining the penniless student hippies that we were last year. The sun has stopped frying everything in its pathway and the lovely 25C days that we are having have allowed Steve and I to be both creative and relax at will over our holidays from Polytechnic. We are doing what we want to do and are enjoying every single minute of it. We will be back at school soon enough, but for now, we are loving our time to ourselves bums up in the garden and in a wild flurry of woodchips.

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Two more beautiful spoons…the top one is made of Native Tasmanian Olivewood (Doral) and the lower spoon is made from Blackheart Sassafras (Atherosperma Moschatum) and the black line is actually caused by an interesting fungal relationship with the plant and makes for a very striking result…who KNOWS what wood Steve is going to use for the Valentine’s Day spoon 😉

I might finish todays post there folks. This Saturday we will be offering you another chance to get one of Steve’s beautiful handmade spoons…this one is specifically for Valentine’s Day and will be perfect to give your sweetie so let us know if you want to enter to win a spoon and you will make Earls day! The more walnuts in that bowl, the happier Earl will be :o). The draw will be open to anyone, anywhere because the cost to send a wooden spoon to just about anywhere in this wonderful world is extremely cheap and we truly enjoy sharing See you all on Saturday :o).

When the end of the world is a better option than real life…

Hi All,

Remember when the queen of England said that it had been an “annus horribilis”? Well we just had one of those condensed down into a single day. It started out fine…Steve was off to do the shopping and we were waiting for the end of the world. He said that he figured that I would be washed off the planet before him as he was 50km inland from me and I was on the coast so he was going to phone me every 30 minutes to see if I was still there and to make sure that I answered the phone because he was going to look a right idiot running around the supermarket screaming “THE END IS NIGH!” to the bemused and jaded Christmas shoppers who were still milling around doing their last minute shopping in their hoards if nothing happened… by the way…the end of the world WASN’T nigh…it was another case of us giving some wide eyed loony the publicity that wide eyed loonies should NEVER be given because they tend to run with it and excite hosts of loonies that come flocking out of the woodwork (like zombies) to join en masse and start hallucinating together and causing murmurings in the fringes of the general community. If enough of them get together the mutterings can be registered all over the world and like any good rumour mill…enough muttering starts to give weight to the story, no matter how crazy it seems. We let the loonies take the stage and we actually gave them a microphone…while they were all fighting for the microphone and talking about their latest greatest doomsday prophesies the real world was carrying on regardless and our day started off innocently enough with me having to call our local income support centre “Centrelink” to try and sort out why they hadn’t paid us our student payment AGAIN…sigh…they are a groaning behemoth of a government department that is massively understaffed (how ironic that the workers keep finding themselves on the other side of the desk as the government keeps nibbling away at their population…) and as all good bureaucracies go, they do have to deal with an enormous workload and in the process of trying to keep us all honest, they make a lot of “interesting” decisions.

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A peek over the netting of the new chook pen with some incredibly contented chooks. Big Yin is VERY happy because he can see all of his remaining girls in one hit and everyone seems happy with their new situation…the pen extends to the left and right of this view and to the left there are large clumps of agapanthus that the hens are nesting and laying in…all’s well on the Western Front!

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I thought you might like to see how the little hazelnuts and walnuts we grew are going…

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The closest we are going to get to “snow” on Serendipity Farm 😉

As students we rarely have to deal with them. We receive a payment from the government to re-educate ourselves and ironically our payment is a lot less than that of people who are job seeking. We are not complaining though…we are just very VERY grateful that we live in a country where you CAN get income support to pursue an education to give yourself a better chance to find a job in a market place where the strings are stretched tight enough to give a Stradivarius a run for its money. Every time we get to the end of the year we have to inform Centrelink of our intentions to continue our studies next year…whenever we move on in our studies we inevitably hit the coal face of Centrelink and end up with a few problems…it is expected and this year was no different. We had a few teething problems trying to use the departments website and after informing them of our intentions to study and our course of choice we had our payments cut because they were too busy to update our details even though they were completely aware of them…a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing but again…we just saw it as an inevitable case of bureaucratic fumbling and kept wading through the mire till we informed the right people and everything got sorted out…this happened a few more times and we found ourselves phoning them up last Wednesday to see why they had cut our payments and after talking to a customer service officer we were under the impression that everything was sorted out and that it wasn’t our fault…she apologised profusely in fact, and our payment would be put into the bank on Friday…doomsday… we should have known that it was on the cards to be an “interesting” day…

I got the recipe for this wonderful stollen from a fantastic food blog called “The Vicar Died Laughing…” Tobi is an amazing baker and bakes scrumptious looking breads, cakes and all sorts of other wonderful recipes. I have kept his blog hidden deep in my rss feed reader but I think that as you have all been VERY good…I might just share one of the best baking blogs on the internet with my dear constant readers…

http://thevicardiedlaughing.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/stollen.html

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Prior to making your Stollen, you need to make your almond paste. I chose to keep with the frugal theme and skin my own whole almonds and process all of my ingredients together in my vitamix

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And here it is ready to store in the fridge until I need it…

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This pavlova is NOTHING to do with Stollen but who needs continuity eh? It’s a very overrated thing 😉

Our payment wasn’t put into the bank on Friday and as Steve headed out the door to do his doomsday/Christmas shop I was left with the unenviable task of phoning up Centrelink when they opened the phone lines at 8am. It isn’t uncommon to sit on the phone for hours waiting to talk to a service operator and with the entire department closing for a week over Christmas I phoned up at 8am on the dot! I was reading my rss feed reader and commenting on blogs while I waited on the phone listening to the solitary classical song that they play over…and over…and over…and over again after speaking as clearly as I could to the voice recognition software that they employ to infuriate you and ignore what you are saying and put you through to the wrong department…I finally got through to someone after going through an epiphany before phoning. I had been annoyed that they hadn’t paid us…I had the outrageous indignation of the slighted righteous unpaid student and had girded my loins for battle with the first service operator that I got to speak to (there is a reason why Steve deals with all phone calls to government and service departments! 😉 )…when I stopped in my tracks and really thought about what I was doing…we are so LUCKY to be in the position that we are in! We might have had our payments cut due to bureaucratic bungling BUT we at least “got” a payment and had the security of this payment as a backup unlike most of the rest of the world where social support is only seen as a luxury and a waste of taxpayers’ money. I immediately stopped feeling outrageously indignant…I didn’t have any right to feel that way. I was suddenly infused with gratefulness and thankfulness and rather than getting angry and indignant at the customer service operator I was going to be a beaming ray of pure sunshiny happiness and forgive them their extended ineptitude and scare the living daylights out of them with my shiny shininess…

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Mixing the fruit into the Stollen dough

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Spot the integral ingredient in my Stollen…

I eventually got through after several false starts…”No thank you”…I didn’t want to set up a phone account…”No” I didn’t have a pin number and “No thank you” I didn’t want to set one of those up either…I just wanted to speak to someone…(which meant, apparently, that I had to wait longer as people with phone accounts and pin numbers get served first…) and eventually after a reasonably short period of time I got through…I shone my shininess at the customer service officer…I beamed at her using my smiley voice over the phone…I commiserated with her over how busy and stressful it must be to be working at the coalface where most of your “customers” were stressed out individuals who were a taught string ready to snap at any given moment and after shining like a beacon of light I asked her why we hadn’t been paid…she then proceeded to pull the rug completely out from under me and say “because you have too many assets and your payment has been cancelled”… that answer came straight from side left and hit me right out of the ballpark…”too many assets?”… “EH?!”… we have been straight down the line with Centrelink from the very beginning and had told them at the start everything that we inherited when my late father died and had been assured that we were under the limit for the assets test that we needed to meet to continue to be paid our payment…according to this doyen of darkness…this purveyor of rug pullers…not only were we not entitled to our payment…they didn’t know why we had been allowed the payment 2 years ago in the first place! Forget doomsday cults…when your world and your security comes crumbling down around your ears the roar of the crazies immediately fades into the background and the “End of the world” fades into the background along with them…I now had the roar of terrifying possibilities to replace them!

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The dough ready to proof for 1 hour

Like all good terrified, rug pulled penniless student hippies who see their lifeline being surgically cut in front of their eyes I stopped shining and started to ask incredibly pertinent questions in an effort to go into damage control…the service operator told me that we would have to go to our local office to see what this meant and hinted that we may even have to pay back the payments that we had been paid for the last 2 years…Steve and I worry for a living…we can make a meal of stress and suddenly I was plunged into a 10 course degustatory feast of stress! I put down the phone dazed and confused and wondering “WHY?!” because the service operator (who didn’t deserve my “shiny happy” demeanour at ALL) had completely side skipped telling me anything or answering any of my questions with a bog standard “I don’t know…you will have to go to your local office…” all I could hear was “no payments” resounding in my ears and I did what every good panic merchant does at a time like that…I panicked! I phoned up Steve who was busy doing battle with the nana’s fighting over the last Christmas puddings and shared the load. Steve can worry for the queen and we both went into overdrive. Steve stopped spending and headed immediately to the local office to find out what was going on and a very nice lady in the office told him to bring back our rates notice for the property and a bank statement and as they don’t book interviews any more we would have to sit and wait to see someone. Steve came home laden with Christmas shopping and radiating stress…after a quick hug we both decided that a weekend of stressing and waiting for Monday to arrive to deal with it WASN’T an option…we like to deal with things immediately and so we threw the long suffering dogs into the car…we phoned up our daughters in town and gave them two options…”look after the dogs for us for a few hours or move”…they chose the former 😉 (Thanks girls, it was a good choice 😉 ) And we dumped the dogs unceremoniously and headed off with loins so girded that we could almost taste our underpants at the back of our throats…

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Stollen shaped and ready to proof again for 1 hour. You are going to have to wait to see them finished as they are just baking in the oven now :). Thank you SO much for this amazing recipe Tobi and for allowing me to share your wonderful blog with my readers 🙂

Steve dropped me off at the traffic lights and I waited in line while he headed off to find a park in a consumer stuffed city full of Christmas shoppers…I talked to people behind me in line…one very interesting man called Andrew had also had his payments cut because the lady that was supposed to phone him had gotten sick and not informed anyone that she hadn’t phoned up her customers and all 800 of them had their payments cut…I had read about a man who had gone to the Centrelink Ombudsmen (Yes…I had done my homework folks! I had done EVERYTHING possible to understand our “enemy”…it’s what I do best…would you expect any less of me? 😉 ) And had read about a man who was standing in line waiting for his appointment with Centrelink who had a grand mal epileptic fit. It must have been bad because the paramedics were called and while they were dealing with the hapless man, his name was called out and as he was comatose at the time, he didn’t respond. The paramedics told the front desk that they would have to take the man off for observation but apparently that wasn’t good enough and he had his payments cut! He had to go to the Ombudsmen to have them reinstated…that scared me…the power that this bureaucracy had to not only ruin someone’s life…but keep the process going for a long…long time and force this man who was obviously in the right, to go to an Ombudsman to get what he was rightfully owed had me worried. Like all good behemoths, Centrelink has an incredible degree of power over people’s lives and like all good bureaucracies, they regularly run roughshod over the top of their “clients” in an effort to keep the wheels greased and the machinery running…collateral damage is inevitable but due to our most careful and honest dealings with them and our incessant need to shove all correspondence and paperwork into our filing cabinet and our inherent lack of trust regarding past dealings with this bureaucratic giant we were armed with the right kind and the right amount of ammunition to pierce their armour plated tanks and get to the crux of our problem.

After waiting we were seen by the very same lady that Steve had talked to earlier and at this point I would like to say that this lady did EVERYTHING that she could to help us. I want to give this lady my shiny happy voice from earlier in the day but by the time we got to see her I couldn’t find it any more…it was girded inside my underpants too tight to extract and so she got my worried middle aged penniless hippy countenance to have to deal with and she gave us back our hope. She said “This is weird!”… She asked us some pertinent questions and she said “what did you two do to have this happen?”…after that she looked at our papers, she took them off to her boss and she returned after having made a decision with her boss to use our paperwork to substantiate our claim and reinstated our payments immediately. I don’t know if this lady has any idea how her kindness helped us yesterday. Her female boss, although unseen, pulled strings to give us back our lives. This pair of kind women gave me back my Christmas spirit yesterday and my belief in human kindness…Lord knows I would turn into a machine working for this massive department where human desperation was the norm rather than an aberration and where the coalface regularly exploded against the pitted side of “the machine” but this woman genuinely cared. I wanted to reach over her desk and hug her but I settled for thanking her from the bottom of my heart and giving her my special shiny smile because SHE deserved it :o)… the rug has been reinstated and aside from having the value of our “asset” in town (the home that our daughters live in) revalued by the self-same government department that set the rateable value last year at our request (so presumably we shouldn’t see too much of an increase on what they set back then…) we have better than average odds of being able to manage this situation. What was our own private annus horribilus yesterday has been salved… for now…

And this brings me to the end of my post for today…Its walnut day and I have spent the whole post crying poverty and the end of the world and haven’t even mentioned Earl’s walnutty abilities! I wanted to save it till last. I wanted to inject you all with the hope and the smiley happiness that you deserve for surviving not only this mammoth post, but also the apocalypse! We are all true survivors folks…just getting out of bed alive in the morning and waking up is a miracle but we don’t think about that…we just take it for granted that we are going to breath…that we are going to make it to the end of the road in one piece and that we are going to live to old age unscathed…its moments like these that we NEED minties! Sorry…commercial jingles have incredible power over you!…It’s moments like these that you really see what is important and like Sting crooned “how fragile we are”… we really have something to give thanks for this Christmas…our lives have been reinstated…we didn’t have to live off the “kindness of strangers” and Effel Dookark didn’t have to give up her life to become Steve’s weekly ration of meat and we didn’t have to suffer the indignity and dehumanisation of going cap in hand to various community agencies to ask for help to pay our bills…and in the newfound honest and true spirit of gratefulness and thankfulness that a period of dangling over the edge of a precipice can deliver to a person I offer you Earls little walnut of great happiness…

And the winner is…

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Here is the video of Earl choosing Christi from the walnut selection 🙂

http://s1101.beta.photobucket.com/user/bezial27/media/earls_zpsa783bf6e.mp4.html

As our last post before Christmas Steve and I would both like to wish everyone out there the most wonderful Christmas…no matter how big or small it is…no matter how many relatives you have to contend with…no matter what your situation or your story we are all united by a common bond here and the bottom line is that we are all incredibly lucky to be sharing whatever celebrations we are sharing with each other and NOONE knows that more than we do today :o)… see you the day after boxing day where life should have returned to a degree of something approximating “normalcy” on Serendipity Farm and the poignancy of girded loins and walnut draws have melted into the past… gone but NOT forgotten :o)

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The winning walnut with Christi’s new wooden spoon 🙂

Steve has just told me that he really enjoyed making the spoon for this prize draw and has promised to make more lovely custom wooden spoons for future Serendipity Farm draws so everyone that missed out on the spoon this time will have more chances in the future to own a little piece of Serendipity Farm 🙂

The New Costa and the U.K. Beet

Hi All,

Isn’t Christmas getting close?! I must admit we are a bit up in the air at the moment because my brother is supposed to be coming over Christmas with a friend but hasn’t told us when and as quintessential planners it is driving us nuts! We are in the process of relocating our chooks into their new enclosure and tomorrow they will all be inside the fence rather than outside looking in. It isn’t going to be easy for them and no doubt we will have some escapees that are going to have one of their wings clipped but today I took advantage of knowing that one of the feral chooks that remains (we gave 4 away recently) was clucky and her exact location so after putting up with a serious hen talking to I picked her up and deposited her in the new enclosure. I figure if anyone can find a chink in its armour it’s a clucky feral chook with a nest that she wants to return to. We are tidying up our woodshed and getting it ready for next year’s wood futures. After tomorrow I can start mulching the garden with the certainty that it isn’t going to be dug up directly behind me as I work. I have a love/hate relationship with the chooks and they are the most stubborn creatures under the sun! If they want to dig a hole halfway to China and spread dust halfway to Oklahoma they will! They only stopped digging the other day when they hit a buried dog bone and decided that it was time to start a new hole. After a year of learning to quash my frustration as they chooks defoliated, ate, dug up, scratched around and generally defiled my poor long suffering plants I find it hard to believe that pretty soon I may just be able to plant something will stay in the ground! Steve is whipper snipping the honeysuckle out the back that keeps trying to take over the world. So many dictators on Serendipity Farm! I wish that one of them would take the front running Napoleonic seat so that we could at least focus our efforts on a single enemy.

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Some gratuitous “flower” shots to remind everyone in the North that it IS summer somewhere in the world 😉

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A lovely Callistemon at our back gate in full  bloom relishing its newly cleared out status

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One of millions of Erigeron karvinskianus (Seaside Daisies) that call Serendipity Farm home

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A Stylidium gramminifolium (Trigger plant) in full flower taken on one of our early morning walks with the dogs

We have noticed a bird flying around that looked like a swallow and it landed on the deck the other day and Steve got a good look at it. He raced inside to tell me that it had a blue beak…time to Google that little sucker! In the process of identifying our new feathered friend which turned out to be a Dusky Woodswallow (Artamus cyanopterus) I found a fantastic Tasmanian blog about Tasmanian birds compiled by Alan Fletcher, a local man with a penchant for taking breathtaking photos of our endemic birdlife. It was very simple to identify our new friend using Alan’s wonderful site and after sending him an email to ask him for permission to use a photo from his site he graciously allowed us to do so and in return I urge you to head to Alan’s beautiful site to see just how special our native birds are. You can find a link to Alans blog and from there to his photo gallery above his photo. I loved his blog so much I subscribed to it :o)

http://tassiebirds.blogspot.com.au/

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Dusky Woodswallow (Artamus cyanopterus)

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Physalis peruviana (Ground Cherry or Chinese Gooseberry) with the lesser spotted “Earl” underneath

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Aeonium arboreum Zwartkop recovering from duck attack nicely

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A little cactus enjoying it’s sunny spot

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And this explains why Melaleuca linariifolia is commonly known as “Snow in Summer”…not sure what these little beetles are but they also love roses and banging themselves senseless on our windows at night

I am slowly working my way through my rss blog reader and have been finding some incredible posts. People are so generous with their information! I was looking for a way to make home-made banners of substance and style and found this shining beacon of a site that I now subscribe to…

http://katescreativespace.com/2012/12/16/in-praise-of-simple-pleasures/

Disclaimer: Do NOT go to this blog if you are likely to collapse into a sobbing wreck of a human being when faced with gorgeousness beyond belief, creative majesty to only wonder at and a severe dearth of anything…ANYTHING resembling we mere mortals normal lives. I go to this blog to see how the other half lives…it’s beautiful, it’s incredibly organised, its Pinterest ready and it’s my secret lusting station but don’t say that I didn’t warn you! Halfway down into this perfect post and I find that this lady reads! She is planning on tackling some novels for the second time and says…”They sit full of promise on my bedside table, and the anticipation of losing myself in them again is half the pleasure” Oh what a lucky woman! I have to hide my books in the spare room out of sight, out of mind where Earl can’t render them “snow” along with the rest of the couch cushions that live (quaking in fear) in our bedroom wardrobe and the overwhelming luxury of a stack of amazingly anticipated literature right at my fingertips let alone on my bedside table will remain a wistful fantasy until Earl loses his desire to chew, or his teeth…if I am being honest (and it’s STILL my year of living honestly…) even if I WAS able to run my hands over a stack of soul food…I would leap into the realms of my imagination and would manage a paragraph or two before I woke up with a crick in my neck and a most carefully and gently shredded copy of my latest paramour laid reverently and soggily in my outstretch hands an undetermined amount of time later…no more than I deserve!

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A Psaltoda moerens (Red Eye Cicada) newly emerged from it’s juvenile skin sitting on a large buddleia leaf outside our bedroom window

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You can see why they are commonly known as Red Eyes. After a few days their exoskeletons turn a very dark greeny black and they head off to join the clicking throng of their brethren in the trees

In another blog post I found this…

“The philosopher Diogenes was eating bread and lentils for supper. He was seen by the philosopher Aristippus, who lived comfortably by flattering the king. Said Aristippus, “If you would learn to be subservient to the king you would not have to live on lentils.” Said Diogenes, “Learn to live on lentils and you will not have to be subservient to the king.”

― Anthony de Mello

I really like this reflection on an interaction from a bygone era…it fits with my ethos of learning to live frugally, simply and in so doing, empowering our lives and allowing others to do the same. It delivers a fundamental message about which ferryman you want to pay and how you want to live in the process. I choose the lentils even though I am not overly fond of them because in choosing lentils I choose a degree of freedom and internal satisfaction that feeds my soul. I can align myself with the rest of the world and I don’t have to feel guilty about my choices in life but most importantly, I am able to learn how to effect a positive change in my own lifetime and feel like I am really living my life. That is something to aim for folks!

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We are still harvesting mushrooms from our veggie gardens courtesy of the mushroom compost mulch

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Check out the beets we grew! Steve made these into some pickled beetroot U.K. style (all vinegar and spice and no sugar) to grace our Christmas table next week

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Bezial giving our home grown spinach his own special “seal of approval”! (I hope you washed that before we made gnocci with it last night Steve!)

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My own personal vegetable gnome I found in the veggie patch :o) He thinks that he has a chance at beating Costa Georgiadis to the top spot on Gardening Australia…good luck babe…you might be cute but that beard needs a bit more “OOMPH!” before you become a serious contender 😉

Well today is walnut day folks! We will identify your possible ownership of Steve’s handmade Blackwood spoon and associate your hopes and dreams with a numbered walnut. We are going to attempt to video Earl selecting his chosen nut and one of us (the bravest…) removing it from Earl’s gaping maw in an effort to identify the number that he has chosen (he can have it back then!). This is your last chance to enter the draw to anyone out there who would like to enter. There are no conditions, anyone from any country can apply and the winner will receive a lovely handmade spoon in the mail some-time after Christmas. Today’s post is going to be a shorter post again because I have spinach gnocchi to make for Steve’s tea tonight. We are combining our desire to use leftovers (homemade bolognaise sauce) with vegetables from our garden (spinach) and make the most of our food dollars. Steve is enjoying all sorts of different food and hasn’t complained about anything that he has been served so the vegetable garden must be delivering quality veg. I noticed a plethora of little snow peas on their vines when I was watering today and will pick some when I am up collecting the spinach for the gnocchi today and I might just redirect the cucumbers from their determined efforts to scale the zucchini’s to the poles that we installed specifically for them to grow up. The tomatoes are covered in flowers but will definitely not be on our Christmas table but on the bright side, we will be able to grace our table with our very own home grown lettuce and salad leaves which makes it all the more special this year. It is a very interesting experiment and very rewarding to grow veggies. I recommend it to anyone. We have even started a new compost heap up near the veggie gardens in anticipation of needing a whole lot more compost in the future. I have plans for making strawberry beds and broad bean beds and have been contemplating sourcing some Jerusalem artichokes to set loose on Serendipity Farm behind the new chook pen. Before anyone tells me how exponential they go, I already know and I love it! :o). Who wouldn’t love sunflowers in spring followed by delicious knobbly roots in the summer…and who cares about the resulting sunchoke gas…we are descending into feral heaven on Serendipity Farm and we love it! :o). Another post down on Serendipity Farm in the middle of summer in the pouring rain. We just keep on saying “it’s good for the garden”…and you know what? It is! :0)…See you Saturday and good luck to everyone who has entered the spoon draw…

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Here are your walnuts folks! Check your nut against your number below and note there are still more walnuts…sad…lonely…unmarked walnuts that could be graced with your own personal number…

Spoon Draw
1. Rabid little hippy http://rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com
2. Spencer http://www.anthropogen.com
3. Little sundog http://littlesundog.wordpress.com
4. Kym http://brymnsons.wordpress.com/
5. Christi http://farmlet.wordpress.com/
6. http://www.bitesizedthoughts.com/
7. Bev from Foodnstuff http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/
8. Pinkus
9. Jean http://allotmentadventureswithjean.wordpress.com
10.Hannah http://bittersweetblog.wordpress.com/
11.8 acre farm http://eight-acres.blogspot.com.au/
12.Chica Andaluza http://chicaandaluza.wordpress.com/
13.Wendi http://scarsandallyoga.com
14. Thinking Cowgirl http://thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

In the (highly likely) event that Earl picks more than one walnut his actions  will immediately force a redraw…lets just hope that Earl doesn’t think that this is enormous fun or this draw might go down as the longest prize giveaway draw in history! 😉 and are you feeling lonely there Pinkus? That’s because you don’t have a blog! 😉