Inspiration

Hi All,

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

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

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

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

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“NO PRISONER’S!” 😉

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Someone REALLY hates having his photo taken 😉

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The finished results that are apparently very tasty 🙂

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Sourdough pizza prior to baking…

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And after…also, apparently, tasty 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

The saga of the factotum and the printer

Hi All,

Steve and I have finally started our online course in web design! We headed over to check out what we had to do and ended up signing up for a new WordPress blog each (part of the course requirements) and doing the equivalent of an online introduction. Reading the other participants intro’s was a bit like waving at the other inmates from your cell when the other inmates are from a different planet to you and you hope to goodness that you never have to come out of your cell and mingle any day soon… Did anyone see “School of Rock”? I did…lots of times. I love “School of Rock” and if those of you who did watch School of Rock cast your mind back to the part where Ned Schneebly (don’t ask me to spell that correctly, it AIN’T gonna happen folks! 😉 ) first comes up against “Summer”…the class “Factotum”. We have our own Summer. She has not only done everything on the list that we are supposed to do, but she has completed the first assessment (only an hour after it was posted) that is due next Monday. We also have an anti-social member of the class whose only threat, as outlined in his S.W.A.T. was that he didn’t want to invade Russia in the winter. This person bears a distinct similarity to my daughters in his view of the world and our class in general and if I didn’t know better, I would say that one of them has decided to crash the class. After reading the credentials of the remainder of the class, my natural instinct is to run screaming but if you ignore the other class members (not too hard to do when you are studying from home) the course content is very interesting. If you play your cards right, you might get lucky and get to see some of our work 😉

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An early morning picking for my daughters in the city

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Earl bagses the eggplant…

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Steve’s tea last night…homemade sourdough bruschetta liberally slathered with garlic butter and with home grown tomatoes, some bought avocados, spring onions and chilli topping. It was DELICIOUS (apparently) and the sourdough had a gorgeous crunchy crust :). Audry is now part of our Serendipity Farm family forever 🙂 (just don’t turn orange Audrey…orange is the blue screen of death for sourdough starters! 😉 )

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Free white nectarines from Roxie and blackberries from the hedgerows on our walk with the dogs this morning. The seeds will be planted and the tomatoes were also from Roxie. The tomatoes behind the fruit are the beginning of our tomato harvest and are left over from last nights bruschetta feast

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Aren’t these blackberries in the height of ripeness (and heady sweetness) gorgeous? I froze the tray with the chopped white nectarines and these blackberries to use in my breakfast green smoothies

Jessie a.k.a. “Rabid” of http://rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com/  sent me instructions for how to knit a dishcloth out of cotton. She made me a lovely black one from some organic cotton that she had and I had mentioned that I had some bright yellow (almost mustard to be honest) cotton that I had picked up from the Beaconsfield op-shop a while ago and thus began our discourse regarding knitting and its foibles. I must admit at this stage, I am NO knitter. I can knit a scarf…bits of a jumper (no cuffs, no collar and DEFINITELY no cable!) and generic squares and after perusing the pattern I decided to hide my knitting needles and go back into my comfort zone and crochet a dishcloth. The progress is slow because I have to work between the hours where Earl is active (approximately 7am to 6pm) and nightfall (at the moment about 9pm). Earl is unpredictable and can suddenly launch into action when an interesting mustard yellow ball rolls past his nose where it just dislodged itself from my knee and aside from being unpredictable, he is quick. He is a master of the grab and run attack because if you grab and “stay” whatever interesting thing you have appropriated tends to get taken off you so running is your best bet. At least you get to chew whatever it is a bit before your humans (arms waving and yelling) catch you and retrieve said item. I have crocheted half of a dishcloth and Earl has been eyeballing me out of the corner of his eyes as I crochet…he is waiting for me to drop off to sleep (highly likely) and he will be on my cotton like a tick on a dog!

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I had to race out with the camera last night because the sky was the weirdest colour! I didn’t think I would catch the weird lighting but I sort of did.

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This was taken a few moments later and you can see a rainbow over the river…Steve has pinpointed where it was pointing as that is his leprachaun pot of fish 😉

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A nice thick layer of free mulch has made the garden under the deck a MUCH happier place to reside for our poor long suffering parched plants

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One of the large enclosed compost heaps that I planted potatoes in and a single sweet potato that is growing! The white patch is a species of fungus known as a “dogs vomit” fungus…it is harmless but as you can imagine, it isn’t all that aesthetically pleasing 😉

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Another one of the large enclosed compost heaps full of pumpkins and a few potatoes that the slugs haven’t managed to scarf (yet)

I have been inundated with kefir. I have at least a litre of it in the fridge and am scratching my head how to use it. I have decided to bake a chocolate sourdough cake with kefir and a large tray bake spice cake with kefir to replace the milk. I am also going to make the kefired equivalent of labneh so that I can make small balls of extra thick kefired labneh and preserve them in herbed olive oil with chillies. Our jalapeno chillies are doing amazingly well and it looks like we might have a bumper crop of them this year along with the small fingerling eggplants. I am so glad that we decided to go with the smaller eggplants to make sure that they had the best chance of ripening fully before the cold season sets in. The excess kefir grains (that are growing exponentially on plain old “ordinary milk” Jessie 😉 ) are going to be given to customers who would like some at our local health food shop. I believe in sharing excesses and David can pass them on to interested customers. I have also offered him the same deal with excess sourdough if he gets customers asking about it. I am starting to get into the flow of feeding and working with my small batch of homely cultures. Now I need to find a kombucha Scoby and some water kefir grains and after that the sky is the limit! I will be spending a lot of time reading my fermentation books this winter and learning all about just what I can, and can’t culture here on Serendipity Farm.

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Not sure if we can use this photos but I liked it. Nice and clean and isn’t that sky a gorgeous colour?

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This old ramshackle building is right in the middle of the city. It has stood, unthreatened, for years and is situated between a boutique pub and our local Centrelink office. Considered an eyesore for years, developers have just obtained permission to remove it. I just wanted to remember it in a photo and I quite liked how this one turned out

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These buildings all belong to Boag’s brewery (including the grain silo’s in the background) and are part of the inner city industrial area. I love how they have restored the older buildings and made this a really attractive part of the city

I noticed some unusual small black pods on the side of a tiger lily in the side garden. It has ceased flowering a long time ago and has seed pods on top of it. I know that they form bulbs that spread under the ground but on closer inspection, the little pod-like thingo’s had small leaves growing out of them…I headed inside to check out my good friend “Google” and discovered that these pods are called bulbils and not all lilies produce them. Tiger lilies are well known for producing them and they are another form of plant division. Each little black bulbil is an entire new little lily. After a while, the bulbils will form leaves (as mine are currently doing) and will eventually form roots and will push themselves off the stem of the spent lily flower and will drop onto the ground where they will take root and start growing. After 3 years they will start flowering and you have a plethora of new lilies for free to either plant out or give to your friends. Aren’t plants the bomb? :o). I will need to collect all of the little wandering bulbils to pot them up so that I can find them in spring when they start growing again but for now I will let them cling tenaciously to their mum for as long as they see fit. I also discovered that lilies are extremely hardy belying their delicate appearance. Many plants that we might think are tender or delicate are actually incredibly hardy and I am in the process of compiling a list of incredibly hardy plants for Serendipity Farm. A friend from down the road (Boof’s owner) gave me a bag of fragrant ripe white nectarines and tomatoes today as we walked past her house when we were walking the dogs this morning. She also gave me a bag of curly leafed parsley seed to plant out. We swap all sorts of things and have a really good bartering system going. Roxy is a very resilient lady and knows a whole lot about growing vegetables, keeping goat’s etc. and how to do just about everything herself. I love sharing knowledge and “stuff” with her because it is a win-win situation for us all. We are just about to give her one of our feral roosters as she doesn’t have a rooster and is tired of having to ask for fertile eggs from friends. This way she will have all of the fertile eggs that she likes to put under her clucky chooks and can have lots of hens to sell her excess eggs from the roadside. The value of community and individual knowledge when combined with others is priceless…the resilience of a community is only as strong as the individual members that group together to share. I love forging community here in Sidmouth :o)

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My gorgeous chooky potmits that are WAY too nice to use with Brunhilda 🙂

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These are cuttings of Tagetes lucida, Mexican marigold or Texas tarragon were sourced from a local plant and are apparently easy to grow so I am letting them get legs in this mug of water.

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This long suffering philodendron had been almost on the brink of extinction for years before we inherited him and decided to release him out into the wild. He had bright yellow leaves and only had 1 leaf and now he is happy in his new environment

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A nice new stem on a lovely orchid that we inherited that dad only watered with beer. He said that the beer made it flower and maybe he was right because it hasn’t flowered this year on its new regime of water…might be time to reintroduce that vitamin B quotient to make it happy 🙂

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Look what the wallabies did to my Loquat japonica’s :(. They had been growing completely untouched for months and suddenly the wallabies decided to eat all of their leaves. They are incredibly hardy small trees and will grow more leaves but the wallabies are skating on very VERY thin ice! It just goes to show that you can’t take it for granted that ANYTHING is safe on Serendipity Farm

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This little fig tree has some figs on this year. We grew it from a cutting and this year it just might keep those figs to full term 🙂

We had to go to Launceston this morning because as we were reading up about our course and our very first assignment we realised that we were going to need printer ink and our printer was out of ink. We had already walked the dogs and I had already watered the veggie garden and released the baying hens so we hurled the eager dogs into the car and set off for an adventure to buy printer ink. We checked out what we needed to accomplish for our second assignment (technically “Assignment 3” but it’s the second one that we have to hand in…already they are trying to trick us! Not WE wily black ducks! 😉 ) and realised that we needed photos of billboards, advertising signs and road signs and we threw the camera into my bag so that we could take as many artistic shots as we could. We hadn’t read up on what we actually needed but we took all kinds of photos so hopefully we can use some of them for our assignment. We then headed off to pick up some printer ink, only to find that the shop that sold us the printer had just superseded it and were no longer stocking the ink! They recommended K-Mart but Steve knows that K-Mart don’t sell the ink either so we looked at each other and decided to buy a new printer. We managed to buy a printer with ink for less than we were going to have to pay for the ink alone on our old all-in-one printer. I can’t believe that this sort of equipment is so “throw-away” these days! How can they justify selling something if they are not going to stock the peripherals for any length of time? We have 2 of the printers that we can’t get ink for…one was ours and one we inherited from my dad when he died…what to do with them? I am NOT going to throw them into landfill and am going to be spending some ingenious time finding ways to use them rather than disposing of them. Perhaps I need to cram them full of cacti and succulents and sell them at the market? ;). We got back to discover that my bestie, Kymmy from Norseman Western Australia had sent me 2 absolutely gorgeous pot holders that she had quilted. What a doll! Kymmy, you are so talented! I am refusing to use them till you get here and we can cook up a storm on Brunhilda because they are too pretty to use and get grotty :o). I might even have to frame them and put them on the wall as I can’t bear the thought of Brunhilda and her messy ways turning them into sad representations of the lovely things that they are today :o). Your gooseberry seed is drying nicely and will be ready to send to you soon…bartering is SO sweet :o)… oh, and Bev from http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/ has offered to send me some leaf AND seed amaranth! I love you guys! Along with Jessie and a plethora of people I have yet to meet and barter/swap with in various seed swap meets etc. this bartering thing is absolutely ripe with mutual possibilities :o).

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Bulbils! Note the leaves growing out of the bulbils…each one of these dark coloured “pods” has the propensity to become a new lily

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A native hibiscus (Alyogyne huegelii) flower on a crown lifted tree that is much happier since we started giving it a helping hand

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Finally I get a cornflower! The wallabies have been snipping the tops off them as they protrude from the top of the ex-fish farm netting but this one escaped to flower 🙂

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This Aquilegia vulgaris (Grannies bonnet) grew right next to the back door…note the dandelion…I would have normally removed it but now that I know how amazing they are (and how much Bernard and Manny our Java Finches LOVE them) I leave them to carry on regardless 🙂

I think that might be all for tonight folks…I have to race out waving my arms around now to find you some photos to decorate this post and I will be starting with the bulbil’s so that you can see what I am talking about. Tomorrow we will be juggling with the new course and tap-dancing on unfamiliar territory all over again. I can’t count the amount of times that we have gone back to kindergarten with new areas of study and it’s all in the processes…my favourite place of all! :o)

A Sustainable Elegant sufficiency…We wish you enough

Hi All,

My last post saw us barely surviving a major financial crisis. We started out annoyed at Centrelinks bungling and ended up thrust into something completely out of our control or sphere of influence. We were reminded of how very little control we actually have over our lives and the entire event gave us back a true appreciation for living simply with less and making do with what you have. Last year we wanted to share a truly sustainable, low cost and anti-consumerist Christmas together but we got a bit hijacked by mum and her desire to feed the world. After mum died 9 days after she returned home from Serendipity Farm we realised that sometimes, someone else’s desires are more important than your own and mum having had a fantastic time hijacking our Christmas resulted in point taken and most graciously learned. This year we decided to make sure that our Christmas would be a balance between something special and a truly sustainable celebration. We wanted to bypass the hype that accompanies the Christmas season…we wanted to arrive at the end of the day satiated and content rather than bewildered, confused and in debt for 6 months with very little to show for it. We started off by making sure that we only bought what we actually wanted to eat on the day. We wanted to keep it small and try to prevent the problem of leftovers that don’t get eaten or that force us to eat more than we should in an effort to prevent wastage. We asked each other what we felt were “special foods” that would make us feel like we had feasted in style and headed out to shop for as much of it as we could before the day came, spreading out the cost and minimising the financial stress. We tried to shop for Australian grown/made and produced foods and preferably in nice jars so that they could be reused when preserving our coming harvest. We grew our salad vegetables and it was wonderful to water the garden and then harvest our own spinach, red and green lettuce and rocket for our salad and in the process we saved ourselves a 100km round trip having to head into Launceston to pick up our fresh veggies at the last minute on Christmas Eve. At the end of our simple but elegant meal we were satisfied beyond the physical and the tiny amount of waste, the lemon skin from our homemade alcoholic fruit punch and the avocado shells along with the Christmas pudding box and the cheezel box, were all recyclable and ended up being cut up fine and put into the compost bucket to turn Serendipity Farms ancient soils into something more fecund and worm friendly to create next years “soil” for our next Christmas vegetable haul…cycles of manageability and perpetuity…taking us from season to season and building on the foundations of sustainability that we are stacking on top of the stones that form Serendipity Farm. Our Christmas was just enough and left us replete and entirely satiated, physically, mentally and spiritually. The sustainable Christmas that we wanted we got and we are not paying for it in any way at all today. Come February, there won’t be any nasty surprised for us and Christmas has taken on new substance and meaning and has evolved to fit our personal ethos. This year…we learned :o)

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Here is the end result of the marathon Stollen making event…2 of the 6 Stollen ready to be transported to our neighbours alimentary canals

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Steve’s pork pies with his patented jelly injecting aparatus

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A true Brit will ALWAYS find a way to satisfy cravings from home and these pork pies are Steve’s way of satisfying his Christmas cravings. He also made some scotch eggs, another “Steve” Christmas tradition

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Our Christmas Day salad quotient from our veggie garden on the left, and the chooks Christmas Day silverbeet quotient on the right. Aren’t the stems of this ruby chard/silverbeet beautiful?

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Our simple Christmas Day feast…a most elegant sufficiency for 2 happy hippies in the Southern Hemisphere 🙂

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Our compost bucket with all that remains of our Christmas feast 🙂

I took a little bunch of lavender to lay at the foot of mums Claret Ash. Whenever I see the tree I think of mum and how much she loved it here. I tucked a Cecile Brunner rose and a Bourbon rose into the tiny bouquet because wherever mum was shuffled off to in her higgledy piggledy life she centred the chaos by building a garden and there was always a Cecile Brunner and Bourbon rose planted first up. I find it incredibly ironic that both of these roses are growing on Serendipity Farm and are true survivors, much like mum was. We exchanged our yearly bottles of wine over the garden gate between our place and Glad’s next door and as Glad and her daughter Wendy were drooling over Steve making homemade pork pies for Christmas he offered to make them one each as well. As expats they all need to stick together and talk soon ran to “have you found a decent sausage here yet?” and all things traitorous and anti-Aussie until Glad started talking about her annual pudding making marathon and Steve said “I will buy one off you next year Glad” and she promptly headed off and gave him a magnificent homemade pudding redolent with spice and what appears, most suspiciously, to be rum! Steve took one of his homemade pork pies down with a loaf of Stollen and his pork pies rated 9 out of 10. Not bad for someone who lived on chips and beans in his bachelor years. The Stollen were an experiment and after following Tobi’s recipe carefully I set about making the homemade almond paste for the stollen first using frugally bought almonds in skins and as I poured boiling water over the 600g of them and started slowly peeling each individual almond I realised that our incessant need to remove the simple processes of life has also removed “thinking time”…it’s no wonder so many women race around like chooks with their heads cut off…we don’t have that centring time that comes with these humble processes and with the popularity of homesteading these wonderful processes are giving us back so much more than we lose in time. I really enjoyed my time skinning those almonds and remembering doing the same when “helping” mum make her fruitcakes each year. I am sure that we ate more almonds than we skun but as we popped the soaked almonds out of their skins we were learning the value of making things from scratch…the frugality of doing things yourself and the camaraderie of time spent learning at your mothers feet…precious time that you only appreciate when you have children of your own and your mother isn’t there to learn from any more

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Mums little bouquet of memories

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Some of our Christmas goodies to inject “Christmas Spirits” into our day (sorry about the bad pun but SOMEONE had to make it! 😉 )

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Home grown strawberries from our tip plants with some of the pretty icecubes that Steve made for our Christmas wine punch and some raspberries from our friend Roxy who kindly gave us some

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Wine punch in lovely glasses given to me last year by my clever stylish daughters…all of the fruit included in the punch came from a 10km radius, the fruit juice is Aussie juice, the wine is Aussie wine and the softdrink came from small Aussie producers…even the rum that Steve didn’t see me tip into my green glass was Aussie 😉

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Christmas Cheer!

We have been thinking of ways to raise money and Steve has come up with a vajazzle kit to raise funds…anyone wanting to take advantage of his half price “Mates rates” send a plain brown self-addressed and stamped envelope and he will see you right ;)…he is a product of Essex after all folks! ;). We saw the Black pearl pirate ship on doomsday folks! No…I didn’t drink too much rum yesterday (although to be honest, everything towards the end of our marathon “The Vicar of Dibley” watching event started to blur into itself for no known reason…). We really did see a black replica pirate ship with a black flag and black sails silently gliding down the river right using the tide to propel it sideways underneath the Batman Bridge. We haven’t been able to find out anything about this obviously special boat but know that it is/was anchored just off the Deviot Yacht Club just around the corner from Serendipity Farm and there was nothing in the local newspaper about it. We would like to think that they have come to pick Steve as the new Dread Pirate Roberts. He would be perfect. He has all the swashbuckling charm of a top pirate, twinkling pirate eyes, a nice beard that could quickly be rendered “swashbuckling” with a bit of a shear and 9 earrings…yes…he had a misspent youth folks! I figure I would be allowed to tag along but would suffer the ignominy of being used as the ships ballast/anchor or chief cook and bottle washer… Earl would make a perfect pirate dog…he has the same “Devil-may-care” attitude as Steve and doggish good looks…Bezial would be huddled in the galley howling on the floor until he was released, still howling, back onto the shore by disgusted pirates as the shameless landlubber that he is. We aren’t all born to be pirates, but those of us who are need the minimum of a small aluminium dinghy to keep them happy and Steve spent this morning out on the water tootling around in his own floatation device happily fishing and catching nothing. The fun is in the floating apparently but in my mind, the odd fish wouldn’t go astray…

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“The Black Pearl” (if this is indeed Captain Jack Sparrows ship…)…”Revenge” (if we are going with The Dread Pirate Roberts) or what the hey… how about “The Black Pig” and we could go with Captain Pugwash! All in all a decidely piratey ship floating down the Tamar River at 9pm on Doomsday…

DSCF7517Steve’s own personal “Pirate Ship”…”The good ship Stig”…may she sail long into the 4 winds on the Tamar River…

12120049Here you can see a dog who is well aware of how blissful freedom can be relining in state on the grassy slopes of an embankment somewhere on Serendipity Farm

12120054Here he is accompanied by a dog who most decidedly DOESN’T know the value of freedom and who flagrantly flouts the rules and blunders through the boundaries that Bezial completely understands…sigh…”One day Earl…One day…”

Our veggies are going ballistic and we should get tomatoes by the bucket load this year. We were clever and planted mostly cherry tomatoes that should have plenty of time to grow and ripen over the next few months in our short growing season. We are starting to think about making a massive great enclosed walk in veggie patch with more free ex-fish farm netting and upping our veggie production in the process. We are letting some of our rocket and lettuces go to seed to collect for next year and the coriander went straight from seedling to seed in a single step! Our rocket is rapidly following suit and rather than complain about the situation I am enjoying the possibilities of flowers to throw into my salads, seed to save and share and the value of perpetuity and cycling on Serendipity Farm. Now that the chooks are contained I am starting to notice how much damage they actually did to the garden and am silently apologising to the wallabies for damage that I attributed to them and that was in actuality, chook damage. Pingu was the worst culprit and spent hours on end jumping to defoliate tender tasty shrubs and the Physalis peruviana (Ground cherry) has suspiciously started growing leaves again below the “jump zone” of a small, most determined hand reared Plymouth Rock hen, hell bent on destruction and self-gratification. She also developed a taste for beech tree leaves and our poor special dwarf weeping beech is only just beginning to grow a few sparse leaves to keep itself alive and photosynthesising until it can grow some new ones next spring. Pingu has adapted well to being put in the chook run along with her sisters despite living in Steve’s shed with a “birds-eye” view of the river from her lofty perch on a large terracotta pot on a bench overlooking the river. The chooks don’t seem to be missing their freedom at all and seem most content. We have still got 3 feral youngsters that we couldn’t catch roaming free, 2 roosters and 1 small hen and a single hen (one of Effel Doocark’s prodigious penultimate batch) managed to elude our best efforts and hatch out 6 more babies down under the massive big oak tree at the very front of the property between Serendipity Farm and Glad’s property “Four Oaks”. We took her down some water and food and will attempt to catch the wayfaring brood and rehouse them in the chook run along with her sisters 11 remaining babies…the more the merrier eh? 😉

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It took an hour to turn this previously empty hall into this…hopefully the event went well, they didn’t need us for Christmas day and so we said our goodbyes and will do it again next year…a most worthy use for 1 hour of our time

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This Physalis peruviana had been so devastated by Pingu that it decided to take it’s chances growing through the deck rails

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You can see the green fruit like a tiny green lantern  that will soon turn buff and when the fruit is ripe it will fall to the ground, protected by it’s papery husk and waiting for us to pick it up, peel it and eat it

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A shot of our homemade driftwood Pirate Christmas Tree (Maybe THIS is what the pirates were looking for…it wasn’t Steve at all! And to think… he hid under the bed for 3 days quaking in fear! 😉 )…lit up like the proverbial and doing it’s job admirably

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Aren’t these icecubed that Steve made especially for me pretty? Who knew he had it in him! You old romantic you Steve 😉

Another year is galloping to a close and we are satiated and full of the gratefulness that a very close call can bring. 2013 is beckoning to us from behind its veiled position on the horizon and after sharing a simple and most satisfying Christmas day I would just like to leave you with this article to ponder the true meaning of Christmas and the endurance of the human spirit despite all odds…

http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/history/2011/12/peace-on-the-western-front-goodwill-in-no-mans-land-the-story-of-the-world-war-i-christmas-truce/

How to turn trash into treasure…

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A few years ago when we were still attending horticultural day classes at our local Polytechnic we noticed one of the classrooms being gutted and all sorts of things being thrown out into a large skip right outside where we sat and daydreamed while our poor lecturer tried to get something to stick in our heads in the midafternoon warmth of summer. On the way home we asked the workmen if we could take a look in the skip that contained all manner of amazing things including filing cabinets, desks, office chairs and these magnificent orbs of 70’s plastic, having obviously once served duty as oversized light shades somewhere. Our friend in the witness protection stored them at her place until we could bring them home and “home” they sat for 3 years…this year we decided to remedy this and we put them to use on Serendipity Farm…

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After taping up the orbs Steve spray painted them with cheap spray paint in his Pingu free shed…

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While one was drying, we sprayed another…

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Then we added stripes of other colours to our oversized Christmas baubles…

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Doesn’t the base look like a Union Jack?! This shot was to show you how clever we are…what forward thinking little penniless student hippies we are and how your taxpayer dollars are actually being put to good use in teaching us to plan and think… Tasmania + Summer + rain = enormous oversized baubles FULL of water and weighing a tonne…a carefully drilled hole in the base of our baubles and the prospective problem simply vanishes…

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Our oversized Christmas baubles hanging over the gate at the front of the property…Now we just have to work out how to get them down…