And so we meet again…

Hi All,

It only seems like yesterday when I was tapping away, tongue sticking out of the side of my mouth, attempting to amuse bouche you guys and here we are again with a new blog post knocking around inside my brain and a deadline of “NOW!” So what’s a girl to do but go all freestyle on your derrières and just wing it with the muses. This week has been a whirlwind of secret crafting business tangled up with gardening and a good dose of telling Stevie-boy what a good husband he is. It’s around about this time of year when everything comes together in the small time and space continuum vortex that is Serendipity Farm and all of the things that I have been putting off all year rise up like phoenixes (or the ghosts of Christmas past more appropriately) to wave their talons/apparition fingers at me and tut in whatever language phoenixes/ghosts tut in.

#Earl loves bloons

#Earl loves bloons

#Earl loves bloons AND walking on the coffee table ;)

#Earl loves bloons AND walking on the coffee table 😉

Stevie-boy, ever the creative genius, has made our youngest daughter Bethany (or Beenz as she has been tagged for a while now) something wonderfully special for her Christmas gift this year. Those of you dear constant readers who have been trying to make head or tail of my blog posts for a while now will know that we are both working on secret Christmas gifts for our daughters as part of a “give us something we like and you might win a $50 booze voucher”. Initially it was that booze voucher that piqued our sense of intrigue but that lasted all of about 10 seconds when the competitive part of the challenge stepped in…”there be WINNING to achieve here folks!” And thus it began…

It's not all about Earl today. This lovely photo of Bezial was photoshopped by Steve

It’s not all about Earl today. This lovely photo of Bezial was photoshopped by Steve

Happy first day of Summer Southern Hemisphere! ;)

Happy first day of Summer Southern Hemisphere! 😉

Stevie-boy listened to my idea for my gift and said “might as well not bother, you have it in the bag”. Which was a great ego boost but to be honest, I didn’t even know if I could create what was inside my head. As I started working on what I have created for Madeline (we got given a daughter each) Stevie-boys competitive streak started to rise up and suddenly he was full of ideas and waving things around in front of my concentrating nose and there were many interruptions to my concentration where I had to “ooo” and “ah” with sufficiently admiring sounds in order to get back to what I was doing. As his creation started to take shape I started to feel the tables flipping and suddenly there was a real competition! Stevie-boy, being Stevie-boy went at his creation like a bull at a gate. He has tamed his desire to finish everything “yesterday” though and is now much more aware of aesthetics and has honed his desire to create quality items rather than “quick” items. I must admit to playing a big part in this transformation…me and my desire to not have the house fall down around us…

Stevie-boy on Saturday faced with this mountain of banana passionfruit that all needed removing

Stevie-boy on Saturday faced with this mountain of banana passionfruit that all needed removing

Most of the banana passionfruit removed and now we just have to remove the dead shrubs under the passionfruit and cut the remainder down to hedge height

Most of the banana passionfruit removed and now we just have to remove the dead shrubs under the passionfruit and cut the remainder down to hedge height

So Stevie-boy’s gorgeous creation is sitting in his music room all finished and ready to be gifted. It is beautiful. I will share it with you in the blog post on December 17th which is immediately after our little familial un-Christmas Christmas celebration as our children are celebrating with their dad and his family who are coming all the way from Western Australia for the occasion. We will have our own delicious Christmas sitting out under the shade of a (not) coolabah tree looking out over the river and giving constant thanks for the circumstances that landed us here on Serendipity Farm.

Narfs breakfast beans

Narfs breakfast beans

The "Dead possum" lily is back for another year. Our friend Jenny just bought one of these. We have hundreds of them that return to reak of death just on Christmas.

The “Dead possum” lily is back for another year. Our friend Jenny just bought one of these. We have hundreds of them that return to reak of death just on Christmas.

My gift creation isn’t so easy. Not only have I had to learn several new skills in order to create this gift, but I have also had to take those newly learned skills and riff on a theme. What I am creating is pretty out there and I have to adapt things from all over the (most wonderful) sharing caring colony of crafters and their wonderful “free tutorials” and then change them to suit my needs. I am quite pleased with the results and everything is starting to come together nicely but it aint finished folks and I am starting to twitch because today is December the third and I need to be finished by this weekend as I have other projects to get stuck into ASAP and this one is starting to take on epic proportions. I can’t wait to share our creations with you and our daughters gave us an amazing gift when they thought up this challenge in the first place. They gave us the gift of actually thinking about the person we are giving a gift to and really homing in on what they like and both Stevie-boy and I have learned a lot in the process so we all win in the end. Stewart and Kelsey have both been given a giftee as well and I know what Stewart has got Madeline  and she is going to be hard pressed to choose between his gift and mine (so that is why I am going to have to slip sleeping pills into his morning coffee and render him AWOL on the day! 😉 ) NO idea what Kelsey is contemplating but now she is a most honorary Aussie (her visa to stay came through…”HOORAY!” 🙂 ), she can stop worrying about heading back to frozen Texas (does it freeze in Texas?) and can spend Christmas Day sweltering away like the rest of us southerners ;).

A wasp is moving in to our bug house! :)

A wasp is moving in to our bug house! 🙂

Stevie-boy is finishing off cutting up last years logs ready for our next load to be delivered.

Stevie-boy is finishing off cutting up last years logs ready for our next load to be delivered.

Stevie-boy deserved a beer after this! :)

Stevie-boy deserved a beer after this! 🙂

So what else has narf been up to (apart from twitching about the rapidly approaching gift giving celebration day that is…), well the garden has taken up a good part of our week. I have been carrying on with my newfound idea to shove all kinds of veggies etc. in all kinds of places. The thing about pests is that they tend to flock when they get a sniff of something in a row. I don’t know what it is about pests but they appear to be regimented and like mass plantings. The problem is, most veggie gardeners love nice neat rows of things as that makes it easier to garden, to harvest and to keep tabs on what you have in your garden and what you can plant in the recently vacated soil. Not for narf, this nice easy life that is “rows”. I have planted out beetroot, okra (the few that the slugs didn’t scoff… see, slugs eat it as they need to replace all of that slime!), Roselle’s (that are developing a gorgeous rosy colour on their little round leaves), beetroot, a single tomatillo (that will be joined by a few of its brethren soon), lots of silverbeet and spinach as they are two of my most consumed foodstuffs over the summer period, 2 cucumber plants (gifted from a friend) and 3 very sad Roma tomatoes from the self-same friend who had just plonked the plants into her small pond and left them there for over a week. Tomatoes are survivor’s folks. These tomatoes were living a semi aquatic lifestyle! There is a whole lot going on in narf7’s garden but only the potato onions and the radishes (yes “radishes” Madeline! 😉 ) are in rows. Everything else is scattered all over the place like a particularly fecund Salvador Dali or Picasso painting.

Steve has been messing around in Photoshop with this lovely original image taken at Hollybank, a lovely reserve 15 minutes east of Launceston.

Steve has been messing around in Photoshop with this lovely original image taken at Hollybank, a lovely reserve 15 minutes east of Launceston.

This version is a reflected version with a soft glow

This version is a reflected version with a soft glow

This version is a reflection in "water"

This version is a reflection in “water”

This one reminds me of the Blair Witch forest!

This one reminds me of the Blair Witch forest!

This is my favourite version. Its haunting but lovely. Isn't Photoshop amazing if you learn how to use it well?

This is my favourite version. Its haunting but lovely. Isn’t Photoshop amazing if you learn how to use it well?

In my first year of gardening I tried to create garden beds but the possums and wallabies caused them to be covered to the back gills with bird netting, wire, chook netting and sticks and although the harvest was pretty good, most of it went to seed as the cruel irony of all of my protective devices was that “I” couldn’t get into there either! Year 2 saw us with Sanctuary but my “get-up-and-go” had gotten up and went. I wasn’t in the mood to vegetable garden and it was only through my friend Jenny and our compost heap contents that anything grew in Sanctuary at all. We shall call it “The year of the pumpkin” for that very reason and the pumpkins took over and ruled the bit of Sanctuary that the possums couldn’t reach. The possums ate everything green as well as quite a few pumpkins and until we managed to completely stop them from gaining entry, they had free reign. Not THIS YEAR possums! This year Sanctuary has been fortified with plastic coated wire clothes line. It looks like a green oasis of possum envy and I have had the incredibly satisfying experience of planting out citrus trees, seedlings and all sorts of berry bushes underneath a sea of seething and most envious possum activity. I know they are up there because their little deposits are fertilising Sanctuary 😉

 

Steve's prototype most awesome new Christmas tree. We haven't sprayed it green yet but it has spacers between the "limbs" and we can move the limbs around to wherever we like

Steve’s prototype most awesome new Christmas tree. We haven’t sprayed it green yet but it has spacers between the “limbs” and we can move the limbs around to wherever we like

And one of the best bits (the bit that makes Steve call this his "Ikea" Christmas tree) is that it folds flat for under bed storage for the rest of the year! :)

And one of the best bits (the bit that makes Steve call this his “Ikea” Christmas tree) is that it folds flat for under bed storage for the rest of the year! 🙂

I have been experimenting by planting things like silverbeet, spinach and the odd Roselle directly into small heaps that I have put compost on one side of and spent horse manure and lots of oak leaves on the other. I learned that a big pile of well-aged horse manure is like gloriously fertile soil to most plants. I also learned it dries out pretty quickly though so adding extra’s to it is part and parcel of working with this wonderful medium. Enter the oak leaf mould and the compost. My experiments have me seeing if adding compost to the higher side of the pile (everything is on a degree of slope on Serendipity Farm aka “Slippery Slope” Farm 😉 ) will cause nutrient run off down to the rest of the pile. I have 3 smallish piles in between all of the citrus trees as I know that they are heavy feeders and I am attempting to kill a whole mess of birds with a single stone. I have a very large compost heap full of compost, horse manure, oak leaves and a lot of dried grass from Glad’s back paddock next door, on the other side of Sanctuary in which a small but most determined crew of red and yellow raspberries is going it’s best to take over the world. I know that they won’t be able to achieve world domination because they have an even bigger and more determined patch of Jerusalem artichokes surrounding them to get through before they can conquer Sanctuary. “Good luck with that raspberries!”

Jenny's raspberries that grew from a single raspberry plant that she planted last year (note to self WATCH those raspberries inside Sanctuary! ;) )

Jenny’s raspberries that grew from a single raspberry plant that she planted last year (note to self WATCH those raspberries inside Sanctuary! 😉 )

Everything eats Jenny's plants but what they don't eat I pay close attention to. If they don't eat it at Jenny's place, there is a very good chance that they won't eat it here! Guess who is about to buy some dianthus...

Everything eats Jenny’s plants but what they don’t eat I pay close attention to. If they don’t eat it at Jenny’s place, there is a very good chance that they won’t eat it here! Guess who is about to buy some dianthus…

And some penstemons...

And some penstemons…

And How about elderberries. Jenny has a particularly nice selection of these beauties. Nothing eats them because aside from the fruit they are completely poisonous :)

And How about elderberries. Jenny has a particularly nice selection of these beauties. Nothing eats them because aside from the fruit they are completely poisonous 🙂

The excitement of propagation has returned and poor Steve had to dig a “root growth zone” (aka “hole”) for me to plant out a new Emperor mandarin that our friend Jenny gave us to add to our growing collection. She has also gifted us a couple of cherry trees as the native wild life at her home just hoover anything fruity down. We are working on creating a Mediterranean garden for her as they won’t touch figs, quinces etc. and so I am thinking that the best bet for her is to plant what the possums can’t stand. You have to work within the parameters that your situation hands you sometimes and then when you have the basics set up, you can start fandangling with the principle of the thing. That’s how we gardeners roll. We are never happy to call it quits because there is always something new around the corner that piques our interest.

A lovely rose at Jenny's house

A lovely rose at Jenny’s house

And the reason why it is still alive ;)

And the reason why it is still alive 😉

We visited Jenny yesterday and gave her a sack of small agapanthus that we crowbarred up from near our front gate. When we were studying our Diploma in Landscape Design we had to come up with a plan each for a Design and we ended up using Jenny’s place as our Design. We came up with a lovely rosemary, lavender and agapanthus series of low hedges surrounding a potager style garden full of things that possums and wallabies and rabbits (and now native crayfish!) wouldn’t like to eat. It was a challenge but the real challenge is that Jenny wants to actually create this garden for reals! So thus finds us crowbarring up agapanthus babies for the near future and sharing the things that we can and can’t grow between us. It is awesome having a good friend who just “gets” us and our crazy desire to be plant slaves and to be like Dr Frankenstein when it comes to grafting all kinds of strange things onto other strange things (cue the thunder, lightning and crazy laughter…)

Lambs ear and (the dreaded) osteospermum daisies and wallflowers. There are a lot of plants that our native animals find unpalatable, I just have to find out which ones they are and plant them :)

Lambs ear and (the dreaded), Arbutilons,  osteospermum daisies and wallflowers. There are a lot of plants that our native animals find unpalatable, I just have to find out which ones they are and plant them 🙂

This is what happens when Jenny tries to plant out fruit trees...

This is what happens when Jenny tries to plant out fruit trees…

The old "stuffed toy to scare the natives away" obviously doesn't work ;)

The old “stuffed toy to scare the natives away” obviously doesn’t work 😉

Visiting friends has benefits, especially when they don't like broad beans :)

Visiting friends has benefits, especially when they don’t like broad beans 🙂

Oh dear. I have manically arrived at a long blog post again. I can’t say that I am sorry as I am not. I love sharing what excites me with you all. Pretty soon you will get to see what has been keeping Stevie-boy and I busy for the last few months (well Stevie-boy for a weekend or two and me for about 3 months now!) in the gifting arena. I would like to thank both of our daughters for giving us all this challenge as we have both learned SO much from having to adapt what they like to what we are capable of creating. ALL kinds of lessons learned, challenges raised to meet and exciting possibilities arising thanks to this desire to stop Christmas from turning into a series of gift voucher or cash handouts. Let’s all take Christmas back this year folks. It doesn’t have to be a commercial crazy rush of cash flowing out of your account/cards, it can be carefully thought out and meticulously planned but if you don’t end up feeling like you have taken part, what’s the point? Lets take Christmas (whatever it means to you) back from the middle men and place it firmly in the creative bent of our own little hot hands. I know that Stevie-boy has had a lot of fun creating our latest “Christmas tree” and that we are creating all of our own decorations this year. That’s how you feel “Christmassy”…Christmas is in the processes, the lead up, the wonder of creation and the enjoyment of sharing a good meal with good friends and family. Being thankful for the year that has past, the year that is about to hit us (EEK!) and being grateful, thankful and most joyful for our continued existence on this small blue planet navigating it’s way around a small bright star somewhere out there in this wide expanse of a universe. See you all next week 🙂

I will leave you with a parting shot of Serendipity Farm on the first official day of summer just to make you Northerners feel a bit happier about your own bad weather ;)

I will leave you with a parting shot of Serendipity Farm on the first official day of summer just to make you Northerners feel a bit happier about your own bad weather 😉

Just a quick note, next week I will be in Hobart with my 2 daughters getting ready to attend a Ben Folds concert (“SQUEE!”) my Christmas gift from my daughters so Stevie-boy will be left to hold the fort and will be responsible for next weeks blog post. He has just informed me that he wants to write next weeks blog post. You can be assured it will be smaller than my usual blog posts ;).

 

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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).

An ounce of sustainablity is worth a pound of prevention…

Hi All,

It’s almost Wednesday again and I find myself scrabbling for time to post. I must admit, most of my free time is currently being monopolised by the Wii game Zelda Skyward Sword. It’s been a fair while since I found a game like this that I can actually play! Technology and gaming seem to have decided to bypass my motor neurons in every stage of game development increasing flipping between screens, weapons, items etc. and decreasing the amount of time spent hunting for bright shiny things which, if I am pressed, is pretty much the only reason that I like to play games. I get tired of them very easily and would rather spend time reading than gaming. In saying that I haven’t finished “Tuesdays with Morrie” yet, or “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café” which I took out on a whim. Reading is such a romantic retreat from real life that I love to take every opportunity that I can to explore my imagination. With the cold weather around here it is very tempting to put everything on hold and call an immediate hiatus to all things “gardening” and “outdoors” but ironically this is the best time to garden. Steve and I have a few days of fine weather this week with no studies that we have to do and so we have set aside the next few days to plant out all of my beautiful cold climate shrubs so that they will survive the summer with less water and so that they will be able to stretch out their roots and be “real plants” in the soil. No more potting mix (and subsequently, no more annual potting up…) and I have started tuning my radar to isolating cutting material, plants and seeds for our Edible food forest.

“GET OFF THOSE!”…damned rabbits are EVERYWHERE…

The reminder of roosters past…lest we forget

After a year off from propagation I can feel my horticultural bones starting to emerge from their enforced sleep and shaking me gently to remind me that penniless hippies NEED to produce most of their own plants and so I took advantage of some of my time in town to prune back the large Muscat (Vitus Vinifera ‘Poloske Muscat’) grape vine that we planted when we first moved to Tasmania and lived in town. It has done its level best to take over the fence between our place and Margaret’s home next door. I removed the honeysuckle and jasmine from the fence as they are invasive garden destroyers here and had started taking over not only the small side garden but the jasmine had migrated, via runners, across a length of concrete to another garden further on. There is no stopping jasmine! I decided that since I was pruning the grape vine to facilitate us digging it up soon and bringing it back to Serendipity Farm, that I would take some cuttings from the canes and not waste this chance to grow more Muscat grapes. While we were attending Polytechnic on a daily basis in Launceston, we learned as much as we could from anyone who would talk to us about all things horticulture and we spread ourselves around with learning as much as we could about all forms of propagation. We used to talk to the head of the viticulture department as wine is one of the major exports of Tasmania (especially Pinot) and after each course, the students would prune the small vineyard and Mark would use the pruning’s to teach the next group of students how to grow grapes from canes. He gave us some good pinot grape canes and some American table grape canes (not sure which variety) that we got going in our garden. I gave the table grapes away at the time but kept the pinot and we still have a pinot grape vine struggling along in the front garden. He taught us how to take the cuttings, how many nodes to look for, how to cut the top of the cane at an angle and leave the bottom straight so that once the canes have overwintered, had formed callous and were ready to plant out that it would be easy to identify top from bottom. With all of this acquired knowledge I took 30 cane cuttings from the material that I had to work with and stored them in damp newspaper till I could get them into some damp sand to overwinter. Hopefully we get some callous (precursor to root formation) starting and I can plant a selection of Muscat grapes along the fenceline between the church and the veggie garden giving everyone the best of both worlds. At a later date Steve and I are going to plant out a few rows of various grape vines in the top area of the property. It gets full sun and has been cleared of trees by past owners and is on a steep slope so it is perfect for growing a few grapes with the eventuality of us being able to make our own wine.

So you want to grow some grapes from canes eh?

First source some canes…Grape preferably…

Find a recepticle to contain the canes (we used a large plant pot…) make sure it has holes in the bottom and you have a compliant and willing (compliant is more important that willing in this case…) helper to hold the canes while you pour in the sand…

Did I mention the coarse river sand? No? Well perhaps I should have…you need some at this point…

Pour enough sand from your bucket into the recepticle holding the canes so that they are well covered

Shake your pot a bit to settle the sand, water them in well and set to one side with the rest of your potted plants out in the open until you feel like checking to see if any of the canes have produced callous. If you want to know more you can sign up for one of the short wine courses at your local TAFE/Polytechnic…you just exhausted my experience in growing grapes.

That brings me back to my slowly awakening desire to propagate again. My tip find strawberries are behaving like ferals and are going crazy in the shed. I potted them up expecting a large rate of attrition thanks to their languishing in the tip for goodness only knows how long and then spending a frozen night in our trailer and another 2 days lying neglected on the floor of the shed. Nothing kills them! When you take something that has been neglected and show it a bit of tender loving care it rewards you exponentially and my tip strawberries are no exception. Even the teeny tiny little “buddling’s” are greening up and taking off. We have a steep rock wall around the side of Steve’s shed that was previously covered with weeds and African daisies (Osteospermum) that we pulled out and discovered the precarious nature of this area whilst at the same time working out where the cut and fill was taken for the house plot. Our soil is a sad mix of reactive clay laying on bedrock of volcanic stone and covered with silty shallow topsoil due to our proximity to the river. We can ameliorate the soil and make it a whole lot better, but silt has the next finest particles to clay soil (that’s what causes it to be so densely packed) and tends to wash away at the first sign of water and strangely become very hydrophobic (water runs off the top of it) when it becomes dry…which it does VERY easily and so you can see that combining this sort of topsoil with a steep slope is going to lead to problems with soil migration. We were going to plant alpine species in between the rocks to hold the soil in place but Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum) is considerably harder to source here in Tasmania than strawberries from the tip and segue right back to the strawberries. They are extremely hardy…they love full sun…they produce runners and make their own new plants (the lazy food gardeners heaven) and the produce an edible crop and love to grow in crevices. The ducks think twice before heading down steep slopes and so the strawberries should require only minimal protection but we will ensure that they are covered with some mulch and protected from possums until we have enough strawberries to form a dense mat. I love finding edible free solutions to our gardening problems that arrive at a win-win situation for both us and the wildlife around here.

One of the pots of strawberries that show no sign of shuffling off this mortal coil any day soon

The sign posted between the Exeter Thrift/Op shop and the golf course next door…I guess it’s one way to stop people wandering onto the greens!

A mans dog needs a mans drink! (Any representitives of the Guinness corporation reading this post can feel free to contact me about sponsorship money 😉 )

I spent Monday checking out the height and width parameters for my cold climate shrubby babies that have been living in pots for about 3 years now. When we first got bitten bad by the horticultural bug we went on a mad propagation and collection run that encompassed all kinds of plants. I started out with cacti and succulents that the ducks recently took great glee in eating almost to extinction and branched to other exotics (living in the glasshouse) and finally settled on cold climate shrubs before moving to Serendipity Farm and getting serious. Having both Steve and I fall victim to horticulture meant that there was no-one to put the brakes on when it came to propagation and collecting and we spent a lot of time and initially money on increasing our potted plants to the vicinity of 900 (300+ conifers alone) and whilst it was quite easy to keep these babies happy in town, out here on Serendipity Farm it’s a nightmare! We have to fight off the possums, wallabies, rabbits and anything else that feels like a snack (including Earl) whilst trying to minimise our potable water usage and our precious babies have slowly been falling by the wayside as the real world interjects itself and teaches us some life lessons. No more precious babies that can’t take a period of water stress…no more cossetting plants and no more wasting water on them. If our potted plants can’t take the lean times then they can’t live on Serendipity Farm. We have been giving away plants to our city dwelling friends to save them from the possums and everything that is left in our collection is hardy, water wise and able to survive out there in the garden because it’s been sitting there and surviving all of the unprotected night time raids for over a year now so we can be confident that it should survive planting out in the garden.

Some of my thrift shop bargains sourced in Exeter

My $3 glow in the dark strip designed to stop cars from squishing me in the dark…now I just need to source something that will get me out of bed and actually “walking” in the dark…

“Bargain…”

An attempt to justify paying $3 for something that I know I am most probably (still not giving up on it…) never going to wear

This hand made non tip pottery mug was my idea of a way to stop the dogs from tipping over Steve’s coffee in the loungeroom…Steve has a London mug that he is choosing to use at the moment in patriotic fervour (that won’t last long…) and so it’s not being used. I wonder if it works?

I sadly also discovered that in our horticultural zeal to isolate and collect many species of conifer, that many of them grow HUGE and that 4 acres isn’t enough to do them justice. We will be (sadly) giving away a fair few of our conifers to ensure that our collection is able to be integrated with our food forest ideals. We have several conifers that yield edible seeds and indeed spruce needles can be used to make a vitamin C rich tea (no scurvy for us!) and there is room on Serendipity Farm for our Bunya nut (Araucaria bidwillii) trees that we grew from seed collected in Carlton Garden’s in Melbourne where we attended our very first International Garden Show. Most of our other conifers are water sucking atmospheric generators that future generations (you know who you are…) will stand at the bottom of looking up into the stratosphere wondering at the mind that thought it possible to plant Giant Sequoia’s at the entrance of their property when said Sequoia has now taken over the entire driveway and is threatening to uproot the house. The reason why people (who shall remain anonymous as is their constitutional right according to the law…) would want to plant a Giant Sequoia next to the entrance of the driveway is because said anonymous person grew that Giant Sequoia from a teeny little seed. That teeny little seed was the ONLY BLOODY SEED out of the entire packet of “Bonsai Mix” that grew and by HECK it is going to be planted next to the gate so help me them!  We shall speak no more about the subject…I said NO MORE!

Sequoia gigantea grown from seed in his first horticultural certificate course and soon to be planted with pride and joy at the front gate…take note Stewart…we are putting a caveat on this tree so you have bollocks all chance of removing it! 😉

I cleaned out the freezers on Monday because I like to torture myself. There was no room left in either of them and “stuff” needed to be frozen so I was forced into it. The main problem was that since we had killed and subsequently gotten the most out of 11 roosters over the last 3 months or so there was an inordinate percentage of freezer space being taken up by chicken stock. I have discovered, since waxing lyrical about the benefits of chicken stock, that we tend not to use it much. This has resulted in a glut of chicken stock in every orifice of the house that is somewhat cooler than room temperature and it was breeding exponentially. Having completed with a “PASS” certificates 2 and 3 in commercial cookery I am MORE than aware of the dangers of chicken stock when not kept at a specific temperature over extended periods and after adding up the dangers and needing more than my 2 hands and both my feet to count them I decided that desperate times called for desperate measures…something had to be done about that chicken stock! At this point of time the super hero usually appears and “BIFF KAPOW’s” something and everything is sorted out and Gotham City is saved. The superhero wasn’t available on Monday for some reason so a tired addled sleep deprived Zelda addict had to work out a solution all by herself…not a pretty sight especially on a Monday morning. I came up with a brilliant solution if I say so myself. First you analyse the problem…”no space thanks to tonnes of chicken stock”. Next you remember that your life mantra is “Think smarter NOT harder” (that’s the one that I share with the public…my REAL life mantra is “Shit! Maybe no-one will notice?” but that is another story…) and so I slowly formulated an excellent plan. I had only recently been reading my rss feed reader. Yes, I am THAT clever 😉 and realised that the solution was right in front of my eyes…

http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/homemade-bouillon-recipe.html

No…I am sorry. I have spoon fed you enough! If you actually want to see what it was that I did, you are just about going to have to go to that website and take a look you lazy bollocks!…I will wait here while you do… (Insert elevator music and wonder if they play “The girl from Ipanema” in Korean elevators…)…ok so I KNOW that you didn’t go there…look maybe this will help…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJkxFhFRFDA

Can ANYONE tell me why elevators chose to use this song?!!! Just watching Astrud makes my eyelids start to droop! I guess it was last century and who can guess at what olden day’s people were thinking about when they wrote music like that…

Ok I made concentrated stock! Easy peasy. I turned a kitchen sink overflowing with bags of stock into an eighth of a stockpot of gelatinised rubber that the dogs will do tricks for. I am going to bounce it all off the deck down to the waiting chickens and feral cats and see if I can’t skim some down to the Tamar River. Again…we shall speak no more of this!

I found this website online and you can get this fantastic catalogue on recycled paper sent to you once a year. I doubt I could source the seeds through this guide but its full of hints, tips and other fantastic “stuff” to help people who want to live sustainably and thats us!

What I am reading at the moment…(I LOVE you library!)

The latest copy of Feast magazine (FAR better than Delicious magazine you ABC snobs and MUCH more interesting) accompanied by my bucket cup  of tea that enhances my reading pleasure (durex for the mind)…by the way dearest daughter Bethany…if you are reading this post, I really REALLY would like you to renew my subscription for my birthday for another year 🙂

Ok we are getting close to me having to wind up this post and I haven’t told you everything that happened since Saturday. Here is a quick rundown…

  1. Fatty ate one of Effels babies and is skating on thin ice even though it was a rooster (it’s the principal of the thing!)
  2. We went to Exeter and I got bargains from the thrift shop that I will share pictorially and kill 2 birds with one stone
  3. Steve is very tired of his shed being liberally coated in nitrogenous chickeny deposits and is about to integrate Pingu into the main herd post haste…
  4. I can’t bring myself to clear out any of my hard sourced blogs from my rss feed reader even though I can’t hope to read all of the posts that I get a day in a 24 hour period let alone fit anything else into my day. Sorry to anyone that I usually comment on regularly… you now know just what it takes to get me to shut up…DON’T tell Steve!

There you go. A couple of manic days in the life of “Us”. I hope you liked it…I can honestly say that it’s kind of too bad if you didn’t…it’s in the public domain now and I guess you are stuck with it. My daughters “Madeline and Bethany” now have to read this post because their names have been mentioned and my son is having a ball dressing up as an ancient Sumerian Godlike creature and getting in the Roswell times whilst wearing a pair of “Butterfinger” underpants given to him by the purveyors of this diabetes inducingly sweet American treat. I am totally engaged by Stewart’s American holiday and it certainly appears that he has been packing it to the rafters with non-stop memory inducing episodes. He does appear to have inherited his grandmothers ability to take photographs of nondescript road scenes and blurry road signs (they say that it skips a generation…) but his whirlwind tour of the USA is just about over and he is heading across the Atlantic ocean and then a hop-step-and a jump across the Irish sea to Ireland (Not much of a quiz question that one is it?). I hope he has an amazing time and his memories are burned into his mind so that he never forgets. Ok, so photos might be a good alternative…I was being metaphorical there! (Sheesh you guys are a tough audience!). You got off lightly today because I now have to go and tackle that behemoth also known as “RSS Feed Reader”. I am going to have to tear out my ongoing desire to hoard each and every blog that touches a nerve and keep a core group of blogs that feed my soul. Please don’t take offence if you never hear from me again. I didn’t dump your blog…I just couldn’t find a way to separate myself from ANY of my 729 (and growing every day) blogs that I am currently following and decided that hoarding blogs is NOTHING like hoarding rubbish or cats. See you Saturday when I might just have collected enough colourful gems to save Spain, Greece AND Ireland (I owe it to Stewart and Kelsey) in Zelda. Whatever you choose to do in the meantime…do it well people and don’t skip bits…you only get to pass this way once…you may as well enjoy the ride :o)

Kitchen renovation and Mary Anne Schaffers list

 

Hi All,

I decided that I would like to share a post with you on how we renovated our “kitchens” in our house in town. In the process I will explain why we had 2 kitchens! Not a normal thing, but this is Tasmania and “normal” tends to be in the minority when you are dealing with houses and house building. When we moved from Western Australia to Tasmania it was with the promise of not having to pay rent and being able to study. We didn’t have any idea what the house that we were moving to looked like. When we arrived, we walked through the house in a state of mild shock and bewilderment. Our rented house in Albany W.A. was old, had seen better days but was also enormous. We had huge rooms and plenty of space for all 5 of us (my son Stewart was living with us and we left him renting the house when we left). The house that we were walking around was infinitesimally smaller and we looked at each other and all of us said at once “how are we going to fit all of us AND our stuff in here?” That is saying something because we had left most of our “stuff” behind in Albany including most of our furniture. The house was/is tiny. There is a good sized 1 bedroom unit out the back, but the house itself is very small. The house had also very recently been vacated by its past tenants and like most of my dad’s ex tenants; they didn’t see why they should have to clean up before they left. One look in the tiny split level electric stove/oven revealed a thick layer of white chop fat that coated everything and that needed to be removed before we could use the stove. The one thing that stopped me sinking into a pit of despair was the kitchen. It was light, airy, bright and wasn’t all that bad. It did have linoleum tiles on the floor but we could fix that at a later date. It had been built in the 60’s and owned by a little old lady with 2 eccentric sons, one of whom kept snakes in the shed… We had a lot of work to do! We slowly amassed what we needed to convert the house. We started off with a colour scheme of a soft butter yellow lounge room and kitchen and the rest of the house was painted white (Bethany’s room) and green “Madeline’s room as well as the bathroom (same green). That was to allow us to think that it was “our place” until we could get stuck in in earnest. We soon ripped up the lino tiles and laid some ceramic floor tiles in the kitchen. We ripped up the carpet and polished the wooden floors. We redecorated the bathroom… twice! We also worked out that our 2 kitchens needed to be given identities. The small kitchen near the back door was simply a receptacle for the stove. It had a few small cupboards and not much else. The main kitchen area had no stove, a sink, some cupboards and an interesting metal set of cupboards and bread box sunk into the wall between the 2 kitchens. A most interesting setup and one that we decided to work with…

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We tried to add as much of what we actually wanted in a kitchen along with our ability (well…Steve’s…) to do all of the work ourselves (apart from plumbing in the gas stove). We were able to customise everything because we did it all ourselves resulting in us being able to work with our space and also work vertically so that we could make the best use of the very small amount of area available. We love being inventive with space and with what we use to make cupboards etc. We ended up making our bench tops in the main kitchen area out of very thick pine. We loved what we did and it really suited our needs.

We set about giving each room identity. The room with the stove got a nice big gas stove purchased by my father from a local auction house (after I headed in and picked it out). I don’t know if any of you realise how difficult it is these days to get an “all gas” stove with a gas oven as well but it was a sheer stroke of amazing good fortune that someone wanted to sell their all gas 6 burner stove when we wanted to buy one second hand. This stove is amazing and we decided to do away with using large gas bottles and set up a system of the smaller 9kg gas bottles for the stove after we had a chat to a chef who does the same at his place. No more gas bottle rental for us! We then set about making it a good space for the stove and added our washing machine and a wall bracket for the dryer. For such a small space we sure packed a lot in! We then worked with the main kitchen and set about removing a dated island and after tiling we set about repainting and redecorating this area. We then added shelves in the windows so that the neighbours couldn’t see in easily. Here are some photos to show you what we did. The first photo that we had of the little kitchen was actually after we had done some redecorating so you can’t see what greeted us when we first got there. We didn’t have a camera at that stage and so you are just going to have to imagine the grease covered, smoke covered surfaces and the grime that covered everything. We had a little bit of savings that we had brought over with us from W.A. but apart from that, we had to save up and do things as we had the money. I think that it makes you feel prouder of your efforts and you appreciate what you have done more when you have to save up to get it and you have to find ways to get what you want cheaper. I think that the process of arriving at your destination is always where you get the most satisfaction. The end result is all well and good but remembering how you tipped that tin of paint off the deck…how you painted over every single vent in the house…how the dog ate your sponge…how you had to live in a caravan outside in the sub zero temperatures with a most exuberant young dog who insisted on shoving you out of your tiny single bed give your “project” it’s meat. We have always had to use our lateral thinking abilities and natural inventive minds to counteract our low fund issues. We are also somewhat eccentric about what we do and don’t like. Some of the things that we have done to the house in town are not to everyone’s taste but we don’t care, because

  1. We are penniless hippy student hermits who could care less about what “normal” people think
  2. We have more time and energy than we do money so we have to be inventive and sometimes “inventive” ends up slightly different to what money can buy
  3. We love what we did
  4. We enjoyed being able to do whatever we wanted to the house as it was actually ours!
  5. Did I mention that we are hermit eccentric bohemians who could care less what other people think?

We love the bright colours and the very next year “burnt orange” and “cerulean blue” were the IN colours for accent walls. Admittedly we did paint our entire kitchen and lounge room burnt orange with contrasting green cupboards, our hallway area was the brightest Mediterranean blue that you have ever seen (and still is because our daughters are too busy with other things to repaint) and the bathroom is pillar box red with black and white accents. It certainly takes your mind off how small the house is! The tiny kitchen/stove area is a nice dark sage green colour and is probably the most understated room in the house. When you work with what you have available it limits your choices sometimes but Steve and I are always on the lookout for something that is functional as well as aesthetically pleasing, and if it does a few more things at the same time (like going vertical rather than horizontal and saving us space or being colourful and useful) so much more the better.

The brand spanking new copy of the book that Earl ate has arrived. I can’t praise this online book store enough! 1 week to get here from the U.K. and less than half the price the library wanted to charge me for the very same book. I will be using this book shop repeatedly from now on. They have amazingly good prices and free postage to Australia and now, with only 1 week waiting time, they are my new favourite book store. No more browsing shelves of the local shops, I will be hunting down reviews online and will be purchasing my books from The Book Depository. I can’t see how real time book stores are able to have the bollocks to charge what they charge for these books. I know that they have physical costs like wages and lighting etc. but all I can think is that they want to buy themselves a new Mercedes with the massive profits that they are charging. Bollocks to them. This is one instance where the book shop (wanky, overpriced and full of pretentious Pratt’s and snooty staff) can go broke as far as I am concerned. I am heartily sick of people ripping other people off and making “book reading” (something that should be fostered, nurtured and actively promoted for everyone) only for the rich. They have done it with anything cultural. Art, books, music and now food. Don’t forget the humble pushbike that was once the mode of transport for artistic Frenchies, school kids and people who lost their license, now it is seen as being something to aspire to (and to haul your ancient flabby bodies into lycra to make some sort of status statement about your sad old carcass…). Wine is to be sniffed and swirled around your mouth before you spit it out and beer is no longer the premise of the “common man” but is boutique and scented with blackberries and chocolate undertones. There is something to be said for “ambiance” in cafes and book stores, but if you want to spend a small fortune on a book to elevate yourself above the rest of society and make yourself feel better get a life! Give us back our books. Thank goodness for whoever thought of making books available free to the masses in the form of libraries. I owe them my sanity and several certificates and a Diploma to boot. I love the Book Depository. I don’t care if some sweaty strange person with hairy palms runs the website from their basement dungeon where they are confined by their ankle bracelet to make sure that they don’t emerge in daylight hours to shuffle about dealing nefariously with the general public. To me they are someone wonderful and to be championed. Now I can take the book to the library, I can collect my mangled copy and I can take out 2 of the books on Mary Anne Schaffer’s list of “best ever books”. I am going to spend the rest of the afternoon with one of these most precious tombs and a nice cup of earl grey tea. I will most probably make the shortcrust pastry for Steve’s pie that he wants to experiment with later on now so that nothing will interrupt me and my pleasure. See you all tomorrow :o)

Just a very quick addition to this post…the first Mary Anne Schaffer book that I picked up to read “Time and Again” by Nora Roberts is apparently a bestseller on the New York Times list. I started reading it with great interest and it took me all of 3 pages to work out that it was a bodice ripper. Oh well…I don’t read romance novels. I don’t have time to sigh about unrequited love and, in this case, the need for some future Romeo to get back to his time while he falls in love with a 20th century babe. Not a good start Mary Anne! I hope that this was a mere aberration in your list and that it doesn’t start out as it means to finish up or I might be severely let down. I am not going to finish the book. I read 100 pages of it and apart from on again, off again tension between the principal characters, this book did nothing for me. If you like a good romance novel perhaps you will enjoy it… I am on to the next book by Sebastien Japrisot “A Very Long Engagement” that promises to be somewhat meatier than the last choice. I am also going to request the next 2 books on Mary Anne’s list. I will let you know how Monsignor Sebastien Japrisot’s novel is going in the near future. See you tomorrow :o)

Making sprinklers while the rain pours…

Hi All,

Our friend Jenny is coming to visit us on Serendipity Farm today. Who cares? WE DO! Jenny was just another person in our somewhat small class when we first started in Certificate 2 in horticulture. As the class members melted away over the initial 6 months and then started to alarmingly dissolve in Certificate 3 down to a steady stream of 6 of us, Jenny, Steve and I gravitated towards each other as being “mature aged students” and kindred spirits. Jenny and Glen, her partner, are most probably the most generous people that I have ever met. They are generous with their time as well as their possessions. I am, by nature, a generous person. It has come a little harder to Steve but he is coming along in leaps and bounds apart from the odd decent into tightness. I have no problem with giving things that I no longer need or want away. I think that the world needs generosity to balance out all of the meanness and selfish hoarding that goes on and practice it whenever I can (the generosity, not the selfishness :o) We haven’t seen much of Jenny over the school holidays as she is using her new found horticultural knowledge to work in the industry. Apart from her generosity, Jenny is one of the most easy going non-threatening people that I know and has a fantastic work ethic making her an ideal team member in a nursery. I have a streak of anal perfectionism that makes me a pain in the bum to other members of any team that I am forced to work in. I think it comes from being a stay at home mum and only venturing into the workforce after my divorce. Arriving at “work” as a concept at the age of 34 meant that work wasn’t just something that I did to get my daily bread, it was something that I wanted to excel at and as such I tried my hardest to do my best, which pissed off many of my “team mates” no end because if someone in your team is striving to achieve, that means you have to pick up your game. I don’t make a good “team member”. Not because I don’t want to join in, not because I don’t get along with my other team members, but simply because I try my hardest to do the best job that I can and in so doing I upset people (especially other women) that I work with and it never ends nicely. I should work, ideally, somewhere where I can research and catalogue my findings. I love following processes and ticking boxes. Stick me in a library somewhere cataloguing books under the Dewy decimal system and I would be in heaven. That might sound boring, but I was born to catalogue, research and document with a major in planning. Each to his/her own and that is my idea of the ideal job. It would also limit the amount of “normal” people that I would have to deal with thus limiting my need to compete with said “normal” people and piss them off. Honesty is so refreshing! Now you all know how anal I can be…how I need to do things properly (“if you can’t do things property, don’t do them at all!” instilled in me by my grandmother over many years along with “clean up as you go along…” both mantra’s that can’t be broken) and in due process (unless I figure out an easier and more streamlined way to arrive at the end of the process with the same results…another one of my abilities :o). I tend to piss people off (especially women). I talk too much (to cover up not knowing what to say and being naturally shy) and I am not very good at sharing empathy, gossip or at shopping with other women. I can’t see the point of spending hours on end window shopping. I like to go in…buy it… and get out! Unless it’s a kitchen shop or a shop that sells weird and wonderful ethnic grocery lines I am unable to stand for more than 10 minutes at a time without twitching. I must be part man…

It takes all sorts to make a world and Jenny is our “sort” of person. We all work together well. We were able to drag ourselves kicking and screaming through Certificate 3 in horticulture and we all passed. Jenny may have taken the path (that we at least have) less trodden and used her knowledge to gain lawful employment (where we are threatening to become old aged pensioner professional students…) but we maintain a great friendship and are always willing to help each other out should any of us need said help. Despite being terrified of our dogs (mainly King Earl), Jenny comes out to visit us and even if we do have to stand outside the perimeter fence and chat, she can have a look at how huge the chickens have grown, she can see exactly what we have (and haven’t) done on Serendipity Farm since she was last here and she can fill us in on all of the horticultural gossip that we miss out on living out in the sticks in the boondocks of Serendipity Farm. There will always be a cup of coffee (or beer should the arms of the clock be over the yard arm…) and a bickie for Jenny on Serendipity Farm :o)

That was a long first stanza! How am I going to match that? Perhaps with a shorter more manageable bite of paragraph? I tend to be verbose physically as well as mentally. I get incredibly excited about things and want to share them and my fingers trip over themselves in my efforts to get my thoughts down onto the online version of the page. I have had a few of you (lazier) constant readers pull me up on the length of my posts. Get a cup of coffee/tea (or even your alcoholic beverage of choice…who am I to tell you what to do? :o) and pull up a chair and spend a little bit of your day, wherever you are, here on Serendipity Farm with your good friends the Pimbletts. We might not actually physically know each other, but here on this blog, in this tiny little segment of the world we are good friends in spirit. I find out so many things through wandering around online. I usually start somewhere with a specific task/goal to achieve but end up finding all sorts of things off to the side of what I am actually looking for. I have an enormous word document where I store “interesting” and “must revisit” websites that I find on my travels sideways and upside down through the World Wide Web. I found a list (that I shared with you in an earlier post) of books that one “Mary Anne Schaffer” (of “The Guernsey literary and potato peel pie society” book fame) loved to read. That makes them a must read for me. I have a follower on this blog called “Photobotos”. No idea who this person is, only that he is male, his brother is also male (funny that…your brother being male…) and that he and his brother take the most amazing photographs that I have ever seen. They are not just visual representations of the scenery and conditions at the time; they are small and most amazing windows to the soul. Through this person I have been able to see some incredible things that I would otherwise never have been able to see. This person/persons has found some way of hunting down blogs that amuse/interest them. I am a quintessential magpie and never let it be said that I can’t take advantage of someone else’s hard work and natural inquisitive talent to sniff out a good blog or two and pare down the multitudes of dross to find the nuggets of literary (and photographic) gold out there. Like his illustrious literary counterpart Ms Mary Anne Schaffer, I will be wading slowly through the list of people thanking him for liking various blog posts on their blogs. I want to visit these blogs because I have a more than sneaking suspicion that he is onto something…like gulls flocking to another gull bums up in the water emerging with a most delicious fish in his beak…I am the next cab in the rank to sample those delicious moments…thankyou Photobotos for your thumbs up to these blogs…they are next on my list to explore and you have saved me countless hours of energy wading through rubbish to find something special :o)

What a meandering path I am taking today! Sometimes my posts take a more physical lien like when I am talking about “actual events” or plants in our garden. Should something interesting happen down on Serendipity Farm (or halfway up the hill where I have to huff and puff to get up there to document it for you) you are always the first to know. Sometimes I just let my mind wander about where it will. Some of the less kind of you might be sniggering and saying “yeh…and it sure is obvious!” but my answer to that is “get back to your studies you lazy bollocks” (aimed at my 2 daughters who are the most likely candidates for that sort of a retort) and “talk to the hand!” to the rest of you. The hand is actively typing and could care less about what you are thinking at the moment. I can hear a mole cricket formulating his chirps out in the newly moist soil. I heard a little frog singing a chorus to heaven when I went out at dusk to see if the hens were in their roost ready for us to lock up (like fun they were!). Like my brothers little wood and stone cottage out in the bush, Serendipity Farm has a degree of removal from the outside world allowing us to see and hear things that we might otherwise not be aware of. I love the way that these little creatures wander through, across, over and around Serendipity Farm. We have lizards in the house hunting for flies. We have a few large huntsman spiders wandering about sampling the mosquitos that home in on Steve in the night. We have all sorts of little birds in various stages of life that interact with each other and with us on a regular basis. We can watch the seasons unfold and the life cycles rotate. It brings us closer to God (much like the 9 inch nails song “Closer”…by the way…if you are of a serene disposition or over the age of 30 please DON’T go hunting for the lyrics to that song…I warned you! :o) isn’t it amazing that we can all find ourselves functioning and living our day to day lives amongst all of this apparently chaotic life teeming around us…plants…animals…insects and everything else not represented by these genres working together to keep this world running exactly as it has for millennia. I can hear Steve driving up the driveway and the boys are whining and singing out to him. There is no doubt whatsoever when Steve gets back (or anyone else for that matter) as the dogs herald his return with gusto.

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What can I say about this slideshow of the process involved in taking some of the grouchiness out of first thing in the morning apart from somewhere in this slideshow, you get to see someone who appears to be sick of me taking photographs of him… We are very happy with our end results. DON’T show this to Nick Nat or we will be forced to kill you (and he will be forced to make us do a unit in irrigation all over again). Sometimes what you have learned needs to be tweaked by what you can afford :o)

We just set up the overhead watering system. It cost us just on $45 to build and it waters all of our potted plants around the side of the house. We are extremely happy with the results and with pairing our ideas, existing “stuff” and a few things that we had to buy new (sprinkler heads and fittings and some rope and a coil of black polypipe) and best of all IT WORKS! At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how pretty something is or how much it cost, if it works, it is just what the doctor ordered. Our system works and isn’t all that bad on the eye to be honest. We are enjoying knowing that we are not going to have to be out watering for an hour and a half every second day (and every day when it’s hot) and that we can pair the watering system with a timer that we bought when we were in town to water the garden nice and early so that the plants soak it up before it evaporates. I collected another instalment in the new blackberry wine ingredients list (some blackberries). That is the ONLY reason why most of the blackberries around Serendipity Farm are still alive and twitching, because right now I am harvesting them. They fruited early this year and most copiously. I think having a year or two of mild conditions and lots of rainfall followed by a nice hot long summer made them go mad. I don’t really mind as I get to harvest all of the nice ripe fruit early and we get a head start on our wine production for this year. Pretty soon PANTAS stone fruit orchard just up the road from us will offer peaches “$2/kilo pick your own” and we will get some more of them as well. Last year we made peach wine. It had a most “interesting” flavour and over the year turned from a weird tasting wine to a very strong weird tasting wine. Steve just finished the last of the barrel off last week and it was somewhat akin to paint thinner. We might combine the peaches with something else this year. We read that peaches make a watery thin wine with very little taste so we added lots more peaches and sugar and ended up with peach vodka. A small glass could render me legless and I am NOT a 1 pot screamer so that should tell you how strong it was. We have 2 hop vines in pots and should we EVER get around to getting our veggie garden area sorted, we will plant the 2 hop vines out and allow them to do what they do best, head to the sky. We will train them up some of the eucalyptus trees in the veggie garden area and we might even have a go at making our own beer wort this year. At least the hops won’t croak now that they are getting regular water. (Note to self… take the hops around to where they can get regular water…). We headed over to Exeter today to pick up a few more sprinkler heads for our system. We underestimated how many we would need because we increased the area of watering from 25 metres to 35 metres and needed to adjust the amount of sprinklers accordingly. While we were in Exeter we decided to check out the Thrift shop and I found a most wonderful old brass door knob. We are going to mount it on the door between the laundry and the hallway leading to the kitchen. I really love it. It is brass and ornamental and cost me the princely sum of $1. Tasmania might suck for all sorts of reasons, but bargain hunting is NOT one of them. You can get all sorts of amazing bargains if you are willing to get out of bed early on a Saturday (and sometimes a Sunday) morning. If you go to the Evandale markets you can often find people selling very interesting things at very low prices. We don’t get to go much these days as Evandale is now a long way away from where we live. Back when we lived in town we would make a weekly trip and then drop in at the Esk markets in Launceston occasionally on the way home. The Esk markets are not as good as the Evandale markets but it’s sometimes nice to check and see if anything is there. I miss going to the markets but we spend a whole lot less out here so I guess there are swings and roundabouts. We have been sifting through our plants to see what we could pot up to sell at the local Deviot Market. We might even book a stall at the Mad Hatters Market Day in March. We have lots of interesting plants, most of them we grew from seed or cuttings in Certificate 2 of horticulture. We learned where to buy our pots, our potting media etc. and BOY did we throw ourselves head first into propagation. Steve headed sideways into grafting and we both did a stint with bonsai and several other horticultural specialties. Hopefully we get a bit more time this year to mess about a bit and do some maple grafting. We have quite a few nice specimens now and lots and lots of regular Japanese maples that we grew from seed and collected from friend’s places and roadside verges. Should we get the impetus to do so, we will share the results with you all. Ok, I think it is time to head off into the blogging ether. Time to cook something for Steve’s tea. Last night we had some most delicious home-made spring rolls and tonight it might be something meaty and vegetably for Steve (he was a good boy and ate his green beans so he might get let off eating them tonight…). After I do that, I will plump some nice pillows under Steve in the lounge room and will head off into the kitchen to play Animal Crossing (I might be addicted…but I am nothing if not consistent!) see you all tomorrow :o)