How to make a Roly-poly tiger Stromboli…

Hi All,

Its Monday morning and Steve has just headed off for his foray into the bright lights, city limits of inner Launceston (and surrounds) for another fortnightly shopping trip. Living out in the official “sticks” means that we need to limit our shopping trips and plan a whole lot more carefully than we used to. We have learned how to make all sorts of things that we might otherwise have had to head palm and do without and in the process we have certainly learned the value of life lessons. “Fool me once!” is my hue and cry folks and when we run out of bread or milk, we know how to make our own or we have a handy-dandy substitute (or something in a can or carton that lasts) to fill the need. There are certain things that a body needs that have nothing to do with frugality, planning and forethought. They are everything to do with impromptu spontaneity and are what gives life its tinges of colour, flavour and wonder. In saying that, I now know how to make one of those little life moments that give lasting pleasure for at least 3 days till Steve and the dogs have eaten it all…Behold…the Roly-Poly Tiger Stromboli! A sweet homage to those still warm apple and cinnamon scrolls that could be purchased in the city before the commuters flooded the shops and eaten steaming out of a paper bag on an inner city jaunt with Bezial…life was different then but we can still have our little pleasures, all be they homemade and from a repurposed paper bag…

DSCF2572

What’s this I see here? A small box for Bezial?!

DSCF2573

A small sack of dog biscuits labelled “small dog”?

DSCF2574

Obviously not for Earl, look at the size of that head!

I even have a bowl of vanilla and chocolate icing (frosting for those Northerly persuasion dear constant readers who aren’t out doing yoga or jogging in some gorgeous green forest…) that could have been smeared gloriously over the top of the sweet heady flavour-rich yeasted pastry that we created on Saturday but alas, gilding the lily belongs firmly to Steve and Ms’ Maggie Beer, narf7 has a bit too much of that stolid Germanic simplicity inside her that demands she takes things back to their bare basics and revel in their simplicity so the Roly-Poly tiger Stromboli remains lightly dusted with homemade cinnamon sugar (heavy on the cinnamon) and alluringly always at the ready. This is a time where Steve and I managed to work together to create something magnificent. Magnificent AND positively brimming with possibilities. Neapolitan roasted strawberry Stromboli anyone? How about chocolate and peanut butter Stromboli with a jam and cinnamon centre…Peaches and cream Stromboli with a caramel vanilla crust or even a savoury version with spinach, beetroot and carrot strips or blotches…a never ending stream of happy Stromboli futures rolling off the narf7 press and a very happy Steve (and dogs) to enjoy them. I figure you would all like the recipe and so without any further ado, here are all of the images that we took to accompany the recipe so hopefully, between the text and the images you can all find someplace to call Stromboli home.

DSCF2577

We have our suspicions of just who send this nefarious parcel…we think it might be Qi!

DSCF2578

AND there is a pointed clue in this obvious jibe about Bezial’s girth. Either way, Earl ate them. Bezial wouldn’t be caught dead eating anything for a small fat dog!

Roly-Poly Tiger Stromboli

Note: make the filling first because you want it to be cold when you have to spread it onto the dough and if your filling is at all runny you can drain it off here (like narf7 had to) to ensure your bread isn’t too wet

Aside from the toffee apple ingredients and the dough ingredients you need 1 cup of finely chopped dried dates (or you could use sultanas, currants, mixed dried fruit, chopped dried figs or raisins whatever you like really) and some cinnamon sugar if you want to sprinkle it on top of your Stromboli. It’s really about what YOU like here, we are creating magic folks, magic to YOUR tastes so go nuts with your own flavour potentials and make sure that they appeal to you :o)

For the toffee apple filling: –

2kg Granny Smith apples

125g butter…yes BUTTER folks. It’s delicious, it’s all natural, it’s tasty as all get out and one Stromboli worth of butter is going to pay you back SO much more in sensory delight than an austere 125g of oil or margarine could ever give you. Your choice, but its butter all round on Serendipity Farm. Even the dogs won’t eat margarine here!

1 ½ tsp powdered cinnamon (I use Dutch because that’s all we can get here)

1 tsp powdered dried ginger

½ tsp powdered mixed spice (you can leave this out if you like)

The zest of an orange

½ cup caster sugar (or honey, or golden syrup or agave or Lithuanian guava syrup or whatever sweetener you choose to use, this is all about sensory pleasure folks, the choice is up to you!)

DSCF2654

Approximately 2kg of Granny Smith apples sourced from the orchard down the road

DSCF2659

Peeled, cored and sliced and adorned with the purest gold of some butter. Go on folks, butter IS better. If you are vegan you can use some coconut oil or some vegan butter (there are lots of recipes online just do a search)

Peel your apples and core them and then slice them. Throw them all into a stockpot and add the butter and cook them gently until the apples are just tender. Add the spices, the zest and the sweetener and allow the apples to simmer till the sugar has melted or has at least heated up. Cook until the mix gets nice and thick and if you are worried about overcooking your apple, just remove the apple with a slotted spoon and reduce your syrup down till it is nice and thick and unctuous. Stir the thickened syrup back over the apples and combine. Leave till cool before using.

DSCF2664

Dried dates. These little babies play a big part in narf7’s life. I use them for all kinds of things and am just about to attempt to make some date sugar. I will post about it when I do (unless I forget the dates in the oven and burn the living daylights out of them where you won’t hear about it and I won’t ever talk about it again! 😉 )

Now for the dough: –

2 sachets of active dried yeast, about 8g each

2 tsp. sugar

2 cups divided (1 in each bowl) of plain (all-purpose) flour. I used strong bread flour

The zest of an orange and ½ cup orange juice

3 tbsp. cocoa

½ cup milk (any kind)

¾ cup caster sugar divided (put ½ in each bowl)

½ tsp. salt for each bowl (1 tsp. total)

2 tbsp. olive oil or melted butter (your choice) divided (1 tbsp. in each bowl)

DSCF2677

The 2 separate medium sized bowls with sifted flour and respective ingredients

First get 2 small bowls (with approximately a cup holding capacity) and put a sachet of yeast (or 8g measured) into each bowl. Add the orange juice and 1 tsp. sugar to one bowl and the milk and the last tsp. of sugar to the second bowl. Cover with cling wrap and place in a warm place to allow the yeast to activate. You can tell the yeast is activated when it starts to fluff up. If it doesn’t fluff up after about 15 minutes in a warm place you might need to get some new yeast…go to the shops…buy some new yeast…drive home…do it all over again…now divide the flour (1 cup in each bowl) into 2 medium sized mixing bowls and add the orange zest to the first bowl and sift in the cocoa to the second bowl. Add ½ tsp. salt to each bowl and when the yeast has proofed, add the orange juice yeast mix to the bowl with the orange zesty flour and the milk yeasted mix to the cocoa floury bowl. So far so good! Now you add 1 tbsp. of olive oil or melted butter to each bowl and you start to mix it all together. I use a pastry scraper for this. I have 2 pastry scrapers so technically I use 2. I am ambidextrous with pastry scrapers but I am a one trick pony and that’s about as far as my ambidextrosity goes. If you need to work on one bowl at a time feel free to just cover the other bowl with cling wrap and come back to it once you have mixed and kneaded the dough in the other bowl. Squish it folks, knead it, relieve stress and think about how delicious this creation that you are making will be with a nice hot cup of coffee/tea to reward you at the end of your hours and hours of labour. The dough is quite sticky and you can add a little more flour but don’t add too much. This is rich dough and it needs a degree of elasticity and “stick”. Grease the sides of the bowl (that are usually clean of dough thanks to that tbsp. of oil/butter that you added…BOO-ya!) and using your hands, rub a little olive oil or soft butter onto the top of the dough. Don’t ask me why I do this, I just do. It’s a little narf7 quirk and you can feel free to skip that step. I guess I learned the hard way about dough sticking to cling wrap. This dough won’t get to the top of the bowl (unless you ignored me about the “medium mixing bowl” thing and then you probably deserve to be scraping dough from cling wrap…let’s just consider it a life lesson all for you and be done with it 😉 ). Plonk that gorgeous elastic shiny rich dough back into that MEDIUM SIZED mixing bowl, cover it with cling wrap and place it someplace nice and warm for as long as it takes for the dough to double. I have Brunhilda. I have a bread proofing rack that some wonderful man made for me…It takes about 15 minutes for this step on Serendipity Farm but it could take anywhere up to an hour or so for anyone not so fortunate.

Let’s pause for a breath there. It’s been AGES since I typed a paragraph that long and you are probably gasping for air…take a deep breath because here we go again!…

DSCF2685

Nice risen shiny dough and chopped dates ready to be sprinkled onto the final rectangle of Stromboli dough

Once your dough has doubled and is nice and shiny and glossy remove it from its warm haven and deflate it however you see fit. I just use my fist to lightly depress it, I am an optimist, I don’t like depressing things so I am gentle. After you “lightly depress the dough” you can use the mass of dough to clean the sides of the bowl easily. Less mess to wash up and more dough for your Stromboli. Now comes the maths and physics. You didn’t think that you were going to get out of this just making a recipe did you?! Narf7 needs you all to learn about the magic alchemy of doughy mathematics and here’s your first lesson. Form each dough lump into a rough rectangle and cut it into 3 equal portions. You don’t have to go all weighing on it or anything quite so Germanic (unless you absolutely positively HAVE to…) but try to get them as close to equal as you can by eye. Once you have 6 (3 of each) chunks of dough, roll them into sausages that are about 30cm long and try to make the sausages an even thickness across all down their length. Once you have assembled your 6 sausages it’s time for the fun (no more maths, you can open your eyes now and take your fingers out of your ears and you can stop yelling “I CAN’T HEAR YOU…I CAN’T HEAR YOU” loudly…).

DSCF2692

Cooked apples cooling down ready to be used when they are needed

Take a dough sausage. It doesn’t matter which colour you use, just take 1. I will wait here while you work out which one you want to choose…take a section of baking (parchment) paper approximately 500mm (50cm or ½ metre) long and place your chosen sausage to the left hand side of the baking paper (leaving a bit of a margin. Now place a sausage of the opposite colour about 5cm to the right of the first sausage. Keep going, alternating colours and leaving a roughly 5cm gap between the sausages till you have exhausted your sausage pile and all 6 sausages are placed nice and neatly on your chunk of baking paper. Don’t be terrified by this step, narf7 to the rescue! I knew that some of you might be almost to fainting stage by now so I took a shot (I took about 10, I am not the world’s best photographer and I don’t have the world’s best camera and I really REALLY wanted at least one shot to come out…) of this step to diffuse the fear and the rage…

DSCF2695

Rolled out sausages laid side to side in a rough approximation of a rectangle

There now, that wasn’t so hard was it? Now you have done the hard work. This dough is lovely and stretchy and greasy and unctuous and you could use it to make little rabbits and goldfish and frogs out of if you wanted to but for now we are making Stromboli folks so let’s get back to what you do next with it. You need to end up with a rectangle of dough that sticks together and allows you to encase a flotilla of spice scented caramel toffee apples inside it with minimal leakage. I didn’t just tell you that the dough was easy to work for nothing folks! I had worked this out when making normal Stromboli and tucked it away for future experimentation…consider this the future and here we are messing about with the ability for this dough to stretch and adhere to things easily. Squish your sausages out evenly and carefully so that they start to come together. Try to keep the lines somewhat even but even if you do end up squishing your dough a bit skewwhiff, you can just call it a camouflage Stromboli and be done with it.

DSCF2721

What’s this? THIS isn’t a Roly-Poly Tiger Stromboli?! It most certainly isn’t folks. I am posting these 2 photos as a sort of mental interlude, a chance for you to go to the toilet and have a quick break and to prove that I made this savoury Stromboli at the same time as the Roly-Poly Tiger Stromboli.

DSCF2723

Here you see the topping for the savoury Stromboli (minus the grated cheese and the parmesan). Are you ready to face the Roly-Poly Tiger Stromboli again? If so…carry on…

Now make sure that all of the places where the dough is touching its different coloured brethren are stuck together. Take a few moments to ensure that they are by using your fingers and pressing the dough stripes together down their length. You need this rectangle of dough to stay together because you are going to have to roll it up once the filling is on it and a few extra moments taken here are going to stop you breaking down and sobbing because you’re filling is oozing out of the cracks that you rushed ahead and ignored. Sorry to be all negative there but I am married to king of the rushers and I dare say there are more of you out there in the world that need a little reminding to take things slowly and carefully sometimes…sometimes the turtle wins you know!

DSCF2706

Note it’s not perfect and if narf7 can do it…so can you! This dough is easy to stick together so you shouldn’t have many problems with the different dough’s coming apart.

DSCF2710

This is how you roll the Stromboli using the baking paper to guide it. Its very similar to the technique for rolling sushi so if you haven’t ever made sushi before…you now know how 🙂 Thank me later with a mouthful of sushi heaven.

Now you have a nice stripy, camouflaged (or even blotchy…whatchagonnado?) rectangle of dough ready for your nice cold apple filling. If you forgot to cook your apples first just get some jam, some sultanas, some peanut butter, some lemon curd, SOMETHING to spread over the rectangle or even just cinnamon sugar. There are NO losers here folks! If you DID remember to make the apple mix first, now is the time to get it ready to spread. Sprinkle the dates over the rectangle leaving a 5cm minimum border all around the outside of the rectangle. Now evenly distribute your apples (possibly drained if like narf7 you ended up with slightly runny caramel) over the top of the dates and when you have them spread over it’s time to start rolling up your Stromboli. Starting the wide end of your rectangle of baking paper (parchment) directly in front of you, pick up the edges with both hands and start to coax the stripy rectangle (I am being positive here folks…I am assuming you managed to make stripes…) away from you and towards the far side of the baking paper (parchment). I even took a photo (well Steve did…note how much better the photo is 😉 ) to show you how so don’t panic, just look at the photo :o)

DSCF2713

Take note Christi, I have been very careful to try not to wash the label off this jar. I use it for cinnamon sugar which is going to be used to sprinkle the top of the Roly-Poly Tiger Stromboli

Now you have rolled up your Stromboli you need to squeeze the wide side together. The trick is to tuck in the filling and make sure you have plenty of dough left without filling on to stick the roll to. As I said before, this dough is very forgiving and will give you a fair bit of leeway and stretch but in saying that, it will tear if you stretch it too far. You can always take a bit of dough from the side bits as you always end up with a portion of unfilled “end” on either side…a handy observation…just in case. Now, once you have the side tucked in, you need to tuck in the ends. Hopefully you’re Stromboli somewhat resembles this delightful stripy slug here…

DSCF2711

What a cute little stripy slug 🙂

DSCF2735

The same cute little stripy slug after being baked and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar

If it doesn’t and it is causing you grief, try pulling it round into a circle…you can pretend you made a Swedish tea bread…no-one else will know…none of us are going to tell…”ARE WE!” Now you get to sprinkle over that optional cinnamon sugar. Feel free to omit it if you like. Carry your stripy slug (on its baking paper and on a baking tray of course!) over to your 180C oven and place reverently inside and bake approximately 20 – 45 minutes (depending on your oven) till risen and lightly browned and headily perfumed. Remove with equal reverence from the oven and leave on the tray to cool. Slice and eat…eat with coffee or tea, eat with cream or ice-cream, and eat with both hands, with friends and family or alone (where you could technically just start at one end and be done with it folks!). Enjoy what you just created because the world can be going to hell in a hand basket out there but you just made a Roly-Poly Tiger Stromboli of happiness and possibility and that…THAT is an accomplishment! A little triumph amongst the angst and anguish and something for you to be proud of today. It certainly made me a happy little narf7 camper and Steve is still beaming as he cuts slice after delicious slice. A note to all lily gilders out there…this would be delicious slathered in a rich vanilla or chocolate icing, ganache or even a nice thin glaze. Do with it what you will, I gift it to the world :o)

DSCF2739

Lets cut this baby and see what we just made…

DSCF2745

How yummy does this look? 🙂

DSCF2746

Steve cut himself a nice big slice to test for you all…don’t thank him, he had to force himself…

DSCF2751

And this is what you should end up with…a nice slab of delicious chocolate orange sweet Stromboli. You can add the thickened cream if you like or slather it with the spread of your choice (I bet this would be delicious with avocado…). You can top it with icing or you can leave it plain. It’s your baby now…go and deliver it into your waiting hands 🙂

hobos

Have you ever heard of “BoHo” style? Steve and I have decided to start our own trend…we are touting the “HoBo” look here…just in case any of you are fashion conscious, this look will be big in Italy this year. Here we are just about to set out in the frigid mini-Antarctica that has been Sidmouth Tasmania of late. No rain… just frost and cold and Brunhilda doing a sterling job to keep us toasty warm inside but the truth of the matter is that we have to go outside at least once a day to walk these 2. Without a walk, that red and white one will eat the furniture. I like the furniture. We walk him

DSCF2754

Just to prove to you that yes, we DO actually go out dressed like this and no, I don’t keep my cupboards in pristine condition and Bezial is a robot and Earl can actually “sit” on the rare occasion when he feels like it. What are you all doing still looking at we hobos? You should be off rattling pots and pans and starting your very own Stromboli of great happiness 🙂

Advertisements

Anzac Day lest I forgot

Hi All,

How odd?! I find myself sitting here at 3.13pm on a Sunday with no dogs noses demanding anything (they have already had their tea…), Steve is tucked up watching something actually worth watching on the television and I cooked him a delicious chicken curry from scratch last night so he wants the second half of it for his tea tonight so all I have to cook tonight is a bit of steamed rice to accompany it. I made 24 Anzac biscuits today…I like to think of them as “Résistance Biscuits”…never one to be mainstream if I have a choice folks, I am aligning them with the French Resistance because “Resistance is futile” when it comes to not eating them. Today’s batch deviated from the recipe that I found on the Aussie recipe website “Taste”…here’s how it started out…

http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/21104/anzac+biscuits

DSCF0964

The first batch of biscuits was a teensy bit über crunchy and so I baked the second batch a little less. The tartlet case was baked only till it was set because I didn’t want it to be too hard to cut when Steve was eating it later in the day

Nice and easy…a good recipe to send to the troops by savvy and canny Aussie housewives who didn’t want their menfolk to have to eat soggy or mouldy treats. The secret is the golden syrup that sets them nice and crispy and crunchy and as I had decided to make “biscuits” today Steve said “what about making Anzac’s? After all…it IS just about Anzac Day isn’t it?”…Bugger…the Pom remembered and I didn’t…my patriotic father would be spinning in his grave! My family has a very strong tradition with Anzac Day in many different ways and so Anzac biscuits (as penance along with a bit of self-flagellation in the privacy of the shed, Frank has suffered enough! 😉 ) were my saving grace. I also forgot my sisters 48th birthday yesterday. “SORRY PINKY!” I made you a nice card in Photoshop and you can consider some of that shed flagellation penance as yours ok? 😉

DSCF0965

A close up of the leftover Anzac biscuit dough pressed into a small individual tart pan and baked

Of COURSE my Anzac biscuits were not the same as the recipe. Nothing to do with pretention mind you, I could care less about elevating my recipes by cramming them full of super foods and strange overpriced ingredients. I would rather source something locally that would do the trick thank you! The reason for the swapsies was that this little black duck had run out of golden syrup :o(…I had also run out of coconut…now coconut and golden syrup MAKE Anzac biscuits so what was I going to do to save the day? First I remembered a pot of strange Chinese malty stuff that resembles almost set toffee in my pantry. I bought it back when I lived in Western Australia on one of our jaunts from the south up to Perth the capital city and our favourite place to go hunting for interesting ethnic ingredients. I bought it…I opened it…I looked at it…I tasted it…I forgodaboudit. It wasn’t that there was anything predominately “wrong” with it; it was just bland and stiff, sort of like über thick glucose on steroids. I figured that it would approximate the desired effect of golden syrup and after wrestling an approximation of 2 tbs of it out of the tub I forced the lid back on and hid it at the back of the pantry where it will probably stay till the next time I need golden syrup.

DSCF0974

The finished desert full of sticky toffee apple pieces cooked in a vanilla butter toffee sauce. Steve said it was lovely. The only thing missing was a great big dollop of thick whipped cream 😉

Coconut was harder…I then remembered that I HAD coconut flour! I had made homemade coconut milk and had dehydrated the resulting pulp and had jars of the stuff languishing on my pantry shelves! I tossed a cupful of it into the mix and crossed my fingers that the recipe would work. I mixed the bicarb soda and water and was assured that I had to remove the melted butter and pseudo golden syrup from the heat as it would fizz up majestically once the bicarb was added… I was expecting Vesuvius and removed the small saucepan away to the sink where I dumped the bicarb and water mix into the pan and cringed…nothing happened. Not even a pathetic “bloop”… I mixed everything together and then rolled the sticky mass into tablespoon sized balls and squished them down onto a baking paper (fool me once!) lined baking tray and after the prescribed time in the oven they emerged brown, über crisp and a complete success!

DSCF0954

This was the dog door prior to today. As you can see it had developed a curious coating of “filth” over the top of that wonderful silver colour that Steve found in the shed. Note the fluffy bathrobe…apparently “Earlvis has left the building” 😉

DSCF1009

Behold…the new dog door! Steve made it bigger so that Bezial doesn’t have to do the limbo when exiting and we don’t have to keep getting up to open up the sliding door at night time when he thinks he senses a possum invading his personal space

Steve was most pleased. Steve is a grazer and likes to open the fridge and cut a bit off “something” to walk around with in his hand…he likes to open a lid and extract another “something”, he loves nothing more than 1 ½ cheese sandwiches at odd times of the day smothered in the latest condiment of his choice wrestled from the fridge. Cold butter is the bane of this man’s life ;). The ability to walk past the newly instated biscuit barrel, do a double take and walk back…followed by a furtive lid lifting and extraction moment will give him endless pleasure. I have promised to ensure that the newly instated biscuit barrel remains half full at all times. I am on a baking jag and that won’t be hard. I found a recipe for chocolate sourdough biscuits (that would be “cookies” to you Northern folk) that I want to try so I might just fill up the biscuit barrel tomorrow and whenever I notice the level falling below half I can bake another batch of biscuits to ensure the barrels “never-ending” status.

DSCF1012

Here’s the new dog door in situ. Note the “Not A Barn” sign…you saw it? Steve doesn’t …sigh…

DSCF1013

Bezial showing his willingness to exit the dog door (at least in the daytime when it’s not all that cold outside…)

I have been threatening to adopt a Biafran…to go doorknocking to deliver baskets of goodies that I want to bake. I want to get stuck into perfecting a really good loaf of sourdough so that I can regularly turn out something both presentable AND delicious. Not a whole lot to ask is it? I think it’s time to get into the neighbours good books and start dropping off fresh baked loaves of bread and home baked treats. I love to experiment and as Steve so succinctly put it the other day “I can only eat so much, I am only 1 man!” When my recipe wanderlust sets in it’s hard to get it to stop. The freezer is full to the brim of lasagne, chilli, pasties, calzone and lots of individually portioned soup (my food of choice for my evening meal) and can’t handle anything more. This happens to me occasionally. I think the cold weather brings out a primal need to nest and my baking up a storm seems to be linked to that desire.

DSCF0957

Here’s a cute shot of Earl for all of his multiple fans around the globe…

DSCF0958

And here’s Earl thinking “I’m SURE celebrities get something for all of this posing!”

Did you notice that I have started splitting my posts up into MUCH smaller paragraphs? You can thank the wonderful wordstress “Thinking Cowgirl” for that. She reminded me that I am actually typing for an audience here and not just to vent my muses. She has a wonderful blog that you can check out here…

http://thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com/

Her latest post on Baroness Thatcher’s demise really got me thinking. We got most of Ms Thatcher’s thrashed and broken union leaders who came out to the Antipodes to lick their wounds. No matter what you thought about the woman, she certainly knew how to scare people! This cowgirl knows how to write…her style captivated me from the very first post that I read and I wouldn’t miss a post now. I like to hoard them, like Mr 23 Thorn’s posts, and savour them over a nice big mug of tea when I haven’t got anything else to detract from the wonderful flavours that these wordy alchemists are able to infuse their posts with.

DSCF0998

We went to Launceston yesterday after visiting our friend in the witness protection and took a few photos for our course while we were there. This beautiful old Acer vitifolium caught my eye and I decided to share it with you

DSCF1002

I love Boston Ivy/Parthenocissus tricuspidata (or Virginia Creeper as mum used to call it). It’s a very useful plant for covering up unattractive areas and it turns the most glorious colours in autumn each year.

Words are beautiful folks. If you can weave them into something that can reach out and grab the attention of a complete stranger and carry them halfway around the world and enlighten them with your common condition you have something special at your fingertips. You ALL owe her a huge “thank you Thinking Cowgirl” because now you don’t have to stick a piece of chewing gum onto your monitor if you get interrupted when reading a Serendipity Farm blog post ;). Now if I can only learn to harness my muses for good who knows what I could do? Just thinking…it might be best to let sleeping dogs lie! 😉

DSCF1005

An interesting number plate that we noticed on our walk with the boys in town. This one is from my home state of Western Australia (3886.8km or 2415.14555 miles away from Launceston for those of you who aren’t sure of the translation). We were curious to see this obvious “work vehicle” parked in a leafy suburb in Launceston Tasmania… when the driver gets home do you think he will have some “splainin’ to do?” 😉

I am going to backtrack to where I told you that I made 24 Anzac biscuits and add “and I had some mix left over”. I could have made another 4 biscuits but I decided to get creative. I filled a small individual round flan tin with the mix and pressed it into the tin. I then baked the mix but not to crunchy brownness because I didn’t want Steve to chip his teeth on what was “supposed” to be a dessert treat! I then cooked some of my traditional “toffee apple apples” by peeling and slicing them and tossing them gently in butter and spices (in this case cinnamon, mixed spice and a pinch of ground ginger) and cooking them until tender and then adding about ¼ of a cup of sugar. I did this to make a sort of sticky toffee sauce that you could replicate with rapadura or coconut sugar or even honey if you wanted. After removing the caramelised mix from the heat and cooling a little I added some vanilla and then heaped the mix into the flan tin. I then made some vanilla custard and Steve got dessert, a rare but most welcome event

DSCF0961

Bezial just demanded to get in on the “cute” action as well…he says he is every bit as cute as Earl but without the chicken plucking capabilities

Well we made it through Monday and we collected some wood. We also made a plan to tidy up the driveway (at least the bits you can see) and haul off the brushwood that is littering the area to burn or to stockpile somewhere less visible. Half of what makes a “lovely garden” is what you see; it’s a pity that most “lovely gardens” are so maintenance intensive folks! The best thing for the garden, a “natural” garden, is to let everything stay where it drops. Let the wood lay there, the leaves, let the chooks scratch and dig and let the fungus grow. Your garden will look like utter shite BUT it will be a happy garden :o). Is there a happy medium? Apparently there is. I have seen them. Gorgeous green gardens full of fecundity and health…permaculture paradises that make Serendipity Farm look like something that slithered directly from the surface of Mars. Do I know how to turn Serendipity Farm into something approximating these gorgeous vistas? Nope. I have all of that horticultural “stuff” crammed inside my head…so does Steve…but we found ourselves wanting to take the easy way out and just “BURN THE LOT” when it came to brushwood and fallen branches and Steve did the WORST cut with his chainsaw on a poor tree resulting in a massive branch bark tear…time to send that Chainsaw license back methinks Steve!

DSCF1003

We live in a very pretty state (I DO feel sorry for that poor woman lugging her groceries up that steep pathway though 😉 )

What is it about “stuff” that you have crammed in your head that makes it SO difficult to get it to translate out into the real world? What do these magic green fingered permaculturalists have that we don’t? Is it because we are lazy middle aged sloths? Most probably. I dare say the vim, vigour and verve of some of these idealistic creative people would make me tired just to be in their presence. I am a bit like Garfield…I occasionally have to curl up and fall asleep in a sunbeam. These people put in dawn to dusk hours and the results speak for themselves. Steve and I wander around our “garden” hand in hand in hope that the fear that rises whenever we venture from inside the house will somehow abate if there are two of us sharing it… it doesn’t. Everywhere we turn there is something else to do and sometimes it is as much as we can do to just go outside!

DSCF1006

Most of the older houses in Launceston have these lovely old balconies and stained glass windows. I love the eclectic mix of styles that has evolved over the years and am not sad that we moved to this pretty part of the state 🙂

I have vision…I have all kinds of PDF’s and word documents and friends online who can give me ideas and help and hope but that all amounts to sweet bugger all if we don’t take all of that wonderful “stuff” and use it…”DO” it. We look at each other sometimes like we are both thinking “paper, rock, scissors…YOU DO IT!” but it needs both of us to work together and I can’t help thinking that there is some kind of life lesson here. We are at least planning the work and I guess that is a start but Steve and I take dragging our feet to a new level. I guess we just have to keep our eyes on the big picture and not the nitty-gritty stuff that we have to do to get there. The initial start-up capital in a permaculture garden and food forest is the work that you have to do to observe, to plan, to implement and to work out how you are going to do what you want to do with your property. Part of the problem is that we have to do what we can with a very small budget. One could almost say a minuscule budget. What the hell, “No budget at all folks!” This results in a lot of frustration and a lot of invention. In the process we learn a lot and you can’t really ask for more than that…aside from a ready-made permaculture garden and food forest I guess 😉

park1

This is a HDR rendered image. Please don’t ask me what that means. The net was down this morning and I couldn’t find out so you might have to do a bit of detective work yourself on this one. All I know is that you end up with something a whole lot brighter than the original 3 photos that you use to compile the shot, you have to take a normal an underexposed and an overexposed photo using a tripod so that you don’t get any movement and then Photoshop does its magic on them and turns them into this.

We are off to our friend in the witness protections home today for a visit. We hermitage dwellers very rarely deal with humankind. Aside from blogging and sharing online, I probably go to town once in a blue moon…make that every second blue moon but today we visit and we talk garden and we reinvigorate ourselves and our friend back into all things horticulture. It’s a kind of tribal thing. You start to lose perspective and purpose and one or other of us pulls in the reigns. This time our friend wants to start making some spiral gardens. She is a victim of Tassie’s treacherous native animals as much as we are but add rabbits and bush rats into the equation and even her unmitigated optimism is starting to flag. She no sooner plants things than they get eaten. She has been growing hardy pentstemons on her property for years. NOTHING touches them folks. They must be poison on a stick for these creatures because they will scarf potato and rhubarb leaves with glee and live to tell the tale. She bought a lovely white pentstemon and low and behold, it got scarfed! It gets hard to keep yourself buoyed when you read other people saying “just plant LOTS of things” and you know that if you do that, you are going to have lots of sticks in the ground :o(. Everything has to be fenced off or protected in some way or it gets inhaled and digested by something out there.

old church

This looks a whole lot like photos that were hand painted in the early part of the 20th century.

Today we regroup…if only to revive our flagging spirits and pass on some info on keyhole gardens, spiral gardens and other permaculture processes to take our mind off our dry dead stick gardens. After a couple of cups of tea anything is possible! I might take a bit of my latest sourdough carrot cake with chocolate icing for her and we can plot our plans of our own little world’s domination. “We are the top of the food chain damnit! We DEMAND you stop eating our plants!”… Yeah… that’ll work! ;). After we visit our friend we will head into Launceston. We will drop off some eggplants and dehydrated bananas for our daughters. Dehydrated bananas are THE BOMB people. They look like something that Earl just deposited high in a shrub (he is weird with where he will “deposit”…) but taste like heaven. After Steve picks up some thick dowel from the shed in town, we will head to the city and will take some photos of “stuff” for our course. I will hold (read get dragged around the park Willy-nilly by…) the boys while Steve sets up the tripod and camera. After that we head off to Bunning’s (hardware heaven to you Northerner’s…) to pick up some plywood to make a better dog door. Bezial is having problems going through our limbo inducing door and we are tired of getting up and opening up the sliding doors onto the deck for him to go out and join Earl in his nightly forays into possum heckling.

townhouse

This last HDR shot really shows you the dramatic look you can get when you use this technique. It looks more painted than real and I really quite like how it looks. What do you think?

I have been promised the lure of a few thrift shop hunts if I hold the dogs in the park (you can read me SO well Stevey boy! 😉 ) and after we tussle our way around the city with two very boisterous country dogs hell bent on peeing on every single lamppost, phone booth, sign, traffic light and anything else that stands still long enough to be considered as a perfect place to scribble “Earl woz ere’” in pee… we will allow them to drag us back to the car and will head home. I have 2 mature coconuts to crack and deal with. Not sure what I am going to do with them but Steve bought them for me on shopping day and I will probably make some coconut kefir out of them. I want to try souring some cream with kefir for making Steve nachos. I am drinking my second fermented date sweetened alcoholic non-dairy milk kefir daily now. It’s great stuff! Who’d-a thunk that chickpeas could be milked let along turned into kefir? The curious thing is that rather than curling up their little brainiac like curds and croaking in the weird things I am trying to culture them in, Kid Creole’s coconuts are thriving and breeding exponentially! What have I done! I am starting to feel like Frankenstein with his monsters…how far can a vegan go before she is entering territory too strange for even we crazy plant based fools?!

DSCF4022

(Bugger…I just ran out of photos for this post…do you think they will notice I am using an old photo? Did I mention that a possum ate all of the foliage off that lovely begonia? Do they know that I gave that leather chair to the girls? Can they see a slightly more rotund me taking a photo of herself accidentally in the kitchen window? Nah… I think I got away with it 😉 )

It’s just hit 6am. Time to wrap this post up for the press tomorrow. Are they easier to read divided up into smaller paragraphs? I hope so ;). I am only here because my RSS Feed Reader threw a tantrum and decided not to work from 5am onwards so I am taking advantage of my spare time and value adding it. See you all on Saturday folks…hopefully you spring living folk in the North can post something other than salads and smoothies for us poor autumn dwelling folk here in the South ;). See you then :o)

m-sketti_ketchup_butter_1-3-460x690

http://www.notquitenigella.com/2012/11/02/sketti-with-buttered-ketchup/

I am driving this image like I stole it alright? I didn’t have time to make a batch of sketti and butter BUT this wonderful lady did! Not only did she make this fine upstanding recipe but she wrote a post about it AND she is a food snob! Go check out her wonderful post (not that I did but hey…I owe her SOMETHING for the lend of her photo!) and marvel at how delicious 2 meals for $4 can look…Steve…you have a foodie future 😉 now I just need to find Honey Boo-boo’s mum June’s email address and beg forgiveness for pinching her families secret recipe…

Just a very quick post script here…Steve wants to add something to the post. He was watching Curtis Stone who shamelessly went to the U.S. and traded on his “Aussieness” to get himself a television show and is now back in Australia flogging Coles supermarket and his “feed your family for under $10 a meal” deal. Steve says that anyone out there who needs to fill up on less than $3 to feed the family should use his “Skettie” recipe that he borrowed from Honey Boo-boo’s mum June a few posts ago. He also says that the first “Skettie” meal would cost you $3. The second one you would only have to pay $1 for the packet of pasta as you would still have half a bottle of tomato sauce and half a container of margarine left. That’s 2 meals for $4 Curtis…Steve says “BEAT THAT!” 😉 Just a note to Woolworths…Steve is waiting for your call…

Damn the man!

Hi All,

I DID IT! It might have taken me 6 months but I DID IT! I damned the man. 6 months ago to the day, I barely blearily woke up assured that Daylight Savings wasn’t going to make me its biotch ever again. No longer would I stagger from my bed in October in a rough approximation of jetlagged for the next fortnight till I got used to having a precious hour of my day removed surgically by the nefarious powers that be, I would wake up an hour earlier AND I would hit Daylight Savings running…but then my ever inquisitive questing mind realised that this would be a pattern that would repeat itself and that I would just slide back into absorbing that extra hour come the end of Daylight Savings in April… how was I going to prevent this happening. You have to go back into the ether 6 months ago to see how very different my life was then…you have to imagine that wibbley wobbly cutaway scene that they are able to recreate on telly but that I seem to be having difficulty reproducing here in my post so it’s up to you guys to wibble and wobble ok? Righto, back to the story folks! 6 months ago I was a night person. I stayed up regularly till 1am reading, watching television and generally inhabiting the night. My mornings were a study in grouchiness and Steve was always up before me proffering my first (bucket) mug of tea with shaky hands and the scene was set with Steve, fully dressed and raring to go, both dogs twitching with anticipatory excitement at their prospective walk and me, stubbornly clinging to the bedclothes and my teacup in a vain effort to stay in bed…I grumbled…I complained, I muttered my way into my mornings with my ears pinned back in warning to ANYONE foolish enough to talk to me or even look in my approximate direction. I was a morning harpy folks! A full month before Daylight Savings was going to hit us I decided to get up slightly earlier to adapt to the full hour that Daylight Savings was going to steal from me. I started with setting the alarm clock 15 minutes earlier each week and by the time Daylight Savings hit, I was ready for it and it didn’t render me apoplectic and staggering like every year prior. Not THIS little black duck! I was bright eyed and bushy tailed and when I realised that there might just be a problem at the other end of Daylight Savings I just decided that if I could adapt to 6am…why the heck couldn’t I adapt to 5am? Now for me, this was tantamount to crazy land. I hadn’t seen 5am aside from the start of long trips and 5am wasn’t a time, it was a beginning…

DSCF0435

“Err…excuse me…someone appears to have forgotten to leave the gate open, do you think you could do me a favour and just open it up?…please?…pretty please?…”

DSCF0446

“I KNOW you aren’t going to leave me alone till you take a photo so just take it and bugger off!”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Steve’s collection of twang (note the inclusion of a banjo so that we can blend in with the local’s if we ever need to 😉 )

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The invaders are coming to deliver a telephone mast to the other side of the river…”GET THE TIN FOIL STEVE!” 😉

After adjusting my brain to 5am and realising that there were so many possibilities with waking up at this ungodly hour, I started to wake up even earlier. In 6 months I have gone from a night person who shunned mornings to a very early morning person who went to bed at 7pm last night. Once you set yourself on the pathway to changing your habits you never know how much it is going to change your life. In the past 6 months I have managed to totally change my days and nights (although I don’t really know what happens at night anymore because I am fast asleep!). I went from having a degree of insomnia where I would lay awake worrying about the state of the world to being unable to prevent sleep and having no problems staying asleep. I went from someone who hated walking the dogs and exercise in general to someone who is out the front of the walk and eager to carry on. I went from bordering on obese to “ideal weight” with very little effort and you know what? I think it all came from that initial desire to damn the man and make a tiny positive change in my days. There is a Bupa health fund ad where people see their future healthier and fitter selves and that’s what I am doing today. If it wasn’t for my bolshie desire to bugger up Daylight Savings and remove its tentacle hold on my life, I wouldn’t be the vibrantly buzzing healthy specimen of early morning happiness and possibilities that I am today. One tiny little stubborn desire has entirely changed my ethos and my way of life.  I wonder what other tiny little changes could predominately effect our lifestyles? If something as simple as waking up 15 minutes earlier in my day could deliver this sort of massive change, what else could I start with by just putting my feet on a new pathway?

DSCF0393

Talking about a new pathway…this is a Stromboli. A Stromboli is Steve’s latest favourite food. This one consists of some homemade pizza dough (with the inclusion of mixed herbs, chilli flakes and home grown, dehydrated and powdered tomato) and cabanossi sausage made by Nige our local butcher at “Nigel’s on Tamar” (do I get some free meat Nige? 😉 ), bacon, home grown sliced last of the season tomatoes, thin sliced local grown onions and a mix of grated parmesan and cheddar.

DSCF0396

Once you top the Stromboli, you need to roll it reasonably tightly

DSCF0398

Next you need to cut the Stromboli midway through with a serrated bread knife

DSCF0399

Put your Stromboli, along with the baking parchment you SO cleverly rolled it up on to prevent having to do washing up onto a baking sheet

I got a request for sharing a recipe for those baked spring rolls that I shared a photo of in the comments section of my last post so here is my recipe. Steve and I customised it to be healthier than regular deep fried spring rolls because Steve isn’t a fan of anything deep fried (I, on the other hand, LOVE deep fried anything and that, my dear constant readers, is why I had trouble fitting through doors in a past life 😉 ) and although baked spring rolls need to be served up and eaten pretty much straight away to maintain their crunch, you can be smug and satisfied that you get pretty much the same taste with a whole lot less fat and a lot more nutrition…

Homemade baked spring rolls

1 packet of spring roll wrappers (usually 20 in a pack). We get ours from Coles as they are the only reasonably priced option in Tasmania but feel free to get yours anywhere you want to

A large quarter of a cabbage finely shredded

6 large carrots grated (the longest part of this equation)

1 egg (I don’t eat these spring rolls anymore and the egg binds the filling and reduces any liquid that would make the rolls soggy)

2 packets of MI Goreng (ramen) noodles along with their seasoning packs OR if you are being über healthy, sub veggie stock powder (Massell is the BEST and is Aussie made :o) ) cook the noodles according to the packet, drain them and chop them finely with scissors and reserve the seasoning packs to add to the main mix or you could just add some dried Chinese noodles of your choice. We used to add rice vermicelli and that worked amazing well so it really is up to you :o)

You can add finely chopped capsicum, mung bean sprouts, finely chopped cooked mushroom (to remove excess moisture) and just about any other vegetable or Chinese add (we have previously used soaked dried wood ear fungus and white fungus to great advantage) in that you like at this point but we usually just use cabbage and carrot and the results are yummy

We add some form of protein. Steve likes finely diced chicken cooked with some chilli flakes and I used to have firm tofu but you can add diced up cooked omelette, bacon, any finely diced lightly fried meat, prawns, anything really and you only need about a cup of finely diced protein in total for 20 large spring rolls

Then comes the seasonings. I use lots of oyster sauce (for Steve), Thai chilli sauce, yellow American style mustard, a squirt of toasted sesame oil, lots of crushed garlic (about 7 cloves) and an equal quantity of crushed fresh or jarred ginger, a couple of squirts of Worcestershire Sauce and we add a couple of teaspoons of dried chilli flakes but we love hot food so I would suggest a little sprinkle if you aren’t sure as you already have chilli in the sauce (depending on how hot it
is). Steve likes pepper added and I used more of the Massell veggie stock powder (sub whatever stock powder you fancy to your heart’s content) and feel free to add any other favourite condiment to your batch that takes your fancy. It’s all about customising to your own personal tastes here…that’s what makes these delicious and what makes “homemade” the best.

Mix the entire mass together with clean hands. It’s therapeutic to be up to your elbows in Chinese food. Once you have an even distribution of sauce through the shredded/grated veggies you can start making the rolls. Open your packet of spring roll wrappers and keep a clean tea-towel over the packet to keep them from drying out as you work. I am pretty quick at rolling up a batch of 20 but I have had a lot of practice over the years. Here’s a great tutorial to show you how to roll them up…

http://www.steamykitchen.com/22276-chinese-spring-rolls-with-chicken-recipe.html

She also talks about draining off the liquid to prevent soggy spring rolls. Liquid is an antagonist to a spring roll and keeping the filling reasonably dry is especially important with baked spring rolls. This tutorial makes small spring rolls…yours are going to be big spring rolls but the rolling method is the same and feel free to go ahead and deep fry them if you fancy. The process is the same BUT we like to brush ours with olive or rice bran oil and bake them till they are crisp and golden brown. Either way you end up with something full of flavour, absolutely addictive and you don’t have to pay by the roll. Very economical and much tastier than what you can buy from the supermarket or most food vendors. Give it a go, if you like Asian food (who doesn’t?!) you are going to love these :o)

YUM just found another pictorial tutorial with a completely delicious looking recipe for more spring rolls. Remember, it’s all about customising them to your own personal taste and when you are eating a plate piled high with your own personal favourite flavours you can smugly damn the man all over again!

http://shesimmers.com/2011/06/fried-spring-rolls-po-pia-tod-html

DSCF0404

This is what the cooked Stromboli should look like. I didn’t include a photo of Steve as he was drooling too much to be anywhere near presentable enough for a photo 😉

DSCF0408

Cut crosswise into chunklets just like you would with a Swiss roll and eat…eat a lot…eat too much of it and there will STILL be enough left over to satisfy your appetite the night after with some home baked homemade oven wedges 🙂

DSCF0417

I forgot I had this casserole dish…I picked it up for $2 from a local thrift shop because it didn’t have a lid. How many times do I need a lid? Not many! This is a shepherds pie topped with a mountain of riced cooked potato. Ricing the spuds keep them separate and make a lovely crisp topping.

DSCF0382

I am still getting zucchini’s and a trickle of tomatoes and these are the very first of our ripened jalapeno chillies along with “something” curious that tends to invade most of my photos these days 😉

I am sitting here quietly on Tuesday morning tapping away with “eau de rotting kangaroo carcass” wafting through the air. The decomposing large roo that is about 20ft from the back door is starting to attract more than flies and crows and its wonderful aroma is starting to permeate more than it’s immediate proximity. The native wildlife has done it pretty tough this year and after a couple of bumper seasons, the bushfires that removed a lot of their grazing territory and the long, hot, extremely dry summer that we just had has resulted in a lot of animal deaths. Tasmania is the Aussie home of road kill, thanks to its cooler conditions and larger proportion of vegetation. The animals have been forced to eat pretty much anything this year and my guess is that our kangaroo friend up the back is the culprit who has been eating all of the potato leaves and rhubarb leaves and his toxin tolerance just hit zero. Steve had to take an impromptu trip into town because when we got back from walking the dogs our daughters phoned up to tell us that the hot water tap in the kitchen decided to turn itself on permanently last night and they had to turn the water off at the mains (at least they now KNOW where the mains is 😉 ). Steve was expecting a major job but $15 for a tap and a few extras and about the same amount of minute’s worth of work resulted in job done and happy campers all round. Steve thought that his midday adventures pootling around in the Mumbly Cumumbus were going to be extinguished but now they are back on the cards. I just finished my wireframe drawing of my poster, the final part of my assessment that needs to be submitted on Monday and have the rest of the week to put in a concerted effort to reduce my RSS Feed Reader and to plan our veggie garden that we will be starting on quite soon. I am hoping to convince Steve that our small orchard could do with enclosing fully at the same time so that we can prune the poor long suffering possum playgrounds and perhaps get some fruit next year.

DSCF0410

Proof…Irrefutable PROOF that Flares ARE coming back man!

DSCF0414

And the foolishness continues…Just in case anyone wanted to know what colour our kitchen was 😉

DSCF0429

This is a Schacht Inkle Loom. I bought it for $5 from the year before last’s HUGE progressive garage sale that spans 15km along the Tamar River and is our favourite event on the yearly calendar. I have NO idea how to use it so any clever clogs out there who know about weaving (you KNOW who you are 😉 ) can tell me whether it is something I should/could be bothering with or whether I should just let Earl eat it like he has been trying to do for a year and a half

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Mumbly Cumumbus just in from Steve’s latest “pootling” event on the river. He actually caught 2 flathead (fish) and the dogs got both of them… well Bezial got both of them as Earl was suspicious of Steve’s intentions and wasn’t going to eat the fish in case it negated us giving him large quantities of steak. Bezial would live on fresh fish if he could 🙂

I am starting to get excited about the prospects of being able to garden with impunity. To be able to plant things that nothing can get (aside from the insects but their predatory grubby friends can deal with them). In preparation for the garden I have been thinking about where to find lots of bulk to fill the prospective garden beds for free or at least as cheaply as possible. My idea is to use keyhole gardens (cheers YBert 😉 ) coupled with a lot of vertical action to gain the maximum amount of growing space. I found some Jerusalem artichokes growing on the road verge this morning and managed to procure a couple of them to plant out in one of my compost bins till I can sort out a corner of Serendipity Farm for them to live happily in and spread to their hearts content. I have visions of both Jerusalem and globe artichokes growing all over the place and if winter ever comes I have visions of spending long wet hours cuddled up near Brunhilda with the laptop, an excel spread sheet (Jess already beat me to it 😉 ) and my permaculture and food forest spidey senses tingling with the research possibilities. I love a good researching event and finding the right perennials, shrubs and trees to deliver food for our series of endemic conditions on Serendipity Farm is a wonderful challenge that I am up for. Permaculture gives us that option. It gives us a new way of looking at our problems and allows us to use our problems to form solutions. What might initially seem like a bit pain in the derrière can be twirled around till it’s good points are facing frontwards. Rocks in the ground? Dig them up and use them to make raised garden beds…Dry conditions causing you growing problems? Store water any way that you can through winter and use it on your gardens when the dry weather hits and use clever gardening tricks like mass planting, mulching, trickle irrigation, choosing food crops and plants that grow in arid conditions and you can bypass a lot of problems. There is ALWAYS  a solution…it’s just up to us to look for the answer and sometimes what you are trying to solve might not be the real problem. My Jerusalem artichokes come with a “you will NEVER be rid of them!” warning. I don’t want to be rid of them. I want food that will grow itself without too much effort. I want to be able to have food all over Serendipity Farm eventually, not just zone 1, but everywhere. I have a vision of fecundity and production and an eventual harmony/equilibrium of cycles on Serendipity Farm that fills me with a sense of hope and happiness. It’s often how you choose to look at things that gives you answers and I like to turn things around a whole lot and look at the bits that other people tend to shun…I’m a bit strange like that 😉

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Another lovely day on the river

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Steve’s aquatic companions

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Deviot Yacht Club from the river. You can see the deciduous trees starting to colour up nicely

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Some of the houses in Deviot that span the riverbank

Well I am back to normal. I am just about to finish this post off as somewhat less than a novella but definitely more than a quick read over a 5 minute tea break. I hope that all of my dear constant readers are beavering away in their respective changeling seasons between the wet and the dry and vice versa. Spring and autumn are definitely bridging seasons and whatever you are trying to achieve this year, I hope that you get it at least started before the heat of summer or the cold and wet of winter sets in for the long haul. Have a great rest of your week and see you on the weekend, rested and ready to rumble :o)

The 1 1/2 hour duck and Steve Solomon reads our soily tea leaves

Hi All

Now that the sap in my brain is flowing at an equal rate to that of the plant community on Serendipity Farm I am hurling myself into a new phase. I am researching cool climate permaculture at night and in the day, Steve and I are venturing out into the sodden soggy wasteland that we call home with new eyes on. No more overwhelmed city slickers for us! Its year 3 on Serendipity Farm and we have learned to combine our studies with our ultimate reason for being here, our desire to change Serendipity Farm for the better. Procrastination stops action and is the scourge of our generation where change seems to be ramping itself up on a daily basis and it’s wonderful to immerse ourselves in a slower more holistic approach. It’s also wonderful to be able to stand back and see what we once thought were problems, turn into solutions and actual assets before our eyes when permaculture and other systems that work sympathetically with nature are applied. I have actually managed to get my rss feed reader blogs down to a manageable level. I am loath to rid myself of any of them and have found a way to make sure that I get an amazingly broad spectrum of my personal interests in a nice slice of daily mind nourishing blog cake. It’s like one of those rainbow layer cakes for the brain but substitute artificial colours, flavours and white flour for healthier alternatives and you have my daily rainbow cake of happiness. Spencer at anthropogen.com never ceases to amaze me with his never ending search for ways to apply natural solutions to the worlds current problems and more importantly, he shares his findings freely. Yesterday I learned how rainfall in the Amazonian rainforests is initiated by microscopic organic fungi particles…a fully self-perpetuating environment ensuring that water falls where it is needed most and it could almost be seen as the rainforest itself directing water where it is needed. When you start to remove mainstream human endeavours from the equation and step back and take a good look at what nature is actually doing ad-infinitum, you can’t be anything but awestruck by the magnificence of that amazing cyclic symphony of perpetual life.

Red sky in the morning, rain on Serendipity farm

Keen little certificate 3 horticulture students at the soil carbon day…I am sure that our class never looked this enthusiastic about anything!

I sat with Nat and our friend from the witness protection at the soil carbon day today and a great time was had by all

I TOLD you my brain sap was rising ;). Steve has been finding me all sorts of information about permaculture that is fuelling my inner fiery desire to get “stuck in” to working outside again. Steve sources the stuff and I mainstream it. As usual, we are entirely different when it comes to how we work. Steve is a hands on man who works from the outside in and isn’t all that interested in where the information came from. He would rather just go out and “do” it. I am the exact opposite. I am the researcher, the porer-overer of books, the disciple of knowledge and information who positively beams whenever I find a precious little gem that gives us a way to do something that we can use to effect change on Serendipity Farm and together we are formidable! I started wading through everything that we have been finding over the weekend and discovered that most of it is stacked for the tropics. I accept that its heaven on a horticultural stick to grow plants in the tropics BUT we don’t live there…so now I am honing my searches to cool climate permaculture so that we can use what we find directly without having to sieve it through several filters to sift out the heat, the plants that will NOT grow here and the sense of disappointment that comes from not being able to apply a large swath of information directly to our needs. Never one to give in that easily, I have managed to source a cool climate permaculture book by David Holmgren called “Sustainable living at “Melliodora” Hepburn Permaculture Gardens: a case study in cool climate permaculture 1985-1995”. Written for a cold climate and extremely pertinent to our local conditions (we might even be a bit warmer than David’s property!) this book has been placed on hold at the local library and we will be able to see how someone else has juggled a 4 season cold climate as compared to a 2 season (hot and dry or VERY hot and wet) tropical climate.

Frank Strie with another wonderful presentation about Biochar and how the process of slow cooking wood gives a multitude of benefits when dealing with our soil and with energy/heat production

The components of Franks illustrative biochar burner model. Note the can full of twigs that approximates a 44 gallon drum full of dry limb wood

Now tip that 44 gallon drum (imagine people…use your imagination!) upside down and drop it into a slightly larger metal drum that you have drilled large holes in the base so that you have a slight margin left between the sides of the drum full of wood and the slightly larger drum

The internet is wonderful! Not only can I talk to you from the comfort of my computer chair in front of my massive television monitor (I DON’T NEED GLASSES!), but Steve can ring me from town while he is in my Aladdin’s cave of great happiness…”Wholesome House” health food shop in Mowbray where David and Lee not only sell the products but know everything about them and practice what they preach and I can check something online for him to make sure that it’s what I want in an instant. Technology isn’t all bad folks! I have been delving deeper into Korean cuisine and found a wonderful website that I actually added to my rss feed reader it was so good. Mochi is something that I absolutely adore and this website gave me several recipes for how to make it along with how to make your own Korean ricecakes which are a sort of extruded thick paste (think big fat rice noodles as chunky as your little finger) that is cut into segments and used for body and texture in Korean cookery. Korean food is all about healthy, spicy tastiness and being a vegan, most of these recipes can be adapted to my kind of food. Steve and I were talking about vegetarianism yesterday whilst watching Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s great adventure into vegetables. Under his cover story of “I wanted to get healthier” was an apparently sky high cholesterol reading and a rapidly invading middle aged paunch. I forgive him his vanity because he is one of those genuine people who put his fame/money where his mouth is and gives as good as he gets. Cooking vegetarian is a doddle folks! Vegetarian cookery is full of eggs, cheese, cream and the only thing missing is the meat. Not hard to get something scrumptious when you coat it in sour cream, roll it in egg and crumbs and douse it liberally in thickened cream and when you add all of the options of other countries cuisines you can see how easy it is to venture into a world without meat. Going vegan is a bit harder but is now sufficiently mainstream as to be a “desirable” way to live. The extremists have veered off to Paleo diets and raw food diets and left us vegans to get on with quietly living our lives out of the spotlight.

Now you loosely fill that gap with small twigs, leaves or sawdust and light it

To eliminate smoke from the chamber you add a lid to the equation with holes in to catch the heat/smoke exchange

A slightly smaller metal drum (an old oil drum from some bulk cooking oil?) with a piece of metal tubing inserted through the top to carry the heat byproduct up through this second chamber

Going vegan is a worldly experience because there is a world of experience and love for pulses, legumes, grains and all sorts of weird and wonderful cultures and fermentations out there that open your eyes to just how amazing the human race is to have survived on local and attainable foodstuffs. Even things that are generally considered inedible or unpalatable have been messed about with and tweaked to yield edible foodstuffs. The humble acorn is one such food. On its own its disgusting. I know…I tried one! After being dried, pounded into a flour and washed continually until the tannins are leached out of the flour it is not only edible, it’s a staple food for many Baltic and other European countries. Try eating a ripe olive straight from the tree (again…I know because I tried one…) and you are given to wonder how ANYONE would think that “maybe I might be able to make this tasty if I brine it?”…we owe so much to our forefathers and foremothers for their dedicated hard work in showing us that you can not only eat these things, but they are delicacies. Crickets, worms, fermented stinky tofu…hmmmm maybe there are limits! But everyone takes for granted the amazing wealth of knowledge out there regarding food preparation and how to get the most nutrition out of what we eat. Food production is generally outside our sphere of thought because we just go to the shop and get it right? That’s what we did when we moved in and decided to make the most of the 4 acres of land that we have, we decided to make it work for us, and for all of the native inhabitants of Serendipity Farm.

Now for the bit where you diversify! You need a metal drum slightly larger than the second (bulk cooking oil) drum with copper pipe coiled in through a hole lower down in this drum and coiled to fit loosely around the inner drum and exiting through a hole further up the drum…stay with me here folks…

Here’s the second chamber over the holes in the lid of the first chamber

And now you invert the last drum (with the copper coiled pipe) over the top of the drum with the pipe and voila, you have a small personal biochar manufacturer coupled with a hot water heater! I love this idea so much I am going to attempt to manufacture one of these for summer use on Serendipity Farm

As we walk the dogs every day, I have started to really look at what grows well in our local area. Cherry plums grow amazingly well. In Tasmania its apparently a sport to whinge about Cherry Plums. They grow like topsy here and I, for one, have made a mental note to plant some along the boundary fences to feed the possums and distract them from our more highly prized fruits. I dug up 4 little loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) from a road verge last year and they overwintered in the glass house and are going great guns. After a sufficient hardening off period in a sheltered spot on Serendipity Farm, these little free babies are going to be put to work as possum bait futures. We will be planting out kiwifruit, Muscat (and other) grapes and all sorts of currants and berries including ground covers (strawberries), vines (thornless blackberries) and shrubs (currants and native plum pines and native cranberries) to lure the possums away from our primary crops. It’s all about sharing the land and once our local possums get wind of a year round food supply they will be battling the ensuing hoards for their position of superiority. Feeding a few possums to guard from the many is a good sacrifice to be making! On Wednesday (today but typed on Monday) our friend in the witness protection and I are heading into Launceston to “The Tramshed” where we are going to learn all about local soil and its limitations as part of the Tamar NRM August Sustainability Month. I have gotten an incredible amount of free knowledge from this wonderful organisation and feel very privileged to have met so many passionate local people. It’s a huge pity that Tasmanian’s as a whole would rather eat their own feet than learn something new, and even the prospect of an amazing free day with morning and afternoon tea and a fantastic lunch provided can’t even lure them out of their armchairs. I am NOT Tasmanian. I don’t even mind being a “Mainlander Outcast”…suits me folks! If that means that I can sit in a room of 15 people with a fantastic view of the podium and learn quality information for free then so-be-it! I have really been reinvigorated by everything that I have learned over the past month and am inspired to apply most of it to our day to day working on our property.

Check out the root system on one of Frank’s lettuces grown in compost layered with biochar. This stuff is amazing!

I just had my very first case of what might be construed as “homesickness” since we moved to Tasmania. The funny thing was, it wasn’t even “home” I felt nostalgic for! It was the Western Australian capital city Perth that got me feeling a little wistful. Perth is an amazing multicultural hodgepodge of everything a person could need. We used to head up at least a few times a year on the 400+km long haul to stock up with everything that we couldn’t purchase locally, usually Asian grocery items and other ethnic foodstuffs that Albany simply didn’t have. I loved Perth aside from the heat when it was summer (which was coincidentally our usual time to visit…). I remember one of our “must visit’s” being Kakulas Brothers bulk produce that made me incredibly envious of people in Perth who could just drop in whenever the fancy took them. For us, it meant a large spend to stock up on all sorts of dried beans, herbs, spices etc. that we simply couldn’t get in Albany. The very last time that we shopped in Kakulas we were served by Mr Kakulas (since passed away) who started this thriving and no doubt incredibly profitable landmark in the city. He had to leave part way through serving us and the girl that took over told us that he had a real hands on approach to his business and was often to be found serving behind the counter and chatting to customers asking them about what they liked and didn’t like about his shop. I dare say that this 80 something year old man had his finger on the pulse of that well-oiled machine because every single time we ventured through those hallowed doors, the place was thronging with customers. You give people what they want, they come back! I also remember Kong’s, a large Asian supermarket, one of many in Northbridge a multicultural suburb of Perth and the restaurant strip of the city. A very exciting place to wander around and immerse yourself in culture. I love Perth. I haven’t found a city close to its vibrant eclectic laid back sense of entitlement and always loved to visit even though the 6 hour car trip had knobs on!

The stuff that dreams are made of!

Back to Wednesday and just about to have a shower ready to head off to Launceston with our friend in the witness protection for a day learning all about soil carbon courtesy of the Tamar NRM. I have a newfound appreciation for this humble behind the scenes group who have been putting on some pretty amazing free events in the hope of educating some of us as to what we should and shouldn’t be doing with our soils. Steve has been hunting. He has found me a myriad of information about permaculture including videos, pdf’s and all sorts of documents that I am going to share with my friend today. “Just bring your laptop and I can stuff you full of garden hope!” We are in similar situations with our garden. “Chaos”. Hers is denuded of all vegetation and anything that she plants is instantly visible and noted as “prey” by the many nocturnal visitors to her 50 acre property out in the bush. She is so far out in the bush that she doesn’t have electricity, water or phone and her family are completely off grid.  We have plenty of vegetation’s but no order and both of us have those troublesome little nocturnal visitors who like to swing about on our tender new vegetation, however the feral cats have been leaving us “tails”…we can only guess that they were once young possums! No sign of the duck that we owned for 1 ½ hours that we bought for our lonely girl who quacks herself hoarse for her sister. We bought it from the grouchy old bee/duck man up the road for $15. Lucky we didn’t spend a fortune because after luring us to let it out of the outside coop area by making doe-eyes at our duck and trying desperately to get out “to her” it hightailed it over to the nearest high spot and made like a tree and leafed! The last we saw of it, it was running faster than Earl on the scent of a chicken towards the bush at the back of our neighbours block. We must have made a funny site, just on dusk, running with rakes in pursuit…our neighbour to the rear drove down to see what the commotion was about (no rake I note Noel…not going to join in the frothing melee?) and we had to reassure him that we were not insane nor were we intent on taking our rakes to Frank’s house. Not only are we now “those crazy hippies down the hill” but we are also “those crazy whacked out hippies down the hill!”…sigh…I have found a use for a large stainless steel enclosed drum that we inherited on dad’s “steel pile” left here for years by nefarious steel pilferers around the state. I am now the king of that castle by default and so I am trying to make the most of what we were left “cheers for that pile of steel dad…” by putting it to uses that my dad would have shaken his head and said “done ya dough” to whilst walking away disgustedly. I have come to terms with the fact that I was never going to be one of my dad’s favourite children and actually enjoyed the rise I got whenever discussing my fantastic schemes…dad hated hippies…my job there was done!

Looky here people, another massive post rolls out onto the printing floor and I haven’t even had my shower yet! Sorry about sitting here overnight smelly and with unkempt hair but you know how it is… the press never stops! Got to get you all something to read over your cocoa and here it is, unadorned, severely unedited and most definitely passionately heartfelt. Have a fantastic time till Saturday. The sun is weakly sniffing around the perimeters of Serendipity Farm but I am NOT lured into thinking that we are going to have anything other than the rain that was forecast! A day sitting indoors listening to precious information about soil amelioration and soil carbon is most probably the best outcome for today. See you Saturday and don’t sweat the small stuff folks…it will still be there tomorrow! 😉

R.I.P. Reprobate

Hi All,

“Stone the crows” it’s Saturday already and I haven’t started this post. It would seem that life has again trotted away from my Zelda red eyes and found me wanting in the posting department. I have gamers droop…but because I love you all so much I am back to share our latest adventures on Serendipity Farm (if you could call the last 3 days “adventures” that is). Steve is off taking photos for me to use in this post and Bezial and Earl are sighing heavily despite going for an extra-long walk this morning and it being a cold drizzly day so the BEST place is right in front of the fire sighing with contentment.

A gray midwinters day in Sidmouth Tasmania

Still pretty gray after our walk but at least the garden will enjoy the rain

One benefit of cold winter days is that they burn off extra calories through shivering…that allows you to eat copious quantities of delicious carbs and a large helping of Steve’s amazing chilli

Its 2 years to the day since my dad died and life turned upside down for us and started the adventure that we now know as life on Serendipity Farm.  The first year was chaos and more life lessons than I could ever have thought possible or have wanted if I am being honest. At the end of the first year we were all frazzled, fried and exhausted with the process that goes with death in the family. Dad would not mind me calling him a reprobate by the way. He absolutely delighted in wayward behaviour and was a quintessential Aussie Larrikin to say the least. He was once dared to ride a circus elephant down the main street of town and hopped up without a second thought to the cheers of the locals. When my working class dad inherited a large sum of money and property from his long-time partner Val his spiel went something like this…

“The working class can kiss my arse…I’ve got a bludgers life at last!”…

“The Foreman’s Song” is a somewhat bastardised version of “The Red Flag” a union song intended to unite the working classes to rise above the oppression of the class systems. I come from a long line of union representatives and members and am most certainly proud of my working class heritage. Dad enjoyed the privileges of his newfound wealth but at a bipartisan cost to his working class roots. Here’s Billy Bragg sharing a bit of my dad’s ethos with you all…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obpd9uc5HVg

Dad was fiercely passionate about his history and with my son Stewart in Ireland at the moment; it is only fitting to remember that Ireland was one of the initiators of the trade union movement for change and equality back in the 1800’s. Australia was founded by Irish convicts. The English sent them as far away as they possibly could so that they wouldn’t find their way back to spread their political poison and many of them were exiled from their homeland through their political liens rather than any crimes that they committed. We don’t treat Ireland like the American’s do…it’s not our “Old Country”…it’s part of what makes us what we are. We share a working class history and a classless (supposedly lol) society with Ireland and a sense of humour that could only have come from a shared hard existence in a hard land. Life goes on (certainly Shane MacGowan does despite his obvious excesses) and our quiet understanding of our historical link with Ireland is apparently mutual…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZqN1glz4JY

Here’s to the working class dad and to the ongoing struggle for equality that carries on today.

Back in dad’s early school days that name would have been a decided disadvantage to have to write in copperplate with ink. I never would have thought that I would find this many flowers mid winter in Tasmania. I didn’t kill all of them dad now can you PLEASE get your present crow incarnation to stop telling me off from that big Eucalyptus viminallis branch?

Dad and Val’s graves and in the close background you can see the jungle presently known as “Serendipity Farm”. I dare say dad is keeping his eye on what we are doing and its very easy to believe that the crow venting his spleen most passionately overhead as we work is his reprobate spirit.

I drop in a few times a day to visit my Facebook page. It’s somewhat compelling to see what my friends and “liked” pages are up to. Apparently it’s been 25 years since the movie “The Princess Bride” was unleashed onto an unsuspecting world and if I was asked “what is your favourite movie of all time?” it would have to be this amazing, beautiful and thoroughly enjoyable treatise to love. Call me an old romantic fool but this movie makes you glad to be soppy :o). Guess what I am going to watch tonight? “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” I also saw a post by Milkwood permaculture about a low cost aquaponics system consisting of a pond and a bathtub (low cost excellent for any sized property) and allowing you to grow herbs/vegetables or even flowers, should you see fit, in an integrated closed system involving the processing of fish waste via plant roots and involving a few strains of microbes in the process. You can be as base or as creative with this setup as you like and you can also run it in a tiny little flat or spread it out as big as your imagination (and your plot of land) will allow. Talk about creative license!

http://milkwoodpermaculture.com.au/courses/details/109-aquaponics-workshop-812-sydney

I would love to attend some of Milkwood Permaculture’s tutorials but aside from the cost…Tasmania is to Mainland Australia as Ireland is to the U.K. so unless I learn to swim MUCH better than my present doggy paddle I will not be attending a Permaculture course any day soon…

As an “almost vegan” (I still have milk in my tea “institution”) I subscribe to many vegan cooking blogs. Vegan is now mainstream and has been subsequently deserted by the trendy set for greener (literally lol) pastures. That leaves vegans to be able to carry on doing what they do best in relative peace and quiet with a greater degree of mainstream acceptance thanks to the fruitcake fruitarians and radical raw adherents making veganism look positively tame in comparison. Bryanna Clark Grogan is a vegan authoress and daytime librarian which sounds a bit like a comparison with Superman and to be honest, she could be called a vegan Superwoman of sorts. She is one of the most selfless people in the promotion of vegan eating and shares her amazing recipes for meat free food with anyone who is interested. Her generosity is amazing and she allows people who change their diets for ethical reasons to continue to eat delicious food whilst learning to adapt their ingredients with no loss of taste and a major boost to health and our environment in the process. She shares how to make mainstream staples vegan from scratch and has taken the reins firmly back from the extremists who would have us believe that unless you are using freaky ingredients with exorbitant price tags that you are simply not vegan. Bollocks to that! Cheers Bryanna for your services to vegan kind and for your generous spirit. We all thank you from the bottom of our hearts :o). Here’s an example of Bryanna’s recipes…you can be vegan AND gourmet…

http://veganfeastkitchen.blogspot.ca/2007/07/update-on-mushroom-leek-gourmet-tofu.html

Whether you like tofu or not this is a very clever recipe for how to make gourmet tofu. I no longer eat soybeans because I don’t want to develop any problems associated with the mimic oestrogen that soybeans produce but tofu can be made with various other beans including chickpeas and so I might give some gourmet chickpea tofu a whirl around the dance floor and see if we can Charleston. Or perhaps I will run its red flag up the flagpole and let’s see if it salutes? ;). I love experimenting with new recipes, especially when they originate anywhere other than mainstream cultures and even more so when I can try something right out of my comfort zone and can make it myself. I also like to mess about with regular recipes and tweak them with more interesting ingredients to see if I can’t invent myself something better. Call it “Magpie’s licence” and you are about where I go with food and cooking. I don’t want to perfectly replicate a recipe; I want to make it taste great for me. Who could care less if something looks perfect if it tastes like cardboard? I am all for “Real food” and bollocks to fake replication. I like to make as many of my ingredients myself aside from base things that is. I enjoy the process and the feeling of developing a pioneering spirit. I come from a long line of pioneering women and love that it lives on in my desire to learn how to do things for myself.

One of Steve’s bonsais in mid moult in sympathy with the chickens

This maple bonsai has been carefully pruned on a periodic basis by our local possum bonsai group. They are very vigilant in their pruning. This stumpy looking almost dead stick will turn into a beautiful maple in spring…at the moment it looks like a walking stick that sprouted

We had another meeting with our long suffering lecturer in a vain effort to complete our 1/5th scale pergola. Making a model is MUCH harder than a full scale pergola because any slight aberration (and I am prone to the spectrum of aberration thanks to a complete dearth of prior experience or ability in the “building” game…) becomes a major problem. A tiny miscalculation is very obvious and so you have to be precise to the nth degree or your small indiscretions are most definitely found out! So far so good but it’s taken us 2 meetings to progress to this somewhat underwhelming structure…

We had to brace the pergola for hampsters with what turned out to be a dismembered warning sign purloined by the ever errant sensei groundsman Cory. The problem was that these strips of ex-sign were not able to brace the poles while they were setting and so a lesson is learned for the next lot of bleary eyed students that stumble into the model making unit…

As you can see our structure was being built in the propagation shed at the Alanvale Polytechnic campus. The big green bin contains perlite used for ammending soil to make it drain more freely. The potting mixtures are concocted in this building as are the practical lessons in everything from cutting taking right through to grafting and specialised methods of pruning. We spent a lot of hours inside this building on the coalface of horticultural practice and it would seem that we are never going to be allowed out of this building any day soon!

A closeup of our amazing craftmanship…”marvel at the straight lines… delight at the symetry…try not to notice that this looks more like a set of balance bars for gymnasts or a ladder that someone forgot wasn’t supposed to have a solid side panel on rather than a pergola…sigh…”

At least its straight Nick…surely that counts for something? We learned a new word in our Landscape vocabulary the other day…”Eye Sweet”. It denotes that proportion of a landscape construction phase where you reveal what you have done and the person paying you the big bickies says “SWEET!”…(well that’s how I remember it Nick lol 😉 )

To all of you snickering behind your hands at this point I concede it doesn’t look like much, but I have certainly learned a whole lot of “process” to carry me through to this result and it might not look all that much but I am as proud of this little baby as I would be of many of my more attractive accomplishments. Talk about pioneering…we are forging ahead with this new Diploma, offered this year for the very first time, and are no doubt acting as guinea pigs for future students. I dare say our lecturer is ironing out the kinks on “The Pimblett’s” before he unleashes these units on his other unsuspecting students who are still slaving their way through the intricacies and various minefields of AutoCAD. Hopefully none of them have been blown up yet…I know I came close to blowing up several times whilst negotiating its processes and pathways. It’s only because of Steve and his inherent ability with technology and subsequent ability to translate what he had found out to me that I actually completed the course last year at all! After we finish this structure (we still have to install the crossbeams) we have to build a 1/5th scale model from a plan that our lecturer will give us all by ourselves. How much fun is that? Terror and fun run hand in hand whenever I think about that prospect so I will stop talking about it for now!

2 chickens underneath a tree…”noice”…

Wait a minute…those chickens are on the other side of the fence to us…

“STEVE THE BLOODY CHOOKS ARE IN GLAD’S PROPERTY!”…Oh well… Glad was only just telling us yesterday that she loved the sounds of the country. Perhaps we can toss Big Yin over the fence to round them up and she can revel in his dulcet tones over a cup of tea

I keep trying to pare back the blogs that I subscribe to in my rss feed reader as I have spent the moments since I discovered Rss Feed Readers (cheers Rhianna ;)) positively stuffing myself with wonderful blogs in an unmitigated display of blog gluttony the likes of which shall not be seen again. I just went hunting for the correct spelling of Angophora costata (Sydney Red Gum) and ended up subscribing to ANOTHER one…sigh…it would seem that life imitates nature in my case and my online desire for knowledge can only be quenched by MORE blogs and more information. The truth of the matter with my blog hoarding (like Daffy Duck when he finds treasure and utters the words “MINE MINE MINE”…) is that I rarely get to actually read posts now thanks to the exponentially growing outpouring of other people’s minds that assails me whenever I dare to head over to read a few posts on my rss feed reader. Gluttony…thy name is Fran! I will attempt to suffer in silence from now on but can’t promise not to throw in the odd whinge in future posts. This Angophora costata is a magnificent member of a very small Tasmanian clan of 2 that we know of in Northern Tasmania… the other one is situated about 3 metres away from the 1st one and also lives on Serendipity Farm. We also have a few Brachychitons growing here that have suffered in silence for quite some time in terrible conditions. We freed them up recently and they are starting to reward our valiant attempts to minimise the weeds in this area by looking positively healthy which is a far cry from what we thought when we initially uncovered them. It’s situations like this that keep us forging ahead with our efforts on Serendipity Farm. Sometimes we non-natural-gardeners are completely overwhelmed by the scope of works that need to be undertaken and completed here without the added time greaser of money to ease our efforts. We get challenged…we find a solution. We come up against a brick wall…we find a BIG hammer to knock it down. In the process we learn more about life than we could have ever imagined and that makes it all worthwhile…along with the positive beaming delight of the newly liberated plants once they get back on their feet again.

Gnarley old Angophora number 1 in mid winter moult…

“Son of Angophora”…coming to a cinema near you…

One of the now happy Brachychitons no longer suffering from crowded root syndrome thanks to a mass infestation of weeds.

I am attempting to multitask and type this post while I am eating my lunch. I Made pumpkin and potato soup for my tea the other night. The recipe consisted of peeling some pumpkin, peeling some potatoes (about equal quantities of both), peeling 2 medium onions and half a head of garlic. Steve sautéed the chopped onions and garlic (pulverised within an inch of its life in my pestle and mortar) in some olive oil and when arrived just this side of caramelisation I threw in my roughly cubed pumpkin and potatoes and Topped the stockpot up with water and deposited an appropriate amount of Massell Chicken (vegan) stock powder and let Brunhilda turn it into liquid heaven. I have NO idea how you could take 5 ingredients and tap water and turn them into something that tastes this good. After reading recently about the health benefits of soup (a scientific study showed that men who eat soup once a week live 7 years longer than men who don’t…) and being more than aware of how economical a recipe soup can be (one of the earlier lessons in how to dupe the paying restaurant customer into parting with their hard earned readies for minimal output in my commercial cookery classes) and with winter mid buffet soup is the thinking cooks choice for soul food. Steve has a newfound delight in all things liquid gold since we made our first batch of chicken noodle soup with our own ex-rooster stock. We then condensed the stock down to a dark brown replication of beef stock and he made another pot of soup that was the pure essence of “chook”. So many soups…so little time!

A Luculia pinceana shrub, one of my prized cold climate species that now graces the side garden on Serendipity Farm. As you can see it’s flowering and aside from Daphne odora (also flowering en mass in Tasmania at the moment) it has the most amazing scent of any flower that I know. We have several Daphne odora to plant in amongst this garden and one day in the future this garden will deliver the most incredibly heady scent sensation directly in through our bedroom window.

Our plants that we deposited into the side garden are showing no signs of being unhappy with their placement and indeed the Luculia pinceana, that has just started to indulge us with most deliciously scented pink flowers that we most sensibly planted near our bedroom window, is flowering on regardless. Luculia’s are supposed to be some of the most “precious” of plants when it comes to their growing conditions. We bought this specimen a long time ago and to date it has stayed in the very same pot under the very same conditions and should it choose to turn its toes up and die, at least it died a free shrub! Now that the shrubs have been planted it’s time to fill in the dots with the smaller shrubs, perennials and bulbs that are littered all over the place in pots. We will be kept busy for the next few weeks finalising the plans, job specifications, planting plans and detailed drawings of our Sustainable Landscape Plan until we next see our lecturer. I will no doubt spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to collect my weights worth of virtual reality gems in Zelda with no real net worth aside from some seriously red eyes. Come rain or shine we will walk the dogs and our ongoing indentured slavery to the chickens goes without saying. Aside from that, Serendipity Farm will carry on regardless, wending its way through the time space continuum in perpetuity albeit a somewhat chaotic careening rather than an ordered and organised pathway. Earl just disdainfully judged my pumpkin soup bowl “unfood” and (at the moment) politely requested that I remove myself from my computer addiction and head on over to his food bowl and feed him. He already ran amok with one of my badly placed socks and enticed Steve, Bezial and I into the ensuing chase but now that the excitement is over, he is going to start applying his willpower into effecting a result that eventuates in his being fed come hell or high water. I will end this post by saying that no matter how dysfunctional my relationship was with my dad…leaving me Serendipity Farm made up for all of the shortcomings that went beforehand. Cheers dad for my new life. No hard feelings. So long and thanks for all the fish :o).

Even on a dreary drizzly rainy mid winters day you can see why we have fallen in love with our little patch of Tasmanian ground. This photo was taken from the doorway leading out onto the deck as its too cold to keep wandering in and out taking photos even if you ARE my dear constant readers

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)

Taking sustainability to the next level

Hi All,

Don’t you hate people that tell you what you should be doing…that gesticulate grandly and proceed to espouse their perfect plan for the world and how they know just about everything…I call them the felt hatted brigade…they seem to be overrepresented in every single community meeting where anything about sustainability, environmentalism or alternative life in general is being discussed and tend to hog the floor with their wonderful ideas…theories and proceed to vote down anyone who has any ideas that differ from theirs…the felt hatted brigade are “Sayers”…they want to be in charge, in control and in your way (but when it comes time to doing anything they are suddenly most conspicuous by the absence…)…I would rather eat my own feet than become a felt hatter and sit back in my armchair telling you about how fantastic I am because I am trying to do something sustainable and how terrible you all are because you are not living off the grid and grinding your own corn between your original 1970’s Birkenstocks… I hate hypocrisy more than I hate felt hatters (and cyclists for that matter…the felt hatters tend to arrive at their meetings on bikes…). I want to be a “Doer”, rather than a “Sayer” and that’s why we are throwing ourselves, admittedly…sometimes dubiously and often dragging our feet…into living what we say. Today we headed out under the rain filled clouds and stood looking at a trailer load of dried oak leaves. What could we do to ensure that this trailer load of leaf futures was going to break down quickly to become something that we could add to our spring veggie gardens? Ok brain… let’s see if we can’t actually remember some of that horticulture stuff that got crammed into you over the last few years… Leaves = good. Ok…that’s a start…we have the leaves and now we just need to work out how to keep them from flying away in the breeze whilst value adding them ready for the garden…hmmm…my initial idea was to build a cairn of rocks (rocks being freely overrepresented on Serendipity Farm both above AND below the soil…) and tip the trailer load of leaves into this cairn and cover it with a tarp over winter and allow nature to do its stuff. A good idea but it would involve constructing a cairn and finding a way to keep the chooks out of the delightful pile of insect hiding leaves…our chooks are clever girls and good luck to me stopping them scratching their way in!

Steve being VERY patient with my newfound need to photograph everything to do with what we are doing at the moment in the garden…

Using an enormous plastic bag that Glad got with her mattress to transfer oak leaf futures from the trailer and too their new home

An old copper fire hydrant that we found in one of the outbuildings on the property has apparently piqued Steve’s artistic desires… not too sure what this represents but with the amount of rain that we have been having lately it might come in useful should anything decide to spontaneously combust

Ok…cairn + leaves + chooks = bad…it was about then that Steve decided to come up with some ideas…the first being “let’s lug that USELESS mulcher out to the garage from under the house and mulch the leaves smaller so that they don’t take up so much room”… very clever idea! (I KNEW I kept you around for something…) so he lugged the mulcher…we plugged it in…we started it up and dutifully shoved handfuls of leaves into its gaping metal chugging maw… and discovered 2 things

1. The mulcher is indeed USELESS and can’t even chop leaves up and indeed set fire to the leaves it refused to spit out in a vain attempt to drive me to abject apoplexy and 2. It would take us a day to alternately shove the leaves in…clear out the aforementioned fire from the mulcher at regular intervals (mulcher + leaves + fire + electricity = VERY bad!) and in the process we would spend more in electricity than we would pay for a trailer load of mulch!

Here is the offending mulcher.

This (supposed) mulcher is SUPPOSED to be able to handle branches with a 5cm diameter…these are “Dry Leaves”…even a 6 month old baby could do some considerable damage to them…

Steve’s ingenious idea to put an old chicken food bag under the hopper to catch the newly shredded leaves…

Ok so it did manage to mangle a few leaves…but what you can’t see here is the smoke coming from the base of the unit where it declined to expel said mangled leaves and decided to set fire to them instead! “HELP…FIRE…”

Tipping the smouldering leaves (that it took the mulcher an inordinate amount of time to mulch, let alone set fire too) out of the mulcher

My new opinion of the mulcher…

The only part of the mulcher that I saw fit to rescue…I am currently wearing this in my hair plait! Steve can repurpose as much of it as he feels like he wants to but as far as I am concerned…its going to the Beaconsfield Tip Shop!

Mulcher + leaves = fire + apoplexy. Our next trip to the tip is going to be to take this monstrosity to its final resting place! Steve’s next idea had more merit (and less hard work…fire and apoplexy potential…) “why don’t we throw some of the leaves into the compost heap?”… That’s a GREAT idea! 1/3rd of the trailer got shovelled off and into the compost heap to be covered with some chopped up green waste in the near future… 2/3rd of a trailer left…what to do…ok, Steve isn’t a 1 trick pony and came up with another idea! “Let’s throw some in with Bob in the outdoor enclosed chook area so that the chooks can scratch them around and break them down whilst nitrogenising them at the same time!”…Oh MAN you are on a roll Steve…so another 1/3rd of the 2/3rd of a trailer that was left got shovelled into a large plastic mattress bag that Glad next door gave us to use to collect the leaves from her ditch and put them into our trailer in the first place. She generously gave it to us and we are making good use of it still. I am USELESS at maths so I can only guess that what we have left in the trailer at this point is about 6/9th so let’s just say that we still have a fair pile of oak leaf futures in the trailer at this point along with 1 very happy chicken who has been confined for her own good due to over molestation by a rooster who is living on very VERY thin ice at the moment…Steve has now become our local sage because he took his outdoor enclosure idea further and suggested that we throw the rest of the leaves into the chicken coop under where they all roost at night and allow them to become pecked, shredded and nitrogenised at the same time so that when it came time for me to clear out the leaves (and hay underneath) we could add them straight into the veggie gardens to overwinter and mature. You can’t use chicken manure green (fresh) because it can actually burn plants because it is so very high in nitrogen so we are careful to compost it before we use it anywhere. So we had an empty trailer, a very happy hen, a chook roost full of oak leaves and a compost bin replete with a good proportion of carbon to be topped off with enough nitrogen to get it all ruminating around and cooking nicely. I LOVE being a doer! It’s so very satisfying to accomplish things and as naturally lazy as I am, I no longer take great delight in spending days on end doing nothing when I could be outside or inside making, learning or doing something productive.

A nice layer of dry carbon to top the clematis prunings that were starting to take over the deck and voila…the compost heap is full again!

You can see one of our first girls in the far nest doing her level best to ignore me putting leaves into the roost. The little fellow staring at me is one of Houdini’s last 7 babies…all of which are still alive and most of them are roosters including this little man. I give him his credit…none of houdini’s 12 (now 11 since “Little Red Rooster” was summarily dispatched due to an overexuberant desire to crow our neighbour Frank into frosty upheaval…) have crossed the line to moving from “outside” to “inside” apart from heading in occasionally to eat. This little man is being VERY brave and after I put these leaves into the coop he spent a happy 20 minutes scratching around through them. Enjoy your time while you can little man…

The close proximaty of the compost bin to the chook coop is NOT an accident. Its a whole lot easier to shovel the chickens most gracious nitrogen deposits and their spent bedding hay into the compost bin when its right outside their door. You can just about see the oak leaves on the floor inside…still got to throw more into where the hen is nesting yet…

Ok, so a hen can only be so brave…

This is the outdoor enclosed coop area, not that its used much because our hens are truely free ranging and get let out when we get up and head back at nightfall (aside from Houdini’s remaining 11 that is the oldest 4 girls roost in a large conifer and the youngest 7 roost WHO KNOWS where they roost…sigh…) and the blue tarp is covering a little structure that we used to house Effel and her 12 babies that we had to move from the front of the property up to the roost because we are NOT going to be having any more ferals…Effel still has 7 babies now and they are starting to be very pretty but today poor overmolested Bob is being kept safe from her would be rapist assailant who spends his days sneaking up on her. You can’t see Bob here because Bob is naturally suspicious of most things (rightly so) and so she is around behind the blue tarp hiding…

“Well done Steve!” Not just a pretty face…and a nice empty trailer all ready to head off to Glads and pick another enormous load of oak leaf futures.

And there’s Bob! Everything is ticketyboo on Serendipity Farm 🙂

I opened up a 5kg sack of dog biscuits and had a look at the sad little generic discs that tumbled into my dog biscuit storage container…they smelled like they contained predominately bone meal and some form of grain. Dog food isn’t subject to any form of compliance aside from ensuring that what it says on the side of the packet regarding the energy/protein etc. ratios are somewhat accurate so who would know what goes into man’s best friend (and Earl’s) regular nibble? I decided that aside from the packet that has to be thrown away being made of unrecyclable plastic (BOOO! To the manufacturer…) that our boys deserve better than that. They only eat these biscuits when they are trying to make me feel guilty for feeding them something that they are suspicious of or when one of us heads off and leaves the other here with the dogs…in other words, they eat them to spite us and to make us feel guilty. I am always up for a challenge and so headed off to my best mate “the internet” to find out if I could take minced meat, combine it with some form of healthy grain and end up with something that would be better for the boys AND would be better for the environment… if I could get our fussy dogs to eat it so much the better! I ended up finding this site…

http://www.collienet.com/Home-made-dog-food-recipes.html

These dogs eat better than some third world humans! Anyway…I scrolled down the page and found the recipe for “Bake your own crunchy dog biscuits” and checking the ingredients I figured that I could sub fine chicken mince from our local pet food shop for the sausage mince and instead of garlic granules I used nutritional yeast and I didn’t bother with the water, I just kneaded the mince into equal proportions of wholemeal flour and voila…a gazillion dog biscuits AND the dogs beg for them! I am paying the same amount for the chicken mince and wholemeal flour as I am for the branded dog biscuits and I know exactly what is going into them. I am going to mess about with this recipe. I am going to add grated root veggies to these cookies and I am going to stop buying the dog food that travels thousands of kilometres to get to me and that does sweet bugger all for my dogs (aside from giving them an “out” for their doggy angst against my tyrannical rule…). A win-win situation for me, the dogs AND the environment…a true red letter day for sustainability on Serendipity Farm

An enormous glass jar full of dog biscuits…

They are an “interesting” shape because I made them into round discs and then decided to break them up further. The next time I make them I will use the bone shaped biscuit cutter that I bought specifically for this purpose but COMPLETELY forgot about when I was making these dog biscuits…sigh…

Just a very quick aside here for all of you Americans…biscuits are what you call cookies…scones are what you call biscuits…the lord only knows why you couldn’t just use the good old English word for them but it does cause no end of confusion when we are hunting around online for recipes!…these are good old Aussie Dog “Biscuits” not cookies…feel free to call them whatever you like if you choose to make them as our uber fussy dogs can’t get enough of them…

I just thought that you might like to see a REALLY big picture of them…you can almost see the nutritional goodness in them can’t you? 😉

As you can see…they are actually desirable to dogs…our boys are uber fussy and for the last 2 days have been refusing their dinner because they have crammed themselves full of these biscuits in preference! Now we can make our own dog biscuits and we can even use our own roosters to do so if we have to dispatch tough old birds thats one less plastic bag a fortnight and a whole lot of satisfaction knowing exactly what we are feeding to our boys. Taking sustainability to the next level? We are blasting it out of the stratosphere! 😉

We loaded up our trailer with all of the rusted up heaps of chicken wire that my dad had for some reason decided to encircle the entire side garden with and staked into the ground with various chunks of wire ranging from coat hangers through tent pegs…fire pokers and most interestingly an old pogo stick! Aside from marvelling at the why’s and wherefores of my father’s gardening skills (or lack therein) we had to get rid of the tangled mass of debris and the local tip recycles metal so after adding a bag of shed rubbish and various bottles, bags etc. that the chooks have been kindly digging up in the garden (cheers dad!) and topping the teetering pile with 3 armchairs…1 that Earl redesigned with his teeth and 2 that we bought with the dogs new sofa and we couldn’t use in the house, strapped them all down and headed over to Beaconsfield to walk the boys and visit the tip. Beaconsfield has a thriving tip shop and so the chairs should find a new home, the metal will be collected and taken for scrap metal recycling in Georgetown and the few bags of sundry shed rubbish will head off to landfill…we spend a lot of time trying to find ways to recycle, reuse and repurpose just about everything that we can (so much so that I have bags waiting for my first attempt at plastic lamination waiting in my pantry cupboard until I get up the nerve…) but there is inevitably a bag of waste that has to head to the tip. At least we are trying to minimise it I guess. We also wait until we have a full trailer to go to the tip with so that we are not wasting fuel, or a tip pass on anything other than a full load. We also wait and walk the dogs at the same time to make sure that we do as much as we can while we are over there. It’s funny how our habits have changed since we moved out here and how we now think and do so many different things to when we lived in the city. I really love finding out other people’s ways of dealing with waste and debris. Christi who lives on the border of Washington and Canada in the USA, of “farmlet.wordpress.com” blogging fame told me about how her grandmother used chicken gizzards and lamented her wasting them. A most bodacious blogger living the Spanish dream “chicaandaluza.wordpress.com” who along with Christi is a fellow compatriot of the worldwide school of sustainable real living, told me that chicken gizzards are highly prized in Spain…Now we just need to get together and work out some of the recipes that Christi’s gran and Tanya’s fellow Spanish compatriots would have used to turn our gizzard waste into food futures saving a wasted opportunity to use this resource that Christi and I both find ourselves inundated with of late. The sharing of information, tips, hints and recipes is what makes blogging imminently satisfying and ultimately profitable to the information highway and anyone who wants to find out how to do things. My rss feed is cram packed full of totally amazing blogs and websites that someone out there decided to create for the purposes of sharing what they know. I can’t even begin to thank all of you caring, sharing people out there because most of what I know about what we need to do to survive, and thrive on Serendipity Farm comes from people like you and I am using my newfound skills wisely young padawan’s!

Just to finish up I have 2 photos of the dogs and their happy places. Bezial loves to lay on the mat just inside the sliding door that leads out to the deck. He surfs the sunbeams and can often be found laying on his back and twitching his legs fast asleep while he is chasing dream rabbits

This is the little sofa that we bought along with 2 armchairs (now at the tip shop in Beaconsfield) that fits perfectly on the tiles next to the wood burning stove. This is Earl’s newfound favourite place to lay and despite us not being able to trust him with the cushions for long periods of time he is the picture of doggy happiness whenever he can leave off nibbling the cushions for 10 minutes or so