This morning we were walking along the riverbank taking the dogs for a walk and suddenly a seal popped out of the river not 3 metres away from us and scared the living daylights out of us. Bezial was most interested and when the seal submerged, he watched the patterns on the water to follow it’s progress and was spot on looking where the seal re-emerged a few moments later…Earl, however, was MILES off. He was looking upstream when the seal emerged back downstream. He blames Bezial for blocking his sonar ;). Steve knows this seal well. It hangs around waiting for the excess baby salmon from the salmon farm around the corner from us to be ejected into the river. He calls the seal “Flippy” and that reminded me of a recent bought of memory hunting on Youtube that we undertook. Steve comes from Liverpool in the U.K. he used to listen to a most interesting and hilarious radio show as he drove from one guitar lesson to the next (he was a guitar teacher in the U.K.) called “Hold your Plums”. Liverpudlians are known for both their ability to charm the pants off you whilst pinching whatever isn’t nailed down AND their incredible senses of humour. This show was funny! It was sort of an online game show where people phoned up and had a go at guessing questions that the announcers threw at them. Some of the answers were hilarious and seeing Flippy the seal reminded me of an elderly lady in her 80’s who phoned up to have a go. I would like to share the link here with you because it had Steve and I laughing so much our stomachs hurt! If you fancy a bit of a deep belly laugh today, give it a go, it might just do the trick :o)
Here in the frozen outreaches of civilisation in the frigid tundra’s of Sidmouth we Inuit Pimblett’s have decided that we can’t hibernate any longer and we are just going to have to rug up all Russian style and get out into the brilliant sunshine of what amounts to a day trip to the Gulag peninsula in winter. The piles of debris aren’t going anywhere themselves and we need to chop some wood for Brunhilda who never sleeps through winter. She might not be ravenous but she can certainly pack wood away at a slow and steady pace and if we don’t feed her, she goes on strike. I have to rake the driveway and find it again underneath the thin layer of mulch that the chooks scratched up to liberate some unsuspecting invertebrates and to make the place look a bit tidier. We pulled down the temporary low fence around Steve’s precious grafted maple selection because at the moment they are just sticks and no self-respecting wallaby or possum would bother with them. We want to put up a more aesthetically pleasing fence for the coming spring to dissuade the natives from scarfing the new tender maple leaves and to keep the flow of our view out to the Tamar River which is a constant source of enjoyment and wonder for us…we live here…we own this!
Earl doing his best “Earlvis” sneer in preparation for his big debut. As it was, he got stage fright and Bezial had to step into the breech and “woof” for Steve’s animation
As you can see, the choko is starting to take over the kitchen and I am starting to think about where to plant it until the frosts go. Probably in a large pot in the glasshouse for the moment but wherever it goes, it had best go quickly as it is starting to reach for kitchen utensils…
What am I going to do with this bag of apples? I might turn them into apple butter or cook them down until they are quite dry and make an apple spread with some cinnamon.
The huge enclosed veggie garden isn’t going to build itself. We know that because we have been waiting and it hasn’t happened. We figure that means we are just going to have to get off our middle aged derrières and effect the change all by ourselves. We have the last net wall to go up and a gate to pick up from our friend Jenny who generously donated it to the cause and in early spring we are going to cover the lot with black bird netting and good luck to anything getting into the equation aside from us. The enclosure had an impromptu test the other day when we released the hound (the other one stayed firmly tethered to us but mobile) and he pelted up to the back garden and promptly got confused about how to get out. He barrelled into the net walls because he tends to use his brute force to get out of things but this time he ended up bouncing off the wall and stood there looking incredulously at the net…he then tried to bulk his way out of the wall again and failed again. Think sideways trampoline and you can get a bit of a picture of what Bezial was doing. After his second failed attempt he started to wander the peripherals (he was inside the enclosure at this point) pushing the net with his beak to see if he could shove his way out…nope…Steve ended up having to lift the netting for him (very heavy stuff) and release him. If a 40kg American Staffordshire terrier couldn’t muscle his way out of the netting nothing smaller could muscle their way in. I think we are onto a winner here :o).
My underutilised mandoline actually getting a workout for once!
The reason for the mandoline’s outing, we made oven baked potato crisps! Steve ate them all before I could get a photo but it was a test run to see if they were worth the effort it takes to make them…apparently they were :o)
Icy cold but sunny, Winter is delicious when you have a lovely warm fire to go inside to :o)
My leaves all washed down into the Tamar River and floated away to fairer climes (that’s you Victoria). Glad burned some of them and the rest washed away with the decent rain we had. We should have raked them but have been making excuses to stay indoors and out of that icy cold and ended up losing a wonderful free ameliorant for our new garden soil. We have a HUGE pile of horse poo mixed with straw but oak leaves are precious. Glad said that there are still some leaves there and we will head over to rake the leave from under the large oak tree that borders our properties but we really shouldn’t have missed that opportunity for a few trailer loads of free leaf mould for the sake of warm hands. Steve and I spend a lot of time juggling studies and working in the garden and it’s SO easy to push studies to the front and ignore heading out into the cold. We will chalk our leaf loss up to experience and next year we won’t miss out on that glorious free annual chance to bulk up our soil and add a new suite of organisms to our soil mycology.
Mass slaughter in the kitchen (note the nose prints all over the cupboards…) Steve usually brings a few bags of stuffed toys home after his fortnightly shop and this is the scene shortly after we dump them on the floor for the dogs to “play” with 😉
Steve bought me a bonus coconut in the shopping which I decided I was going to turn into coconut butter. First, you need to liberate your coconut, THEN you need to cut all of the brown skin away from the coconut meat and then you need to cut it up finely. I have a vitamix high speed blender and even then it still took ages to process the coconut flesh. Apparently it’s much easier to do this with dry coconut but the resulting finely processed fresh coconut tastes delicious and I am using spoons of it in my breakfast juk
Bugger…this is the second knife that has fallen victim to death by coconut…I am going to have to rethink the way that I liberate my coconut meat!
Mid way through the processing scraping down the coconut puree
Pureed, packed and ready to put on the lid and put in the fridge for future use
Now that I have outed us as lazy comfort seeking bollocks I can redeem myself by saying that today we are heading out, rugged up like Russian Babushka dolls, into the minus Celsius temperatures of Serendipity Farm to burn things. We are going to collect up some of the more aesthetically challenging heaps of branches and twigs that we heaped up and are going to drag them to our burning spot and burn them. Not only will be clearing up the place, but we will be keeping warm at the same time.
I just opened up my RSS Feed Reader this morning (yes…I am STILL doing this post today 😉 ) and had the glorious feeling of being able to manage my RSS Feed Reader…usually I would have somewhere in the vicinity of 600+ posts to manage and try to weave my way through what was “useful” and what was not necessary…I mean seriously folks…how many “recipes” for avocado on toast do we readers REALLY need?!!! On Tuesday I had a bit of a mental crisis. I was over trying to negotiate and satisfy my RSS Feed Reader. It had been a solid week of non-stop trying to eliminate it and I suddenly came to the realisation that I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. Once I realised that I had become a slave to my RSS Feed Reader I decided to take some action. I eliminated posts AND blogs. I now have a tiny core of key blogs that I read. I can now comment on posts again. I have the time to give each post that I read my undivided attention and I am not just skimming over the hard crafted labour of someone else’s mind to get to the next post and to be finished. I am back to enjoying getting up nice and early to open my mind up and learn from other people. I love the interaction of commenting and if someone has taken the time to share an interesting and informative post with us all, I figure I at least owe them a bit of a head’s up.
The somewhat alarming results of leaving a glass of non-dairy kefir out for a little while…a bit like Mt. Vesuvius!
One of what the dogs have every single day on Serendipity Farm…and we wonder why they are fussy with anything else? 😉
I spy…with my little eye…something…beginning with…”C”…I don’t expect you to look that hard but on a recent visit by dad’s old dog Milo, he happened upon this poor unfortunate feral cat that he promptly chased up this tree…
The cat didn’t come down out of the tree for ages!
So the RSS Feed Reader took a hiding and is a mere shadow of its former self. I have limited my Pinterest action although that’s a hard one because that’s a new addiction and you can find some amazing stuff through Pinterest. I have found that I am redirecting my attentions now away from the gorgeous pamplemousse pies and back to sustainable and frugal hints and tips and crafty deliciousness so I might yet get something worthwhile out of my Pinterest addiction. Steve and I have been cooking up a storm lately. The weather and the free stove have been conducive to us wanting to cook. We have been baking all sorts of delicious things and we both decided that aside from the obvious benefits of Brunhilda, she has given us the ability to not have to worry about what we are going to cook for tea. The ovens are always on, there is always a range of temperatures that whatever we are cooking will fit into and we don’t have to wait for anything to heat up before we can start. We can warm things over her, we can proof our Stromboli dough (Steve has had 2 Stromboli’s in 4 days 😉 ) and she satisfies my need to experiment (read “play”) with my food in a most wonderful way.
Chestnuts for me to cut slits in and then steam ready to make chestnut paste
Some of the chestnut paste mixed with some date paste to be used in some sweet steamed buns
I have been messing around with pastes. I got Steve to pick up some adzuki beans and some more black beans on his last foray into shopping on Monday. He also bought me some sweet potatoes, some chestnuts and 2 enormous pumpkins and some black sesame seed. I have settled on eating juk (Korean thin rice porridge) for my winter breakfasts and have modified the recipe slightly to tweak it to my own personal tastes. I am now starting to get a bit more adventurous with the ingredients that I add. My pumpkin juk was delicious and I found a recipe for black sesame juk to try. I am making pastes so that I can use them to make a sort of “instant juk” like instant porridge for when we get back from walking the dogs and I don’t have to spend half an hour prepping the ingredients to make my breakfast. We have been snowed under in studies lately and our animations are starting to take a fair bit of time to produce. We need to get stuck into our work for the day pretty much as soon as we get in from our walks so having the options of “instant juk” is very appealing. Making my own black sesame, black bean, adzuki bean, reduced pumpkin, reduced sweet potato, chestnut etc. pastes in the fridge was a tantalising thought and so far I have made chestnut puree (half unsweetened and half sweetened with date paste) and am about to spend the weekend making all different kinds of pastes. Most of them will be sweetened by date paste and reduced down to thick unctuousness to increase their shelf life. Think “Korean jam” and the ability to stir a few spoonfuls of whatever flavour I fancy on the day into some water with some fresh ground glutinous rice and have my breakfast ready in 5 minutes is very enticing.
An artistic shot of my last 2 remaining vanilla beans. I used them today to make a rich creamy vanilla custard to make vanilla ice cream tomorrow for Steve
This might not look like much but it is creamy English fudge…well…the beginnings of it 😉
And this is the end of it. Some of this is going to be chopped finely and folded through Steve’s vanilla icecream
My experiments with non-dairy kefir are a huge success. I have managed to harness my kefir grains to 3 days producing homemade organic Aussie soybean milk and 1 day basking in regular whole milk to refresh them and gird their loins. I have learned that kefir grains are sugar freaks. They adore the date paste that I sweeten my homemade soymilk with and float around basking in the glory of it. My grains get huge with this regime and despite dehydrating most of them a few weeks ago; I am going to have to dry another tray of them. I am keeping the dehydrated kefir in the fridge in a jar with some organic milk powder in it to snuggle up to in their frigid dream state to keep them happy. I sent some dehydrated kefir grains to Wendy from the wonderful blog quarteracrelifestyle (that you can find here… http://quarteracrelifestyle.wordpress.com/ ). She lives in New Zealand and we all thought that she would have her grains stopped at customs but they arrived safe and well and are now producing quality kefir for her and her wonderful husband Roger (who we still want to borrow by the way Wendy 😉 ). No doubt they will start to grow exponentially and they will get snowed under with grains and can give some to friends and family. I can’t believe that there are people actually waiting in line to get kefir grains! Mine just keep on growing alarmingly. I have several clusters of grains that are almost as big as my palm and that keep shedding small nuggetty grains into my milk. I have perfected the daily process of separating the kefir from the morass (you could hardly call the mix of soymilk and brown date paste that mine bath in “milk” 😉 ). I have also learned when to decant my kefir into new milk and how fermented I like my milk. It’s all a learning process and experimenting is huge fun.
Chestnuts inside my vitamix waiting to be rendered into spread
Steve bought me a coconut on Monday and I put the coconut water (the liquid inside the coconut) into my non-dairy kefir stockpile in the fridge. I keep a 3 litre milk bottle with however much kefir I have managed to produce ready to use and drink whenever I feel like it. We have to release the gas from the lid whenever we open the fridge and the container has managed to swell up alarmingly in the past and actually crack the plastic on the fridge door. Never underestimate the power of gas folks! Think ginger beer and kefir isn’t too far behind it when you put a lid on it ;). Aside from experimenting with my breakfast and making pastes I have been thinking outside the box a bit. I have a “what if” brain. It keeps wanting to wrap itself around ideas and get busy with them. I have been ruminating over a “what if?” for a while now and as Steve is off collecting firewood with a friend today, my “what if” might get a chance to get researched today. “What if I tried to take the natural sweetness from root vegetables and turn it into a useful sweetener?” I am talking along the lines of date paste, but coming from sweeter veggies like pumpkin and sweet potato. I am going to experiment with “butters” to see if I can satisfy my veggie sweet tooth naturally and with minimal flavour additives to the root veggies. I have also been finding lots of naturally sweet thick syrups in my forays online. Things like pomegranate and apple molasses, a result of reducing straight juice down to a thick unctuous syrup like product that has keeping qualities. Obviously this was one of the ways that our pioneering ancestors managed to keep sweet things over winter and preserve the harvest. I wonder what juices I could extract and reduce down to make some amazing flavoured thick molasses? I am going to be experimenting so expect some results soon.
A selection of ingredients to make some biscuits. The orange peel is awaiting me turning it into preserved orange peel and that biscuit barrel is getting a little bit low…time to make another batch.
Some of the ingredients for Steve’s Stromboli that he had for his evening meal last night
Another thing that I have been ruminating over for a little while now is this blog. I have honed my RSS Feed Reader down to accommodate our busy lifestyle and to allow me to spend more time in the mornings prepping for our day. My mornings can now be spent initially reading and commenting on my RSS Feed Reads (and pinning worthy posts) and then I get time to deal with my kefir, put beans on to soak for cooking the next day as it’s easier to plan what I need for the day and the next day when I have a specific time set aside to do it. I always forgot to soak my soybeans for my non-dairy milk but now I won’t forget. Morning is when I plan out what I need prepped for my needs. I make a lot of what I use myself including my non-dairy organic soymilk for my kefir, my almond and oat milk for my tea and personal use, a regular progression of homemade date paste and the various cooked beans that I use in my day to day recipes. I love being organised and this newfound freedom to plan my prepping has me thinking that I am starting to get on top of this country living lark. I am thinking about changing the direction of this blog. I am going to drop it down to a single post a week. I tried to do that back when I dropped it from daily, to twice a week but all of my dear constant readers protested. I have noticed that I have a lot of followers who never comment and who are effectively “sleepers”. Some haven’t read a blog post in years and I realise that my long winded, eccentric posts might be a bit much for most people.
Oops! I am going to run out of images if I am not careful…this is the dough for the biscuits that I made yesterday. It is the same dough that I make for Quaker oat biscuits. The only difference is that I eliminate the cinnamon and sugar and add bacon and grated cheese
There are a small core of you out there that “get” me. That see what I am trying to do here and that appreciate my crazy tangle of muses that want to explode into the arena that forms this blog. I started this blog to satisfy the needs of my mum. She was happy to allow us to move to Tasmania so long as she could see what was going on and the blog allowed me to share with her, and with the rest of the world. It also satisfied my latent need to write. I have enjoyed posting and can truly say that it has never been a chore to me. Words flow out of me like water into a stream and writers block isn’t something that I have had to contend with on a regular basis. I still feel that there are millions of posts welled up inside me but the tide has started to change. I want to hone my posts and make them relevant to what we are doing here. I know that my dear constant readers are interested in what we are accomplishing on Serendipity Farm and I seem to have been stagnating here for a while. Winter and our derrières firmly welded to this P.C. throne as we try to keep up with our lecturers manic and erratic study load have left us with precious little time (or inclination if the truth be told…) to get out into the frozen archipelago that has become Serendipity Farm. You know how I said we rarely get frost? Ignore that as the machinations of a mad woman…it is practically snow here of late! I have been getting very interested in fermenting things. I am also harbouring a burning flame for planting out our food trees. It’s as if something is telling me to hurry up and I tend to listen to those small urgent voices that come from those primal places inside me more than the clamouring voices from outside.
And here they are! Delicious oaty bacon and cheese biscuits made with butter…and they are all for the dogs! It’s certainly a dog’s life here on Serendipity Farm 😉
I will be cutting posts down to once a week on a Wednesday folks. I want to get stuck back into the garden where we belong, forging the soil, the food forest and the base permaculture cycles that we need to get this place humming along sustainably and spring is coming…the ash trees are starting to bud up! There are bulbs erupting all over the place and jonquils are waving about in the frosty breeze. The whole of the Tamar river looks romantic and windswept from the daily mist events that waft up the river and then back down at regular intervals. I want to be out there living life and facilitating change. I don’t want to wake up one day too old to do what we want to do here and have to live with that for the rest of my life. I know that you will all understand the whys and wherefores of what I want to do and that you will also appreciate the new sense of excitement that will be injected into your posts. I am hoping that my natural cut off point (that just got breached 😉 ) of 2800 words (yes…my muses let me off about then 😉 ) will not expand to a 5000 word small novella once a week. Lets just see how it goes. That’s the glory of blogging, you take it for a spin, you test it out and if it’s a dud you bugger off and go elsewhere to find one that WILL work…see you on Wednesday where Steve and I are going to share some of the animations that we have been furiously tinkering over for the last month. We are suitably proud of them and our lecturer passed us on our very first try with all of them. We were most proud of ourselves when that happened :o). Have a great week everyone and prepare for a rollercoaster of weird experimentation, extreme gardening and narf7’s eccentric take on life, the universe and everything :o).