Christmas in July the first “NO Earl!”…

Hi All

The first “NO EARL!” was probably around about this time last year (mid-July) which would have been very closely followed by the second “NO EARL!” and we are probably approaching our 175 000 “NO EARL!” about now. The angels didn’t sing…in fact the only thing “singing” (if you could call it that…) were the dulcet fisher wife tones of yours truly echoing obtrusively throughout otherwise quiet valley of Sidmouth, fighting its way aggressively out to Bass Strait to terrorise an unsuspecting penguin colony somewhere. I am going about this post upside down today…nothing to do with traction and everything to do with today…Wednesday being effectively “Wrong”. I can’t tell you what, exactly, is wrong with today but it started with a headache and no feral cats meowing under the deck for something to eat, chickens that didn’t want to eat bread…dogs that didn’t want to eat meat and Bezial getting sick in the car for no apparently reason (other than extreme anxiety brought on by a total of 3 walks. An unheard of reason to barf with excitement…). We didn’t want to work on our latest AutoCAD plan today because being what it is, it would have ended up not working for whatever reason and I might have had a prospective future meltdown. We decided to let today be wrong. If it wants to gyrate itself into oblivion sideways it’s not our business and we are just going with the flow for the remainder of this unusual day and so posting the end of the post first seemed somehow most fitting.

This photo just goes to show you how “Wrong” today is. I would normally not show you our back yard (or more to the point…the dogs back yard) as its not very aesthetically pleasing due to Earl’s plant eating habits

Who wouldn’t like to live in a lovely house like this with a beautiful garden leading out to the driveway…

It’s nice isn’t it? Well this is the front facade and a most manicured facade at that. We walked the dogs around the back of this house today and the back yard is littered with bicycles, the garden is a shambles of overgrown trees and shrubs and you wouldn’t be able to match the front facade to the back if you were asked to “match the front to the back yard”…sometimes what you see isn’t all that you get!

It’s a wise person who takes stock of what they have in their lives and who they are and are able to not only come to an amicable agreement with themselves to accept this, but actively enjoy their lives. As penniless hippy students we exist on the breadline. We are happy with our lot and enjoy our way of life incredibly; however we don’t have a lot of leeway with the ability to purchase whatever we want. We have a list an arm long of what we want to get for Serendipity Farm and a moth eaten sock with a few coins in it under the bed that we are loathe to raid for even the smallest purchase. We are proud of how we are debt free and able to live on a shoestring, but it makes it all the more important that we are able to access information online about how to make our shoestring stretch exponentially. I have found some amazing websites and blogs that share all sorts of hints and tips and am eternally grateful to everyone out there who shares what they know and how they do it for free. We can learn how to upholster a chair, how to recover a book, how to make strange and wonderful ferments and recipes to use them in. We can learn how to do simple home renovations and get comparisons of various articles before we pull that long suffering sock out from under the bed to spend our precious savings. It’s not easy living on next to nothing but there is a stoic satisfaction in being able to not only make do, and save as well, but enjoying the process is the most satisfying thing of all. It’s all too easy to get scared about the world around us and all of the changes that are slowly starting to happen. Peak oil, G.M.O. crops and all sorts of large headlines in the papers making us wonder if our homes and lives are safe but economies rise and economies fall and always in the background are the people living day to day…adapting and changing and learning and rising and falling and living around the outskirts of the headlines and the war and the famine and the fear…communities working together to share and foster hope and I can’t help but feel that we humans are probably due for a bit of a shakeup within our consumerist fragmented society. It might not be so bad if we have to live with our parents…it would certainly be cheaper and returning to some of our past community ways can only be a good thing. Ensuring that the elderly are treated with respect as the keepers of the ways of the past and seeing life and death up close and personal can only be good for our children. Forget shielding them from the world, they are only going to get hurled out into it eventually so they should be able to see reality and ask questions and get valid and caring answers. Life is tough but it is also beautiful and humanity as a whole barely live their lives any more in the pursuit of the elusive consumer “happiness” bird.

Autumn demolition of the side garden has resulted in this decidedly underwhelming vista but as you can see, the little Luculia that we planted out is beaming from its new position in the earth and to this day, still hasn’t dropped a flower. It is an example of how being grateful for what you get is a beautiful thing

This is Beauty Point in the middle of winter and the greyness is echoed all around our local environment

Another grey picture showing you where we walked today. Despite the colour scheme being pretty monochromatic, there is a dignity and a sense of place that comes with winter that gives it an austere beauty all of its own

“What’s she on about now!”…well…my son just got back from America and Ireland with his new partner Kelsey and he is just about to head over to visit us on Serendipity Farm. Steve and I met online when he was in the U.K. and I was in Western Australia. Life online is a fantasy and pictures that we post on blogs shield reality. Who wants to post pictures of dog chewed rugs and piles of decomposing branches in the top paddock? Who wants to share that they sweep the floors at least 5 times a day to ensure that you can actually see wooden floor under all that dog hair and who wants to admit that they haven’t got a clue how to go about washing that wooden floor that they so thoughtfully decided to wax rather than polish with high gloss chemicals…not I! Reality has a way of pushing its way to the fore and giving you a shove. Earl is real…he has a way of pushing you with his nose and letting you know that something isn’t right in the state of Kansas. I don’t want our reality to be something that Kelsey isn’t comfortable with. We choose to live frugally and simply and are incredibly happy with our lot and can only hope that she will see that and realise that happiness isn’t always wrapped up in expensive wrapping paper and tied with a credit debt bow. One day Serendipity Farm is going to be Stewart’s and perhaps Kelsey might be right there with him when he moves in and I want them to see hope and prospective happiness and a life close to the ground and the ability to choose their own destiny that is tied up with owning your own home. We are incredibly thankful and grateful for that chance and hopefully they will be too. Does this smack of a bit of self-flagellation? I think its more fear of the unknown. I am a quintessential magpie AND a bit of a control freak. I don’t like the unknown precisely because it is just that…”unknown” and I can’t plan for it. Just come and visit us Kelsey and don’t have any preconceived ideas…we can make some bread together…we can go for a walk with the dogs and have a chat about life, the universe and everything…we can roast one of our chooks and you can have as many free range eggs as your heart desires (here’s hoping that Kelsey loves eggs!) and in the process of unwinding, I hope that you will slowly look around you and think…”I could do something here…”…that’s all I ask :o)

You may remember Pingu, our little hen who started life out on the wrong foot. No-one wanted her and we found her almost dead on her own in the chicken compound. We put her in a basket on top of Brunhilda (before you call the R.S.P.C.A. we had the plate covers down!) and Earl has tried to dispatch her twice now but she keeps coming back. She will never be a normal chicken but again, whoever is normal on Serendipity Farm doesn’t belong here! We take waifs and strays and the fringe dwellers here and Pingu has earned her place here especially as she lays a lovely brown egg every two days :o)

Pingu submitting to human interaction for the sake of her continued breakfast each day of bread and butter…

The indignities that a poor long suffering hen has to go through to live in the shed on a large flowerpot and get fed a mangy bit of bread and butter in the mornings!

You often hear about a lonely cuckoo singing in a tree somewhere that sets the tone and the mood in books…we have cuckoo shrikes here. They are about as far from a real cuckoo as you can get and spend their lives looking in my kitchen window and yelling out on the deck for us to deliver small cubes of cheese into their gaping maws. The insects have apparently gone into hibernation or hiding to escape the hens rabid beaks and the cuckoo shrikes have stripped as much bark from the eucalypts as they dare and there are apparently not enough insects to go around. Dad used to feed them mince but mince is not an option for us and so they get small cubes of tasty cheese. They LOVE it! I had some spare mince a while back, and feeling magnanimous and content with my lot on that day, I put some out for the cuckoo shrikes for old time’s sake. They picked it up…they carried some off and they came back and completely ignored it! “We want the cheese…bring us the cheese!”… oh well…they only come like this in winter when times get tough and in summer we rarely see them aside from the odd shredding of eucalyptus bark and the odd squeak in the distance. They raise their young, they bring them to the deck to learn the “ways of the cheese” and they head off to have more babies and there are generations of cuckoo shrikes that have lived like this…a symbiotic relationship with the humans and we are hoping to carry on this tradition along with planting out lots of habitat and food plants for the local birds for many years to come.

Here is the little female Cuckoo Shrike who usually sits on Steve’s hand but this is the only picture that I could take of her that turned out as she is WAY too fast for my slow fingers to click

There’s a bit of chicken jealousy going on between the coop dwelling chickens and Pingu. They have heard about her shed and her daily breakfast and have decided to move in on her territory (and Steve’s) even more than I have with my strawberry pots while I am trying for the life of me to work out where to put them to protect them from the hungry possums. I have a vertical garden idea that I am ruminating on at the moment and will keep you posted

When we were researching ideal shrubs and small trees to use for our water wise sustainable garden plan that were a combination of incredibly hardy, able to grow just about anywhere in any situation, that offered habitat for birds, protection for them along with food we discovered, quite by accident the genus Elaegnus. I had heard of this genus and after a small bit of research realised that it included Russian Olives, a most desirable tree. This genus is amazing! It contains some of the most water-wise, hardy, adaptable edible plants known to man and the entire front garden of our plan is cram packed full of them now. I just did a spell check as word didn’t recognise the word “Elaegnus” (and let’s face it anyone not involved in horticulture most probably wouldn’t!)…and it wanted me to swap “Elaegnus” for “Eloigns”…EH?! Now THERE is a word that makes more sense and that we all know and love right? NOT! Apparently the word Eloigns means (and I quote from the Free Merriam-Webster online dictionary…)

“Definition of ELOIGN. transitive verb. 1. archaic: to take (oneself) far away. 2. archaic: to remove to a distant or unknown place: conceal …”

Now I know that Elaegnus is a genus that usually consist of more thorns than leaves and I know that you might wish to remove yourself from the close proximity (read “in the middle of”) of any Elaegnus that you may have innocently fallen into the middle of post haste but Eloign doesn’t really cut the mustard to describe this genus, Word, so keep to what you know best (irritating grammatically erratic bad spellers like me) and leave horticulture to the gardeners! My own personal interpretation of the word Eloign is “once bitten twice shy”! I will commit this new word to memory to be used in conversation around the water cooler should I ever be lucky enough to fall victim to getting myself a regular job in the near future and feel the need to ensure that everyone else around the water cooler knows that I am an unmitigated nob.

Here is the boys dinner for tonight slowly defrosting in Brunhilda’s slowest warming oven. The temperature is perfect for slow defrosting as well as for dehydrating an added boon that I didn’t think of when we were contemplating our justification for Brunhilda’s initial cost and a massive help on cold winters days

Doesn’t this photo of Paper Beach make you feel wistfull? Well it does me!

We have bone wars going on at Serendipity Farm. The only thing that we have any problems with our 2 male dogs with is bones. When we first got Earl we used to give both dogs bones as they are the best thing for their teeth (cleaning) and for their digestion and healthy bowels. Bezial has always been a bit mean with bones and Qi learned early on not to even THINK of having a personal bone and that the odd nibble when Bezial was laying upside down inside was the best that she was ever going to get on the bone front. Earl isn’t like Qi and soon learned to stand up for his bone rights. We didn’t want any problems between the boys so we stopped buying them bones but today we thought of a possible solution to our problem and bought 2 large beef thigh bones. Earl is shut on the deck and Bezial gets his bone out the back door…never the twain shall meet and silence and happiness shall reign on Serendipity Farm…that would be the situation in an ideal world but Serendipity Farm is NEVER ideal and Bezial ONLY eats rancid bones that have been lying about undisturbed for weeks. Earl can’t be kept on the deck for the 2 – 3 weeks that it takes for Bezials bone to get to the desired level of putrescence and so we are back to square 1. Bezial lying next to Brunhilda with one ear up listening for if Earl makes any surreptitious moves towards the back door and Earl hurriedly eating his bone so that he can start on Bezials…the grass is apparently greener (and so is the rancid bone…) on the other side of the gate…sigh…back to the drawing board!

“Lassie came home!”…well Della did…she has had puppies and has gone from being Bezial’s mate to being a barking mother much to Bezial’s consternation… it’s tough being a clueless male. She was trying to catch the plovers that were flying shrieking around her attacking her in this photo and it was hilarious to watch her snapping at them as they bombed her from on high.

These are some of the glass houses at the Polytechnic department of Horticulture and go part way to showing you how bleak winter can be in Launceston Tasmania in July

Although winter is upon us and its cold, grey and a bit depressing I wanted to share this photo with you that Steve took yesterday when we went to Paper Beach to walk the boys. Love is eternal and so is optimism! “Hurry up Spring I am cold!”

Well it’s time to start preparing food for the various creatures that inhabit Serendipity Farm (ourselves included) and another few days have headed into the abyss of time. At least when I am old and have time for reflection (should the day ever come when I DO get to reflect!) I will have these posts to look back on and wonder what we ever did to deserve this! 😉