“What’s the name of that garbage monster?”…

Hi All,

“Is it Elmo?”…”Oh THAT’S right…it was Oscar”. That’s what my dear Sesame Street deprived husband said to me on our walk with the dogs this morning. We were just about to pass a notorious dog house where said “Garbage monster” lived and dragged our two past an enormous hairy adolescent of a German shepherd with his voice breaking with excitement to see our boys. I hate to break it to you babe…Earl is the garbage monster! We then carried on our walk only to see a group of extremely tall and thin kids with their dog off the leash…sigh…we turned around and headed back the other way till we were just about to meet up with another Saturday dog walker and did another about face in the other direction and returned back to where we had started. On the way back to the car we met Buster…I can only begin to imagine the thought processes going through Steve’s strange mind that are going to give him his memory cue for that one! At least it gives me entertaining blog post titles to lure the unsuspecting in! 😉

As I just used Steve to shamelessly promote todays post so I had best give you an action shot of him making a mountain of wood futures

When I get out of bed in the morning my warm spot is immediately predated by a heat seeking missile

Earl contemplating a career as a prize fighter

On Wednesday I mentioned that we had berries on a Mahonia shrub in the jungle part of the garden and Spencer from Anthropogen, my go-to place for learning EVERYTHING about practical useful horticulture (in opposition to horticulture that is a bit of a waste of time and that results in things that you can’t use or eat) mentioned in his comment that you can make jam out of them. Always the sceptic I decided to head off and take a look…Mahonia aquifolium’s common name is Oregon grape and as the blackbirds are eagerly hovering around these bright blue berries I figured that I might harvest them and see if I can’t make a small pot of jam out of them. Here is a good website with a great recipe for jam/jelly and some hints about combining the fruit with milder carrier fruit to mellow its flavour…

http://s158336089.onlinehome.us/OregonGrapeJam/OregonGrapeJam.html

We have some Myrtus communis (common myrtle) shrubs on the property as well and aside from making jam from the fruit, it is apparently good for making a type of booze and anything booze is alright by me! Thinking about it…maybe Mahonia could be turned into an interestingly coloured wine? Anyone for blue wine? Talking about blue things, we have seen an influx of the dreaded huge blue ants which form the stuff that Steve’s nightmares are made of. He was once bitten on the foot whilst whipper snipping by one of these nasty critters and aside from being amazingly painful the bite took ages to go away. The ants are not actually ants but are wingless female flower wasps. Here is a website with a picture of one of these beautiful but painful insects to check out for yourself…

http://www.whatsthatbug.com/2010/11/21/blue-ant-from-tasmania-is-flightless-female-flower-wasp/

That’s my “something new I learned today”.  I dehydrated some bananas that I bought for 99c a kilogram the other day. The local grocer that we buy our fruit from doesn’t wait till the bananas go black before he puts them out cheap so they are great to eat immediately or to freeze or dehydrate for later use. I was thinking about how to use dehydrated bananas other than eating them and decided that I am going to partially dehydrate some bananas to the approximate texture of dried dates and then I will puree them and add them to some home-made nut butter. I am also thinking about adding some cocoa to the mix to see how that pans out. Today’s bunch got frozen after I skinned them. I then snipped the skin into fine chunks for our ravenous compost pile to consume. I say that the compost pile is ravenous, but really it’s the small handful of leaves and red wriggler worms that the owner of “Inspirations” nursery in Exeter gave to me. He must have given me about 20 worms and I laid them reverently in the compost bin, covering them with some dried oak leaves and a kitchen scrap bucket load of various choice scraps. I came out later to see the entire compost bin seething with chooks all pecking away like crazy and immediately lamented my 20 red wrigglers, writing their eulogy as I yelled at the chooks and did windmill things with my arms in a vain effort to dissuade them from eating every last one. I figured that the compost heap was now worm free aside from the odd huge native worm that bumbled its way into Nirvana. I was wrong! At least 1 worm must have survived and went exponential on our compost heap in a big way because all you have to do is life a little of the top layer of compost and you get to see a seething mass of worms in various stages of development from teeny little thin whipper-snappers to strapping red gyrating teens. The nursery owner did warn me that they breed exponentially and now I get to reap their composting rewards and they get my buckets of scraps to fight over with the chooks.

The ubiquitous worm laden compost heap complete with an entire dead lavender shrub disguising the baby pumpkins that are growing behind it until they get so big that the chooks can’t possibly hope to quell them

Wednesday’s Mahonia berries are Saturday’s empty stems

Unripe Mahonia berries that will be harvested BEFORE the birds predate them as soon as they are ripe

The extent of my haul of Mahonia berries 😦

I put the two plastic bags that the bananas had been languishing in into my plarn bag and noticed that it was now full of all kinds of plastic bags and ticked the “to do on Saturday” box in my head initiating a plarn manufacturing day in advance. Little did I know that the garbage monster had plans of his own and his plans were for earlier on in the week! Needless to say…never leave your dog’s alone with an unattended bag of plastic bags that you intend on recycling creatively because you may have to change your “plarns” (sorry, I couldn’t resist that ;)). Earl recycled most of my plarn bags into unusable shards and the rest of them are still waiting to be processed by Earl’s internal plastic recycling depot and I am NOT going to make plarn out of them! I read on a website that living sustainably starts a chain of events in your life that can completely change the way that you live and how you see things. I completely agree. All sorts of cycles start coming out of the woodwork and I am constantly amazed at how many ways to recycle, reuse and repurpose things there are. As a natural born skiller (again…sorry…I am full of them today! ;)), I have a driven urge that is apparently the fruit of generations of thriftiness that runs in my blood like ginger beer. Talking about ginger beer…I must get a plant on the go! I keep seeing opportunities to make and do things and I am finding it increasingly hard to just make it to the end of the day having followed my goals because I am always deviating out sideways after finding something new. I thinned out my rss feed reader and rather than making my life easier, it’s actually made it harder! I have so many great blogs that I am actually reading every single post and am commenting on them all because they are all amazing resource rich sources of information and I am always incredibly grateful to those bloggers who yield quality stuff. I am getting up at 5am and have 2 hours to wander lonely as a cloud to find that sea of daffodils BUT those daffodils side-track me like crazy. It’s not MY fault that those amazing vegan food blogs are just about all participating in Vegan Mofo and keep linking to other great vegan food blogs that I just HAVE to stuff into my rss feed reader (like the hoarding pack rat that I am…sigh…) and that the rest of the quirky crafty homesteading mix that I have padding out the vegan stuff is equally as prolific and productive with their amazingly useful posts. I am going to have to spend this entire weekend working slowly through the 840 (yes 840!) posts that are mounting up exponentially in my rss feed reader and I want to read every single one! I keep a word doc open and ready to filch the mouth-watering recipes and how to’s and precious gardening information and by the end of my 2 hours word is ready to go back to bed for the day. I hit 7am (Steve’s time to wake up) running and have started a new tradition of thinking of some amazing music for him to wake up to and heading on over to Youtube, finding the entire album and turning it on as I bring him his morning cup of eye opening java. I am usually a very happy camper to be full of hours of acquired knowledge and information and carefully cribbed amazing recipes and bounce into the bedroom with coffee, wonderful music and a bleary eyed husband and his 2 furry bed mates. I think I am becoming one of those dreaded morning people!

Bananas ready for the freezer

My compost bucket with snipped banana skins to allow them to decompose more quickly

More banana peels to snip and 2 plarn futures bags…well they WOULD have been plarn futures if Earl hadn’t decided to intercede… I love being able to find ways to reuse everything that comes from our purchases and am looking forwards to heading even further afield to find more interesting ways to reuse, repurpose and recycle as much as we can on Serendipity Farm

When I was dejectedly stumbled around the garden after finding the Mahonia stripped bare of all of the succulent blue fruit that I had just decided to harvest I noted the seed pods on an incredibly overgrown and tumble-down Cassia bicapsularis/Senna. The tree is apparently incredibly hardy and this one has seen MUCH better days. I decided to collect some of the seeds and grow some more for Serendipity Farm. Aside from flowering in the winter and being a lovely looking tree, Cassia’s are leguminous and fix nitrogen in the soil and this particular variety are somewhat fast growing so they can act as foundation trees to support other slower growing trees and because they grow faster they can be cut and used as mulch. We also discovered a Kowhai/Sophora tetraptera, another leguminous small tree by complete accident when Steve noticed it flowering. It has very distinctive shaped and coloured flowers. I wonder why many leguminous trees and shrubs have yellow flowers? Genista monspessulana/Canary broom and Cytisus scoparius/English broom that has developed a curious red centre on many of the self-seeded weeds in the area also have yellow flowers as does Ulex europaeus/Gorse. Thank goodness we don’t have gorse on Serendipity Farm! That’s one weed that we really don’t need! This garden is constantly revealing little parts of itself as it evolves. I got to peek into the jungle part of the garden by braving some menacing blackberries and by turning sideways and peering through the hugely overgrown Phoenix canariensis/Canary palm that prevents entry to this part of the garden. I noticed a most interesting looking vibernum and on doing a bit of research, I discovered that there are many viburnum’s that have edible berries and some have leaves that can be used to make teas. I think that the vibernum that I discovered was Vibernum rhytidophyllum from a bit more research.

The distinctive flower of the Kowhai a leguminous tree that we recently found in our garden thanks to this flower

After a while it gets easier to work out what is leguminous and what isn’t. The leaves on the Kowhai are a dead giveaway where the flower isn’t really all that pea shaped

The plant (taken with a zoom lens) that I suspect is Vibernum rhytidophyllum amongst the jungle down in the lower garden area

It looks like Tasmania has decided to shuffle in some last bastions of winter for a couple of days. I don’t mind because I like when the garden gets watered for free and Brunhilda gets to make an appearance for a while and I don’t have to turn on the gas hot water system for a few more days. Steve has been busy fixing the front gate that has been warped by a large tree growing against one of the gate poles. He also fixed the water pipe that we burst the other day when we were planting our maples. I am so very lucky to have a husband who is “handy”. He might want to run at his days like a bull at a gate but he certainly knows how to redeem himself :o). I need to mention here that I finished “Gone Girl”. I loved the book and the interesting premise of the book but the ending was a bit weird to say the least. I had to suspend my sense of disbelief a bit but aside from the strange ending Gillian Flynn has written 3 books that I thoroughly enjoyed and will be reading anything else that she chooses to publish. I still haven’t read Like Water for Chocolate but I dare say I will find 5 minutes to shove my nose into it someday soon. My main problem now is that getting up at 5am renders me zombified by 8pm and completely unable to read anything more than a few sentence’s before I find myself waking up with my chin on my chest. At least I now earn the drool on my shirt with spring giving us so many opportunities to work hard on Serendipity Farm

I just wanted to share a few photos with you of the jungle area of the garden…

The pink coloured tree in the background is a Circis siliquastrum/Judas tree that is struggling to be seen amongst this seething mass of impenetratable vegetation

My sideways, upside down on one leg squinting shot of the garden taken just before I was heartily yanked by a wayfaring blackberry and forced to retreat from the jungle garden post haste

The mushrooms have started to slow down now and I think that my days of free mushrooms are limited by whether or not we pick up some more mushroom compost when we next head into town. The spent compost will be used to top dress garden beds as mulch. I was reading a blog this morning that talked about how restaurants are lamenting how difficult it is to minimise food waste because companies that haul away their food waste for composting charge too much. I wonder why all of the restaurants in a suburb (or even a few suburbs) don’t get together and try to do something about the problem. If companies can make money out of hauling away someone else’s food waste, surely the restaurants could as well? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to start their own communal compost heap somewhere and pay someone themselves to haul away the waste, compost it and sell it on? Thinking about it a little more, perhaps they could supply community gardens and a percentage of the produce could be returned to the restaurateurs to be recycled into their profit margin? I wish I had more food waste to compost as one day my red wrigglers are going to start lining up at the back door demanding I open the fridge for them. I think I might start a real worm farm soon. The compost heap is almost ready to be plundered for its black gold and I am going to have to evict the worms en mass. Beaconsfield tip shop often have ceramic baths for $20 and I think it might be time to head on over for a tip run in the near future to see if we can’t get ourselves a nice pink (strangely most baths thrown out are pink!) prospective worm farm. Another cycle forming on Serendipity Farm to integrate with all of the other cycles. Steve watered the glasshouse with some Powerfeed and worm tea the other day and pretty soon we won’t have to buy our worm tea, we will be able to make it ourselves.  It’s this myriad of cycles that has me excited for the future and once we manage to tame these cycles we should be able to ride the waves of change on Serendipity Farm. Nothing like a bit of proactivity to give you back a sense of equilibrium :o)

One of the lily of the valley’s that have been sprouting up all over the place lately along with the Soloman’s seals

Steve’s weird choice of foodstuffs that comprised 2 spinach and herb wraps consisting of French onion dip spread, roast pork, fresh sliced tomato, baby cos lettuce, sliced tasty cheese, omelette chinese style and some dijonaise all wrapped up and consumed with happy expat gusto. Glad I can make you happy babe but please…NEVER expect me to eat them with you! 😉

“Yeh…I did it…what are you going to do about it eh?”…a lesson in how dogs amuse themselves if you don’t leave them enough plastic milk bottles to work on till you get back…”Goodbye plarn futures till I build you up again!”

It’s just about time to post this post and I am still sitting here tapping away. I have had my tea; I have watched Gok’s wonderful cooking show. Anyone apart from me think that Gok is the Asian equivalent of Nigel Slater? I am ready to trawl the net tonight to find all sorts of quality information and so I bid you adieu for now and wish you all a wonderful weekend and remind you not to forget to listen to some good music when you can, it adds a magnificent piquancy to life and can take you to those mental and emotional places that nothing else can. See you on Wednesday :o)

Cat Stevens is a never-ending cup of the purest unadulterated pleasure and this is what I played first thing this morning to wake Steve up and to fill my heart with simple clean pure joy

The very best of Cat Stevens the full album…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxD6faPrY1M

Zone 1 all wrapped up in plarn

Hi All,

Can anyone out there please explain to me how ANYONE has time to be bored these days? I read about bored unemployed people…I am (for the want of a job) “unemployed” but I would really appreciate it if these people could loan me a bit of their spare time that they can’t seem to fill up because my time is bursting its seams! Whenever I get spare time I have all sorts of things festering on the back burners. If I am really free of pressing things to do I can jump online and head off into the ether to read my backlog (at least 500 of them…) of backed up blogs that I absolutely POSITIVELY must keep in my rss feed reader. I add at least 10 new blogs to them every day and am showing no signs of slowing down. My poor reader is starting to strain a bit when I open it at 5am (it would seem that I am not the only one who isn’t fine-tuned for mornings ;)) and I spend some delicious time syphoning magpied recipes, sippets of precious gardening information and all things sustainable and therefore incredibly precious to this little black duck who chooses to simplify her life. I seem to end up heading up all sorts of alternate pathways as I reply to particularly good posts, click on links and wander off searching the globe for solutions for our tiny corner of the globe in the wider blogging and online community. I just spent an hour wading through raw food blogs to sift out some amazing raw dehydrator bread and wrap recipes that I am going to have a go at making soon. I have a huge 9 tray Excalibur dehydrator that I bought years ago when I lived in a hotter clime. I use it mainly to dehydrate the dogs thin beef strips to keep them doing what we want on long walks and to dehydrate any surpluses that we get (like our recent mushroom glut) for the future. I also found out that raw foodists seem to love sweet things more than savoury. I am the opposite and love savoury things with a passion. Give me a cheesy sour cream flavour over chocolate ANY day. Again Steve and I are complete opposites there. He loves sweet…I love savoury…he is measured with his food and I am an abject glutton (much like heifer is a “glutton” in Rocko’s modern life)

This is a prospective Larix decidua grove of tiny trees

A sea of forget-me-nots not being forgotten

If I get bored of surfing for information and I do at times…I always have a large stack of delicious library books (with more backing up on hold to pick up today) that are just waiting for me to curl up on Bezials sofa next to Brunhilda and slowly fall asleep to. Nothing like a book reading nap to remind you that you are no longer 20! Talking about Brunhilda…I got up today and realised that it was October 1st. “A pinch and a punch for the first of the month and NO RETURNS”…childish aren’t I? Last night I decided to end my long running battle with enormous food portions. I have always eaten “well” and when I changed my long standing bad habits earlier in the year and lost weight I hung on tenaciously to the size of my portions. I know that I should eat less, I just don’t want to! Now is the perfect time to cut a sliver off my portion sizes and lighten the night time load. I invented an Asian style soup last night with wakame, shaved orange and purple carrots, my heavenly Korean green miso and veggie paste, some Korean chilli paste (that I am almost out of so I get to go to the Asian food shop in the near future again…YAY!), Massell stock powder (all natural and the best thing that we Aussies came up with since free speech), fresh sliced thick mushrooms, minced fresh garlic and ginger and probably some more things that I have forgotten but it was delicious and it was light and I enjoyed it immensely. The best part about it was that because it was light soup, I couldn’t overindulge. I also woke up ready for my breakfast rather than still full after an oversized meal. Bad habits are hard to change but I figure that changing one of them at a time is good enough for me and this one is a lifelong habit…one of the doozies…so I am not going to hamper myself by trying to tackle anything else while I nail the coffin lid onto my overeating habits. Wish me luck…I am going to need it!

I thought you might like a game of “spot the chives”

Two elephant garlic plants that for some reason, the allium loving possums and wallabies have decided to spare

So I have my library books and my online information highway…I also have the supermarket bag full of plastic bags. I am not saving my bags to use for rubbish because I have ANOTHER bag of supermarket bags for that. This special bag contains all of the supermarket bags that have holes in the bottom…my empty oat packets, date packets. Frozen vegetable packets etc. All of the bread wrappers (again, I have a separate stash that I use for collecting the dogs deposits around the yard…) and in the near future I am going to reduce them all into plarn. Plarn is my new friend. I am going to use my crocheting skills (such as they are) to render said plarn into useful stuff like tote bags for our shopping (I find is somewhat ironic that I am crocheting cut up shopping bags to make a bag for my shopping ;)), scuffy shoey things that look like sandals, hats, dishcloths etc. Check “Plarn” out here to see what I am talking about…

This first blog has how to make plarn and some good projects for using it…

http://www.myrecycledbags.com/2011/03/06/newspaper-bags-recycled-into-plarn/

This is a fantastic blog of crocheted guinea pigs…I kid you not! Someone made plarn AND crocheted guinea pigs…guess who just found something else to add to their rss feed reader 😉

http://planetmfiles.com/2008/09/06/how-to-make-plarn/

And this is for you lazy sacks who don’t like to read (don’t say that I don’t cater for the masses!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdTm2V4ssvY

You should now have a very good idea what plarn is, and how to use it in your day to day life. Plarn takes all of those pesky plastic bags that haunt me in that bit of time that it takes me at night (probably 7.3 seconds these days…) to fall into a deep sleep. I feel so guilty throwing my plastic bags into the bin. I even keep my bread ties! What was I going to do with them all to salve my sore sustainability bone and return my “smug-o-meter” to full? Make plarn that’s what! Good luck eating the plarn by the way Earl. I know you love to eat stuff but plarn isn’t going to give you the rush that scarfing my precious paid for wool is going to do because I will see you frolicking in my crochet bag and will raise my shoulders and say “meh!” You LOSE your ability to make me do that funny windmill thing with my arms whilst advancing on you with rickety speed and mouthing loud stupid humanities at you that constitutes “GAME ON” in your small doggy brain.

Evidence of “possum activity” on this poor long suffering mandarin tree. There is another mandarin tree just across from this one that never gets touched. It just goes to show that you can’t second guess a possums actions

The first of our feral asparagus spears of the year. We have spotted spears shooting up all over the garden delivered to their hidden spots by birds eating forgotten asparagus berries.

Let’s recant what we have so far…So we have the online information highway…the chock full of happiness library books and the plarn…but wait…there’s more! I have a cupboard full of weird stuff that I occasionally like to open and gloat at. I collect weird ingredients. I have things in packets that I have NO idea how to use but I knew when I saw their strange hieroglyphic foreign script with nothing listed in English that I absolutely positively HAD to have them (I like a challenge ;)). I have been delving into my weird stuff lately. I actually used an entire packet of cloud ear fungus and I loved it! I opened up large plastic containers that got shipped here from Western Australia on a container ship last night to see if I had any weird noodles left. I ate the sweet potato noodles (yummy) and the starch noodles and some other noodles that refused to get tender no matter what and saw something noodle like but was deflated when I realised that it was agar-agar flakes (not so good cooked up as noodles…). I noted several weird types of seaweed in the boxes, some unlabelled floury things (no fun if you actually know what they are…) and some bags of gluten flour from previous attempts to make seitan (wheat meat for vegans). I have rice syrup, I have dehydrated wood ear fungus (hey if cloud ear is yummy, I am going to give wood ear a go!) and every weird and wonderful non-English ingredient that comes into my peripheral vision is likely to be added to my collection. I have plans to feed Steve some very interesting creations over the summer months. He is wary of my weird stuff but if he can’t see what I am using to cook with and the end result tastes alright he is fine with it. I plan on making lots of wraps and tortillas this summer using home-made flatbreads and home grown greens, tomatoes and lots of pesto’s, hummus’s and all sorts of wonderful aioli’s and mayo’s. When we first arrived in Tasmania is was a long hot summer and we spent our evenings creating delicious wraps using lots of veggies, sliced meats (Steve and the girls) and condiments. That is how we want to eat this summer so I have practicing to do in my weird foods cupboard. Tapioca flour…potato starch…dehydrated veggie powders, veggie purees, nettle gnocchi you will soon be my bitches and Steve’s bitches indirectly…

More forgotten garlic underneath a small mulberry tree

A stand of white iris that appear to be harbouring the enemy!

I have been planting interesting little pots of things underneath the stairs up to the deck

Because we are starting to develop a dwindling firewood stack in the wood shed (it is looking positively pathetic to be honest) we are going to stop firing Brunhilda up in the mornings. The weather is getting warmer and we aren’t going to need her but my morning routine of happiness encompasses the ignition of Brunhilda and the centring of my qi over that first communal cup of precious elixir tea that we produce together. I didn’t fire Brunhilda up this morning. I let her sit fallow and cold and as I started reading my rss feed reader I heard Brunhilda’s equivalent of a throat clearing “excuse me…haven’t you forgotten our daily meeting?” as wood settled in the wood box. I felt guilty! After Steve headed off to do the shopping and the boys settled into sulk mode I decided to get Brunhilda fired up because it was cold. It was cold and I felt guilty…Bezial had slunk off to lie on our bed so I used that as an excuse to fire Brunhilda up. I think I am addicted to my relationship with you Brunhilda and like all good co-dependent relationships we are going to have to cool it for a bit. I don’t really know how I am going to live without you over the summer. I feel a spirit of camaraderie with you as I turn on the hot tap for that scalding hot water, shove my almond mush left over from making my regular almond milk for my tea, insert the boys frozen meat from the freezer into your coolest oven, rest my cuppa on your closed lid and draw a degree of comfort from the feeling that everything will be alright because we have Brunhilda constantly simmering something or other. Our story has been a love story and ever the romantic, I am loath to lose those first flushes of passion and allow our relationship to slowly ebb to an everyday simmer but slow it must because 35C + Brunhilda = heat stroke. Sorry Brunhilda BUT I promise to totally clean you out. To remove all of the ashes and coals and to give you a good scrub with the brush that came with you and you will have a delicious new coat of black wood fire paint to ready you for the very first sign that autumn is starting to turn into winter next year. I love you Brunhilda…adieu for now.

2 Podophyllum peltatum that are very happy to be out of their pots and in the ground underneath a large Japanese Maple

Helleborus foetidus or the delightful common name “Stinking Hellebore” is one of the most hardy flowering perennials that we have on Serendipity Farm. It grows everywhere, it flowers constantly and it doesn’t stink! Whats not to like about this wonderful plant

When you think of spring you think of little frolicking lambs, those first daffodils of the season, everything budding up and the sun coming out and everything green, coloured and joyful. For some reason Serendipity Farm has heralded spring with angst. Everything is fighting! The birds are all aerial bombing each other into submission and despite our recent rooster culling event, the chooks are all antsy and twitchy thanks to our resident population of gritzy cluckies who set everyone’s teeth on edge and who are permanently nesting and crazy. The soil is sulking because of its recent soaking rains that have plumped up the clay and made it as recalcitrant as a teenager in full Emo angst. The plants are confused and reactive as the possums emerge triumphant at night to render any new tender growth nibbled and scarfed depending on their sugar content. The feral cats are all fighting and we are going to have to deal with the 2 females in the population because soon 8 feral cats will become an explosion of cats. I cling tenaciously to the spring idyll and will be putting my hands over my ears whenever I hear Big Yin erupting under the deck at one or other of his charges recalcitrant ways. My spring mantra is “Forgedaboudit!” spoken loudly (over the top of whatever is trying to ruin my inner peace and joy) and with windmill arm actions that are designed to remove anything from Zone 1 around my immediate person.

I love Freesias for their tenacity, their hardiness, their incredible scent and their colour

At ground zero of our recent mangling of the side garden we have planted out a Gingko biloba tree.

I have been dabbling in my own personal version of permaculture. I love permaculture…it is my creed…my ethos (are those 2 things one and the same? I am too lazy to check) and my new way of life. I am one of those people who hurl themselves into something and instantly start personalising it and customising it so that soon it’s pretty much unrecognisable from its original shape and size. Permaculture is no different to any of my passions and I have decided to renegotiate the principal of “Zone 1”. It’s supposed to be the first zone outside of your home where you regularly walk. I think that is too open to interpretation for me. I like things nailed down and staked (just like I like my vampires…) and so this vague core principal needed a bit of a pragmatic makeover as far as I was concerned. I trimmed it…I shaped it and I showed it the haircut in the mirror and it didn’t faint so here is MY new Zone 1 premise…

“If it’s within 1 metre of my hands at any given time its zone 1”

How’s that? I can be wandering around the house…zone 1…I can be up in the back paddock pulling up weeds…zone 1…I can be in town sitting on a flower bed outside the toilets waiting for Steve to come out and pulling out stray sow thistles…zone 1. My “Zone 1” is more personal and real than permacultures generic zone 1 because it makes me deal with everything that is within my reach. I can’t say “zone 1 = the wood shed” allowing me to only deal with it when I feel like heading up to the wood shed…my zone 1 principal has me pulling weeds rather than including them in my mental data base to deal with in my zone 1 plan later on…I have taken zone 1 from a picture in my head into my own personal reality and there is shall stay as my new way of ensuring that I actually deal with the space immediately outside my own personal space. Bring it on weeds! I am now forced to deal with you as I wander around Serendipity Farm!

Not being an officianado of lilies I couldn’t tell you what kind this is, only that it “is” a lily 🙂 there are all sorts of interesting things starting to come up in the newly cleared out ground and everything is growing incredibly quickly

We planted this Hydrangea anomala petiolaris (Climbing hydrangea) next to a Cordyline australis so that it has something to climb

Steve is tormented by doing the shopping but loath to give up the experience because he knows that I would take all day (he is back by lunch time) AND I would likely buy more weird stuff than normal happy Steve stuff. He has phoned me up 6 times today to ask me about something or other on the list. His way of shopping would drive me nuts! I am very methodical and would ensure that I took the least amount of time by sorting my list into areas where I would have to go to purchase these items and would go about my expedition that way. Steve zips about all over the place. He has a sort of logic behind his path but often forgets something, can’t find something (going too fast to have a proper look) or gets the shits because some supermarket hasn’t got something on his list and has to drive back to one of his past shops to get said item. Steve doesn’t think a lot. He acts. I am the thinker, and without me there he tends to act his brains out! He comes home frazzled and frantic and overstimulated. I told him that I am going to do the shopping next fortnight to give him a rest but I bet he finds some excuse to do it. He is loath to give up his control over the spending process. I have no problems with him shopping because it’s a lovely quiet morning spent surfing the net and doing a few household chores but I know that I wouldn’t be quite so frazzled as Steve by a day in the city. I think he is scared of me going there alone and coming back armed to the back teeth with only vegan sweet potato noodles and no cheese and onion crisps 😉

A very happy newly planted out Magnolia stellata

Not sure what this is…all I know is that it is the possum equivalent of catnip to cats and makes them go crazy in their efforts to scoff it all. I am very surprised that its leaves got this far without being totally annihilated by guzzling freeloaders but they are currently trying to completely defoliate Steve’s lovely weeping maples so I guess it is going to have to wait it’s turn. If anyone knows what this is please let me know

Wait a minute! How did you get here? My arch nemisis…the dreaded forget-me-not! Your days are numbered on Serendipity Farm sunshine! Stop trying to con everyone with that cute exterior…you are pure sticky seeded torment to me…forget-me-nots…BEGONE!

Oh bollocks! I just overran my regular blog post word count! See?! I make my posts smaller and my brain (who is as anal as I am and who has been keeping tally of the word count) has decided to make up the words that I missed out in my smaller posts. I guess I can blame spring excitement as my word count spills over 3000. Anyone want a thesis written? Any assignments, reports, blog posts that you need overrepresented by a poor tormented blogger stuffed full of words? I think I might have a career waiting for me in the wings as a ghost writer! For now, that’s all folks! See you on Saturday when the sun is supposed to be out and we should be full of happiness and joy after at least laying out our first poly tunnel on Serendipity Farm :o)

The colours of Serendipity Farm

Hi All,

I was going to be very clever and give you a bit of a different style of post today. I have a delightful constant reader called Katie who has an amazing blog. She does everything that I admire! She takes awesome photos, she has the most scrumptious artistic ability to match colour and texture and flavour all together with good humour AND the girl can garden, make her own cosmetics and can keep her posts concise and beautiful! Head on over to check Katie out and marvel at her icecream palettes and her glorious ability to make me want to eat her photographs.

http://katienormalgirl.com/

I thought that I might give you all a palette for spring on Serendipity Farm. I headed out with my trusty camera and the will to succeed. “If Katie can do it…I can do it!”…I came back a broken woman. It turns out the colours of Serendipity Farm in the spring run to chook poo green, mud brown and angst ridden overwhelmed dull red. The kind of red that is muted at the moment but that might just flare up into full blown pillar box waving a rag at a bull red in a moment! I decided to forget colours and head over to textures…they turned out to be equally as “delightful” with the texture of oozing wet mud predominate with hints of the aforementioned chook poo dotted about and plenty of unhindered slug and snail trails assisting in the overall look. Never one to give up easily I headed for the last bastion of the photographer and went hunting for flavour…I gave up as I dejectedly did a panorama of Serendipity Farm drenched in torrential rain, bathed in fog and flattened by saturated new growth and a herd of rampaging chickens hell bent on destruction. Serendipity Farm in the spring is not to be held in artistic esteem folks…it is to be regarded with terror! That’s why Steve and I are bums up, heads down effecting change as fast as we can and it’s why I have a new respect for people like Katie who can take what nature throws us and make it look delightful, wholesome and downright tasty! You get massive kudos from this amateur photographer whose muses only run to words and can’t comprehend the reason for me wanting to share our vision for Serendipity Farm. If you are a “Normal Girl” Katie, goodness only knows what I am! 😉

See these nice healthy azalea bushes that are just about to flower? Last year, when we cleared out this garden under the deck, we hacked the living daylights out of the old gnarled up overgrown half dead azaleas and were so tired at the end of our efforts in the hot sun that we had no energy left to remove the stumps. We left them there and promptly forgot about them. Nature didn’t forget about them!

And they are all growing back! 😉

This is an unusual grevillea. I haven’t seen this before, it has greeny/blue flowers and very large leaves. If anyone knows what this grevillea is please let me know!

I am on a mission. I have been researching water wise, self-seeding perpetual plants that will take to living in Serendipity Farms less than stellar soil right here, right now. I am not going to be stupid and pretend that the soil is going to suddenly become AMAZING overnight. It is going to be a hard fought battle but we WILL win! It’s just that we will win slowly and I want ground cover now! I discovered, from personal observation that salvias seem to have a wonderful range of xeriscape plants that tolerate a myriad of terrifying conditions. Overall, we are lucky on Serendipity Farm. We get a long dry summer but it isn’t usually that hot, and despite it being pretty cold in winter, we rarely get a frost in the morning and even then it’s minor. Salvias offer us a solution to quite a few of our problems. Most of them are adventitious growers with fast growth rates and most of them are perennial and like to hang about for a bit and grow back year after year. I know that they will do well here because there were some clinging tenaciously to life sans care and attention for the last 20 years so bring on the salvias!

This poor old Philodendron had languished in a pot that was dissolving around it on the deck for 20 years with very sporadic watering. It had send out enormous feeder roots in search of water and we decided to liberate it into the soil of Serendipity Farm. It’s already looking happier 🙂

There might not be much of this azalea but what there IS is very pretty

Another pretty azalea in the side garden

Nat, of Polytechnic fame and if I have my way, garden design fame, has a love of salvias that spread to me when we were attending Polytechnic in our earlier years. Nat is a natural garden designer. What she isn’t naturally happy with AutoCAD. That makes you a normal human being by the way Nat. NO-ONE who understands and is comfortable with using AutoCAD is normal! I couldn’t have completed my Diploma of Horticulture without Steve coaching me constantly and soothing my desire to throw the entire desktop computer, monitor AND desk over the deck on a regular basis. I made it, but just…I am NOT a natural garden designer. This doesn’t come easy to me and I have to ponder over books, think about it fiercely and give it my utmost attention and when you know me, you know that I am easily distracted, especially when something bores me. If you interest me, I will give you my all…I will research you into the night and I will peer myopically at the computer screen in oblivious rapture for days…for weeks…for as long as it takes to gather all of the information that I need to get going with the project. But if you can’t interest me I am a petulant child. I am borderline with garden design. Nat has a magnificent garden. The kind of garden that makes me drool. I wander about in her small but perfectly proportionate garden and want to hug her shrubs that all look so vibrant and healthy that she must have Peter Cundall AND Costa living under them ready to offer advice whenever she sets foot out into the garden. Stop blushing Nat, you KNOW I am telling it like it is, you are just one of life’s modest people. I am not. Your garden is gorgeous, sensual AND I envy it. There…I said it! Our friend in the witness protection (a long-time friend of Nat) AND I envy it! (Misery loves company ;)). We have an image of Nat’s gorgeous garden in our minds and it would seem that nothing we do gets us any closer to that beautiful vista. In our defence, the native wildlife seems hell bent on removing more vegetation than we can plant and our soil is ancient and old and twice as wrinkly and denuded as Nat’s fertile plot. Nat has a lot less area to work with and more drive than I could harness to a truck. Nat, I salute you! You are indeed one of those “natural gardeners” that I read about all of the time. Envy and kudos is enough for now…I am going to slither off and stand on my deck and look out to the river and imagine that one day someone might turn up and see more than devastated and mangled gardens that look like a re-enactment of the Vietnam War recently occurred here complete with Agent Orange.

Flowers aren’t all that is growing on Serendipity Farm. In the next few days Effel Dookark will be a mum again

A picture of Fatty doing his morning callisthenics

My road find, a silicone bowl scraper. No idea why one of these would be laying on the ground miles away from nowhere but its mine now! 🙂

Talking about our friend in the witness protection, she has now purchased a 1.2 metre tall pink flamingo to assist her with creating a reign of terror to marauding wildlife on her 50 acre bush property. I salute you my comrade in arms! She gave up any vestiges of instant garden gratification after the first few waves of “creatures” scarfed her carefully planted purchases and now battles with everything that comes within arm’s length including this flamingo that she bought from K-Mart (if any of you feel the need to race out and purchase a 1.2 metre tall pink flamingo, knock yourselves out!). You have to admire her tenacity and her spirit…she is a true Valkyrie gardening warrior! I can’t bring myself to decorate Serendipity Farm with hanging soft toys in various stages of decomposition. I live right next to the Auld Kirk Church graveyard and there is something seriously disturbing about someone dangling effigies of ex cuddly and fluffy toys adjacent to hallowed ground. I also have a natural aversion to anything garish in the garden. I hope that doesn’t make me a garden snob. I am not desperate enough to resort to fluffy toys. Should the possums ever get that bad I will purchase a 30 metre long thick piece of metal chain and will tether Earl to the grafted maple garden and teach those possums a lesson that they will NEVER forget! Steve is walking Earl today to give Bezial (a.k.a. fatty Lumpkin’s) a bit of a rest.  That means that Bezial and I can trundle at our leisure through the garden and I can get my pedal to the metal up to my armpits in flying forget-me-nots while Bezial wanders around the grounds with impunity threatening no-one and exploring to his heart’s content.

Still getting heaps of mushrooms from our free mushroom compost and more to come!

And here are is the days egg haul. Looks like Steve is having a delicious mushroom omelette for tea

Here’s our heavily fortified little self pollinating almond tree ready to do battle with the possum marauders. It has 15 tiny little baby almonds on it so far

Forget-me-nots begone! Well “lay low and forget about any virulent activity for the foreseeable future if you know what’s good for you!” Steve has whipper snipped the teatree garden area and rendered it forget-me-not flat. I pulled out forget-me-nots from around the stinky purple lilies, the enormous arums and the persistent agapanthus that I have come to hold a grudging like for now that reality gardening is on the cards permanently on Serendipity Farm. I planted out some of the smaller plants in the side garden. It still looks like Armageddon in the morning BUT it is Armageddon with possibilities (and the odd twig starting to branch up). I planted out all of my lavender’s, my pentstemons and a few other scruffy looking things that have survived against the odds and have thus qualified for rehousing out in the soil. I should put a sign up at the gate with something like “Serendipity Farm…a home for waifs and strays” because that’s what we have here and most of them have attitude and are slightly skewed much like the present owners. I found a really good sign on Facebook the other day that said “Ring the bell…if no-one answers pull some weeds”…that’s my kind of sign and I feel a wood burning event coming on in the near future! For now, I have to head back out into the garden with Steve to plant out some of his trees. Our new creed is “not in our lifetime” so good luck Stewart and Kelsey, some day you are going to inherit giant redwoods, enormous Bunya nut trees with 5kg fruit dropping in season and all sorts of weird and wonderful grottos and groves that eventuated because your parental units got tired of thinking about where to put things and just “bunged them into the ground”…I dare say we just got drummed out of the landscape designers confraternity and it’s all going to come back and haunt us some day but for now we don’t care…get them into the ground!

Steve’s Cedrus atlantica “Glauca Pendula” that will one day be magnificent stretched out along the front of the deck

The Cedrus that we just planted and our other little conifers that are going nuts in the soil out of their pots.

$8 well spent methinks!

It’s not often that I have 87 photos to choose from when I am just about to post. That should give you a bit of an idea how busy we have been on Serendipity farm over the last 3 days. On Friday we stopped working in the garden to get gussied up and head into town to our illustrious leaders Landscaping Expo. We left 2 sulking dogs, one of them hell bent on destruction (once the sulking wore off) and after battening down the house (or those pieces of it that said dog was likely to destruct…) we headed out into the cold cold snow. Well…I may be overemphasising the snow bit but it WAS cold…and raining…when we got to town we discovered that we had been forgotten on the list of people to tell (those who mattered…are you feeling guilty enough yet Nat? ;)) that the expo had been cancelled! Bollocks! Oh well, no use crying over spilt landscaping expo’s so we made the most of it, bought pizza, sweet potatoes and purple carrots, a bottle of Guinness (a man’s gotta have SOMETHING when he has just driven all the way to town and back for bugger all) and a $1 all you can stuff bag of toys for the dogs to mass destruct from the thrift shop behind the Polytechnic that we attend on the odd occasion that someone remembers that we are coming… and we picked up a couple of plates as well. I LOVE thrift shops. They make me smile. I love fossicking about in bargain bins and hunting out stellar bargains that someone else foolishly discarded. When we got the boys bag of toys out to hurl into the maniacally happy crowd (good stress release to diffuse separation anxiety and stop us from being pounced into next Tuesday by heifer dogs who are VERY excited to see us home) I noticed a little smiley plush weighted flower…now I don’t know about you, but I was seriously addicted to the game “Plants and Zombies” and this little fellow looked just like one of the flowers from the game! That plus it was weighed…bright colours…cost the better part of about 5c and would make a HECK of a mess if I gave it to the boys to destruct so I decided to keep him. His name is Herman. He reminds me to smile and he is a constant reminder to Earl that the ones with the opposable thumbs who can place things out of dogs reach rule the world!

What my desk looks like at the moment. A mass conglomeration of seeds, books, C.D.’s and “misc”. Still don’t need glasses! 😉

The almond trees label, the rock melons and mini watermelon seeds and my ever present notepad and pen for “ideas” and Steve’s coffee and Earls back scratcher.

Herman smiling for the camera 🙂

We walked the boys up an enormous hill today just because we could. A year ago…indeed 6 months ago, I couldn’t have walked up this hill inside an hour because I would have been constantly having to stop on the threat of a mild heart attack coming on, but today I just walked up the hill without stopping and without breaking a sweat. On the way back down the hill after a brief detour to look at a MASSIVE edifice that someone is erecting to the thickness of their wallet overlooking the water I noticed something on the floor and after picking it up discovered that it was a silicone bowl scraper! I have wanted one for a while and haven’t justified its specialised worth to myself but now I have one, sterilised in boiling water and stuck on my magnetic knife rack because some wise monkey decided to put a bit of metal inside it so it would stay where you bend it. Bring on the wet dough’s! Bring on hand action to rival Masterchef U.K.! I can now say that my desire to make pastry has moved one step closer to regular. We also had a look at the lady at the top of the road’s little plant stand. She sells plants all of the time for $2 and I noticed a few little babies that I would like to add to my in ground population. When we arrived home we drove back and bought 2 lilies’ of the valley (1 about to flower), a miniature pink Japanese anemone and a blue corydalis and after we planted out our little almond tree in the middle garden and Steve’s Cedrus atlantica “Glauca Pendula” we planted them out as well.

I think Steve is working on his busking routine…cute…but NO-ONE is going to pinch either his guitar or his hat full of money! 😉

Earl loves sitting in Steve’s guitar room with him when he is playing. Especially when he is playing LOUD! Bezial slinks off outside to save his ears but Earl is right there in the thick of it.

I think Earl has settled down for the afternoon…pity Steve wants to put his guitar back in its case 😉

We found a few packets of annual flower seeds that we had collected and decided that we would scatter them around in the middle garden. While we were at it, we headed out and had a look in the shed to see if we had any other seeds and found a large bag of all kinds of seeds that were mostly out of code and that we had collected en mass when we were attending our horticulture courses at Polytechnic. We figured that the worst that can happen is that the chooks eat the seed so we scattered all sorts of things all over the place. If half of them grow we are in trouble! I have a few plans for making “things” out of plastic bags. I am not too sure what kind of “things” but all I know is I am tired of feeling guilty for throwing the bags out into landfill. A friend gave me some dishcloths that a friend of hers had crocheted using cut up supermarket bags and that gave me an idea. I have seen hats, shoes and bags made out of plastic bags and I found a pattern for making “Plarn” on Instructables the other day. Plarn is plastic yarn that is perfect for making all sorts of crafts with and for repurposing plastic bags. I noticed pumpkins growing in the compost heap the other day and am going to transplant them (along with some of their precious compost) into specially formed mounds situated in the outside chook run. We also found some mini watermelon seeds and some rockmelon seeds that we had bought previously and are going to give them a go as well. There is something manic about spring that just carries you along with it. I have been getting up at 5am for a few days now and am just about used to it. I feel tired at 8pm but the trade-off is that I get 2 hours to myself at the beginning of the day. The ultimate trade-off is that next Sunday morning I WON’T be tired! I just noticed that I am back up to my usual post size! I tried people…I tried hard. I stifled my posts natural angle of repose and ended up losing the battle. That’s my way of saying I am finishing up here for the week folks. Have an interesting rest of the week and don’t sweat the small stuff because deodorant is getting expensive!

Serendipity Farm is an Octopus Free Zone!

Hi All,

What’s going on here! We have just hit the spring equinox in Australia and I am acting more like the grasshopper than the octopus…remember the old story as told by Fry from Futurama? The one about the grasshopper doing all of the work and the octopus that mooched off his girlfriend and the grasshopper died as a direct result of the hard work leaving the octopus to take advantage of his hard yakka AND to rub salt into the wound he also found the money to buy a sports car…the message is DON’T think that spring is time to hoard your nuts…or is it? When you live close to the earth like homesteaders you need to be thinking ahead. Even G.M. monocrop farmers think ahead. Its part and parcel of living on the land and it involves all sorts of economics and futures and all sorts of things that make my brain spin BUT at its core, where I like to live in my simple mentality, it means “make hay while the sun shines bucko or sit out winter on an empty belly!”…that’s my take on it. You might get lucky. You might just be able to mooch off your girlfriend for the summer…driving around in her Volkswagen beetle and drinking beer on the beach while she works hard at the diner to pay the bills and your friend, who works in I.T. or Apple or somewhere profitable, squirrels away his money because he is a nerd and hasn’t got even a vague chance of acquiring a girlfriend UNLESS he goes on Beauty and the Geek…but that is another story! So enter your geeky I.T. I-phone 5 toting mate who talks in binary code and who bores the pants off you BUT makes you look amazing when he is standing next to you at parties and who earns a fortune that he foolishly spends on war hammer figurines and Dr Who merchandise from Think Geek who when your girlfriend wises up to your loser habits and tosses your lazy arse to the curb is probably good to mooch off minus the obvious side benefits. The grasshopperss of the world tend to be the workers and the octopi take…Take…TAKE!

Check out our rubber egg! It was found in the hen house after our early evening rooster wrangling event. Methinks that the poor hen that laid it was scared rubbery!

I wouldn’t recognise these 2 good dogs if it wasn’t for the hippy standing with them. It’s amazing what a pocket full of dog treats will do for a dogs behaviour isn’t it! 😉

Rubber egg number 2! Obviously the fear goes on…

This might look like a hillbillies back yard but its a Hill Williams back yard thank you VERY much! This covered heap is our dung futures heap and just up from that tree trunk is where we are putting our poly tunnels

Our constant companion whenever we head out to do any gardening…you just never know what delicious bugs are going to turn up when you follow those humans around!

Ok, so consider that my lesson on consumerism and elitism and how unfair the world is these days with the 1% rich getting richer and the 99% of us a.k.a. poor people propping up their sports car ventures. Here on Serendipity Farm we don’t have any octopi. It’s too far out of the city, we live on a river with no beach or surf AND we drive a sad little 4 x 4 and even though you can take the top off it, the dog hairs are so thick on the seats that it looks like we have flocked seat covers. In other words we are an octopus free zone here! To get what we want we have to work. We have to plan ahead. We use our God given brains to facilitate our futures and we think laterally about where we are going to get things that we need and always try to make do.  Reuse, recycle and repurpose are our creeds here on Serendipity Farm. Spring is a chance for us to plan for winter. We can plan what we need to store up for the cold weather and we can make our polytunnels to give us an extended harvest. We don’t get frost here much and so polytunnels should allow us to grow most of what we need for the whole year. Our chooks are old breeds and may not lay eggs every day but we have enough of them to produce copiously and with a side benefit that our predominately Wyandotte population lay right through winter so we don’t lose out on the egg front. We have all the acorns that we can squirrel away but no real use for them, however, I have learned from my online hunts that acorns can be made into flour that can be used to bake breads albeit of the flat kind. A good tip should the need ever arise. Always work with what you have lots of because you are pretty much guaranteed that you won’t run out of it. Acorns…you are our friends.

The corner where we planted out some of our maples and other tasty treats (can you hear the sarcasm dripping from my acidic tongue?… bloody possums!)

One of the clivea flowers that has just started to open. We found these clivea underneath a mound of blackberries and overgrown grass. It’s lucky I am known for my “careful weeding” and it wasn’t Steve and his whipper snipper that discovered them or there might not be this lovely display for us to admire!

This maple is called “Lockington’s Big Red”. It was developed by Don Dosser, a wonderful man who is better known for developing all sorts of Rhododendron’s than maples but we are honoured to have a Tassie bred maple on Serendipity Farm 🙂

Those straight trunks belong to Brachychitons that have been on Serendipity Farm for many years. They are not native to Tasmania and have been doing it tough for a while. Steve planted out 3 more Brachychitons of different species in this area to see if they grow. We grew them all from seed and hopefully they will like living on Serendipity Farm. We also planted out several different kinds of maples in this area as well

Instead of thinking about the long hot summer that we are being promised in Tasmania and planning what we are going to do for the summer holidays on the one beach in Tasmania that has actual sand rather than pebbles and oysters we are thinking about work. We are building polytunnels, a gravity fed chook run, planting out our potted babies, thinking about building a worm farm, changing our composting from a sad anaerobic system (too lazy to get out there in winter and turn it regularly) to an aerobic system (by pulling the roof off the duck enclosure that backs onto the compost bin and shovelling the compost from one side to the other). We have so many plans on the burner that we are going to be the leanest of squirrels by the time we get to the other side. Forget “why did the chicken cross the road?” here on Serendipity Farm they do what they want and you don’t question them…just ask the feral cats who are totally intimidated by them! We have “why did the squirrel not need Jenny Craig?” Remember my theory of living in the processes? You can’t get more alive than when you are up to your armpits in hot compost or knee deep in horse dung futures. You sleep better, you earn your evening meal and you feel like you have accomplished something deep and primal at the end of the day. Life takes on a new vibrancy when each day seems to be working towards the next. You start to feel as alive as the microbe teeming soil that you are trying to help along. All of your processes might initially be out of whack but after a while, using permaculture as your core, everything starts to cycle in a most pleasingly congruent way. One day we should be able to manage this place on our own without having to hide under the bed covers in fear of “Where the heck do we start today?!” as our creed.

This is where we put the maples and a cornus

Here’s a Miscanthus that will hopefully get to its full height of 1.5 – 2 metres

This is a dwarf bamboo that we have been told will spread. The person telling us was looking aghast at us for purchasing not one, not two but three of these “invaders”…I will tell you what Rog…you have less than a quarter acre of garden and we have 4 acres. I think that the spreading dwarf bamboo can have a bit of room to spread in don’t you? Besides…if it can squash out the forget-me-nots, I will buy 100 more!

Can you hear my teeth grinding as I type this? This poor little maple USED to have a lot more leaves than this. It’s the only maple (so far) that the possums have decided to sample more than a few leaves from. They did perform trapese acts on one of Steve’s larger maples and ripped of a large chunk but we think that whoever did it landed hard and has been avoiding a repeat performance. This goes to show that sometimes you never can tell what possums will go for!

Today we plant. We figure that the thermal mass of the soil and the high clay content is going to give our poor long suffering potted babies a better chance over summer. Once we get those mooching chooks into their gravity fed chook run we should be able to get our gardens mulched and ready for the long hot summer ahead. Thermal mass works with bulk planting as well. The more plants you have in any given area (especially ground covers) the more moisture you can retain in the soil. I am on the hunt for ground covers and am not averse to bending down and liberating a little bit from the edge of the footpath should the opportunity arise. Consider me a guerrilla squirrel. I will throw seed bombs into the nature strips and I shall take advantage of harvests unharvested. Squirrel, thy name is Fran!

Two snakebark maples that have been languishing in pots since we bought them a few years ago are stretching out their leaves and roots and breathing a grateful sigh of relief

A couple of low vibernums and a couple of slow growing taxus

Steve’s ducky friend following him around. It wouldn’t have anything to do with ducky being the recipient of all of the snails and slugs and slaters that our lifted pots revealed? 😉

I am excited about this one…ALMOND FUTURES! 🙂

This large broom shrub has a very interesting scented flower. Whenever we walk past it the smell is reminiscent of crushed peppery nasturtium leaves

Steve set the alarm clock for 5.30 yesterday but forgot to tell me. He hasn’t decided to be my personal boot camp sergeant, he did it because I asked him to because the dreaded Daylight Savings is rapidly approaching and this year I REFUSE to be the bleary eyed zombie that I am every year when I have to get up an hour earlier…to everyone out there just about to correct me and tell me that “it’s not actually an hour earlier it’s a better use of the day” BOLLOCKS! Daylight savings and I have a bad history and to this day I can’t for the life of me see any other reason for it than commercial gain. I won’t give you my tirade here for the day because I don’t have time. I have to cram in my rss feed read before Steve gets up and we head off into our day whipper snipping forget-me-nots and me hand pulling them in the hard to get places or where Steve’s maniacal “style” might just eliminate something precious. We also have to get stuck in to planting out more of our potted plants. We have just about gotten to the end of the easy stuff…the small pots and the things that had a definite place to go and now we are down to the pines that get to 120ft tall, the things that Earl ate the tag from and we don’t really remember what they are called or how big they get and the stuff that we aren’t sure if we want to keep yet. Tomorrow I am going to get Steve to set the alarm clock to 5am. I am going to revel in my 2 hours of rss feed reading time for about a week. I might even get a few things done in the mornings (but I doubt it) and I am going to be ready for you daylight savings…BRING IT ON!

This dwarf nandina is SO happy that we unhooked it from its blackberry overlords that it has turned the most lovely shade of red. I planted a little struggling camellia in the gap to the right of this little fellow.

This old flat serving spoon was found when we were walking in Exeter where some excavation work was going on. Its a lovely old French spoon and so I brought it home and stuck it in this cut off blue glass bottle with a couple of shiny mates to keep it company

I left the camera out in the shed last night when I took a few photos of what we had done, the clivea flowers and our dung future pile that we have covered up and rendered chook and duck proof much to their chagrin. I collected some eggs from the remaining chooks who are not clucky (not very many of them at the moment) and I got sucked into pulling out a section of forget-me-nots and promptly forgot. How ironic eh? As today is posting day I will be trundling around attempting to take some post worthy photos. I will be grappling with the recalcitrant “macro” and “super macro” to attempt to get the camera to not take extreme close-ups of the background leaving the desired object out of focus and almost unrecognisable. The camera and I have a somewhat strained relationship and like most things on Serendipity Farm it has an attitude. Some days it will take great photos without effort and the next, it is on strike. I admire people who can take good photos like I admire people who are naturally artistic and who are natural green thumbs. I guess I don’t mind being mediocre as long as I can get what I am trying to share out with people. Cheers to Kym for keeping her eye open for a rainwater tank on her holidays in Bali. That is one dedicated friend! Try to get one where they are offering to pay for the postage Kym…I am sure that there are HEAPS of vendors like that in Bali! ;). I doubt that even Kym’s amazing bargaining powers could affect that kind of deal ;). When I lived in Western Australia I never quite managed to take advantage of Bali being “Little Australia” and just off the top end of W.A. I remember when you could head over to Bali for a week for $500 and that included your flights and your accommodation! Unlike “The Rest of the World”…Australia is miles away from EVERYTHING and any kind of travel hurts us in the hip pocket. I read with envy about people jetting off to France, Italy, and Russia for the weekend and it costing pennies where if we were to do the same thing we wouldn’t BE there in a weekend let alone get time to set foot off a plane before we had to start our flight back home. My idea of a tropical getaway is heading up to Queensland to eat my weight’s worth of tropical fruit…it’s also something on my bucket list so I might have to think about that someday soon. If I can combine that bucket list item with another bucket list item to do a permaculture residential course in Queensland I might just be able to justify it all in my mind, “multitasking babe…I am just multitasking!”

I know this isn’t the greatest picture in the world but my camera was having a Primadonna moment and point blank REFUSED to use the flash. After having words with it, this is the best I could get. Does anyone know what it might be? It has square minty type stems and I think it might be a salvia. I got it from somewhere hot and arid and dry and am hoping that it might do what mints do best and send out roots in a glass of water

Gunns went tits up yesterday. A completely fitting epitaph as I used to liken the company to a bull with teets…completely useless! That doesn’t automatically mean that we won’t get a pulp mill in the Tamar Valley BUT anyone buying the permit is going to have a handful of problems aside from the obvious angry ravening hoards of locals, the high Aussie dollar and the high cost of labour in Australia we have the low price of wood chips and pulp and the ever decreasing call for white bleached paper for newspapers etc. as a lot of content recedes to online these days. Our corrupt state government are steadfastly refusing to give up this pulp mill BUT that is what got gunns bankrupt and in receivership in the first place…completely disregarding what the people want. I would like to say goodbye to our sad excuse for a premier at this point because she will be lucky to make it to the next elections as our state leader. I can’t for the life of me understand why every woman politician in a position of power in Australia seems to have a need to over enunciate their words making every speech a chore to have to listen to and a reminder of when childless adults talk to small children and all of us talk to deaf people, loudly and slowly. The Tasmanian populace might be somewhat lacking in the educational stakes BUT we are NOT…ALL…NUMPTIES…LARA…and you don’t have to speak so slowly to us all because we are mindless vacuous creatures who can’t comprehend big words. Our corrupt political parties and gunns didn’t realise who they were messing with when they took on the hippies. Tasmanian natives are an easily herded bovine lot who don’t prize education and could care less about anything other than footy and weekends as a rule. They go where they are directed and tend not to rock the boat and are easily hornswoggled and intimidated by weasely politicians and the sheer force of anything that appears to have a degree of power. When the hippies started moving over here from the mainland the nepotistic relationship between our politicians and gunns started to become glaringly obvious to these newcomers and for once in their relationship someone actually started to care what they were up to! The bully boy tactics didn’t work when you tried to dam the Franklin and you didn’t learn. Northern Tasmania has been a logging stronghold and gunns ran the show from go to whoa. They were loath to concede anything at all and held on to the flagship pulp mill with a stubborn refusal to give up until it changed into the figurehead of their ship and was the first thing to sink under the water when the whole shebang went down. Lesson to be learned to old school Tasmanian politicians, corporations, nepotistic industry and bully boys…most hippies are clever creatures who went to university and completed doctorates in law, commerce etc. and you can’t hoodwink them, talk down to them, negate them or bypass them.  Ignore us at your peril! Goodbye gunns. You lost your battle to steamroll your will over the people of Tasmania and you learned, too late, that paying politicians to get your way doesn’t always get you what you want. So long and thanks for nothing!

Here’s a good shot of one of the compound leaves of that plant. Definately a type of salvia I would imagine and I am hoping that one of you might know what it is. If I can’t get it to grow from a water cutting, I will get a bit of the root and give it a shot that way! 🙂

In saying what I just said I have a deep sense of sympathy for all of the 320 people who are going to lose their jobs thanks to gunns demise. Tasmania is not an easy place to gain employment and most of us are out of work. The official jobless rate doesn’t even begin to show the true picture because most of us are hidden from the statistics by being syphoned off into education, job training and working for the dole. We are a state of Centrelink employees and our leaders keep grasping at straws and taking reckless bets to try to keep themselves in power rather than getting together and actually facing up to the monumental task ahead of them to try to set Tasmania back on track. Stop having quorums, setting up committees, paying experts and grasping at straws and just face up to the fact that Tasmania is going to have to have a different business model to the rest of the mainland. What is so wrong with growing amazing food and crops? What is wrong with having a fantastic wilderness that people can visit? What is wrong with making Tasmania a truly clean, green state where people would want to flock to live and that implements green technology and uses all of this restless un and underemployed population to positive effect? It’s all too hard and we are going to have to get rid of a generation of politicians who are clinging to the old model tenaciously and stubbornly refusing to even consider life in Tasmania without the forest industry. Stop selling us off to anyone with a dollar in their pockets. Stop flogging our beautiful pristine precious rainforests off to open cut mines because it might give you someone else to do back room deals with and keep yourself in power a bit longer. WE CAN SEE YOU YOU KNOW! It’s all eminently depressing to be honest and I think that for change to happen in Tasmania it is going to have to rise up through the ranks and topple the tyrants. If the world could get rid of Sadam and Gadhafi, it can certainly prize loose our entrenched parasitic politicians! I am thinking of hiring out my rants to any leftist magazine that will take me…heck I will give them to you for free! Sorry dear constant readers, my frothing mouth needs to be wiped and my tirade here is done!

Bollocks! Not only have I had a delicious tirade in my post today, I have overshot my small post mark! Oh well…let’s be honest folks…It really couldn’t have lasted for long. Anyone out there having problems writing posts let me know. I have more words than I can cope with. I am juggling about 14 muses who are all blabbermouths and none of them have the silent disdainful composure that I am lead to believe muses effect. Mine are all collaborating and yelling in my ear at once and are all as overexcited about life as I am. Quiet you lot I am trying to condense! Sigh…oh well, at least I am consistent! I had best stop there and let you all get back to your lives and the real world. With a bit of hope, nothing politically exciting will occur in the next few days and your next post will be pristine and full of happy joy joy. See you all on Saturday…remember life IS great, hurl yourself into it and ride it like you stole it! 😉

Steve Solomon, seeds and Serendipity Farm

Hi All

Today is going to be a little bit different to most of my posts. I headed off for a visit to Steve Solomon’s garden yesterday and this post is going to be all about my visit. Steve Solomon is an ex-pat American man that moved to Tasmania many years ago and calls my local area home. He developed a seed company in the U.S.A. that my good blog mate Christi who is a prolific author and gives us all her wonderful take on life in Western Washington at http://farmlet.wordpress.com/ regularly purchases her veggie seeds from. He has produced a range of seeds and fertilisers specifically for our local area with mindfulness of how depleted and ancient our soil is in Australia. The man certainly knows his stuff as this interesting article posted on Mother Earth website will show you (along with a free recipe for his great natural homemade fertiliser)

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/2006-06-01/A-Better-Way-to-Fertilize-Your-Garden.aspx

http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/search?searchTerm=Steve+Solomon

This shows the proximity to the street from Steve’s vegetable garden. Note the espaliered trees along the front of the fenceline and the trellised kiwifruit. To the left you can see the feathery remains of a happy asparagus crop that he dug up to sell the crowns at $1.25 each crown and he got 900 crowns from this 10m bed. You can also see the brassica’s doing their level best to repopulate the earth

People wandering around the well ordered winter veggie beds. You can see the colour and structure of Steve’s soil in this photo. He credits his low water requirements to the composition of this soil and he also told us that he doesn’t mulch because he believes that mulch carries and shields too many pest species from view and harbours fungal pests so his plants are more widely spaced to minimise water stress and the soil is exposed but not compacted

Some of the people that came to hear Steve talk about his garden listening most intently to what he has to say. Steve is the grey haired gentleman in the blue jeans standing in the middle of the group. The man in the white pants is one of the Tamar NRM representitives present on the day. You can see how close Steve’s suburban block is to his neighbours

Everyone is sampling Steve’s delicious veggies in this photo. The poor girl on the left hand side with the purple fuzzy hat kept getting passed the plate. She must have thought that she looked hungry. The lady wearing the blue jeans with my backpack over her shoulder and the long dark hair is my friend in the witness protection and I was wandering about taking photos to share with you

As you can see there were quite a few people that turned up to this event. Most of them were interested in organic vegetable growing and some of them just wanted to get more out of their soil and grow better veggies. Steve gave his undivided attention to everyone but there was one younger man who just earned himself a felt hatters moniker. In the photo above he is the young sunglass wearing (on an overcast rainy day mind you…) man in the navy blue jumper and blue jeans standing just to the right of the elderly white hatted man. This guy just couldn’t shut up! I thought that I had a problem with being a bit of a know-it-all but this kid made me look like a mute! He had verbal diarrhea littered with as much scientific jargon as he could muster from his overcharged brain. Steve is a bit of an old hippy and admitted that “I just want everyone to be healthy” to which our sunglass wearing young entrepreneur asked “what is your marketing stragegy?”I rest my case! I could have forgiven him his verbosity if I hadn’t found out that he had booked a spot to gush on we less intelligent mortals at the upcoming Food Sustainability Day that I will be attending. At least I have forwarning and can take some ear plugs should the need arise to give my poor ears a rest!

This shot was taken looking back towards Steve’s lovely home to show you the other view of the garden

More of the garden looking back towards Steve’s house and you can see the green crops (lupins) that he is using to overwinter these garden beds and give them a nitrogenous boost with. As you can see, his garden is a decent size and produces enough to feed his family and to fill 7 CSA boxes a week for locals who love his fresh and delicious organic vegetables yielding him an additional $560 a month in income with very little extra work

The sun came out for 5 seconds and you can get a really good idea of how rich and red this lovely friable soil is. As you can see (when I can be bothered to stop taking arty shots and attempt to focus on a single garden bed for a change) this garden is set out in a very organised, logical way and when we asked Steve why he chose 10m x 2m garden beds he said “to make it easier to work out how much of my fertiliser to apply to them”. Good answer sir! 🙂

Some of the handouts and one of the free pens (in her left hand) being held by my friend in the witness protection. That lovely purple jacket that she is wearing contains goose down and by the end of the 2 hours spent sitting in a cosy warm room she was wishing that she hadn’t worn it! We all expected to be standing around outside in Steve’s garden for most of the talk but he was incredibly considerate of us all and brought us into his lovely home for most of the lecture.

Sorry it’s a bit dark but this is Steve sharing his passion for growing vegetables that are able to take up minerals from the soil. Our health shouldn’t be in the hands of supermarkets and “others”. We owe it to ourselves to eat the best and most nutritious food that we can. Steve is trying to make sure that we all do 🙂

I left Steve Solomon’s garden with a new passion for growing vegetables and with newfound hope that our soil may not be quite as bad as I thought that it was. It obviously isn’t as glorious as the red Ferrosol soil that Steve bought his property because of, but our silty topsoil covering a subsoil of clay and rocks will give us really good soil moisture retention. I am going to dig up as much comfrey as I can from my daughters place in town and plant it EVERYWHERE on Serendipity Farm. Comfrey is a fantastic perennial herb that has very deep penetrating roots and that should be able to deal with our soil and bring minerals and nutrients to the surface. I can then use its leaves to throw into and accelerate our compost making thus killing two birds with one plant! Yeh…I know…I mixed my metaphors…I was never one to adhere to metaphoric correctness 😉

The lovely book plate personally signed by Hannah, an amazingly talented young vegan cookbook author that is going to be affixed with pride as soon as my copy arrives from The Book Depository in the U.K. Check out her beautiful blog for all sorts of decadent, sinful but oh so healthy treats…
http://bittersweetblog.wordpress.com/

My new pumpkinescant best bud “Barbara’s” embryo’s arrived in one piece unmolested by the pumpkin police and hopefully not irradiated beyond an inch of their lives. Cheers to the effervescent and eternally opptimistic Bev from the wonderful down to earth and incredibly entertaining and education blog “Foodnstuff”. I am having a little chuckle here, as I had to head over to Foodnstuff to get the url and read the first paragraph of her new post that I am sure that she won’t mind me reproducing here…
“I know God hates me because I’m an atheist and when he sees me out in the garden, he sends it down.
He must have been otherwise occupied this morning because I actually got a lot of weeding done before he woke up that I was out there.”
Check out why I spend my mornings loitering about in the hope that Bev has posted again and I can sit there with a cuppa and a stiffled guffaw before anyone else is up here…
http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/

Our Mise en plus all ready for starting on our 1/5th scale model…this nice neat pile is now a chaotic teetering stack bedecked with sawdust and slightly Earl nibbled timbers and discarded timber offcuts

The eggs in the carton are duck eggs and are a lovely green/blue colour. I use them in cakes but my daughters have expressed an interest in duck egg futures so I won’t feel the need to be constantly baking to keep up with their ready supply

This part of the post is pre-garden visit. Steve and I had a quick drive-by viewing and Steve’s garden is decidedly underwhelming at the moment but then again, most gardens in Tasmania’s north are the same thanks to a long, cold, hard winter. It will be very interesting to see what Steve has to say about gardening in our local conditions. It will also be very interesting to talk to him about how he developed his seed catalogue to get the best of them with our local growing conditions. According to Christi, his previous seed company, “Territorial Seed Company”, is the place to go to get seeds in her neck of the woods. I think that the word “neck of the woods” is most pertinent to Christi’s local area as I would have a cricked neck for a month from looking up at all of those amazing conifers that grow naturally where she lives.  I am particularly interested in one of his earlier books titled “Gardening when it counts: Growing food in hard times”. Steve says that he grows half of his families food requirements in his garden and it will be interesting to see just exactly what he grows to do this. All in all it will be a most interesting visit and at least Christi should be interested in this post :o).

These are the fluorescent coloured veggie burgers that Steve made for my birthday. My dear sister Pinkus said that they looked like sweets but they were deliciously savoury and full of flavour despite looking like they should taste of strawberries…

This is what the veggie burgers look like when they are cooked…a whole lot more like traditional burgers and no-one would confuse them for sugary treats any more!

A side view of a most delicious birthday tea with sourdough bread, salad AND delicious oven baked chips.

Here’s my delicious vegan wholewheat chocolate peanut butter cake with the only candle that we could find albeit somewhat bent from one of the kitchen drawers. This cake was a triumph and Steve is now my new Sous Chef 😉

We all got to sample some of the vegetables from Steve’s garden cut up raw and aside from some delicious carrot sticks and some lovely fresh cabbage there was a butter yellow coloured vegetable that was tinged with green that tasted as sweet as an apple but with a hint of brassica. We couldn’t work out what it was but assumed that it might be the “Tasmanian Butter Swede” that he had been developing for the seed market. Upon asking the man from the Tamar NRM who was busy passing platters of vegetables around we were told that it was kohlrabi! The only experience that I have had of kohlrabi have been decidedly unpleasant and I swore never to eat it again thanks to stringiness, an over pronounced cabbage flavour and a distinct bitterness from the specimen that I purchased from the supermarket. Growing your own vegetables allows you the freedom to choose what you grow as well as which varieties. You can sample your way through the vegetable catalogue and arrive at your firm favourites and then you can allow the biggest and best to go to seed and collect the seed for next year ad infinitum. Steve is very passionate about people growing their own vegetables and taking control of their own health and nutrition in the process. He is just about to start up a soil testing facility in conjunction with an American soil testing agency and as his first “clients” we were given the chance to have our soils tested, a consultation with Steve regarding our results as well as a personalised fertiliser compiled from the data assessed for $20. My friend from the witness protection and I turned to each other and both said “Bargain!” Steve took us all into his lovely home and proceeded to talk about his past life developing seeds and how he got into the nutritional profiling of the vegetables and soil that he dealt with. Steve has a new book coming out in November called “The intelligent gardener: Growing nutrient dense food” that teaches people how to analyse their own soils and how to redress the problems that present themselves in your soil profile. We now have the instructions for how the soil needed for testing needs to be collected and we will be collecting our soil samples, bagging them and taking them around to Steve’s next week to be sent off and within a month they should be back and we can begin finding natural ways to get the best out of our soil for growing nutrient dense vegetables.

A previously unused attachment for my overworked food processor that squeezes oranges which made The process of squeezing 6kg of navel oranges a WHOLE lot easier…pity there wasn’t an easy fix for the 24 oranges that I had to hand zest…

There are worse things than a sink full of oranges…say…a sink full of oranges that most of them need to be hand zested…sigh…

The reason for 6kg of juiced oranges, 24 zested oranges, 4kg of juiced lemons, the zest of 4 lemons and a coma worth of sugar is fermenting away nicely on its second day of mutual introductions…Dear constant readers meet…orange wine!

I may have lost my hot water bottle last night to a rubber perishing accident but the orange wine is nice and cosy settled down on a woolen blanket right next to Brunhilda’s gentle wafting sideways heat. I might take up residence on the other side tonight if it gets any colder!

I am racing to get this post ready to post and am going to leave it here. Again, I realise that I have barged my way into your heads with sustainability, soil profiling, horticulture and seeds and if this is so much “yawn*” for you I appologise. To the rest of you who are in similar situations and who can see just how chuffed I am with what I am learning and the potential of it all I share my excitement and my delight :o). Hopefully the rest of the week will be kind to you all and you will hit 5pm on Friday running and ready to spend your weekend productively however you see fit. Take it easy and see you on Saturday :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

Future trading in nature’s stock market

Hi All,

Steve and I have spent the last year shoring up futures for a rainy day. We have rooster futures, egg futures and wood futures…all grown and collected ourselves. We have also been researching how to make these futures renewable. As penniless hippy students we realised that we needed to take a few lessons from our grandparents and learn how to do as much as we could ourselves. Watching The Good Life recently made me realise how ahead of its time this 1970’s television program actually was. In one episode Tom and Barbara needed to mend their roof and couldn’t afford to pay anyone to do it so they decided to take themselves off to night school to learn how to fix the roof themselves. There is enormous power in knowledge and an immense degree of pleasure. I have to admit to internally snickering at Tom talking about “efficiency” and then heading out every day to get a home made cartload of wood rather than working out a way to be more efficient, but I forgive him because this show was SO far ahead of its time it’s amazing. I love knowing how to do things myself. It goes WAY past the delight in producing a nice cake from the oven and has me scouring the net for ways to propagate our own edible food forest from seeds and cuttings and traded plants. We have found a source of cutting material for blueberries and kiwi fruit, another bag of walnuts to stratify and attempt to grow from a local source (so they should be more resilient to our local conditions) and more importantly, we have found a source of free topsoil! One of the first things that we discovered about Serendipity Farm was that you can’t dig the soil…it’s full of large rocks. This was a BIG problem because as penniless hippy students who had spent what they had been left on shoring up Serendipity Farm for the future we don’t have a lot left for going “up” when it came to gardening.  We tossed up whether to pay big money for raised garden beds and they lost out to our wood burning stove and a trailer. We figured that we could make raised garden beds out of the rocks that were our arch nemesis in the first place, making lemonade from the sour lemons that we had discovered. I used some of the debris that we had generated in our efforts to ethnically cleanse Serendipity Farm from its active and growing weed population to chop up and fill half of the 3 garden beds that we have already built out of some old corrugated iron that we inherited along with the property. We have been trying to use as much of the collection of old rubbish that we inherited because aside from having to pay to have it dumped, it goes against our principals of throwing things away when you could use them and save yourself time and money in the process so old tyres, old corrugated iron and a large bottle population that has been slowly uncovered are all being stored for future use. Now that we have found free topsoil, all we need to do is enrich it with last year’s futures (oak leaf mould) and the contents of our compost bin and we have 3 garden beds ready to plant! The same source of free topsoil offered to loan us their rotary hoe, but whatchagonnado? Rotary hoes and rocks are NOT the best of friends (somewhat like me and middle men…)

Hayfever futures…

Cymbidium orchid futures

Long time futures…this is the very first time that this orchid has flowered since Nat gave it to us several years ago…

Epyphitic orchid futures (dependent on regular beer injections…)

As Kermit the frog once sang “It’s not easy being green…” It’s hard slog! Where you might use the later day equivalent of Agent Orange to take out all of your weedy species in one fell swoop, we choose to manually grub our weeds and that takes time and an enormous amount of energy. Since Saturday we haven’t stopped working. We had a week of sunshine and knew that this was a rare and precious event so we decided to make hay while the sun shines and get out into the fresh air and do what we could to shore up our wood futures and tidy up the garden. For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you know that we are juggling studies in horticulture with working in the garden here. It’s frustrating because our chosen path of indentured student poverty doesn’t give us much scope to actively put into practice what we are learning. We have to either wait until we have the money to do what we are planning, or we have to find another, money free way to get what we want. I am NOT good at waiting! That’s what all of the research and planning has been for… learning how to do what we want at minimal to no cost. It might take a bit more time to get what we want…but at least we aren’t sitting twiddling our thumbs waiting until we can afford to get it the “normal” way. Steve is off shopping today because yesterday (Monday) was our esteemed ruler Queen Elizabeth the 2 had her birthday on a day that wasn’t really her birthday…honestly Liz…HOW MANY BIRTHDAYS DOES ONE GIRL NEED! They aren’t like handbags and shoes you know and with your advancing years I would think that you would want to minimise, not maximise them… I guess she gets lots of presents… but at least Steve realised that it was a holiday (probably due to his expat patriotism 😉 ) and stopped himself from heading off to do our fortnightly shopping when he wouldn’t have been able to do half of it because the smaller local shops would have been closed. This brings me back to futures again… we have learned not to live day to day like we did when we lived in the city. We were spoiled back then. If we wanted to shop we just headed up to the Woolworths shopping centre 4 houses away from us and bought what we wanted and if our need was for something that we couldn’t satisfy at Woolworth’s we were only 4km away from the city centre and could be there in minutes. Here we are 50km away from the city and fuel is expensive. We soon learned to curtail our driving expeditions and use the car only when necessary and so we now shop fortnightly and make sure to have more than we need. Today…2 weeks and 4 days after Steve’s last shopping expedition, we still have everything that we need to go along as normal and that is what futures are all about…

Springtime flower futures

Walnut tree futures

Integrated Pest Management Futures

You have to be very careful when you are planning your futures. You need to ensure that you cut out as many middle men as you can. As you all know middle men are where the money goes and they deal in dreams. They take what someone creates and they flog it to someone else and in the process take a large cut of the profits and increase the price of what they are dealing with enormously…we don’t need them and they are costing us a lot of money! Superannuation is one of those middle man run schemes that can end up (like insurance) being something that costs us dearly. If I had money (which I don’t incidentally)… it would be in a sock under the bed! I loved the episode of Futurama (My Three Suns) where Fry told his convoluted tale of the grasshopper and the octopus…it goes like this for those of you who have been missing out on some quality television…

“It’s just like the story of the grasshopper and the octopus. All year long, the grasshopper kept burying acorns for the winter, while the octopus mooched off his girlfriend and watched TV. But then the winter came, and the grasshopper died, and the octopus ate all his acorns. And also he got a race car. Is any of this getting through to you? “

Far be it from me to not learn something from such a wise young sage…I see the lesson in this tale as being if something can go wrong it most probably will AND  there is always someone out there waiting to take credit and profit from your hard work. There is a happy medium and a very fine line between storing up futures AND living in the moment (sorry Caesar…) and we are attempting to do it all.

This was FULL of leaves, packed down and compressed last year…this was last years oak leaf futures…

Scratching the surface reveals future AMAZING soil amendments

A handful of vegetable futures!

I have a sore back…I have a sore arm…I have a sore chest…I have a sore knee…that’s what happens when you throw yourself with abandon into collecting wood from a steep rocky back block and clearing out debris! Thank GOODNESS Steve is shopping today because I don’t know that I could have worked as hard as we have for the last 3 days for another day… We have cleared out the banana passionfruit in the vegetable garden area that was covering up a nest of blackberries. We have collected wood for 2 days and yesterday we decided to clean up some of the random piles of debris and have a good old fashioned bonfire. Again… the simple act of having a bonfire involved us spending 5 hours collecting up the debris and raking up the piles of leaves, sticks, twigs, grass that we have been generating, loading it up into wheelbarrows and tipping it onto the fire…just a small aside…did you know that technically fire can be construed as being alive? It eats, it breathes (fires need oxygen to burn), it generates energy, it reproduces… it’s also our oldest way to manipulate our environment to give us what we need. I have been researching the Swidden-fallow ancient method of agroforestry (thanks Spencer from Anthropogen.com for EVERYTHING that I know about this…). It’s amazing how we don’t hear about these ancient methods of agriculture isn’t it? Why are we hammered with industrialisation when it only represents an insignificant portion of our past existence? If we could live without it before, we can do so again… I haven’t got time to go into Swidden-fallow principals here but if you are interested head on over to

Anthropogen.com

and find out all about it. While you are there you can check out some really interesting PDF’s, sites and information about all things to do with sustainable agriculture and as Spencer seems to spend most of his life hopping from one continent to the next you can take a wild ride in horticulture with him with each of his posts. Burning debris for the ash and leaving great piles of debris lying about is part of the Swidden-fallow system. As lazy as I am, the great piles of debris are starting to wear thin on me and so we decided to turn them into ash. The great piles that are strategically hidden from sight are still there…those that were in our line of site are now smouldering in a massive pile of snowy white ashes waiting for the rain to distribute them to the teatree garden area via concrete swale drains that we cleared out yesterday as well…another one of my grandmothers sayings comes to mind…”in for a penny, in for a pound” meaning do as many things as you can in one go and save yourself the time, effort and in some cases money. Drain cleaning before the rains hit…debris removal…tidying up our vista and basically restoring some form of order to the chaos that our garden has become. Today we rest. It’s one of the few benefits of being penniless hippy students who study from home…we can organise our lives how we see fit so long as we are able to do what is required of us. We are both great fans of being organised. I do it; Steve likes it so we are united on that front. We have so many plans for what we want to do here…composting toilets…rain water tanks… wind turbines… a generator… most of our plans involve some serious capital outlay and so are going to have to remain plans until we are able to bring them into reality. That won’t stop me hunting for ways to get what we want as cheaply as possible with the best possible outcome. Bring it on world…so long as there is an internet and a library available to me I can find out pretty much anything that I need to do it!

Olive tree futures (looks like peanuts I know but its skun olives 😉 )

Tamarillo futures

Present  Catalpa bignonioides (Indian bean tree) pod

Future  Catalpa bignonioides

Tomorrow will see us off collecting topsoil. We might even drag our tired sorry bones off to do it today because tomorrow has a rainy forecast. I was reading a transcript from an interview that Andrew Denton had with Billy Connolly on his program “Enough Rope”. I love Billy Connolly and consider him to be one of the best comic genius’s around. He is able to be a real person and a naughty boy at the same time bringing everyone into the fold in the process. I have never laughed so hard or as loudly as I have when being entertained by Mr Connolly himself. He said something in the interview that really hit home with me. I quote…

“There’s a little Buddhist saying that says, ‘Learn what you should be doing and do it.’ And it sounds too simple to be, to have any importance, but it’s absolutely true.  The number of people I’ve met who are doing things they don’t like and it’s making them really, you know… The number of guys I knew when I worked on the Clyde who hated their job, didn’t like their wife that much and didn’t like the place where they lived. And I thought, how can you do this every day? But you would be astonished at the number of people who do that, every day of their lives. And, the whole trick is, I would say to my children when you’re going along the road and you’re at the library or wherever you are, watch what you’re drawn to. Watch the type of shops, the windows you always hang out at. Just listen to yourself and see what you’re being drawn to and don’t choose a career. You know let it happen to you. It’ll choose you.”

Isn’t that great? No wonder so many people are jumping onto the Buddhist bandwagon. I think that there are a whole lot of instinctual things that we have learned to suppress inside ourselves because we get swept along by societal needs and wants. When you move out of societies mainstream… and it IS a stream that washes you along… you suddenly realise that there is more to life than the acquiring and spending of money. Thank goodness for that because the sock under my bed is only one that Earl stole from Steve as he lay sleeping on the sofa and if all of my worldly goods were held inside that sock they would be outnumbered by Steve’s toenail clippings and skin flakes! When you haven’t got a lot of money you can choose to get depressed about it or you can choose to see it as a challenge. I choose the latter. There must be some sort of aberrant optimist inside me that keeps on wanting to try weird and wonderful things. I keep going (like the Eveready bunny) LONG after most people would have given up and gone home. I think that this tenacity of spirit came from my mum who spent most of her life trying to negotiate mainstream society when it was more than obvious that mum wasn’t part of it. The more people I meet, the more I realise that “mainstream society” seems to be a metaphor rather than a reality. Most of us feel alienated from “mainstream society” in one way or another. Aside from us all being individuals, “mainstream society” is a concept that was concocted and is being perpetuated by media moguls, advertising executives, purveyors of unnecessary goods and entrepreneurs to keep us wanting more and using our natural competitiveness to make us think that someone out there has something better than us and that we had best start trying to keep up… I say bollocks to it. I got off that treadmill before I even got on it! Not having money is a great way to keep yourself off that treadmill in the first place as it’s all about the folding green stuff and if you don’t have it…you’re not allowed in the club. I have discovered that far-be-it from being a small lonely club; the “buggerybollocksall lack of money” club seems to be the norm for most of us living on planet Earth. I am taking my life lessons from my fellow compatriots around the world. Should you know about some money saving way to reuse, recycle, repurpose just about anything to our avail I am MOST interested in finding out how. I learned a great deal from both my parents and grandparents about thrift and the value of frugality and am in the process of learning about the thrift and frugality of other cultures. In the process I am learning all sorts of valuable life lessons and am having a great time discovering just where we sit in the world. Cheers to everyone out there who puts in the effort to keep sharing what they do and how they do it by the way. Without this massive network of free information so many of us would be reduced to subsistence living without a lot of hope. Your generosity of spirit has given us so very much and from all of us living on the breadline…we thank you from the bottom of our hearts :o)

Oak leaf futures

Garden soil ammendment futures

See that pile of soil down at the end of this driveway? THAT is our topsoil futures 🙂

Ok, so you get another 3000 word post. Verbosity is my gift and my curse and I guess both you and I are going to have to live with it! Hopefully I entertained you a bit and enlightened you (via others) in the wordy process from go to whoa. I hope you all have an interesting and informative time until we meet again. I hope you all get at least 1 chance to step outside your comfort zone and take a little risk and live a little in the process. I also hope that Steve gets home soon with something to entertain Earl before he finishes off the plastic rubber Father Christmas he is working on in his walk-free boredom and starts on the kitchen chairs! Ciao bambino’s c’est finis!

Frugal Fursday from the Diamond Geezer himself

Hi All,

Sorry about taking the piss of your accent Steve but as you ARE in possession of a phone video of me dancing like a loon to Prince belting out “Kiss” and I have just outed myself to the entire world in anticipation of me going to town tomorrow and staying with the girls overnight (tonight) and you posting it on either Facebook or Youtube and with the certain guarantee of it going viral (I can gyrate with the best of them…) I feel somewhat entitled to denigrate your “Apples and Pears” cockney accent (you git). That has given me a degree of satisfaction and today’s post is all about making do with what you have (rather like the husband that you have…sigh…) rather than going into credit to buy something new as well as recycling, re-using and repurposing. In fact…not only using what you have, but getting something amazing for your efforts.  I am on a sustainable jag about all things disposable at the moment. I am also on a quest to ensure that we have delicious meals that won’t break the budget. Today being “Fursday” ( 😉 ) is no exception and today is Glamorgan sausage and oven wedge day. We have discovered that King Edward potatoes are The bomb. Fantastic for home-made wedges and as we are adventurous (and cheap) little vegemite’s, we try all of the “new you-beaut” varieties of spud that our local Tasmanian grocer tosses into the market environment. No fear us…we have tried them all! In tossing new varieties into the notoriously suspicious Tasmanian market where vegetables are viewed with suspicion and vegetarians are from another planet… they have to lure the locals to try them with “LOW LOW PRICES”! And low low prices are our favourite sort of prices so we try these new varieties and are often able to purchase 10kg brown bags of spuds for $6. I reuse the brown bag to cart our recycling down the driveway to the recycling bin so nothing is wasted here folks ESPECIALLY the King Edwards! What a delicious spud?! Steve, being an Apples and Pears man himself has a good understanding about potatoes and bought this latest new variety (to Australians King Edwards are “New” to all of you U.K. readers who have been eating them for centuries…) with no qualms. I was a bit sceptical because they appeared to be somewhat starchy and “new spuddy” but MAN they are delicious. We have a crock of goose fat in the fridge…we have a free range lump of a frozen rooster in the freezer and we have pumpkin, peas, the fixings for stuffing and Yorkshire puddings (respectively) as well as gravy and “misc” (anything else required for a top notch chook roast). We are contemplating our very own Christmas in June (without the Christmas…). So if you see King Edward spuds out there…don’t hesitate to buy them…unless you want waxy spuds…in that case buy Dutch Creams 😉

ok heres a picture of our old stool

So on to the Glamorgan sausages. I got the recipe from here…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/glamorgan_sausages_with_13571

Ant this is the old coat used to cover it

which is only fitting because these little babies come from the U.K. Wales to be specific…the land of two languages proudly posted together but whenever you are looking for directions…they are only in Celtic Welsh…(sigh). My niece is current holidaying and residing in Wales and my son is soon to be heading for Ireland after he takes a left turn just South of Albuquerque (Texas to be exact). I dare say they will both be eating more meaty comestibles than our humble Glamorgan sausages but Steve is giving them a thumbs up as I type this so they can’t be all that bad.  A perfect frugal meal for a Fursday if ever there was! I have just finished typing out the last of that great cookbook. I finished up with a Constance Spry recipe for Christmas pudding and Cointreau butter…I am actually thinking about making my Christmas pudding soon so that it can mature at its own leisure and be perfect for Christmas time. I am off to my daughters tomorrow (Wednesday) and the Diamond Geezer himself will be posting this for me. I will be dropping off at the Exeter thrift shop for a bit of a nose around sans husband which means that I will have more time to REALLY look…you all know what it’s like girls… you head into the thrift shop fully intent on hunting out a fantastic bargain and your husband stands at the door looking at his watch…rolling his eyes and sighing heavily enough that even the comatose volunteer work for the dole workers notice his obvious desire to be gone. Tomorrow I fossick to my heart’s content. I have to return 2 library books and pick up another one about transition towns. I went to several lectures about Transition towns and am acutely interested in them. I know that utopia isn’t something that any of us will ever achieve or see in our lifetimes and is the ultimate in pipe dreams but a little slice of communal cooperation and mutual respect is perfectly attainable. I get wildly enthusiastic when I hear about entire communities banding and working together to facilitate change to their mutual benefit. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has helped towns get off the grid by combining their funds, applying for grants and building wind turbines that power the entire town. With the huge storm that we just had we could have powered most of Australia let alone humble (and most tiny) Sidmouth.

Part way

I have been thinking about the hall up in Rowella. Rowella is a town divided at the moment. Everyone is waiting with baited breath to see whether this filthy corrupt pulp mill is going to get the funds to start building or will end up bankrupt and slithering away defeated by the David’s to its bully boy Goliath attempts to overrun the decision of the people in the Tamar Valley. There is a lovely hall in Rowella that occasionally gets used for the odd protest meeting but not much else. I have been following the Deviot hall with much interest as aside from being our neighbouring town to the right of Sidmouth; Rowella is our neighbour to the left. The Deviot hall has a committee… a subcommittee…and all sorts of grants and volunteers…the Deviot community is somewhat upmarket and predominately lived in by business people and professionals. Rowella is an eclectic mix of rural properties and small farmlets including an organic walnut farm owned by one of the founders of the group “Pulp the Mill” Ms Lucy Langdon-Lane (lovely lyrical name that one eh what?) and the hall could and should be being used as extensively as the Deviot hall now is with regular basket markets and other market days filling its once empty coffers. There is a large area of flat lawn around the Rowella hall and I was thinking that it would be perfect for farmer’s market days. There is a dairy in Rowella…a salmon farm…that aforementioned organic walnut farm…a lavender farm and several peach and cherry orchards. I dare say we could rustle up enough people with a vested interest in the area to support a regular farmers market. I wonder how we go about doing that. I might just have to have a nose about and see what it takes to get one started as that is just what this area needs to take its mind off the past 7 years of stressful waiting for and fighting this pulp mill tooth and nail.

Getting better

I think I will get Steve (a.k.a. “Diamond Geezer”…cheers Jamie Oliver for that moniker…) to post the photos that we took showing you how we made our leather stool the other day. We had an old pleather (more like vinyl but pleather is a much more lyrical name for it…) 70’s high backed stool that we had used when we were painting the house and that was once a muddy brown but ended up somewhat paint bedaubed and spattered making it something that no-one wanted to lay claim to. Steve quite liked the height of the stool and the foot stool bit and hinted that he could use it in his music room if it wasn’t so blah…so we decided to recover it with some of that leather jacket that we used to cover the book on forest gardening that Earl slobbered the spine into alien like dissolution. We are certainly not versed in the art of upholstery and so set about recovering the stool with only our lateral and problem solving skills and a good dose of artistic flair. I think that we did quite a good job for a couple of unskilled hippies with minimal supplies and am suitably proud of our efforts to reuse the bits of old leather jacket and repurpose the stool. I don’t know what you think of it but it’s now in Steve’s music room waiting to be joined by a plethora of Union Jacks on the walls…Steve has regained his patriotic joy at being from Old Blighty, boosted by the recent queens Jubilee and has vowed to paint at least 1 wall of his music room with a giant accurate Union Jack. And NOW the real fun begins…

1 more piece

nearly done

not to shabby

ta da all done

This is just a quick note to Mr Soulsby Farm…I have recently started wandering around hunting for meat and potatoes blogs to add to my rss feed reader. Thanks to Rhianna, I am stuffing my feed reader to the back gills with amazing blogs…only thing is…just about every single one has been previously found by Mr Soulsby Farm!…I don’t know whether we have very similar taste or hunting abilities or I am being pulled along by some sort of invisible Soulsby Farm net…but he just seems to pip me at the post whenever I find a nice new blog… It doesn’t matter which country, genre or style of blog… it’s been plundered before I get there. Touché Mr Soulsby Farm, I bow to your obviously superior ability to hunt. This is going to be a somewhat small post today. It’s just about 12 at night and I am not usually up and about at this time. The dogs are mentally pushing me to go to bed and the aforementioned Diamond Geezer is fast asleep and snoring on the sofa…no doubt dreaming of the nefarious ways that he could humiliate me with my mad and impassioned impromptu dance routine. I am off to watch The Avengers at the cinema with my daughters tomorrow…we are having a girl’s night out and they are going to make me a slap up meal apparently. Steve will be batching it with the boys, a kilo of sausages, and a bottle of stout and complete control of the remote control to every single device in the house.  I am leaving the posting of this post entirely in his hands and I dare say he will have something to add at the bottom of this post…anything from this point on is entirely thanks to Mr Diamond Geezer and his Liverpudlian/Sarf-end on Sea attempts at entertainment and he can be SURE that I will be checking out exactly what he has posted when I get in from the cinema tomorrow night! (Consider yourself warned sunshine! 😉

ok now we have a little me time here… ok this is steve and i will post a few things here but not the vid i have of the dancing one , i love life to much for that 😉 ok i have no idea what tags i am meant to use here for this blog so i will just make some up and see who wanders by . ok heres a few links to stuff..Steve

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7o-9_J_Cc2w

A good ol gezzers song i think

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-3DYFJv9xM

oh here we go mother brown

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-SpfyKn96Y&feature=related

The english love there pubs eh

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cz2-ukrd2VQ

Not exactly ryming slang but a pearler of a sketch i think you would agree

ok time to hand back to Fran and heres a few line from a insightful song to end on…

Keep ’em laughing as you go

Just remember that the last laugh is on you.

A final note happy NYC day you where renamed on this day in 1664 (a day out as you read this though)

And if you are reading this on the 7th then this happened .. for a english man it was a good day ….1557 England declares war on France

Is this the way to Tamarillo?

Hi All,

“Every night I’ve been hugging my pillow…”… mad? Possibly, but most definitely a good segue into my Saturday post. I am just sitting down now at lunchtime Saturday to get started on this post. The title is related by proxy…We went for a walk with the boys like we do pretty much every day. Yesterday was a bit different because we had to go for a meeting with our lecturer and so Steve walks Earl nice and early while it’s still dark and Bezial usually declines the offer of a walk because he is well aware of what day it is whenever Earl gets walked in the dark. Bezial is a very clever dog who is able to work out what we are doing by “the signs”. If walking in the dark is involved, he is going to be left alone with Earl for a bit. If I walk to the bedroom and get changed and put on my walking shoes he is going to go for a walk…but only if I go to the bathroom and brush my hair and put it up…AND pick up the leads on the way past the door…all sorts of signs and portents rule Bezials waking life. I am not sure what rules his sleeping life but I think he is a jaguar on a limb as we often see one of his feet twitching as he attempts to sleep run. They got their walk nice and early this morning and we met a little 7 month old Bow nosed terrier called “Oink” and had a ball frolicking. They don’t get to play with dogs much because most dogs are either scared of them or up for a fight. Bow nosed terriers are the exception. They are lovely well-tempered dogs who love to play and the boys have a new mate on the block. After we headed off from meeting Oink, we walked down a small gravel road and up a hill to make sure that the boys get some good walking time and on the way up the hill I found 2 ripe tamarillo fruits lying on the ground. I keep my eyes open for “stuff”. I like found things and collect old rusty bolts, bits of broken pottery and rumbled glass (on the beach) and use them in my attempts at artistic interpretation in my succulent pots and around the garden. The tamarillos were picked up, pocketed and are currently sitting waiting for me to cut them open and spread their seeds out on some kitchen towel to dry and then I will attempt to grow some. I don’t personally like tamarillo’s much but some of their cooked by products are nice. I don’t mind planting things that the native critters and birds can feast on as the more diversity that we get here the better as far as I am concerned. I have the utopian dream of one day producing so much food here that not only can we share with others, but the wildlife can share with impunity. Bring it on possums…I will stuff you to bursting with kindness :o)

Here are my 2 little tamarillos that I found…I don’t think that I have mentioned them yet apart from the tantalising post title…well…when I DO talk about them you can picture them in your mind…

“Word”

Its amazing how quick the weather can change around here. This was thursday. Sunny and bright and briskly cold. Today it is grey, rainy and windy. 4 seasons in one day is a complete understatement for Tasmania!

I take advantage of thrift shops and tip shops to buy things that are not only cheap but are also recycled and often unavailable these days. I found some amazing heavy ceramic bowls yesterday in a thrift shop for 50c a bowl. Steve and I bought 2 bags of toys for the dogs that amused them no end when we got home for $1 a bag. I bought 12 bottles of candle votive oils at the tip shop for 50c and use them in our oil burners to scent the house. I see it as sustainability. I am not wasting resources to buy “new” things and am learning by all sorts of means how to recycle, repurpose and reuse. I can thank Rhianna of http://envirorhi.wordpress.com/ for my newfound epiphany for reusing etc. She showed me how to use rss feed readers and I have been stuffing my reader full of amazing sites ever since. The flip side, Rhianna, is that I find it hard to get through all of them and haven’t been to your site in days! With some amazing repurposing sites, Instructables, my “Go To” site for learning how to do pretty much anything and Google, I am able to find out everything that I need to reuse just about everything. I am thinking about building a composting toilet out the back. As far as I am concerned, using precious water to flush the toilet is the stupidest thing that we Aussies, living in a water stressed climate, should be doing! Composting toilets result in no water loss, friable compost and reduced sewerage problems. We should all be given the incentive to install them wherever practicable. I was able to download some very good plans online in a series of PDF’s to allow me to make my own composting toilet and am seriously considering flouting our laws to make and use one. Water rates are skyrocketing this year and as penniless sustainable hippies we think that it is ludicrous that we are not being offered alternatives to the current system of water wastage involved with out of date sewerage systems. We could save an enormous amount of precious potable water if we changed over to these systems. Much like growing hemp. Tasmania is in the process of considering making the growing of hemp legal for seed and fibre. Hemp seed is a delicious source of Omega 6 and Omega 3 and lots of other tasty goodness but we have to import it from Canada at an exorbitant price and it has to be crushed and marketed as “Pet food”… Tasmania is crying out for industries to employ unemployed and underemployed people and yet we are not getting behind the growing of something that has a fantastic intrinsic value! You would have to smoke the equivalent of an entire field of the stuff to get a mild high so what’s the issue? I would imagine it’s something political…or big business…

Bezial would like to mention here that he is HEARTILY sick of Earl (a.k.a. “Dumbass”) being overrepresented on this blog. He is too well behaved to start acting in a naughty manner to get more attention but you just never know so we had best get posting photos of him or else! Oh… and we need to paint the deck!

Yeh…you really DO need to paint that deck…

Can we come down and frolic amongst all those chickens and feral cats please?…Pretty please?…

The tamarillos being most fortuitously discarded (probably fell off the back of a trailer taking their parent to the tip) made me think about our throwaway society and how dangerous that premise is. I was watching one of those animal rescue shows the other day while I swept the house. I can’t sit down and watch as I end up in tears and wanting to adopt every dog in the pound with Steve having to wrestle the phone from my plaintive fingers so I “sort of” watch while I am otherwise occupied. I do the same thing with television. I “listen” to television while I am in the kitchen working on posting, typing out recipes or studying. Anyhoo… they were talking about an elderly lady who was a hoarder…she hoarded pets…she hoarded “stuff” and she hoarded bags of garbage resulting in her not being able to move in her house. I am not talking about hoarding when I say we should be careful about what we throw out. Hoarding is a mental condition and seems to be a result of war time deprivation in some baby boomers…my parents both tended to hoard things that they were never going to use and I put it down to them living through W.W.2 and being subject to thrifty parents who drummed into them that they should never waste anything. So many of their generation took it literally and hoarded jars of rusty (unusable) screws, jam jars, old plastic bread wrappers and had wardrobes full of them because they were never actually needed in the affluent conditions that followed. We have inherited their rubbish in more ways than one and it’s up to our generation to try to make the best with what they left us. Rather than hoarding for the sake of not throwing things away we need to learn a new lesson. If you don’t want it and can’t re-use it, give it to someone who can. Stop hoarding and start sharing. Unless you are going to use it you should clear it out of your life. I think that ethos should spill over into our day to day lives and when we share, we enrich other peoples and curiously, our own lives.

Here’s one of our thriving  Eucalyptus viminalis (Manna or Ribbon Gums) against the lovely blue sky. I think Steve must have taken this shot whilst laying on his back in complete submission to the work that he had just done…

This is the latest area to receive the “Pimblett scud missile drop” on Serendipity Farm. It looks quite pretty here but under all of that purest green is a seething sea of jasmine roots strangling everything

This area contained a nest of eggs WELL past their useby date (lucky we found them as they are pretty close to our olfactory zones) and a mass of overgrown jasmine and several dead and straggly plants. We spent a day working in this area and tidied it up. It would be lovely if when we finished the area looked like a lovely manicured garden but it looks like a tonne of agent orange got dumped in the near vicinity…sigh…take note ANYONE with anything to do with horticulture…you are NOT allowed to set foot on Serendipity Farm until it starts to look a bit better!

This is the same area a bit further back. It doesn’t look like this now…the pile of debris has quadrupled and we HAVE to take a green waste tip trip on Monday or face certainly being crushed by a mountain of debris in our sleep…

This is looking through the area that you saw in the last 2 pictures back out over the driveway. Our chicken avengers are on duty ferreting out anything that is stupid enough to move so we left them to it and headed inside broken horticulturalists…

This area is cleared of blackberries and my nemesis Osteospermum (Marguerite) daisies. On our walk around Rowella the other day I noticed that someone had actually bought a punnet of these…BOUGHT! They should be listed on the declared weed species list ASAP in my opinion!

My little ripe discarded tamarillos are my gain. I am able to use them to my advantage. No-one cares if I found those tamarillos (well…perhaps the possums that might otherwise have eaten them…) and I am going to use them to propagate something that I otherwise wouldn’t have done for our property. Life is full of little opportunities that constantly present themselves for our choosing pleasure. It’s up to us whether we choose the road less travelled with its scary possibilities or stick to the safe well-worn highway and perhaps never reach our full potential. I keep reminding myself that we only live once so I am going to do the most that I can with what I have left. We want to leave something positive out of our being allowed to stay on the earth for so long and do what we can to give something back where so very much has been taken. Kudos to the people trying so hard to fight for the earth…we “Hippy Loraxes” are passionately and headily in love with this world and want to give it every chance that we can to rest and regenerate. All that from a pair of small ripe tamarillo’s laying on the ground…funny what makes us think isn’t it?

The front of the house is starting to look a bit better at least a bit more civilised. That’s as close as you are going to get to me being in a photo and Earl is just an attention hog. The best thing (apart from our wood burning stove Brunhilda that is…) that we purchased last year was this little trailer. It has paid for itself several times over and we will be hopefully picking up a small 2 seater couch from a thrift shop that we saw the other day on Monday with it after we dump a load of blackberries and debris at Exeter Transfer Station. I was watching Tom and Barbara sitting in front of their wood burning “range” in an episode of The Good Life and realised that a couch near the fire would be a true assett…somewhere to sit and read a book in the dead of winter where you stick your foot out the door and pull it in 10 seconds later laden with chillblains, or somewhere for Bezial to stretch out in blissful solitary somnolence at night time as Earl is hogging our bed and snoring upside down (sigh) so a couch it is and we saw one for $30 at one of the thrift shops and if its still there on Monday, we are going to buy it and install it right smack bang in front of the wood fire stove and I am sure that I will spend the rest of my life fighting to get a seat on it…sigh…

Check out some of the liberated bulbs that are starting to emerge all over the place on Serendipity Farm. Most of them have been stuck under a mountain of overgrown weeds and shrubbery for the last 20 years and I doubt that has stopped them emerging stoically each year to do their thang and die back unseen. This year they can sample the sun on their blossoms…they can emerge into sunlight…they can photosynthesise with impunity and they can return to the earth spent and satiated with the knowlege that their bulbs are storing up next years spring hope.

Steve took this photo with his phone of 2 horses that love him. He faithfully collects a pile of long green grass from ditches along our Rowella walk to feed these 2 and they run up to see him every time he appears. Steve didn’t have much to do with horses before he came to Australia like many city people and its great to see him getting up close to them and enjoying stroking them and they love him right back :o)

I am in the process of typing out some recipes from a really good cookbook called “Food for Friends and Family” by Sarah Raven. A U.K. cookbook writer of the type of food that I love, hearty, real and delicious. Much like Nigel Slater, Nigella Lawson and Simon Hopkinson she carries on the long tradition of reminding us that simple is often much MUCH better. Soul food is what comes to mind when I tap furiously at my keyboard not wanting to lose a single delicious literary morsel and I go to bed red eyed and tired with cranky fingers after a marathon typing session but rich with future possibilities for our adventurous cooking episodes in Brunhilda our mammoth wood burning stove. I can’t tell you how many recipes have trickled from cookbooks through to various tombs throughout the house through the years. My children will all remember me scribbling furiously before computers came along and made me less liable for the endless reams of paper needed to create the books that I filled exponentially. I think it might have been my way of collecting knowledge but at the time it was a burning addiction and my ability to pinch recipes worthy of my culinary tastes from websites all over the world is only hampered by the occasional party pooper who makes it hard to copy and paste. That’s when I am reminded about how much work used to go into assimilating the massive collection that I have today (perhaps I DID inherit a desire to hoard from my parents!)

Like I said…4 seasons…is fog a season?!

Underneath the beaches laden with smooth pebbles that are endemic to Tasmania there is dark volcanic sand. This is one of Steve’s “artistic” shots. You won’t get many of them from me because they involve contorting yourself into somewhat unusual positions to get close to the ground…you may be my dear constant readers but you wouldn’t want to put me into hospital would you?!

Same beach and looking a lot like caruso beach in Denmark where I come from…the only new thing is “Old Klunka” the tractor that some bright spark uses to tow his kayak down for his morning splash

Moss…nothing unusual about moss…I am in the process of harvesting a bit from every moss habitat that I find to populate Steve’s new Maple garden…wish me luck…I should be finished sometime mid 2050…

This is to show you all what we have to deal with when it comes to our soil…actually…these people are LUCKY (much like the “you were LUCKY” Yorkshireman Monty Python sketch…) because they don’t have their clay stuffed full of rocks. There is about 1mm of topsoil…10mm of silt that turns abruptly into reactive clay. Reactive clay is the sort of clay that swells and shrinks…so its the sort of clay that can break your house…in winter it sends underground water shooting along its surface and erodes everything in its path…maybe we are LUCKY to have the rocks to hold it together?!

As a horticulturalist you have to be able to act like Sherlock Holmes when it comes to “What happened here”?…I deduce that the dodder (Cassytha melantha.) that has tangled around the base of this long deceased eucalypt had something to do with its demise…whatever it was it did a good job!

Thank you to all of my dear constant readers who are commenting on my posts of late. I realised that I get as much out of posting for you as you do reading my posts (hopefully “something”! 😉 ). I have been learning heaps from Anthropogen lately and Rhianna has been posting some amazing recipes that I can’t wait to try. I recently discovered Joan in Queensland with her allotment gardening and can’t wait to read about her trips to her allotment and what she is up to. Blogs are only as worthwhile as the informative sharing that goes on and it’s up to us to make sure that the good ones are kept alive, well and thriving. That wasn’t self promotion there folks…my blog is more my need to verbally talk my way through my mind than it is to gain kudos in any way :o). Best I get it out here than have you all read about me in the world news…Christi in a tiny little town called Olalla in the USA has an amazing blog called “Farmlet” and has a very close ethos to what we are doing here on Serendipity Farm. I found her wonderful blog http://farmlet.wordpress.com/ when hunting for pictures and instructions for how to make a hoop house to extend our growing season. I had plenty of hoop house Instructables but Christi and her husband “The Bearded One” of the deep booming baritone fame and stick picture aficionado had not only made a hoop house, but had used branch wood to do so creating a charming and most functional customised unit out of very little. Reusing and recycling what they could. She has been rallying against a Pebble mine at Bristol Bay, again big business lobbies their way into profits over the environment and our future. I just looked up what a pebble mine is having decided that no-one aside from landscape contractors could make money out of the obvious connotation and found out that a pebble mine is…

“Pebble Mine is the common name of an advanced mineral exploration project investigating a very large porphyry copper, gold, and molybden”

Yup…that’s why the USA wanted Alaska in the first place, to plunder it dry of its resources. If you have a look at a map of the world you will note that Alaska should surely be part of Canada NOT North America. I haven’t had much to do with learning anything about the logistics or geographical topography of the America’s but since my son is heading over there in a few weeks’ time I decided to check out a few things. We learn very little about the U.S.A. in our schools in Australia and I had to look up where several places of interest were and that’s when I realised that Canada is right next to Alaska and surely should be the caretakers of its beauty and wealth? I have to thank Christi again for allowing me to find this bit of information out. When I was checking out Olalla on Google Earth (I like to see it as being curious Christi and NOT stalking you ;)) aside from finding “AL’s Café” obviously the local shop, I noticed how very close to Alaska Washington was. I also discovered that Washington is on the West coast of the U.S.A. See…blogging has allowed me to learn more about North American geography in a couple of months than I learned in years at school. Well done Christi and The Bearded One for standing up for the earth. Consider yourselves honorary penniless hippy Loraxes and know that we might be on the other side of the earth but we are there with you in spirit, placards in hand and tennis rackets at the ready to defend our precious earth and the resources of our future generations. By the way…you live in a very pretty part of the world and it must be damned cold up there being so close to Alaska!

How small is the world now? I can talk in real time with someone on the other side of the world…I can tap away in Facebook to my family who live 3800km away from me and I feel like I am so close I can touch them. I have friends that live in Perth WA (Kymmy and Bruce) who I can send emails to, talk on Facebook to and who read my posts faithfully every time. I can meet people from all over the world who are able to give me precious information about what we are doing here like Spencer from Anthropogen. I can comment on a cookbook writers Facebook page and she replies to me with warmth and humour…the world is a MUCH smaller place now that we have the ability to share in an instant. I am able to isolate and quantify information that otherwise would have taken me ages to find in library books and text books in seconds online. Googling no longer has Cookie Monster connotations, it’s all about learning and finding and understanding and feeling incredibly privileged to be sharing with you all. I would hate to see the internet become contained and the information that we currently take for granted become like aps are on a paid basis. The internet has been the most important and influential tool of our generation. Steve and I were talking as we were travelling between our home in tiny sleepy (smoky) Sidmouth to the big sticks of Launceston for our meeting with our lecturer yesterday about how different our lives are from those of our children. When we were kids (ITS HAPPENING!…I am talking like my parents…sigh…) we didn’t have the internet. We didn’t have mobile phones…we were watching The Good Life and marvelling at the lack of automated CAD programs and how they had to design and draw on paper and draftsman boards. How could they live without CAD! Everything is so fast…instant messaging, instant communication and instant noodles…we are all constantly on the phone…on Facebook and online…I guess this has all been thrust on us in a very short space of time and we are going to have to learn to regain our spare time by learning to minimise our exposure to “instant”. I am personally glad that we have such a small world. I love how no-one can contain information and that we can all find out about the atrocities and shame of political corruption and that of big business. You can’t hide…everyone can see you and what you are up to. Forget the big brother fear; big brother is being subject to its own scrutiny by the likes of humble old “we”. Undoubtedly this will all change soon. Someone out there wants to make the net pay. To do that we have to be corralled into paying for information that we currently get for free. My guess is that it will be along the lines of Apple making their IPhone and I pad users pay for aps. I am going to spend every single day up until then finding something precious and saving it so that I won’t have to pay for my laziness in more ways than one in the future! I just hit 3000 words and that’s my cut off…I can’t be subjecting you all to my endless ponderings and I need to get stuck into typing out the rest of that amazing cookbook.  Spend your weekend wisely. Wind down, chill out, enjoy what you are doing to the max and recharge for next week. Thank you all for reading my posts and for giving me some of your precious time to ponder alongside me about our common human condition. See you on Wednesday when we might go fungal for a change :o)

How to reuse, recycle and repurpose just about everything!

Hello Possums,

I just read a book about a 91 year old Tasmanian icon called Marjory Bligh. She has been rumoured to have spawned Dame Edna and Barry Humphrey’s always buys some of her books whenever she releases them. I used to subscribe to Grass Roots magazine, which to those of you living anywhere other than Australia is a 70’s alternative lifestyle and homesteading/smallholding magazine, and remember reading letters to the hints and tips and questions and answers page from Marjory. Like me, she is a last century woman but her experience of last century is MUCH more extensive than mine. The book was about Marjory and wasn’t all that interesting to be honest. What got me excited were the hints and tips that littered the pages and I typed most of them out and saved them. Marjory is the doyen of knitting and crocheting things out of bread wrappers, supermarket plastic bags etc. She came from the depression years and as such learned that everything has a value. You might not be able to see that value when staring straight at the item in question, but it’s there. Much like blowflies and mosquitoes…something somewhere out there loves them! So I decided that my shame that I currently feel whenever I have to throw out plastic bags is going to be quelled. I have started to collect them and go hunting for not only repurposing ideas but repurposing ideas that actually result in something desirable. That’s the secret folks…anyone can crochet a bathmat/hat out of a bread wrapper but it takes artistic flair to make something that people covet. THAT is my ultimate aim and so off to Instructables to hunt for a few patterns. Again…I LOVE this site. I love it so much I subscribe to it on my rss feed reader and look forward to seeing just how inventive some people are able to be and take magpie delight in collecting the shiny results of their hard thought out labour. I collected a home-made kayak the other day…well…the instructable for how to make one from start to finish…I also got to read the comments that enlightened me as to how to make this even better. I was also able to isolate a most interesting series of Instructables about laminating plastic bags to get a thicker plastic product that you can use for making more durable items…now THAT is a skill that a repurposing magpie might just like to learn!

I can get lost in that site! Here are a few examples of why…

First up…who wouldn’t want to make a purse/wallet out of an old juice or milk carton?

http://www.instructables.com/id/Recycled-coin-purse/

And after we have spent the day slashing and hacking at our honeysuckle problem, we can sit down to a glass of our ultimate revenge!

http://www.instructables.com/id/Honeysuckle-Infused-Vodka/

Try this one…”You too can make yourself a torch out of a coke can and a box of cornflakes…

http://www.instructables.com/id/Torch-made-from-coke-can-and-cereal-box/

Here is another example of total irony…a rubbish bin made out of rubbish! Gotta have one of those…

http://www.instructables.com/id/Trash-can-made-of-plastic-bottles/

We had a visit from our friend who must remain anonymous and she brought us some firewood and came to see what we have been up to on Serendipity Farm. She brought some photos with her to share with us of her adventures since we last saw her. In this photo we get to see Glen her partner. He is not in the witness protection programme and as such is quite happy to share his delightful countenance with us all here. In this photo we can see Glen and a friends little dog who apparently not only loves him, but looks remarkably like him…

I wanted to share a photo that made it to the paper of our friend and some fish that she caught in Strahan on the West Coast when fishing. I had to maintain her anonymity and so allowed Steve to head over to Photoshop and attempt to give her a new identity…hmmm not too sure whether Marilyn would have appreciated fishy fingers Steve…methinks its back to the old drawing board

Looking exactly like your partner is somewhat kinky and not to be encouraged in any way shape or form!…(imagine the kids!!)

This is getting warmer and the pixelated look is somewhat better than looking like your old man but we decided on the next one with our friends approval…

WONDERFUL! I dare say our friend will be probably heading off to her plastic surgeon in the morning to effect these changes…well done Steve, you have a career in plastic surgery design! (the lord only knows…it pays more than landscape design…sigh…)

I could go on forever here (and those of you who read this blog on a regular basis know that I am NOT exaggerating there 😉 ) but if you want to get as excited about reusing and repurposing as I do and feel sufficiently happy that you are doing everything in your means to helping ease congestion at the tip whilst creating something new and unique, check out the “Green” section on Instructables. And for any new readers who are not aware of Instructables…here is their address…

http://www.instructables.com/

Steve and I decided to start a new blog using Google’s alternative to WordPress. It would appear that Google is on the brink of taking over the internet highway and always the thinking person’s magpie; I am going to ride the crest of that ever encroaching technological wave until it flattens WordPress into a mangled disassembled heap. Do you think I might be a little bit angry at WordPress…DO YOU THINK?! I can’t believe how WordPress have hurled their non-paying bloggers into the ether totally unprotected by anything…we are free falling and those who are not willing to grab hold of someplace else are about to land in a painful heap. I lost half of the blogs that I follow and half of my subscribed readers thanks to their new updates. They didn’t warn anyone…they didn’t test these updates…they have also cast all non-paying bloggers off from being able to ask any questions about blogging apart from the forum where long suffering volunteers have to field the angry protestations of exponentially angry bloggers. I started to get 100+ comments from blogs that I follow thanks to Word Press’s new “you must untick the box underneath the comment that you make or you will get every single other post posted to that article”…we were not told that…we just had to work it out ourselves folks…I guess it would take up too much bandwidth to tell all of the free bloggers out there so to heck with them…let em’ work it out themselves! Ok WordPress…I have given you a fair bit of my mental blood sweat and tears since last October when I started blogging. I have NO idea how hard this must be for everyone who has been with you for years but consider me a big hairy magpie rat that is leaving your sinking ship… We are off to BlogSpot.

I decided to take the easy way out and share a few of my friends (the one who must remain anonymous…I don’t think I have any normal friends!)  photos with you today. I will save more of Serendipity Farm and what we have been doing for Saturday. For now enjoy these lovely squid. Aren’t they beautiful?

This water is stunning! Almost as lovely as the red squid…

We have worked our way most carefully through the minefield known as Adobe Illustrator cs4 to create a picture for our new blog. We wanted to be “clever” and call it “The Odd Life” as juxtaposition with the wonderfully wry and truthful 70’s U.K. television sitcom “The Good Life” where Barbara and Tom turn their ¼ acre house and garden into a sustainable plot along with utilising the methane from their livestock to heat their home and generate power. I loved that show…EVERYONE loved that show. It was hilarious…it was ground breaking…it was (like many good U.K. television programs before and since) WAY ahead of its time and apart from that it launched Felicity Kendal as rear of the year and the countryman’s idea of a “good sort”. We tried all variants of “The Odd Life” until we arrived at what we thought was a witty alternative involving both the “Odd” desirable quotient combined with our newfound skills as landscape designers who occasionally have to turn to the use of Theodolites. So together they became “The Odo Life”…I am NOT going to spell it out folks! 😉 Anyway…at a day in the not too distant future (when I overcome my laziness and get my act together to do a first post and share the new blog with you all…) we will head on over to Google without a passing glance back at the WordPress titanic that attempted to swallow us into its sea of ineptitude. I am not ungrateful for the 8 months of use I got from their site. I never once complained to them about how infuriating their site was when posting regarding photos going missing…entire posts disappearing and having to be posted again…all sorts of irritating things that I would have to jump through Word Press’s hoops to attain and all because it was free. I have discovered that WordPress isn’t the only free fish in the sea and have decided to attach myself remora like underneath the good ship Google…”Long may she sail”! Goodness only knows I am too lazy to have to swap blogs more than once!

Here are a couple of photos that Jenny took for me to show to my mum over the school holidays. It had become a bit of a running joke that mum collected weird and wonderful pictures of toilets and Jenny captured this toilet in Strahan while on holiday in January. My mum died before she could see these pictures and Jenny hadn’t the heart to share them with me before now. These are for you if you are still reading the blog wherever you are mum…I am sure that you would have loved them for your collection :). This one shows the way to the toilet…

And here is the ancient Thunderbox itself. Thunderbox is an Aussie word for outdoor long drop toilet. This one was the sole toilet for all of the fishing boats in Strahan for many years! As most fisherman love to imbibe liberally whilst out on the briny sea can you only imagine how many of them didn’t quite make it to the toilet and how many of them found themselves sobering up VERY quickly in the cold Tasmanian sea? 🙂

I have been using Facebook again sporadically for a few weeks now. I love how I can find all sorts of interesting things that I couldn’t otherwise find via social media sites. I can share websites and interesting articles with friends and family that I might not bother to share otherwise thanks to the ability to “click” and share…sometimes I dare say my friends and family would rather that I didn’t just “click and share” but you know what? Learning is good for you…it keeps your brain mobile and active and when your brain is active and alive, the rest of you tends to follow. That’s my theory and I am sticking to it! I am now adding interesting sites to my Google reader via RSS feeds and it’s so much easier to head on over to Google Reader and read what I want, when I want rather than be bombarded by emails informing me about posts. It took a little bit of getting used to but I now prefer it. It does, however, make my inbox a bit of a sad place now as most of my family and friends are not regular communicators and if I didn’t occasionally head over to Facebook I dare say I wouldn’t hear from them. I guess living 3870km away from most of your family makes it possible to allow them to sink into the distance quite easily. Social media has allowed us to rediscover our family and distant friends that we had lost touch with. I met Steve’s friend and flatmate Tony’s wife Pim who Tony met on a worldwide trip in Thailand 20 odd years ago and who have now been married for 20 years. I would never have had the chance to meet her and share a most refreshing friendship if not for Facebook and other social media making the world a much smaller place. It would have been MUCH easier for Steve and me to communicate. We met online back in 1997 when the U.K. was still a HUGE distance away media wise and had to put up with massively expensive sporadic phone calls and using a slow dial up network that often dropped out and with tremendous lag times just to keep in touch. Now you just hook up to Google Chat for free and buy yourself a nice cheap webcam and you can talk to whoever you like wherever you like for free with almost instantaneous speeds. The world is a much smaller place thanks to social media and for that I am thankful. We can also find out about all sorts of events and happenings that we might otherwise never hear about. What was once something endemic is now capable of becoming viral if it holds enough interest to the average Joe. I can head on over to Project Gutenberg whenever I want to check out a free eBook. With over 36 000 of them available both fiction and non-fiction I can surely find SOMETHING that interests me. I can find out pretty much anything that I want to so long as someone else has been kind enough to share the information. A last century magpie like me who has point blank REFUSED to learn how to use the Austar remote could be forgiven for ignoring the information highway completely but I love it. I love learning things and am amassing a small fortune of information pertaining to our interests and what we are trying to do here on Serendipity Farm. Life is constantly evolving and our ever changing world is constantly updating. I love that I too can constantly update along with it and can choose…the word “Choose” being the operative word here (at the moment) what I do and don’t want to learn. Here’s hoping that we can keep the net free, open and honest and that the powers that be (including my new massive mother ship zeppelin of choice Google…) remain stymied in their endeavours to make it the biggest cash in opportunity of the millennium. Knowledge is power and choice is the weapon that delivers it to our waiting ears. We need to make sure that this ability to learn what we choose is not taken from us in the name of exponential profit growth.

This is a small cruise boat that you can take a tour around Strahan and that runs rings around the little boat that takes tours up the Tamar…

Isn’t Strahan pretty? We might have to head over there one day when we get a few spare minutes.

Lastly, this is a photo taken directly in front of our house. The little lighthouse is in Glads (our 88 year old next door neighbour) front verge and we are directly to the left (in the photo) of there. You can’t really see us but you can…if you peer…see the top of our house. This photo was taken on our friend and Glens boat on a trip up the Tamar River. Ok, thats your bloomin lot for today folks…

I wonder if any writers out there would like to buy some of my never ending supply of words? Anyone wanting to take advantage of this constant stream of concepts…ideas…crazy adventitious sharing…I am open to offers. I prefer to barter so if you have something of interest let me know. I could probably part with about 50% of them and STILL have enough to tide me over for the next 50 years. After that I doubt that anyone would want to listen to me anymore anyway so it would be a bit like a 99 year lease where (in this case) the words revert to the state. Good luck with making sense out of them “The State”…my muse appears to be a little psychotic at times and tends to channel the more mentally alternative members of the afterlife so you might be buying in to a little more than you bargain for but what price words when you are stuck with writers block eh? I sometimes feel like a human sponge…I sit down with an enormous cup of tea (can’t be having to get up halfway through…) to my newfound rss feed reader (in this case Google) and wade through all of the exciting word porn that gets delivered right to my waiting mind. It’s like allowing a small child into one of those enormous pick-and-mix sections in one of the larger more upmarket department stores where the sweets are less likely to make them glow in the dark with a 20 litre bucket…a large scoop and free rein for a day. Not only would the child eat more than the 20 litre bucket that they would no doubt fill to the maximum, but the resulting illness from overindulgence would last a week. The headiness of me being able to read all of my favourite blogs and web pages (aside from a few of the really crazy ones that don’t have rss feed because the government or aliens might get track of where they are that is…) has rendered me somewhat static. The dogs hate it…Earl Sits at my elbow nibbling the oversized jumper that I am wearing trying to get me to take him for a walk. Steve sits in the lounge room a happy man because he can watch whatever he likes with impunity because I am not there offering verbal insults to his favourite obese American Redneck populated Alligator, hog and storage shed hunting television programs and Bezial can bask in front of the fire knowing that at least one family member is here in bodily form albeit mentally no longer in the building. Knowledge is more than power for me. It’s like mental food. It feeds my mind and when I occasionally find the mental equivalent to that never ending free upper class pick and mix buffet for my inner child it delights me for days. I am a cheap date. Give me a bowl of good home-made soup, an enormous screen and the ability to hunt for my mental stimulation and I am yours. Steve says that “You might not want the results”…I think that is his way of saying he still wants me around…that’s love for you :o)

Again my posts escape and run amok…it’s a bit like being taken by aliens…you suddenly arrive at the spot where you were only minutes before feeling somewhat abused but not quite knowing how or why…I get to this point in my posts knowing that I have posted but no idea how I managed to get to 2500 words so quickly. I just love sharing with you all. I think we are just about to start taking some hard wood cuttings this week. Steve wants to get some scion material from a heritage listed weeping elm in town and a small weeping birch in one of the malls to graft onto his rootstocks. I will be taking some cuttings from a wonderful cold climate shrub that I fell in love with hanging over a garden fence in Beaconsfield called Stachyurus praecox. We are also going to take some Washington Hawthorn cuttings now that they have lost their leaves and are ready for hard wood cuttings. We haven’t had the inclination or time to actively pursue our previous horticultural zeal for plant propagation but we are slowly getting back some time to want to grow plants again. “Break out the heat bed and make some room in the glasshouse Steve…Fran’s green thumb is back!”Stachyurus praecoxStachyurus praecox I just have to leave you with this little Green Instructable that tickled my inner irony button. I love how re-using saves the planet AND your wallet and this little Instructable might do more to protect you from the credit crunch than you might immediately think 😉 See you all on Saturday and until we get to share some mental space again…remember to use your mind…like everything else that we are given in life, it needs exercise or it ends up sluggish and overweight and the LAST thing you want to be known as is “Fathead” now isn’t it? :o).

http://www.instructables.com/id/Credit-Card-Flower-Box-Fridge-Magnet/

Next Newer Entries