5 Go mad in Sidmouth

Hi All,

Enid Blyton was one of my favourite authors when I was a small child. I got endless entertainment reading about whatever the “5” were up to on any given jolly set of hol’s. Enid was fond of a good mystery and we had ourselves a very Blytonesque mystery on our hands on Monday. We headed out to open the doors of the hen house to allow the hens into the enclosed area that they now live in. We lock the doors because of quolls, a native animal somewhat like a cat, that loves nothing more than a tasty fat docile hen added to its menu for the day and they hunt at night when the hens are at their most docile and compliant. We have the luxury of a cement floored hen house that was once a woodshed and even the most determined quoll is going to come up chookless when faced with 500ml of cement to have to tunnel through. We made small hen sized doors and a ramp down to the enclosed outer area and the hens go into the hen house at night and are ensconced safely till we let them out the next morning. We recently discovered one of the late great Effel Doocark’s daughters who had decided to head WAY down to the front of the property to lay a few eggs and go clucky and after waiting for the feral cats to eat her babies and then herd her into the enclosure along with her other sisters we discovered that unlike Effel, her daughters are EXCELLENT mothers. This hen managed to situate her chick’s right up close and personal in the feral cat’s domain and only lost 1 chick to them. We noticed her near the gate of the enclosure and with some careful manoeuvring; we were able to get them all into the enclosure…WIN! The only problem with enclosing feral chooks, as indeed this hen’s babies were, is that they have a taste for the outdoors and are rarely content to stay put. The chicks have grown somewhat and their mother has taken to going into the hen house at night to be with the rest of the flock but her babies are steadfastly refusing to go into the hen house and on Monday they escaped. Steve and I heard tell-tale “peeping” outside the enclosure and on further investigation we found them frolicking around in the leaves under the blackwood acacia trees and herded them back in. 6 more escapes later and we started to lose our cool! We had inspected the netting for holes…these chicks are not big and so could easily have slipped through a larger hole in the ex-fish farm netting that makes up the bulk of the enclosure.

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The Moscow State Circus comes to Serendipity Farm…

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2 ferals

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A little crab that we found in the middle of the road as we were walking back dripping from a recent walk in the rain with the dogs

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I had a little chat to Mr Crab and we decided that even though he might have thought that he wanted to make like a chicken and get to the other side, his life as a crustacean would be much more fullfilling (and long) if he would just learn to be satisfied to stay in the river

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We are finding more and more of these little reminders discarded on the side of the road that prove that cyclists are full of something other than the “clean green” image that they would like us all to believe that they represent …it’s not only Lance Armstrong that is shaming the world of cycling…

We decided that the chicks were escaping by flying over the top of the enclosure. This confused us a bit because none of the other chooks (including a couple of erstwhile ferals that we had herded in after we dispatched their brothers) had managed to fly over but there is a small mandarin tree situated inside the enclosure and we did notice the chicks all roosting in this small tree…after cutting several lengths of extra ex-fish farm netting we started tacking pieces into the trees that border the chook enclosure and the whole shebang started to look like the Moscow State Circus. STILL the chicks got out! We figured that perhaps they were climbing up onto some blackberries in the enclosure (left to try to encourage the chook to feel safe about laying their eggs outside) and cut back all tendrils…STILL they got out! We put another large piece of netting all along the side of the enclosure where the blackberries and agapanthus hiding spots were and STILL they got out. It was getting beyond a joke and so this time we cut the flight feathers of each of their rotten little wings and smugly headed inside to make a warm drink…when we headed out to smile smugly at the captured prisoners 30 minutes later they were out! “WHAT?!!! HOW???” We took turns to sit incredibly still outside the hen house watching for several hours when the chicks did absolutely nothing aside from lay with their mother and dust bath but as the day started to heat up and the shade disappeared so did we…and they got out…sigh…I had a really good look and decided that their might just be a weak point in the defences and we put ANOTHER bit of ex-fish farm netting up so that we were totally covered. Sure that we had fixed the problem we headed back inside…after checking a little white later they were still in the enclosure and we were ecstatic…”WE WON!”… An hour later 3 of them were out… Again we put up some more netting  and this time we had the whole circus represented…all we needed was a ringmaster and a lion…a lion would most certainly have sorted out our chicken problem! This time there was no WAY that they could escape…we had over engineered the enclosure and Houdini himself would have been flummoxed. When Steve went to close the doors at 8.30pm they were out… Now you can only BEGIN to imagine how bad tempered I was by this stage! I was to the point of leaving them out to their fate with the quolls…

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Steve is starting to branch out with his spoons now

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Mid summer acorns

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A little wallaby next to his blackberry and bracken fern home

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A most innovative name for a vessel that pootles…

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Summer twinkling on the river

We both ruminated about how the heck they were getting out because there was pretty much no way to escape from the top of the enclosure and we both decided that they MUST be escaping from lower down…We both headed off in different directions around the enclosure and inspected the lower part of the run with a fine toothed comb…after 20 minutes of painstaking inspection I heard Steve say “I found it!”…I headed inside the enclosure to where Steve was standing next to one of the poles used to anchor the netting to. What he had discovered was a teeny tiny space between 2 rocks that these miniature Houdini’s were tunnelling through to get out to the other side. They had to squeeze themselves between the rocks, up through a tunnel of netting and then take a hard right turn and squeeze out underneath another couple of rocks to escape! Kudos to them and I will NEVER underestimate the brain of a determined feral chook again! They haven’t escaped again and peace has returned to the Moscow State Circus and Serendipity Farm. I am thinking of writing a children’s book called “5 go wild in Sidmouth” or “The Great Escape 5” in the tradition of a good Enid Blyton sleuth. I might throw a chance meeting in with Justin Bieber and Harry Potter and a guest appearance by the wiggles and Elmo and I should get a book deal with ease 😉

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This grey protrusion is a basking seal. This photo was taken about 200metres from our front gate from Steve’s boat this morning

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Flippy pretending to be a shark…”you won’t fool Steve THAT easily Flippy!” 😉

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A huge sea eagles nest on the river bank. This nest is very old and is constantly in use and is approximately 2 metres across

We just took delivery of 4 more large rolls of Ex-fish farm netting with the promise of as much as we can handle to come. I have visions of Serendipity Farm partitioned off into undercover bliss including an entirely enclosed orchard area that is currently battered and bruised after years of possums being allowed to run amok amongst the trees and our enormous edifice full of protected vegetables. We have smaller projects including compost heap construction and protection of various small garden beds but the luxury of being able to take what the fish farm sees as waste and turning it into our treasure makes me even happier.  Steve has just headed out to see what the river might yield in the Mumbley cumumbus. He is ostensibly “fishing” but in reality he is trawling around like Huck Finn on the river with his straw hat and his fishing line tied to his toe while he eats his cheese sarnies (1 with Brit Piccalilli…Crosse and Blackwell no less, and the other with some of his delicious home preserved ultra-thin cucumber pickles) in ex-pat heaven. It’s a really lovely day here, nice and cool but with the sun shining brightly and packed full of possibilities. Earl and Bezial are hoping for fishing futures and I am hoping for some photos that I can put in today’s post but aside from that Steve is Scott free and able to bob around on the waves in comparative solitude. That’s one of the benefits of being a penniless student and the shining beacon in our gratitude quotient. Sometimes it is difficult when we would rather have the money to instantly gratify our wants. It’s not like we want the moon…a water tank would be nice, a few solar panels to hook up to the water heater when Brunhilda is in hiatus and a mulcher to mulch all of the debris that we are generating via our sporadic concerted vegetative ethnic cleansing episodes…I could care less about fame and fortune, give me a $15.95 copy of Jackie French’s “The Wilderness Garden” and I feel like I just won lotto. I consider myself to be a very lucky woman. I am completely content with my lot and the possibilities in our lives and I am constantly excited and invigorated by simple things. In the eyes of society we are unimpressive and easily dismissed and that’s how we like it :o)

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One side of Redwood Island (Steve’s prime fishing haunt)…

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The other side of Redwood Island…All of our photos are taken with our 7 year old totally outdated FinePix Fujifilm camera. No lenses, no special whistles and bells…we are lucky if it zoom’s when we ask it to but it does take a lovely photo.

Its 5.44am Wednesday and Steve just headed off with his boat in the dark. He has just finished scrying his crystal ball (http://tides.willyweather.com.au/tas/northern/sidmouth.html ) and found the timing is right for a morning’s fishing/pootling in the river. It might be dark but I can’t hear the wind chime’s gentle melody so there isn’t any wind to chill the early morning air further…I love the hint of chill that is starting to creep in before dawn. I love that we have had Brunhilda on 3 times this week. I also love the free hot water and the ability to cook our meals on her as well as cook pots of legumes, have the kettle gently simmering ready for a drink and keep things warm in her lower ovens…my autumnal (sorry my American friends, “autumnal” is a MUCH more lyrical word than “fall” 😉 ) processes are waking up and it’s still summer. I know that New Zealand is enjoying our customary weather (hot without rain…peculiar for them at this time of year thanks to the recent cyclone that has tumbled our weather around) and we have theirs. Cheers for the swapsy guys…any time! I don’t mind the last gasps of summer in February because we have had this little rain fuelled interlude that has soothed the savage beast and eased the crustiness of Serendipity Farm…the garden is happy, I might even get some germination of the free roadside seed that I have been collecting over the summer and broadcasting in the side garden.

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Mandolin + home grown cucumber = very finely sliced cucumbers…

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What we choose to call Steve’s “Never ending refrigerator pickles” 😉

I just found a fellow Tasmanian’s blog…she is about my age and shares my ethos and has a lovely enthusiastic gardening blog like mine. If you want to check out Kate’s blog, head on down south to Cygnet and have a look at her world…

http://vegetablevagabond.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/time-to-sow-and-reap.html

Aside from her delightful blog, she has some really good Tasmanian links that I will be spending some time this morning checking out. Most of Tasmania’s “Hippies” live down south and there are so many seed swapping groups, transition towns and all kinds of sharing going on and I am envious. I wish we had something as vital as that up here but our local groups are not as active and tend to be a bit “closed shop”. There are some very active members but I am going to have to dig a bit deeper to find relevance to our ethos here on Serendipity Farm…oh well…I can admire from a distance :o)

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This last series of photos are an homage to an old video game hero of mine…I thought that this little beetroot (one of our recent harvest) looked remarkably like one “Earthworm Jim”…knowing that I can’t claim to have replicated him (on pain of being sued blue and black) I shall call my little creation “Beetroot Nemotode James” 😉

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Here he is nestled amongst his brethren waiting for his fate…

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“Well what do we have here?”…

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Surely this is the end of our erstwhile hero James! How could anything survive a scalding stream of fragrant pickling liquor! Stay tuned to find out what happens next in the continuing story of our hero…

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I don’t know what you think but he certainly looks like he is happy enough with his lot (ignore the colour, that’s what happens when you let Steve take the photo and he doesn’t want to use macro 😉 ) “Off to the fridge with you young nematode!”…

Have you noticed that I have been cutting my posts down a bit lately? I am trying to ensure that I don’t write marathon posts and make it difficult for you all to get through them in one bite. My muses are both enthusiastic and prolific and there isn’t much I can do about that BUT I can harness them and make them work in the direction that “I” want to pull… February is here and summer is almost over and autumn is just about to crest and that means W.O.R.K. on Serendipity Farm. Aside from turning piles of woody debris into Hugelkultur gardens and biochar (and tidying Serendipity Farm up considerably in the process), we will be planting out as many of our chestnuts, walnuts, hazelnuts as we can along with 4 loquats, 3 figs, 5 avocado plants (well sheltered) and will be situating a length of perforated drainage coil at the base of each root ball so that we can give them supplemental watering next summer…this summer hasn’t gone yet and we are already plotting for next summer! Does that make us “real” farmers? 😉 I don’t think so! Steve wants to get as many of his Brachychitons into the ground along with as many pines as he can fit. We love them with a passion and all of their in-ground brethren are going gangbusters so we figure “what the heck!” I know that my son rarely reads these posts so the words “Not in our lifetime” are not going to make him twitch ;). Most of these pines yield edible seeds so perhaps by the time Stewart and Kelsey inherit this property they may be able to harvest pine nuts along with everything else that we are setting up here for them…any grandchildren (now he is REALLY twitching if he has stumbled onto this post! 😉 ) will be able to graze freely (along with the native wildlife) from the food forest that we are in the process of setting up. I have no idea what I am meant to be doing with my life…so far I have just surfed along the crest of it hoping that I didn’t wipe out too badly but since we moved to Serendipity Farm, everything that has happened in my past seems to be knitting together to form a purpose. I think I was born to do this and the happiness that this simple life is bringing me gives me a sense of real purpose that mainstream worldly success couldn’t. I think I am going to have to put the plug in on my muses…they want to wax lyrical for a few more pages but I need to put some photo’s into this post guys…”SHHHH!” See you all on Wednesday and I hope that the rest of this week flows smoothly…if it doesn’t, remember “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”…best I can do with all these muses yelling in my head 😉

What a Mingy Comumbus a.k.a. “Oh COCK!”

Hi All,

To find out what the title of today’s post means you either have to find Series 2, episode 4 of James May’s “Man Lab” or you need to get your fingers googling. No laziness here folks…this blog is all about educating the masses and how are you EVER going to get ejamicated without a bit of work from your side eh? Steve actually prefers his version (well…the version that he was hunting for this morning online and curiously finding nothing at ALL to do with it…) the “Mumbly Comumbus”. Steve loved this SO much he has renamed “The Tubby Piggins” to “The Mumbly Comumbus”…A fitting name for his little aluminium coracle…go look it up! I KNOW it is driving you crazy! ;). I had a Mingy Comumbus of a day on Monday. I went to town with Steve and the dogs to do the fortnightly shopping on a hot day when the dogs and I spent most of the time in the car because I can’t hold both excited boys myself and we were forced to endure extended periods in a hot car. I KNOW that dogs die in hot cars but so do middle aged women! We had the windows down and doors open (well my door was open, Earls door was decidedly NOT! 😉 ) but that doesn’t make up for having to sit in the sun while Steve dashed in and out of various shops hindered by an exponentially grouchy wife and 2 panting pups. I completely forgot half of what I wanted to buy in town because I was feeling so twitchy, I have lost my city legs and was swaying from side to side mentally the whole time I was in the city. We got home and Steve had to race out to go and pick up some more craft wood from a man who is moving away from the area but Steve teed up to buy some more delicious varieties of wood from so he had to be there for 2pm. I hurriedly opened the kitchen window to give the insistent cuckoo shrike some cheese cubes and in the process hit our knife sharpener that caused a chain reaction that knocked a little blue and white flowerpot that had been on mums windowsill in her tiny little unit over. The pot didn’t break but every single one of my lovely blue and white ceramic jam spoons that it contained flew out all over the place and shattered into smithereens…”OH COCK!” as James May would say…the day was just “one of those” days…we all have to bear them…it wasn’t particularly fundamentally “bad” but it wasn’t one that I would have chosen and we all need days like this to show us how good our normal days really are. Update: not all of my ceramic spoons are broken! I found one in the cutlery draw…Steve must have put it there and for once, I am glad of his absentmindedness about where he puts things after he washes up :o)

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Earl bagsed top bunk…

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“Is this how you drive? Why isn’t it going?”

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“I prefer to be chauffered…”

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“Any fish in here?”

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Tilly, Nat’s dog enjoying one of the dogs treats

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“So you won’t get up for me to sit down eh?”…

I don’t watch a lot of television but I do LISTEN to a lot. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen/living room because that is where my base station is. Our desktop P.C. is the centre of my day and I have invisible threads that allow me to head out and do everything that I do in my day but I inevitably end up back checking something, researching something that I thought of while I was bum’s up in the garden or making sure that I didn’t forget to do something. I was doing the dishes the other day when I heard that Tasmania is going to have the driest January on record. We have a very lean 3 months in Northern Tasmania over the summer period as it is and rather than see this as an imminent threat, I prefer to see it as a challenge. Enter my arid food growing guru Bev from the wonderfully informative blog http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/ she is my kind of problem solver. She uses a variety of permaculture principals on her property and reading about her exploits is both interesting and informative. I especially love her water wicked containers. In her latest post she shows how she has grown salad veggies in one of her wicked boxes and in arid conditions where water is likely to be limited these wicked boxes give you a whole lot of control over your food supply. I found a tutorial on how to make self watering raised veggie boxes here… http://www.josho.com/gardening.htm But I have to say that Bev had an equally excellent tutorial on her website that you can check out here… http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/preparing-a-wicking-box/  . Bev is also an incredibly generous gardener with sharing her hints, tips and spare seed. I am eagerly awaiting some parsnip seed that she managed to grow in copious quantities…no parsnips but plenty of seed and when life hands you parsnipless seeds, you pass them on! Lesson learned…no snips BUT a plethora of new interstate friends who love to collect seed and share as well. I am still ruminating the Aussie seed swap. I think it’s a fantastic idea and just because I have had to go back to horticultural kindergarten with my sideline into vegetable gardening

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One of Steve’s finds whilst pootling around on the river the other day…isn’t this place lovely?

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Part of the lovely house in the last photo and we think that they might be walnut trees

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Walking down the driveway to check the mail…

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And walking back up again…it’s no wonder Steve has skinny legs 😉

I have just realised why I am willing to be kicked out of bed at 3.50am by the dog and head out into the dark early morning to read blogs through my rss feed reader…it enlivens and invigorates my mind. I LOVE learning…I love the cut and thrust of replying to comments and sharing my opinion and I love that I can do it from the comparative safety of my own little kitchen miles away from the coalface of the original idea. I can wander through a list of amazing personally selected blogs that feed my mind and act as jumper leads to my day. I flick from amazing food blogs…lots of innovative vegan blogs and gorgeous foodie blogs with amazing recipes to cutting edge fermentation sites and sites where I learn how to make just about everything. Then I have my environmental sites. I hate depressing doom and gloom sites and refuse to frequent them. I love positivity in the face of insurmountable odds and that’s the sort of blogs I frequent…”the world is going to hell in a hand basket but we will be bullocked if we are going down without a fight…” that sort of site. I had best clear up now that I don’t frequent crazy stockpiling hillbilly “shoot the neighbour Brandeen…they are stealin’ our food stores!” sites that sort of site can make you crazier than you already are! I might occasionally veer side left to pinch a plan for a rocket stove or wood fired oven plan but I cover my eyes because I KNOW they are probably taking on other forms! ;). I have blogs in my rss feed readers that defy classification…one such blog I actually hoard. It’s called “23 Thorns” and if this man puts out a book I am buying it. I don’t care if I have to work down t’ coal mines for a month to do so, his writing is that entertaining. Check it out if you want to end up on the floor laughing…this man is the bomb! This link takes you to his series of “The Lowveld Posts” an absolutely hilarious look at the wildlife that inhabits his local area. You should go there merely to read about these amazing creatures in Africa and woven through his amazing posts that are incredibly well written (the man is a wordsmith) is a background of Africa warts and all…

http://23thorns.wordpress.com/category/the-lowveld-posts/

One day when I have more time available to me when I won’t feel guilty for taking perhaps an entire tea fuelled week, I am going to wade through every single one of this bloggers posts. He is the Patch Adams of blogs and I, for one, prefer 23 Thorns to chocolate! There…I said it :o). I urge you all to at least have a look at these wonderful posts that will hopefully bring a smile to your day :o)

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Steve got a shock when this seal shot out of the water right next to his boat the other day

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A visitor to Serendipity Farm hunting for insects (or maybe a drink of water?) on his way through

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Our friend in the witness protections front garden (well a bit of it) to show you how dry it is in our region at the moment

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Our friend in the witness protections all enclosed veggie garden doing as well as ours is. That compost is pure gold!

Today we are heading back into town. We need to get some fruit (for my daily green smoothie habit) and chia seed that I completely and utterly forgot on my “diem horribilis” on Monday. We are also going to visit our friend in the witness protection ostensibly to “visit” but really, for me to have a good perve at her fully enclosed garden and see how her partner Glen made it. Her veggies are also going great guns and she has runaway snow peas going crazy all over the enclosure. We can only assume that because of our widely varying soil conditions, our joint success has come from the rich organic compost that we purchased by the trailer load from Exeter Landscaping. I don’t think that they are going to benefit from my free plug there because their office receptionist, although eminently pleasant and approachable, is completely unable to navigate her way around their new website and completely bypasses it should anyone make a web enquiry…sigh…(and they wonder why Tasmania is lagging behind the rest of the world?). We have some young junipers and other hardy conifers that we don’t intend on planting out on Serendipity Farm that we are going to give her to plant out on her 40 acre property. She needs drought tolerant species that don’t mind getting their feet wet in the winter. Her property goes from arid desert in summer to swamp in winter and is festooned with possums and wallabies and rabbits at night time, all wanting to completely consume everything that she plants as soon as the sun goes down. Despite these drawbacks she is surprisingly willing to keep trying and her horticultural persistence is starting to pay off. I will take some photos of her garden unless it is starting to look like Serendipity Farm, dry, arid and like a 70’s Instagram version of its modern self all turned up corners and orange hued where I will allow her a degree of anonymity. We are also going to walk the dogs in the city again and also on Jenny’s property. They are going to have a ball! I have to say “Hi” and “Welcome back” to Nat, one of my best mates and a dear constant reader of this humble blog. She is back at Polytechnic working as a horticultural lecturer for another year which allows her to occasionally take a brief foray into the world of Serendipity Farm and keep her on the cutting edge of insanity on a regular basis. I do my bit girl… I do my bit! 😉

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Our friend in the witness protection gave me this enormous sack of silverbeet, carrots and snow peas…Earl had a bit of a sniff but found them all wanting

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My fruit haul including 7kg of bananas @ .90c a kilo, 5 enormous mangoes @ $1.00 each and some nectarines and apricots @ $4.99kg. I have enough fruit for green smoothies to last me a month!

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The bananas have already been frozen and just the mangoes and sundry fruit to go 🙂

It’s now 5.23. Bezial threw me out of bed at 3.50am and the young rooster that lives under the deck is tentatively crowing the new day in. Another series of processes is just about to begin and as they weave their way into our psyche let’s just hope that today isn’t a repeat of Monday and to make sure, I am going to hide that one remaining ceramic jam spoon! See you all on Saturday and remember to tell us if you would like to win the spoon that Earl will draw on Saturday morning. EVERYONE can enter. We don’t care if you live on the moon…we love sharing with you all and please don’t think that you can’t enter the draw because you live in Timbuktu…so do we! We know what it is like to live in the sticks and feel out of the loop and we love to share with fellow out of the loopers all over the world. Secretly, Steve wants his spoons to be represented in every single continent so I am going to have to work hard to market this blog to several underrepresented countries (Africa…”who wants a spoon!”…same goes for India, Russia, China, Korea, Japan…sigh…)… you have to be in it to win it folks 😉

Expectations and where they come from

Hi All,

Today (Monday) is apparently a public holiday in Tasmania. It’s been given the dubious moniker “8 hour day” which aligns it with labour day in other Australian states…I don’t know why various states have holidays on different days…may as well just clump them all together and have national holidays but apparently there is no fun in that so separate strangely named days are our predilection. I had just gotten up from my 2 hour morning rss feed read marathon and was buttering bread for the chooks and the dogs morning snack, making Steve’s morning cup of coffee in bed, getting ready to cut tiny cubes of tasty cheese for the cuckoo shrikes and wrens and I suddenly got to thinking about how these things became expected of me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind doing these things, I was just wondering how they became institutionalised on Serendipity Farm. These little occasional treats have become regular “expected” events that need to be kept up for the sake of the peace. As I was buttering the slices of shop bought bread that we don’t eat and only buy for the animals, I thought about how our own expectations of what life is meant to be have arisen. We “expect” that we will be able to go about our business safely and with rights but where did those expectations come from? Someone in the past had to fight for all of the expected normalcies that we take for granted and whenever there is a cause and a fight, there is someone fighting just as hard to keep the status quo. We expect choice in our shops. We expect to be able to find a job, to buy a house, to get credit on our purchases. We don’t even think about these things…they just “are”.  The more people “get” in their lives, the more they tend to expect. It’s a bit like getting a promotion at work with a good pay rise attached…after a while your lifestyle absorbs the pay rise and you are back where you started from…we have a habit of upping the ante whenever we get a run of good fortune and becoming blasé about how well off we actually are. In deliberately choosing to live a simpler life we all get to choose to be grateful for what life has handed us all over again. I, for one, am extremely grateful for the plate that I have been handed :o)

The ubiquitous repurposed automatic sprouter has done itself proud! Here you can see the scarlet runner beans sprouting

Here are the borlotti beans that apparently loved the conditions in the automatic sprouter. They, along with all of the other beans, have now been planted in seed trays and once they get big enough they will be planted out into our new bean garden

Here are the sprouting Yin Yang beans. If our summer is as long and hot as they say it is going to be these little babies should do well

I love meeting like-minded people through blog hunting. I recently found a wonderful Aussie blog with the delightful moniker of “Rabid Little Hippy”. Go and have a look for yourself…this blog is a frenetic blast of positive sustainable energy all rolled into a jumble of kids, a tiny tractor driving husband and a weekly commute between an old and a new life eagerly anticipated…

http://rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/another-weekend-in-ballan/

How could you resist a name like that? Aside from the name, the blog is a wonderful blend of homesteading, sustainable living and a zest for life that is positively infectious. I have never met anyone with so much energy and I just realised that although I follow each one of this wonderful bloggers posts I have NO idea what her name is! For the purposes of this post she shall be known as “rabid”… I have had great fun conversing with “rabid” via the comments section of her blog and after a recent post we discussed a swap event that she had been to. I assumed that it was a seed swap but apparently, it involved people taking things that they no longer used/needed and that they had made/grown etc. to barter for other goods. In Tasmania times are tough. There are very few jobs to be had and most jobs tend to be part time or transient. If any state needed a boost of positive sustainable energy it’s our humble little full stop at the bottom of the wealth generation of Australia. After listening with growing excitement as “rabid” told me about where she had been and what she had swapped my nose was twitching like Tabitha from Bewitched and I had formulated a plan to head in to the next Sustainable Living group at the Tamar NRM (Natural Resources Management) centre and postulate this wonderful idea for a chance for the locals to barter their excess or unwanted goods for other excess and unwanted goods. What a fantastic idea! “Rabid”, you may have just made some Tasmanians almost as happy as your faithful reader narf7 by telling me about this fantastic way to effect change whilst cycling goods in an incredibly sustainable way to everyone’s benefit.

Here are the punnets of mixed zucchini and rainbow chard that we have since planted out into the vegetable garden. The orange punnet at the front contains some of the Cavolo Nero that we will plant in the veggie garden and after that, out in the main garden

Who could resist dinosaur kale? It has lots of names including Cavolo Nero but I am going to call it “Sideshow Bob” kale

Bev from the wonderfully informative blog with truly useful information sent me a copy of The Weed Foragers Handbook. I am over the moon! I was going to buy this little tomb but now I don’t have to :). Thank you for that wonderful gift Bev along with the purple king bean seeds that you can see here in the automated sprouter along with the moringa oleifera seed that I am optimistically attempting to sprout 🙂

Some of our past experiences with purchasing seed online have been less than triumphant to say the least. We have paid quite large sums of money for seed that refused point blank to germinate and that was most probably too old and had been sold on at a profit from other sellers. We learned the hard way and so seed swapping with locals with seed that has local provenance is truly the best way to go about purchasing/gaining seed. We really want some Moringa oleifera seed to grow this amazing tree on Serendipity Farm. We previously purchased several batches of seed in an attempt to grow it with no luck. I retained some of the seed in a fit of pique whilst muttering about the seller’s dubious parentage under my breath and promptly forgodaboudit. We found the seed the other day and after the bean seeds grew so well in the sprouter, I decided to see if the Moringa oleifera would sprout. Nothing has happened yet but if I can manage to get the seed to sprout I will be a very happy camper. The beans that we sprouted recently are now planted out into flat trays to grow on until they are big enough to plant out in their bean garden home. There is something very addictive about propagating from seed. We have grown all sorts of plants from seed but most of them were ornamental shrubs or trees and growing our own food from seed adds an entirely new dimension to the fun. Today we removed 4 loquat saplings that we dug up from the side of the road as tiny little seedlings. We stashed them in the glasshouse in pots over winter and now they are ready to harden off before we plant them out. We also brought 3 more fig trees out of the glasshouse. We planted out one little fig tree to see how it went and it is going great guns so we figure 4 fig trees are better than 1. We have more walnut and hazelnut seedlings than we could shake a sustainable stick at and none of them cost us a cent. Sometimes you have to take advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself. Three of the fig trees had ground layered on an old overgrown fig tree at a local school where we walk our dogs and we grew one from a now removed tree in Launceston city central. We collected the walnuts from a tree on the side of the road and we were given the hazelnuts from Glad’s daughter Wendy. There is a degree of primal delight to be had from helping nature to furnish your larder and growing edible plants from seed goes even deeper than that. Here is a link to show you why I am really eager to get some Moringa oleifera growing and thriving on Serendipity Farm…

http://enviro.org.au/article_moringaTree.asp

The little loquats that we rescued from the side of the road last year are hardening off prior to planting out

2 of the figs either side of the loquats and in the background you can see our little Gingko biloba that we planted out into the side garden

Another $2 roadside stall find…this time its garlic chives

Steve found this in the shed not so long ago…he promises me that with sharp blades it will be just as good as the petrol mower…for the sake of our sustainable future I certainly hope so! 😉

Steve and I took the boys for a small walk up the road this afternoon and noticed that Glad and Wendy next door had been mowing. We had a chat to them over the fence and Steve headed down to drop off some eggs and asked them what they were going to do with the pile of lawn clippings and oak leaves…”burn them” was the reply! He then asked if they would mind if we had them and they were overjoyed. Wendy pointed out another large pile of lawn clippings and leaves at the top of the property and asked him if we wanted those as well? “Darned RIGHT” we do! Now we can make a large compost heap near our vegetable garden area that will help us in the future…another example of how one mans trash/problem is another mans treasure. Whenever they mow they are going to give us their unwanted clippings and as Glad has 6 acres that amounts to a whole lot of clippings. It also highlights how proactive being part of a community can be. I was wondering where to get more compost ingredients from and the answer was right next to us all the time 🙂

I am twitching with excitement! It’s nothing to do with the $100 million lotto draw that apparently half of the Australian population has bought tickets in (not me!) and everything to do with farinaceous goods. I have been a rampant voyeur over the last month of all things Vegan and have found all sorts of amazing food blogs thanks to Annie at the fantastic blog An Unrefined Vegan. Here’s one of her delectable posts should you ever want to make heavenly peanut shortbready biscuits whilst learning some skills in the process.

http://anunrefinedvegan.com/2012/10/19/veganmofo-peanut-sandies/

Annie, along with some equally amazing vegan food blogging friends, spent a whole month coordinating Vegan Mofo…a chance for anyone with a vegan food blog to shine with as many recipes as they could post in 31 days. I followed avidly and spent every morning from 5am – 7am in a vain effort to keep up with these amazing posts, save them for future degustory delight and comment on as many as I could. At the end of the month quite a few of them got together to have a Vegan Potluck virtual meal online and again, my rss feed reader runeth over. As I pored over what was on offer I felt a distinct desire to cook and share that went as far as hinting that I might like to participate in next year’s Vegan Potluck. That gives me a year to think up some splendiferous idea to knock my peer’s socks off…an enormous vegan spongecake with multi layers filled with delicious spreads and topped with homemade vegan truffles? How about a scrumptious vegan pie? Homemade vegan lasagne? Whatever I choose to do, you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be practicing it for a while and that it will be scrumptious…why would you want to share something with your peers if they had made it before? Time to get thinking…

One of the little hazelnuts that we potted up this week after checking the bags of stratifying seeds in our overwintering esky

A wheelbarrow full of free nut trees. Most of these are hazelnuts which seemed to germinate later than the walnuts that are in the glasshouse. I LOVE free edible plants 🙂

We need a gate at the side of the dog compound. We don’t want to spend much on the gate. Steve is a clever little vegemite and has worked out a way to turn this metal gate into a perfect gate in the compound. Stay tuned to see what he does with it

Steve and I have been dabbling in the farinaceous arts as I mentioned earlier (before I veered off to the left and got mentally lost…). We are on a quest to live as simply as we can whilst at the same time living as well as we can. Life is too short for bad wine and Steve has been blending his own peculiar bad wine with his good wine to render it all drinkable. I decided to use some of the various pieces of kitchen equipment that I have stashed in the top of the pantry out of sheer guilt for having paid so much for some of it many years ago. We had a go at making our own pasta as a way to use up some of our egg futures. We decided to mess about with a spinach pasta recipe that we found online and it was a really good recipe. If you want to try it yourself here it is…

http://cookingequipment.about.com/od/maincourserecipes/r/SpinachPasta.htm

Little Pig 🙂

The home made lasagne that we made from scratch

We then made a really delicious lasagne from scratch by making our own pasta, pasta sauce, meat sauce and béchamel. Steve really enjoyed it and the amount of pasta that we made was WAY too much for our lasagne needs and so we had to come up with some ideas of what to do with the left over pasta. Steve had some tonight in a bowl of homemade Asian noodle soup and pronounced the noodles delicious. I segued nicely back to why I was so excited earlier in the post…to make the noodles I remembered “Little Pig” in the top of my pantry cupboard. Little Pig is a non-centrifugal juicer that I bought many years ago when I was on a bit of a health kick. I have used Little Pig to make fruit mince, juice a few carrots and that’s about it. I remember reading that the juicer could be used to make Korean rice cake noodles but as I didn’t have a recipe for them I didn’t attempt to try to make them. Today I remembered that Little Pig had various nozzles that extruded dough’s into different shapes and after I got Steve to heft Little Pig down from the top shelf we put the remaining wrapped spinach pasta dough out on the bench top to reach room temperature while we made some Asian chicken broth and prepared vegetables to add to it. Once we got the soup on to simmer we turned back to attempt to make a spinach pasta version of udon noodles to go into Steve’s soup. Having never tried extruding pasta or any kind of dough through Little Pig I was a little dubious about it’s ability to perform but I shouldn’t have worried because after fitting the noodle nozzle and feeding the pasta dough into the top of the machine it made perfect round green noodles that were delicious in the soup. We have a large serving of noodles left that we are attempting to dehydrate as I type this to see if we can make our own dried pasta to store for later use. The speed and ease of making pasta this way got me twitching (FINALLY she got around to why she was twitching! 😉 ). I have visions of all sorts of pasta made from all sorts of grains, legumes, and seeds with different nuts, pesto’s, herbs and spices in a wide range of natural colours. The extruding process through Little Pig means that I should be able to intertwine various colours of dough and get amazing looking rainbow noodles in all sorts of shapes. I can make Korean rice cake noodles thanks to an amazing Korean online recipe site and I get to use up some of our excess eggs in the process. If our dehydration of the remaining pasta works, we will be able to mess about with all different kinds of pasta and dehydrate them for future use.  My excited twitching comes from the realisation that we won’t ever have to buy pasta or noodles again! I feel an amazing rainbow pasta recipe coming on for the Vegan Potluck next year :o)

We decided to sprout some mung beans at the same time as sprouting our beans and we will be using these babies in a stirfry tomorrow

The only potato doing anything other than sitting in the pantry on Serendipity Farm. Our soil is predominately comprised of rocks which sadly, are not conducive to the growing of potatoes…the compost heap appears to be an option…

The little mulberry is leafing up and the garlic growing underneath it was planted by my brother when he visited my dad many years ago. You can see some overbown asparagus in the foreground and in the background we have a lovely little mandarin tree

Here you can see “Possum Damage”. This is why Australians who live rurally spend a lot of time tearing out their hair or spending a fortune protecting their precious edible specimens from these furry little larrikin hooligans. This poor little mandarin tree suffers horendously every single year while its sibling sits not further than 10 metres away from it completely untouched. I will NEVER understand the mental processes of possums!

We are almost at the end of our studies and are finalising our sustainable landscape designs. We have yet to hear if we got an interview in our chosen courses for next year but should we miss out, we can always find something else relevant to study till Steve gets his Australian citizenship and we head off to university in 2014. We might even study drafting as we already have a good handle on AutoCAD…I love the possibilities that have opened up for us since we took a leap of faith and decided to live like penniless student hippies in order to pave the way for further learning opportunities. I have no doubt at all that our lives have been made much richer in the process and that our abilities have been honed to fine pointy tips and have allowed us to make amazingly good use of what life has thrown in our direction. The quest for “Happiness” is apparently on the rise…people have discovered that money isn’t the answer to this elusive state and curiously, people want to live in a constant state of happiness not realising that happiness only gains its beauty after periods of contrasting emotions. Happiness is inside every single one of us. We all have it within our reach and it has much more to do with being grateful and thankful for our roll of the dice than it has to do with any external forces. Life has a natural balance about it and as we seesaw our way up and down through a gamut of emotions we need to remind ourselves of Newton’s law of motion… “For every action…there is an equal, and opposite reaction”…a constant striving for equilibrium and whilst we might be down at any given time…it won’t be long until we are up again. Have a great week folks and count your blessings because sometimes what we are expecting overshadows how very lucky we already are :o)

If any of you are feeling a bit down this song is bound to make you feel better…get a saucepan and a wooden spoon and do a bit of tub-thumping yourself! 😉 Or Steve says…”even better…you drink the whisky drink…you drink the lager drink…you drink the cider drink…and after that you won’t CARE” 😉

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kS-zK1S5Dws

And if you aren’t laughing yet…check out Homer singing his version of tub thumping…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFvSUi-QFX4