A walk in the black forest

Hi All

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pCKtk9cD4M

aka “Eine Schwarzwaldfahrt” (hee-hee 😉 )

Can’t tell you why I love this song, part of it is to do with the Pirate radio station episode of The Goodies where this is the only record that they have for their radio station and part of it might be my German ancestry (and the toilet humour I just discovered in the German translation) but maybe it just reminds me of my parents playing it way back when I was a little kid…who knows, but all I know is that I really love this song 🙂

No philosophy today, just a lot of wandering around and looking at possibilities on Serendipity Farm. As city slickers (well “town slickers” really…) Steve and I were able to take advantage of the low cost of education here in Tasmania to study horticulture however moving to Serendipity Farm added a whole new world to our horticultural endeavours up to this point. Suddenly our pots of trees and our choices of plants that gave us pleasure became more of a liability than an asset when we had to water and repot them on a regular basis and a new awareness of what the land actually needs started to rise up inside us. I knew that I wanted to use permaculture principles on Serendipity Farm. I wanted to energy cycle and plan with nature’s eyes and follow in the footsteps of Bill Mollison and his cohorts along with amazing visionaries like Masanobu Fukuoka who had a world vision that encompassed a complete overhaul of industrial practices and a return to agricultural practices that work in harmony with nature.

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My custom pumpkin sling and my yacon that has sent out another 3 shoots and is threatening to take over Serendipity Farm

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For those of my dear constant readers who like a veggie garden fix every week

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And here is another one. The tall plant on the right is the yacon

I have been collating information like a crazy person. I have hard drives cram packed to the gills with word documents, PDF’s and all sorts of information but much like my cookbooks, I never look at them. So where is an ex-control freak going to start out on her journey to “find” the real epicentre and ethos of Serendipity Farm? She is going to head out and watch. And that’s what today’s post is about folks…heading out and seeing what Serendipity Farm actually “Is” at the moment and what nature appears to be doing all by herself to heal the problems.

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This is what my experimental compost heap looks like now…what is that over in the corner?

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AHA! That would be The Garden Chook! The whole time I was attempting to take her picture she was scooting up and down the perimeter wall and clucking and squawking like crazy…”there are worse things than narf7’s you stupid hen!”

Nature HATES bare earth and does her level best to cram pack it with anything to hand which usually eventuates as a whole lot of weed species and a few fast growing nitrogen fixers. This reforestation is called creating a Seral community. The most pressing thing is to cover up the soil thus the weeds are able to proliferate and seed en masse. Small nitrogenous shrubs and trees like wattles and sheoak’s grow in between the weeds and after a little while they provide enough shade for other shrubs and ground covers (usually native) to get a look in. The larger wattles and eucalypts are slowly growing amongst the mix and within a short space of time you are standing in another one of nature’s miracles…a forest. Once the trees start growing they shade out the ground below and the weed species tend to die out aside from the hardiest species but eventually it all evens out. Nature is a great leveller.

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This hen was pining for her sister. I gave her sister to Kelsey (luck of the draw when you have 2 hens to catch and you are lazy and grab the first 2 that are sitting in front of you on the perch as you enter a dark chicken coop…) to join their small chook population and hopefully she is happy now

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Isn’t nature clever? Here you see how nature naturally prunes a cutting back to a growing point. Above this bud the stem has died and eventually the top of this branch will drop off leaving this healthy growing point to take over. Clever isn’t it 🙂

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Just a quick sunshiny image for all of my northern dear constant readers 🙂

Down in the lowest part of Serendipity Farm (we are on a steep slope that leads into the river at the bottom of our property) teatrees thrive where the excess water arrives down from the slopes and has time to soak into the ground. There is actually green grass (albeit sporadic thanks to the wallabies and kangaroos that live down there) growing here even though we haven’t had any proper rain since early December.  We are in the process of working out a series of swales that will contour our property and that will direct and slow the water flow and topsoil that it contains down our steep rocky slopes and that will allow the water to soak into the ground before moving on to the next opportunity to splash a bit of that precious moisture around. We are going to use the remains of the large piles of debris to create swales as well as chopping them up to form hugels that we are going to place around the boundary fence lines of the property and will seed with hawthorns for privacy and native bird and animal habitat. It hasn’t escaped my attention that the only really green and grassy areas on Serendipity Farm at the moment are beneath large piles of debris

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One of the 2 cluckies that were guarding a small pod of delicious chicks that have since been rehoused to safer digs

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All that was left of a mother hen who had 13 babies 😦

I mentioned that we had a quoll in last week’s post. Since we noticed a dead chook in the garden we have lost at least 5 more that we know of, mostly mothers with babies. We have 2 populations of small baby chicks that have been orphaned by quolls attacking their mothers and killing them and coming back to eat as many of the terrified babies as they can catch. It is quite disconcerting to find a tiny chicken head, wings and heart sans the rest of the chick and we have discovered more of them than we would like to even think about. I have had to contain the chooks inside the outside enclosure, herding them up at night and catching all of the orphaned babies and hurling them all into the chicken coop that has a concrete base in order to have at least some of my chickens still there in the morning. Remember that old saying “be careful what you wish for because it might come true?” well wanting less chooks and wondering how we were going to deal with the feral population is no longer a problem. We have mum quoll and a nest of babies polishing them off nicely for us…the only problem is that she isn’t going to head off anywhere until she has eliminated the entire population of chooks…NOT an acceptable option quoll!

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This was taken back in January when there were significantly more pears on the tree but one of these pears is just about ripe and “I” bags it!

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Part of the reason why narf7 hides under the bed and is contemplating a serious drinking habit…

We are on high alert here at the moment. Every time I hear native birds alarm calls I head out to make sure that the quolls aren’t on the move. I thought that they were nocturnal but apparently when they have babies the mother quolls and the babies can be seen during the day as well. I have had the usual escape hens making a quick exit from the outside enclosure as soon as I let them out in the morning but I kind of think if a quoll eats them it might be doing me a favour. Who wants chooks clever enough to get out and hide their eggs, hatch them out and then raise them out in the bush? NOT ME! A smart chook is just one step away from a velociraptor in my books

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We helped our good friend Roxy to complete her online “Responsible Serving of Alcohol” course because she doesn’t have a computer of her own.

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Note while Roxy is “driving” she is sticking with tea…Steve on the other hand is only a passenger and is completely able to drink and backseat drive 😉

I just raced out to see what all the commotion was about as there were hens making their alarm calls all over the place. I headed out prepared to do battle with the quoll, apparently with my bare hands as I didn’t take anything with me, and after wandering around amongst the escapees (2 roosters and a hen) I couldn’t see anything to be alarmed about and when I turned around to head back to the house I noticed that it wasn’t a quoll that had alarmed them, it was a white goshawk that occasionally visits Serendipity Farm. As these magnificent birds are quite rare and wanting to get a good photo of it as it sat in a eucalyptus quite close to the house I slowly slunk into the house and grabbed my trusty camera and headed back outside all the while looking at the tree it had been sitting in. It was gone…I backed up slowly watching the sky and stopped at the end of the deck only to realise that Bezial was getting up from his sunny spot next to me and that there was a nasty smell…bugger…I had trodden in something nefarious :(. I could still see the goshawk circling in the sky but wasn’t able to get a good image for you but I DID get a good shot of my remedy for dog poo on your deck…

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That’s what lavender talcum powder is for isn’t it? 😉

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In the spirit of laziness and complete transparency (well…”some” transparency 😉 ) I bring you narf7 trying to drown her sorrows after discovering a mass slaughter out in the driveway…note the lack of a glass…too depressed to wash up…

Earl and I have been walking with Jan and Mica for a few weeks now and it has certainly made a difference to both dogs. They are calmer and more relaxed and tend to pull us less on our walks now. After our walks together we head back to Jan’s house where the dogs can run around her enormous back yard to their hearts content and by the time I head back home with Earl he is completely and utterly knackered. Earl is a very social boy and loves meeting new dogs but he has a special place for Mica, Jan and now Peter, Jan’s brother. Earl LOVES Peter. I think that Earl would move in with Jan and Peter if he had half a chance but alas, you are stuck with the hillbilly Pimblett’s Earl, such is your lot 😉

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Most of this lunch was grown by Roxy 🙂

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Apparently having calzones for tea brings out Steve’s creative side

We had a tiny 15 minute thunderstorm this morning that was punctuated by a 5 minute rain event. I have been waiting for rain for SO long now it was a bit of an anticlimax but never let it be said that narf7 isn’t grateful. I would just like to be a whole lot MORE grateful is all. When Steve and I made the decision 3 nights ago to bundle up every chicken on Serendipity Farm in order to save their lives we didn’t realise what we were setting ourselves up for. We headed out with a torch and our determination. We had to wait till dusk because our feral community (like a seral community only less useful…) of chooks is very wary and we had to work under the cover of dark. One by one we found them, perched on various fences, structures and underneath shrubs and one by one we hauled their indignant squawking carcasses back to the chook coop and hurled them into safety. Each and every chick was hunted down and grabbed and tossed in to join the rest. The first 3 surviving chicks from the very first mother hen massacre that survived a second night where their 4 brothers and sisters were picked off and dismembered one by one were hiding under a blackberry shrub and Steve and I managed to grab them with blackberry thorns to remind us of our kindness

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What happens when you mix nutritional yeast flakes, tahini, miso paste, a squirt of mustard, a slop of sweet chilli sauce, Massell chicken (vegan) style stock powder and a squirt of lemon juice with some fresh ground pepper and enough water to mix to a smooth paste?

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You get vegan “cheeze” sauce, that’s what you get 🙂

The hardest to get were the roosters who were VERY wary and every time we grabbed one it made the most hideous noises. You would have thought that WE were the quolls the amount of noise that came out of them! We then headed off to grab the clucky chooks and the babies that had hatched out from under them. There were 2 cluckies sitting on one enormous clutch of eggs (cheers chooks… we could have had them!) and half of them had hatched out. With the quoll taking 2 mothers in 2 nights we didn’t want to run the risk of it taking out 2 of our prize layers in one fell swoop so we had to run the gamut of hen pecks to first grab all of the tiny fluffy babies out from under them. As we grabbed them we put them into a box, then Steve grabbed the older Wyandotte who had gone clucky and took her over to the roost and deposited her and then he came back for Pong, Pingus sister who was fiercely pecking me for all she was worth…I grabbed her and carried her to the shed where we had a cage set up ready with hay and food and water for her to stay in overnight with her babies and we placed her inside and released all of the babies into her (angry) care.

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You can see the chicken coop (white door) and to the left of it the amorphous creation known as “The Outside Chook Enclosure” where our chickens are currently languishing while the quoll has free reign of the rest of the property (mutter…mutter…mutter)

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I know I have been running my mouth off against Mr T. Abbot our liberal (what a misnomer of a word eh?) Prime Minister of late but a spy submarine? “REALLY?!” 😉

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The same night I had my wine event, I decided to have an easy tea (easy for someone who is no longer steady on her feet to prepare 😉 )…this is what I ate for my evening meal with a packet of frozen Brussels sprouts and some frozen green beans (steamed) added to the mix. It was quite tasty actually but maybe that is just the wine talking 😉

By this time Steve and I were knackered! We had moved around in ways that middle aged hippies most probably shouldn’t move around in if they don’t want to wake up the next morning with all of the pain inflicted by the uninitiated whence undertaking the Karma Sutra without all of the fun! It was pitch dark when we arrived back inside but we were full of the joy of knowing that the quoll was going to go without its early morning breakfast of tasty plump chook.

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A friends house plans and what Earl thinks of them…

I remembered at the last minute that there was still one hen (that we knew about at the time) that was up near our vegetable garden ensconced in the middle of a pile of dried branches…dried …spiky… painful branches… and so we headed up to save her like the heroes that we are. I managed to grab her but she flapped away and eventually I grabbed her by the legs and managed to calm her down enough to hold her but she was making some terrible noises and I didn’t want to alarm the chooks in the coop any more than they were already alarmed and so I decided to toss her into the veggie garden overnight. The next morning I headed up to water the garden and “The Garden Chook” was sitting in my possum decimated silverbeet bed and ran off squawking when she saw me. She raced off into the pumpkin patch and disappeared. She is being tolerated in the veggie garden until such time as she disgraces herself and digs something up. She has my laziness to thank for her degree of luxury and freedom

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Steve’s new preciouses complete with Windows 8

Well here we are at the end of another post and I haven’t even told you that we have started our new course and that Steve has a new (preciouses) mobile phone to play with. I guess I really should keep something for next week when hopefully we will have contained the quoll and relocated it somewhere where it won’t be imbibing of Serendipity Farm chook flesh in the near future. Have a great week folks. I hope that it is starting to warm up for all of my northern readers and that is starts to cool down (and more importantly RAIN) for my southern friends as well.

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Brunhilda feeds tonight…

Hi All,

You can’t stop a behemoth. By its sheer solidity of purpose it has a primal desire to flow from one state to another and good luck stopping it. Brunhilda is one such behemoth. She affects a type of reverse hibernation where she sleeps all through the bustling summer months when everything else is up, procreating and turning green. Brunhilda settles down into her long slumber in mid-October when the frosts officially cease but I have my suspicions that it might be slightly later this year. The berries on the cotoneaster and the hollies are both copious and incredibly bright red so I think we might be in for a long winter. Brunhilda rises to the call of the cold. She opens her door and yawns for the first taste of kindling and the behemoth awakes. From that first flickering flame Brunhilda is constantly in a state of fire. She “ticks over” or she burns like a funeral pyre and in between she gives us something that money just can’t buy, she makes our cold winter house a home. Brunhilda has been going since early May and aside from a few hairy moments when one or other of us forgot to add her fuel of choice and she threatened to go on strike she hasn’t gone out. After you set a behemoth on its way you have to step back and let it do its thing. We put in the fuel and she walks her primal pathway. We reap so long as we pay. It’s a pure case of symbiosis and I love it!

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I am not the only one that has complete and utter adoration for Brunhilda and all that she stands for…meet her humble servant Bezial…

Brunhilda prefers nice dry wood. She is a creature of comfort, much like Bezial who prefers steak and butter and like Bezial we have to temper her desires and she gets her version of broccoli in wood that might not be completely dry. We know that so long as we mix the slightly damp wood with lots of dry we won’t have any problems and it is amazing to see Brunhilda and her tongue of flames turn something that was a tree last year into ashes. You learn a lot about life if you observe its cycles and fire is no exception. I love my winter cycles. They seem so much more real because the cold hones your perception and forces you to focus. We collect our wood like squirrels and we stack it in well-ordered piles on the deck and we slowly feed it into Brunhilda as she works her way through the pile. When we bought this particular model of Aussie made oven I wasn’t sure whether we had done the right thing. Aside from being very expensive (although nowhere NEAR as expensive as her imported brethren) we were going out on a limb to try and support an Aussie business and there wasn’t a whole lot of information out there about their range. It would seem that people like imported Aga’s and Rayburn’s. Brunhilda is not related and where her imported cousins can be colour coordinated with your kitchen there is a degree of bolshiness about her little black attire that reminds you that a stove is supposed to heat, cook and maybe heat your water if you thought about it in advance and decided to spring for the hot water jacket…

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Steve bought these 2 filters and 3 in that little wallet underneath the box at the rear for $15 total. No postage and they got here in just over a week from Hong Kong. Steve has been buying online camera equipment now for a couple of months and so far everything that he has purchased has been a lot cheaper and a lot better than he would have imagined.

From the moment we lit Brunhilda she has been reliable and frugal with her appetite. We feed her, she burns. Because of the unique firebox position in the middle of the 4 ovens, the heat gets retained better and so long as Steve stokes her up before he goes to bed she is waiting for me to give her breakfast when I get up at 3am and open her up. We don’t need firelighters, she just keeps going and my first cup of tea is in line with the first cuppa’s that our pioneering women drew their daily strength from in the past. When you bypass the instantaneous ability to flick a switch or click a gas jet you take on a role in the processes that requires you to keep up your end of the bargain or the cycles stop. You can’t be lazy and take a holiday from hauling wood or stoking Brunhilda because you won’t be able to heat the house and fuel yourself with those soul warming cups of tea and so we become part of the cycle and the process and there is a wonderful degree of fulfilment that comes with stepping in and taking up that yoke.

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I think I might just have to buy this book. It is excellent. James Wong shows us all how to grow some pretty amazing edibles and 3 weeks worth of reading has made me want to own this book.

Yesterday we put up 2 more nets around our huge enclosed garden. We can see the scope of the area that we chose now and I am getting really excited about the possibilities. Where before it was all in my mind, now my idea is coming into fruition. It might not be pretty but it will stop the native wildlife from scarfing our precious food crops and what price that? Again we come back to cycles and our part in those cycles. How can we appreciate what we get if we haven’t had to take part in the process? Handing over a few dollars for a whisk from Shiploads (our equivalent to Wal-Mart apparently…) doesn’t give us the satisfaction of being part of the process. Some poor worker slaved on a factory line in China to make that whisk and its $1.97 price is completely unrepresentative of the true cost of its manufacture. I didn’t just pull “whisk” out of the atmospheric dictionary dear constant readers, I just bought one. I know…”SHAME ON YOU NARF7!”. I supported slave trade… I consumed… I did a bad thing…did it count that I thought about what I was doing?

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This book was in the car ready to be taken back to the library (unread…we have been VERY busy…) when I had to wait in the car for Steve to pick up some plumbing gear from the Beaconsfield hardware shop and so I started to read it and decided to take it out again. It’s a very interesting subject…not sure I would be willing to leave my body to Mr Bass when I die after reading what they do to human remains but kudos to the people that do, a lot of crimes have been solved thanks to the research and macabre generosity of people with their earthly remains after they no longer inhabit them…

While I was twitching that whisk around in a bowl of homemade soymilk and some homemade date paste that I was turning into food for my kefir I was thinking about how we really don’t appreciate the things that are available to us because we really don’t know what cost they truly represent to us. The up-front $1.97 is just a fraction of what any of us earns. Even penniless student hippies that get paid by the state to pretend that they are not actually unemployed, but are productive members of society get more than enough money to justify paying out $1.97 for a whisk but behind that heavily subsidised miniscule price there is an incredible price to pay for the ability to stir some soymilk. Raw resources are being taken from the ground in alarming rates so that we can have whisks, plastic funnels for $1.76 (a set of 2 folks…who WOULDN’T want them…), 3 sieves that fit neatly inside each other for a bargain $1.52 and more…who cares that they are flimsy and will fall apart…just throw them into the rubbish bin and buy another one! That’s the cycle of consumption folks and narf7 doesn’t want to support it. That’s why we spend our days lugging wood and feeding it into Brunhilda. For our part of the equation/cycle we get so much more than a heated house, 8 months of free hot water on tap, 4 ovens to cook just about anything we want to at the same time and our knickers dried in front of the fire, we get the exercise of cutting the firewood and carting it from its resting place to Brunhilda. We get the incomparable joy of waking up knowing that all we have to do to make our home cosy is to take our place in the cycle again and there is something truly primally satisfying in taking up that yoke

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See that “pile” just behind those white poles there? That’s narf7’s hard slog from 8.30am till 1pm. As you can see it’s a large pile of horse dung and it was in mid compost when I hauled it to it’s new residence (inside the structure). Note we have covered it with some ex fish farm netting in a vain attempt to stop the chooks from moving the entire pile back outside the fence perimeter. Lets just say that I wouldn’t be pleased if they did!

Today I take on another process. This one will give me more exercise than I could hope to get in a single day but I am less inclined to yoke myself to this process than I am to stuffing some wood into Brunhilda’s gaping maw. Today I shovel 6 trailer loads of composted horse poo from one pile to another pile 2 metres away. I need to do this so that when we put up our final net wall for our fully enclosed garden the enormous pile of dung won’t need to be manually barrowed all the way around to the other side of the enclosure where the gate is going to be situated. There are benefits to shovelling dung. Exercise is the predominate benefit (although 2 days later when I am aching from my efforts and my lats are reminding me of my impending 50ness I won’t be so chipper about the whole thing) closely followed by job satisfaction and the equal satisfaction that I am going to get from stopping the chooks from spreading the 6 trailer loads of manure to the 4 winds. They have taken their task most seriously and the pile has been somewhat levelled by their determination. Once inside the enclosure the chooks will have to stand around outside and look in as wistfully as I hope the possums will be looking in come spring.

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This is a native Tasmanian Grey Shrike Thrush. He decided to check Steve out when he was testing his new filters on the deck. This particular Shrike Thrush comes on a regular basis for small cubes of cheese that we leave out for the wrens and Shrike Thrushes. The sparrows weren’t invited but gate crash on a regular basis

After shovelling the dung I have another mammoth task that needs to be taken on before I can start creating the garden beds that will give us a huge degree of food choice this growing season. I have to chop up the branches and leaves from the sheoak and wattle trees that we had to remove to create the garden. Trees are clever things folks. Never let it be said that they are just “vegetables” in disguise. They have a primal need much like Brunhilda does and if you allow them to coexist with your vegetable garden they are going to take as much advantage of your tender loving care for your vegetables as they can. You are going to water your veggies and the surrounding trees are going to respond like ferals and send all of their available roots over to freeload. Fertilising your garden? “Cheers!” say the trees and promptly pinch your soil ameliorations before they get a chance to settle. Trees are most adventitious at surviving against the odds and if you turn the odds in their favour they are going to take whatever you give them. I am all for the trees. I love trees and Steve and I plan on populating Serendipity Farm with a plethora of them BUT to get the productive and useful trees that we want we are going to have to sacrifice some of the hardier foundation trees that have sprung up on Serendipity Farm

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This is our back block. It was cleared back when Ida owned the property and all of the trees that you see here have grown over the last 20 years. Most of them are wattles and sheoaks with the odd young eucalyptus

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Here’s where some trees have decided to die in the back block and are being harvested for their tasty firewood…Brunhilda approves

When I say foundation tree I am talking about seral behaviour. “Seral” is like viral folks. They just take off running and when we humans do our thing and clear huge tracts of land the seral community starts right back in where we left off and the earth tries to heal itself. Have you ever wondered why all of those pesky weeds spring up whenever there is a bare patch of earth or why your outdoor fire patch seems to grow the best weeds? Nature hates bare earth. It is foreign to survival and needs to be covered and so she allows those little freeloading weeds to get active for a season. What makes them pests is also what allows quick ground cover and their short lived vigour (thanks to huge amounts of available sunlight caused by a sudden lack of trees) allows some of the smaller shrub species to get a foothold in the soil amongst them. Once the shrubs start to grow some of the trees on the periphery of the area can shed some seed inside the weedy vacant lot. Once a few small trees start to populate the area nature is back on track to regaining control of her cycles. We just don’t see that these “weeds”, those ugly native shrubs, that prickly ground cover and those boring sheoak’s that shed their needles on anything that walks past them are doing an amazing job at keeping the moisture in the soil, nitrogenising the soil (sheoak’s and fast growing wattles are all nitrogen fixers) and are doing it extremely tough so that those tender useful species that we humans so covet for their ability to feed us can survive in the cycle of events.

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The branches you can see on the ground are part of Steve’s latest barrow load of wood. Today has been particularly lovely. Sunny with gorgeous blue skies but nice and cool, perfect for a shovelling narf. The lovely manicured lawn with the pretty orange coloured tree in the rear of the shot is our neighbours to the back. They would like us to clear our entire back block so that they have a better view of the water. We would like for the back block to not slide down the steep slope in the next rains so we tend to ignore them much to their disgust. It must be difficult to have awful penniless student hippies living in front of your prospective perfect view… 😉

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These little shrooms were sheltering underneath this spiders web underneath where Steve was chainsawing tonight’s firewood and they managed to survive the onslaught…kudos shrooms!

I love to learn. Shovelling horse poo and manually cutting up entire trees to line raised garden beds might not be everyone’s idea of a school room but to narf7 it is a precious opportunity to learn at the coalface. Yesterday while we were hauling ex fish farm netting from where we had stored it under the deck after cutting it in half for our purposes I noticed that the ground was unusually damp next to our glasshouse. It might be winter here in Tasmania but we haven’t had much rain over the last few days and this was more than dew…it was positively squishy. I mentioned it in passing to Steve on our first trip up and he muttered something about a tap and we didn’t think any more of it. On our second trip up to the garden hauling a larger net we were going slower and Steve looked down at the tap that he had been muttering about and was somewhat alarmed to notice that the large piece of white polypipe that surrounded it was half full of water and I was positively duck like in my squishing around the area and suddenly Steve had one of those forced life lessons that no-one really wants to take hold of…it was time to dig up the pipes.

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Check out Steve’s fixing job with assistance from some wayfaring plumbers. He hasn’t filled the assembly back in yet as we are waiting to see if it leaks…fool us once!

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Here is my choko. If you check the end it is starting to sprout and after some research that took us to permies.com (one of my go-to places to find “stuff” out) we found out that after it shoots we can plant it out. We will have to protect it from the marauding possums (remember the top of the fully enclosed gardens won’t be put on till spring) by covering it with some ex fish farm netting but this little baby is going to love climbing up and going nuts. Lets see if we can keep the choko cycle going 🙂

Serendipity Farm has been home to 3 “families”. None of them has had children living with them. The first family was an elderly couple who bought the land from their friends (Glad and her deceased husband Ted) and who lived in a caravan in the shed until the house was built. They are the creators of the gardens here and apparently the gardens were something to see back when they owned the place. The husband sadly died a month after the house was built but Ida lived here for many years and it was her love of interesting plants that forged the remnants of garden that Steve and I spend our days trying to find. Next came my father and his partner Val. They fell in love with the property and bought it from Ida and promptly realised that gardening was NOT their forte. By the time Steve and I inherited Serendipity Farm, the once delightful terraced gardens were jungles of overgrown struggling survivors and adventitious weeds.

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In my last post I talked about dehydrating kefir grains. I have way too many to keep using and don’t want to euthanise them so I decided to dry them (according to Dom’s instructions here… http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/sharing-kefir-grains.htm ) and I just wanted to show you how my experiment went. Wendy, you will get your grains soon. We went to Beaconsfield yesterday with the duel purpose to post your grains and return my library books but in the rush to get out of the door I completely forgot to bring the grains! The very next time we are someplace with a post office we will post your grains 🙂

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The image above and this image show what the excess grains looked like after washing them carefully in rainwater (I actually HAD rainwater… “Squee!” 😉 ). I decided to put a bit of baking paper onto the mesh screen from my dehydrator as the grains were still wet and dripping. In the end I didn’t even use my dehydrator I just dried them out on the bread proofing rack above Brunhilda

The property is littered with taps. I have NEVER seen anything like it. Ida must have never wanted to be more than 20 metres away from a tap because for some reason, the entire property has been dug up and black irrigation pipe laid down in the past. The problem is that around about now, that pipe is rapidly starting to degrade. If the pipe had degraded when my well-heeled fathers partner Val was still alive, it might have been replaced but once we penniless student hippies inherited, we suddenly became the keepers of the pipes. Steve has already had to do some serious digging to fix a pipe that decided to explode down in the garden in front of the house. Aside from being somewhat annoying (more so for Steve who actually had to do all of the digging and fixing bit) we were able to fix it quite quickly. The problem comes from the fact that the water mains is right up at the top of the property, up a steep hill and at least an acre and a half away from the house…a heck of a long walk to turn the tap off…then back on…and then off…and then back on again and just that bit too far away for anyone to hear what the other person is yelling to them. It is one of the ONLY times that I am glad we have a mobile phone!

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You can see that the smaller grains have dried out quicker than the bigger grains. As the grains dried out I put them into a small bowl that contains some organic milk powder that I purchased a while ago and keep in the fridge.

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A closer shot to show you how the grains look as they dry out. They get very yellow and start to smell vinegary

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Most of the grains had dried out enough to be put into the milk powder by this stage. Only a few of the larger grains were still slightly soft and needed a bit more dehydrating. You can see how much smaller the grains are now that they have shed their moisture

Today I shovel poo…yesterday Steve had to mend a pipe. We took my overdue library books back to Beaconsfield and we paid out for overpriced plumbing equipment from the local hardware store. We might have paid more than we would have at the large hardware behemoth (my word of the week… you aren’t the only one who has Wednesday words Linnie! 😉 ) Bunning’s that we Aussies are completely and utterly addicted to BUT we supported a small business and while Steve was wandering aimlessly up and down the plumbing resources section with his out-dated tap assembly in hand he met up with 2 plumbers collecting a few doodads and doohickies that they needed for a local job. They noticed his furrowed brow and his damp appearance and decided to help a poor (obviously clueless) hippy. After asking Steve what he was after they quickly ascertained what he needed with a few questions and set about assembling the puzzle of components that Steve needed for his job. Within 5 minutes the 2 of them did what would have taken Steve about 30 minutes of frustration to do and he is eternally grateful to them. That small section of tangled pipes and brass and pressure valves is now safe and updated but there are thousands of metres of aging pipe that still remain and we are afraid…we are VERY afraid…

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Here’s the finished kefir grains in stasis in their milk powder. Wendy will get most of these and if anyone else is curious about kefir or would like to try some please let me know. From now on my excess grains will be “free to a good home” anywhere in the world 🙂

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This last photo for my post is to show you my 5kg sack of “juicing apples”. Can you see anything wrong with them? Neither can I! I have eaten quite a few already and still nothing to show me why they were separated for different treatment aside from them being somewhat smaller than what you would expect. For $5 for 5kg I will take small thankyou! You can also see the kefir grains and my enormous glass jar that I was given by a previous employer along with many more. I worked in a deli and they got lots of huge glass jars containing antipasto ingredients and didn’t want them. I got a lot of lovely big jars and still have some to this day. I can’t remember what was in this jar but pretty soon it will be full to the brim with 2 enormous cabbages and 1.5kg of shredded carrots worth of kimchi. The folded blanket to the rear was a gift from my wonderful daughters. I wrap it around me every morning while I am waiting for Brunhilda to heat up the kitchen after her overnight slumber. It is MOST appreciated and Bezial says that if I put it down anywhere lower than the table he is going to steal it 😉

Bezial just got up and decided to take advantage of his sofa in the prime position right next to Brunhilda. Her balmy warmth is his until Earl decides to brave the day and shoves him from his lofty position. Today I shovel poo and I make kimchi in a huge jar that I forgot I owned till I went hunting in the empty granny flat behind our daughters home that is littered with leftover “stuff” from our moving here and our emptying out dads “stuff”. I carried the jar reverently home and pulled my precious cup of remaining kimchi out of the fridge ready to inoculate my new batch. I have to chop up 2 large cabbages, about 1 ½ kilos of carrots need to be shredded and a whole lot of garlic needs to be crushed to be added with lots of chilli and ginger to form the basis for what is going to ferment and bubble away in Steve’s shed for the next few months. Steve won’t let me keep my kimchi in the house after I added sea vegetables (for added nutrition) to my first batch and it smelled like a dead fish on a hot tin roof. Sadly it will fester away in the shed but I am happy in the knowledge that no matter where it rests, it will do its thing and I will someday take my place in the process and reap the benefits of being part of another small cycle of life. See you all Saturday when that pile of hard work will be merely a muscle memory and where my kimchi will already be starting to “BLOOP” its first fermented sea scented burps of life…aren’t cycles wonderful? :o)

Finally here is Steve’s latest animation complete with sound. We have certainly come a long way with Flash ;). Hopefully you can all see this, Steve is rightfully very proud of his little project 🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocA6y8O3Dlg&feature=youtu.be