Pasta sauce and preserving the harvest on Serendipity Farm

Hi All,

Another shopping day has arrived and Steve will be up at 6am for a quick cup of coffee and to grab the veggies and herbs that I have parcelled up for our daughters, the pile of seeds and a single eggplant (she is suspicious to the last! 😉 ) for our Friend in the witness protection and my library cards to pick up my holds at the library. I have been getting quite adventurous with some of my holds and am sure that one of the librarians is living vicariously through my choices ;). Steve loves the processes and the speed of shopping. He loves the mad dash to get to the shops just as they open and the natives are conspicuous by their absence. He gets the supermarkets to himself and now that we don’t have a massive shopping trolley full of groceries he can race to the finish line without having to feel guilty that they only put 1 poor girl on in the early mornings and that someone is muttering behind him because they only dropped in to grab a carton of milk on the way to the office. Steve has his little shopping processes and sticks to them religiously…starting with Woolworth’s and ending with picking up our chook grain from a local producer he drives like Sebastian vettel from shop to shop, out to Bunning’s (a large hardware chain store) to pick up our gas bottles and then back to town to see our friend in the witness protection at work and to pick up some tender baby leeks and black corn that she wants us to grow here to protect them from the heavy blankets of frost that she gets on her inland property (sharing means a more resilient seed bank). She bought some red flowering heritage broad beans and although I wasn’t in a position to grow them last year (before we built our raised beds) I handed them to Roxy, another friend of ours in the neighbourhood who grew them, kept half and passed the rest of the seed back to me and now I have some to share with our friend in the witness protection (I am going to have to start saying that as OFITWP 😉 ). We recently divvied up a stack of organic soil amendments that she had purchased and that we traded a stack of conifers for half of. Steve Solomon had recommended that we use these wonderful natural soil amendments and gave us soil prescriptions to remedy our soil nutrient problems (after we had a soil analysis) and all we have to do is mix up our amendments in the correct ratio’s to make our own C.O.F. (Complete Organic Fertiliser). If you would like to read a bit more about Steve Solomon who lived somewhere closer to Christi in Olalla Washington State (http://farmlet.wordpress.com/ ) than he did to us and then moved to Tasmania and is now a whole LOT closer to us than he is Christi check out this article in Mother Earth News. Steve started Territorial Seed Company in Washington State and now runs a small farm box business and develops new seed for our local conditions here in Northern Tasmania…

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/2006-06-01/A-Better-Way-to-Fertilize-Your-Garden.aspx#axzz2NowQKomN

DSCF0009

A basin of ripe tomatoes just about to be turned into unctuous Italian style pasta sauce

DSCF0011

Veggies and herbs

DSCF0013

Found spirulina! Once disgusting, now still disgusting but useful in my morning breakfast smoothies

DSCF0017

How much is in each tub?!!! I have 3 of them…should keep me going forever “I have an inheritance for my kids!” 😉

DSCF0019

Just be thankful…VERY thankful that you don’t have smellivision on your monitors 😉

I will be making pasta sauce with another large basin of ripe tomatoes that we harvested the other day. It’s the best way for us to make good use of our gorgeous ripe tomatoes and aside from a few damaged ones that are mouldering away in Steve’s shed to give us seed for next year’s tomato growing activities, the rest are being put to good use. We use a lot of “tomato sauce” in our house. Not the ketchup variety, but home made with onions, garlic, herbs and love. We used to use tinned tomatoes but now we won’t have to because I am freezing this homemade gorgeousness in small batches, enough for a recipe. There isn’t anything that you can buy from a supermarket that compares with the flavour of homemade. It might be an old cliché, but it’s true. The processes that need to be involved to churn out an endless supply of a specific product and have it turn out the same batch after batch render that product generic to say the least. So many additives are needed and the product ends up being beside the by compared to the process that gets it from its raw state to the can/jar on the shelf. If you can do it yourself, do it. It makes a lot of difference to your intestines, your self-esteem, your wallet and to your tastebuds. Rabid (Jessie from Rabid Little Hippy blog fame… http://rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com/ ) recently made something out of the wild hawthorns on her property. Aside from skewering herself on hawthorn thorns (kudos girl 😉 ) she got 3 jars of “something” out of a whole lot of nothing and made the most of the wild harvest that was sitting outside her door. I have to take a whip to myself mentally and flagellate myself because of my inability to organise and get out and harvest more blackberries this year. They were everywhere and my only excuse is that it was so hot out there I didn’t want to stand there picking them. A pathetic and most lame excuse indeed and one that doesn’t even wash with me! Lazy… sigh. I can make it up now with the bumper crop of ruby red haws that are presenting themselves like strumpets in the hedgerows and on the sides of the road at the moment. We also have glorious and fluorescent orange wild rose hips festooning the drab little shrubs in huge quantities this year. The long hot dry conditions have at least favoured some shrubs and we may as well take advantage of this. I am thinking “Membrillo” or the Froggy equivalent “Pate de fruits” or perhaps rendering them down into a thick paste and then dehydrating them into roll ups so that I can pull a bit off the edge to use to add flavour and texture to recipes. The hips will be made into syrup to be boiled slowly down or perhaps a type of rosehip molasses like pomegranate molasses to add a major hit of vitamin C to whatever I choose to use them in.

DSCF0038

Although the zucchini plants are sucumbing to powdery mildew at an alarming rate, the eggplants are soldiering on regardless no matter the weather

DSCF0035

I really love these long thin Japanese eggplants and will grow them again next season. Much quicker to fruit and ripen and they just keep on going…and going…and going!

DSCF0033

I thought this was a daikon radish when I saw it the other day…nope, an albino eggplant! I am going to attempt to keep some seed from one of these to see if it will reproduce true to type 🙂

As the pasta sauce simmers (and the dogs sulk on their respective couches by Brunhilda who isn’t even on to give them a reason to lay there) I will potter around sweeping the floor (a.k.a. moving the dust from one area of the house to another) and cleaning off the computer area. It’s really my area. Steve isn’t really interested in this workstation much. He would prefer to be “Off doing something” or watching television and playing one of his guitars at the same time (acoustically folks, he isn’t superman 😉 ). He practices scales while he watches TV. I spend my free time here researching. I have recently discovered several crafting blogs through Rabid and one of them belongs to Linne who is one of my new dear constant readers. Linne is a human dynamo! The things that this lady has done with her life proves her to be a true survivor and innovator of note and if you would like to check out her blog please head here… http://arandomharvest.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/giveaway/ her most recent post is about a very novel giveaway idea that she has come up with for her 100th post. I wouldn’t have expected anything less from this feisty and most wonderful lady than to donate money to a worthy cause in the name of the winner of her 100th post giveaway. The winner will get a chance to win a most gorgeous handmade quilt and know that the money donated in their name will be used to give secure safe water to a community. What better giveaway could you want? I love people like Linne…they don’t let life get them down; they just get stuck in and go lateral and find the answers. That’s my kind of peeps and whether you are from Canada (as Linne is) or Australia or Uzbekistan or anywhere else in the world your life can’t help but be more beautiful and poignant and meaningful if you actually apply yourself to living it wholeheartedly.  Linne puts me to shame on the craft fronts. I bow to her abilities and the crafty endeavours that she is involved with are endless. I dabble (rarely) in crocheting and will usually manage a row or two of knitting before either tension problems or Earl come to rescue me but Linne soldiers on and creates beautiful things from raw materials and is truly a wonderful ambassador for her ilk.

DSCF0159

What do you do with 2 litres of mature kefir?

DSCF0169

You drain it till it is quarter of its original bulk

DSCF0182

and you end up with the tangiest ricotta substitute you ever tasted 🙂

Linne and I were recently talking about how we need to preserve our traditions for future generations. The crafts that we do today for pleasure are the result of the necessities of the past and we need to be learning these crafts and pass them on. Linne mentioned a wonderful teacher who took their student charges out to learn from elders in the community. Aside from being a wonderful opportunity to forge community, imagine the skills that these children were able to learn? I think it is a wonderful idea. Apparently the teacher and children documented these forays into the community and what a wonderful learning exercise that would have been. Today’s political correctness would have that sort of community venture fraught with legal requirements and prohibitive insurance coverage rendering it near on impossible to do something as simple as share anymore and we are lesser people for our need to clog up any process with so many rules that we can’t actually do ANYTHING  anymore. Our parents and their parents seemed to manage alright playing on swing sets without a metre of soft fall underneath…sure they broke a few arms but they called it “experience” and were done with it. No-one expected “someone else” to pay for their own personal choices but now everyone seems to want to pass the buck. There are always consequences folks and even if we do manage to get someone else to pay for them, what goes around comes around and society is worse for our efforts.

DSCF0195

Freshly harvested walnuts “NO MORE FOR YOU RATS!”

DSCF0196

My work station to remove the husks from the nuts and toss them straight into the compost heap where they can leach to their hearts content. Note the chickens behind bars…a most satisfying situation 😉

DSCF0200

How disgusting do my hands look?!! I have to tell you that it was only 3/4 of the way through my shelling event when I rememebered that walnut husks are used to dye wood…and apparently fingers 😦

http://mysite.verizon.net/ELLshipmodeler/walnut.htm

DSCF0193

Some of the husked nuts showing you that we had a good walnut year this year

DSCF0191

They look like little brains…which is coincedentally what eating walnuts is very good for…your brain. (Note to self EAT WALNUTS! 😉 )

DSCF0189

Now I just have to let them dry out to store them in their shells

DSCF0221

This nut split while I was roughhousing it and the fresh nutmeat is very different to the dry nut we know well.

My new rss feed reader has me a bit flummoxed. It’s not that it is worse than Google read; it is just “different”. I am not a creature that likes change. I like my morning processes to be regular so that I can yawn and get out of bed, stumble to the kitchen (I am starting to sound like some song lyrics here 😉 ) in the dark and put on my clothes where I won’t wake Steve up. I then put the kettle on (still half asleep and half clothed because I have tried to put my shirt onto my leg 😉 ) and I turn on the P.C. and monitor to get them going ready for when my eyes have decided to focus on the same thing at the same time (Steve Buscemi doesn’t know that I borrow his eyes for a short period of time while he sleeps on the other side of the world 😉 )…my processes are my slow ascent into my days and each one primes me for my 3 or so hours of research, blog posting and eventual readiness to tackle my days head on (and at full speed once Steve and the dogs wake up at 7am) with a positive attitude and a readiness for what is ahead. I used to be a real grouch in the mornings and now I am practically Pollyanna ;). This new Rss feed reader is completely independent from a browser although I have to be connected if I want to update my feeds.  I can read to my heart’s content but at the moment it still feels foreign to me and hasn’t quite got me excited about my mornings. Google will be stopping their reader on July 1st. I am hoping that my feed reader (that currently syncs with Google Reader) won’t suddenly do a Millennium bug and “stop” when Google disappears. I have taken a backup of all of my information just in case it does (fool me once!) and will just have to head off (sighing heavily) with my tech savvy husband to find another feed reader that will support my 501 blogs that I follow (3 up from my last post 😉 ). Who would have thought that a Luddite would come to be so dependent on something technical eh? Certainly not this little black duck, but as a ducky style magpie my need to learn has overridden my bolshie need to stay put when it comes to technology and I keep forging ahead because it suits me to do so.

DSCF0173

Herman’s old sourdough pot being recycled to house flour and starter overnight for early morning cinnamon muffins

DSCF0178

After taking off the lid the sourdough is ready to be used in my muffins. I add kefir to my mix to ensure I get a really good rise and great flavour and digestibility with anything grainy

DSCF0185

The finished muffins. Poor Steve keeps getting more and more treats to eat and there is only 1 of him. Might have to start taking treats to the neighbours 😉

I should be reading my rss feed reader as I tap away here. It’s 5.42am and I will be putting the kettle on in a minute to make Steve his first and only cup of coffee till he gets home at around 11am. If I went with him (and God forbid…the dogs!) we would probably be still shopping at 3pm. Steve is a human one man dynamo who is able to negotiate the supermarket aisles with both speed and purpose, stopping only to help short elderly ladies to reach things on top shelves. Curiously babies and elderly ladies know with an inerrant instinct that Steve is harmless. He might appear to be a crazed trolley wielding maniac to most people but animals, babies and the elderly just “know” :o). Where other people tend to steer clear of us/him when we are on a mission (he is hardly “mainstream” material!) he is constantly being approached and asked for help by elderly ladies who he always helps. He is, despite his appearance, a most wonderful soul and always finds time to help someone who needs it. He is a crazy mix of incredible impatience that will have him twitching at a moment’s notice but an equally momentous stubborn streak that will have him labouring long into the night to ensure he is able to solve a problem or find a way to do something. We have to head out soon to attend our graduation for our Diploma of Landscape Design that we completed last year. We will wear gowns and will be presented with a bit of paper for posterity’s sake and will be applauded by an audience of our peers and who would care about it if we didn’t want to send Steve’s mum a photo of the event. Hopefully we will return to a home that hasn’t been desiccated by Earl and Bezial will be still mentally able to function and won’t be a dog perpetually mentally in the foetal position for the rest of his life. Earl has a way of making people twitch ;). We might even be able to meet our current lecturer at this event. Any lecturer worth their salt turns up to give their graduating students a bit of well-deserved kudos, after all, its these graduating students that keep lecturers in jobs. We will get Nat to take a photo of us in our silly gowns and if I don’t hate the results too much, you might even get to see them here…if you don’t…don’t ask! 😉

DSCF0202

I decided to use my mature kefir “ricotta” to make Steve a wonderful homemade lasagna. I had some of the aforementioned unctuous Italian style pasta sauce and decided to make lasagna sheets (after looking in the pantry and discovering that we didn’t have any…)

DSCF0203

Earl has developed a distinct love for raw eggs and anything containing a large proportion of eggs (think omelette, French toast and now egg rich pasta dough!)…don’t panic, he didn’t get that questing beak into the pasta, Steve removed him and all traces of his presence from the table quick smart! 😉

DSCF0215

A close-up of lasagne heaven

DSCF0212

Another case of “Not enough Steve’s” to eat what I make him…anyone want to be adopted (but only for mealtimes and coffee breaks!) 😉

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I would like to call this post “Windswept and interesting” and be done with it! (Note, Steve insisted on wearing those Cons to maintain his hippy dignity in the award ceremony…they worked…the M.C. (after delivering the correct Diploma spiel for me) announced Steve as “Steve Pimblett”… nothing else! Obviously he was so cool he didn’t need to pass anything to be given an award 😉

Another post is starting to draw to an end and I am constantly amazed at how avidly my muses direct me around the dance floor of my mind. I used to wonder at Stephen Kings ability to write book after book and now I know how he does it. He is harnessed to a flotilla of muses who are all forging ahead regardless and all he has to do is listen intently to their avid mutterings and he has his “words”. Mine flow out like overflow water from a rainwater tank and for now, they show no signs of halting. Whether that’s to your benefit or not I am sure you will work out for yourselves ;). I officially have 133 blog followers but I have more than a sneaking suspicion that most of them don’t actually read the blog any more. I have a close core of dear constant readers who grace me with wonderful comments and suggestions and I couldn’t hope for better. I am, indeed, a very lucky blogger. I get delightful regular spam that sometimes makes me “SQUEE” with delight because it is so hilarious…something along the lines of “I loved your blog and share with kids mine happy days you mate!” from someone called “BIG_willyforu”… how could you not love that eh? ;). Blogging has certainly made my life richer. It channelled my need to write and allowed me to quantify my own little world to share with the rest of you and sharing is what this is all about. I get the feeling that some people don’t really realise that. You can tell bloggers who are blogging in an attempt to elevate themselves up the social hierarchal structure…the “Look at ME” blogs and the “Aren’t I FANTASTIC” blogs…and I don’t follow blogs like that. I prefer real people who are open and honest about their lives and who like to share. Why would you want to follow someone who spends their posts telling you how great they are? Surely you should be able to work that out for yourself if, indeed the blogger is worth reading about? Every one of my 500+ blogs is worth it for some or other reason. They range from the blogging equivalent of rock stars to humble small blogs with very few followers and every single one of them is precious to me. If I follow your blog, you are one of the select groups of blogs that has made it through my rigorous selection criteria to get to where you are and I am a HARSH task mistress…a positive sadist when it comes to blogs so you can only begin to imagine how many blogs I reject ;). Ok, enough of this! We all have things to do this morning/today/tonight and we can’t be spending hours with narf7 on a quest to goodness only knows where…time to mentally disengage and head off into the real world and get “doing”… thank you all for sharing the time with me to read what I tap out here in my early mornings when my brain is fresh and raring to go…most of you won’t see much of 3.30am so I am glad to translate it for you. See you all on Saturday when goodness only knows what we have been up to but at least we are living it to the fullest :o)

Advertisements

When more isn’t the answer

Hi All,

Writing is a struggle against silence.

Carlos Fuentes

Isn’t that lovely? I hasten to add that I hardly need to worry about the silence because whenever I get 2 minutes to myself the silence suddenly disappears into a frolicking dog, a husband who needs a hand with something or I fall asleep…hardly time to worry myself about silence but let’s just start tapping away to make sure that it doesn’t invade our psyche and do some sort of Freudian damage. I wasn’t sure what I was going to type today. We have been pretty full on with our studies this week and it is somewhat difficult to get back into the study habit when you have been luxuriating in all the free time in the world and being able to do whatever you want with said time. The course isn’t difficult but it is making us think a lot and is pulling us into a more creative frame of mind which suits both of us just fine. We learn something every day and Steve is picking up a copy of the student version of Adobe C.S.6 on Monday when he heads in to do the shopping so that we can launch ourselves into Photoshop 6. My wonderful kind younger brother bought himself a new camera not so long ago and gave us the perfectly good camera that he already had. This works out wonderfully because we really need a camera each for this course and now we are able to head off in different directions and take lots of photos for the course requirement. Steve is really interested in using Photoshop etc. and there are some very interesting programs in this package for writers as well. At least we are gaining a lot of information that is helping me, especially, to learn more about technology.

DSCF9926

The camera that my brother gave us. If you are reading “Cheers Jim! :)”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On wednesday Serendipity Farm was dripping wet…today it’s sunny again

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The vacancy rate might not be anything to write home about but at least 1 wasp lived here over the summer season 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Serendipity Farms view of the Tamar River this afternoon

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A panorama taken with the new camera…not bad! 🙂

I pulled up the older corn and stripped the few cobs of corn from it. It wasn’t a huge success but at least we got some corn. The tomatoes, on the other hand, are going great guns. I just picked another large basin full of them and there are plenty still on the bushes. I picked lots of eggplants and I am tossing up what to do with them. I will give some of the tomatoes and eggplants to my daughters along with some zucchini and their creative minds can come up with something that they would like to do with them. No doubt it will be something Korean and delicious. Our chickens are still on strike and I am getting tired of “no eggs” as their mantra. I know that they are moulting but surely someone could lay an egg?! We are giving 6 away on Monday to minimise the flock a bit and we are also giving away some of Kid Creole’s coconuts (excess kefir grains) and I am feeding up Audrey to donate some of her to our local health food shop. David and Lee are lovely people who are very knowledgeable about health and when I asked them if they would like some excess kefir spotted an opportunity. I dare say they will be able to share it with customers who would like some. I love the way that generosity flows around. You pass something on to someone else, and they share with someone else and pretty soon everyone is sharing. I saw a really great idea on one of the blogs that I follow the other day. It was about a new system at the library where if you hold a library card you can take a packet of saved seeds to grow in your garden. Once you grow your seed and bring back seed to swap you can swap it for another packet of seed. I love the idea of using a library for more than just books. Libraries are hubs of knowledge for the common man. You don’t need the internet to take out a book and as your library card is free, the knowledge is also free…how precious is that? :o). I have been formulating my seed swap network along with designing a web page for the course we are doing. Steve is working on his spoon website to sell wooden spoons and I figured I may as well start where I meant to finish up and so will be working on designing and planning how to go about swapping seed in Tasmania. Firstly I need to get a network of people who are interested in saving and swapping seed and I might have to pick the lady who blogs at http://ediblethings.net/ mind regarding her seedy pen pal swaps and see what kind of swaps can be made. It’s an entirely exciting proposition and one that would develop a network of like-minded people and a virtual seed bank of possibilities for many others.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Apparently my kitchen is part of the arch nemisis of Batman confraturnity  but even though I was on a considerable lean, you can see some of the harvest from this morning along with Kid Creole and his erstwhile coconuts awaiting their morning bath in fresh milk

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We seem to have a decidedly orange theme going on in the last 2 photos. I keep throwing found road things into that brass hanging pot and the blue thing on the top is my latest find. We discovered it on one of our daily walks and it’s the brass nozzle of a spray painting unit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I was testing out the new camera…Bernard and Manny our Java finches say “Hi” 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Still a bit orange but that’s mostly to do with the Western Red Cedar cladding. This photo was to show you how happy the yellow banksia rose is now that I have tipped a heady mass of mulch over its previously parched roots…it wants to repay me by taking over the house. Join the queue rose, Earl is first in line…

374523_431510353593999_1219146655_n

I have just snuck this shot in as Steve found it and said “This is genius food!” He is going to buy some frankfurters and spaghetti on Monday in the shopping and is going to reproduce this amazing food. He also said “No kid would be able to resist these!”…obviously not… 😉

It’s the second day of autumn but you wouldn’t know it here in Tasmania. We have the promise of 27C today, 27C tomorrow and 30C on Monday. I am starting to wonder if summer is going to be the new black! I still have a big heap of mulch that I might start wheelbarrowing around to the side garden to try to give it a bit of relief from the long dry season that we have just had. I heard on the weather report that we have broken all of the records for temperature and for dryness in Australia this year and that’s not something to be proud of. They were saying that if you are 27 years or younger, you have no idea of what Australia’s “average” temperature for summer is because for the last 27 years we have exceeded it. I am not a fear monger and I am not in the business of trying to scare people but this long extended dry season is starting to make me twitch. I know that we aren’t the only people sick of summer. I read blogs about the flip side and how people can’t wait for summer. If I could bag it up and send it off to you I would folks! Most Australians would love to deliver a big bag of summer right to your doorstep for a bit of rain and a few days indoors near the fire. I am trying to work out what we are going to plant for winter crops this year. I haven’t ever grown a winter crop before and it’s a complete unknown quantity to me. I have been shamelessly pilfering information from wonderful gardeners like Sarah from the wonderful blog http://gardeningkiwi.wordpress.com/ because New Zealand is just a hop-step and jump from us here in Tassie and so what she is doing, I can surreptitiously pinch and do here. Sorry Sarah, remember that they DO say that copying is the sincerest form of flattery ;). There are some amazing gardening blogs out there and one of my favourites is http://www.sgaonline.org.au/ and I certainly get heaps of ideas from this blog but I like the personal touch of checking out what other people are doing just like me. I can learn so much from these more experienced gardeners and even though they might be on the other side of the world I also follow Margaret at http://awaytogarden.com/ that has a fantastic blog with amazing information. Her back posts are the stuff that this penniless hippies dreams are made of and she shares her knowledge so readily. Her friend Gayla is also amazing and has a fantastic blog called http://www.yougrowgirl.com/about/ all of these gardeners are our kind of gardeners…real people with real problems and solutions for what happens from day to day in their gardens. We might not have some of the pests and diseases that they have and they might not have some of the imported weeds that we suffer with but the online gardening community is an incredibly vibrant place to be and in sharing what we learn, we are giving someone else the chance to get down and dirty and fall totally and utterly in love with this big wide beautiful world. Getting your hands dirty is tantamount to a serious sensual awakening folks…you can’t help but gain something from the experience :o)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Flower number 1. I found this nice little geranium, that has the added benefit of being scented, on one of our walks and took a piece to grow. Geraniums are incredibly hardy, waterwise and very easy to grow for those of you who aren’t gardeners and I plan on sourcing lots of lovely specimens for Serendipity Farm

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This pretty Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed Susan) is thriving in Steve’s shed. It is too hot to plant it out yet and once it cools down a bit and we get some rain I will be planting it somewhere in the side garden

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Mondarda that I bought when I went to Wychwood has finally flowered. It too lives in the shed for now, but will be planted out in the side garden as well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I had just watered our potted plants and noticed this most interesting effect on a small Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ears) in a pot. I liked how the hairy leaves had held onto the water droplets

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My small potted fig tree has produced tiny figlets for the last 2 years but they dropped and nothing eventuated. This year it has 2 large figs… maybe I will get to try one? It all depends on whether the possums learn to fly… 😉

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of the Nerine bowdenii that are flowering like crazy in the front garden and are making a lovely splash of autumn promise

It is getting hard to find nice pictures to share with you all. The garden has had enough of summer and we don’t have to worry about pulling weeds or mowing lawns in 2013 because they are all officially deceased. Brown is the new green in our neck of the woods and Tasmania is wet compared to most of the rest of Australia. Where I come from in Western Australia the vegetation is brown for most of the year as millennia of low rainfall has taught it not to trust dark clouds. You would be surprised just what grows in arid areas though and Western Australia has some of the most beautiful plants and wildflowers in all of Australia. I have one little bit of hope that at least nature thinks that it is autumn. The nerines are all flowering. It’s hard to believe that anything would have the will to flower when the soil it is growing in is little more than transient dust but flower they are and most beautifully as well. I have a cunning plan. I am going to formulate a list of very hardy arid waterwise plants (preferably perennials and shrubs) that I am going to source next spring to plant on Serendipity Farm. I am tired of planting things that need extra care when what we need are hardy plants that are just happy to be in the ground. No more mollycoddling plants and anything that doesn’t like living here won’t be getting any preferential treatment any more. We have been amazed at being able to grow plants like cardamom and turmeric and even if we have to resort to doing something like this…

http://permaculturenews.org/2010/01/11/free-hot-water-from-compost-wheelie-bin/

to keep our glasshouse warmer in winter and grow happy tropical rhizomes we will. Isn’t that a good idea by the way? The West Tamar council are trialling giving ratepayers a compost bin each to see if it doesn’t cut down green waste. At the moment the scheme is only available to the residents of Gravelly Beach but hopefully it will expand and we will all get one. Ratepayers can choose to use it as a compost bin or to put all of their green waste into it and wheel it out once a month to the curb to be collected by a council truck that will haul it off to be composted en masse.  I think it’s a great idea and if we do get one, I will make a hot water glasshouse heater with ours :o)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We went to Deviot to walk the boys today and Steve liked the look of this shot…I like the look of it as well 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

An Echinacea angustifolia growing inside the heritage apple and pear covered garden at Deviot. I am waiting for the seed to dry and will shake a few into a paper bag for Serendipity Farm

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The toilet block at the back of the Deviot Hall. I like these donated white tiles that were painted by the local children and their parents and that now grace the loo.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Just to show you how dry our soil is here at the moment. This large crack was spotted on our walk this morning

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A ricketty jetty leading out into the river.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Looks like Italy doesn’t it?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Its been a really good blackberry season this year so far. I am doing my best to collect as many as I can to use my alchemy and turn into blackberry wine

It certainly took me a long time to get around to talking about the title of the post today didn’t it? Anyone who has been reading my blog for more than a few posts knows that I have been attempting to get healthier since my mum died last year in January. I took a long hard look at my relationship with food and decided that my 40 year love/hate relationship with food was officially OVER. I stopped dieting because you would think that if something was going to work it would have done so in the previous 40 years so I figured that dieting wasn’t working for me (or anyone for that matter) and started to eat healthy food, to exercise daily and to start coming to grips with severing the link between my emotions and my mouth. I weighed in at 90kg when I headed over for mum’s funeral. Not lightweight by anyone’s ideals and I had a lot of problems with my knees and was starting to think that I might actually need surgery on them in the near future. Since mum died I have lost 23kg. I now weigh 67kg, which might not be light by some people’s reckoning but that, is the lightest that I have been since I was 12 years old. I no longer have pain in my knees and although my left knee is stiff, it isn’t sore. When I gave up dieting I gave up so much more than an unhealthy relationship with food. I gave up the need to legitimise myself through food and my excuses for why I wasn’t a capable person. After just over a year, food is just that…”Food”. I no longer think about it every waking hour and that is possibly one of the most liberating things that has ever happened to me. I love to walk now and actually volunteer to walk Earl when Bezial has a sore leg. I have heaps of energy and have discovered that getting up early gives me some precious “Me” time every single day. I think there comes a time when we all have to question our bad habits and see if they are worth our support. My emotional need to overeat was holding me back from living. I can do what I need to do now. The only problem that I have is when Steve wants me to hold both dogs’ leads when he wants to take a photograph because now, their combined weight exceeds mine :o). The best thing of all is that I haven’t felt like I have been deprived of anything whilst I have been steadily losing weight. I plateaued at 76kg for about 4 months but then started having green smoothies for breakfast and suddenly I started to lose weight all over again. I don’t eat any less, I just eat what my body needs me to eat and I make sure to include healthy fats because despite what modern society might preach, we NEED fat folks. Fat is incredibly important for metabolism and for our ability to absorb certain vitamins. If you want nice skin, you need to eat the right kind of fats. I no longer have to starve myself, I no longer have to count calories, I no longer have to weigh myself morning and night and I certainly don’t have to strip down to my undies to try to eke out the best result. I am left lighter in body but more importantly, in mind, spirit and soul. I have been given a second chance while I still have time to enjoy it and I will make sure not to abuse this privilege

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This poor Stewartia pseudocamellia was on its last legs in the ground but we dug it up, repotted it and left it to soak in this container of water and look at it now! Plants are very resiliant things 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Some of the grape vine cuttings that struck…all of them will be planted out around the circumference of our large fully enclosed veggie patch

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

These potted plants don’t get hit so hard by the direct sun because they are on the South side of Steve’s shed but they are still showing signs of being completely OVER summer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The sole artichoke plant that survived. I think its simply because it is right near the deck in a semi enclosed area and the wallabies are too scared to get too close to the deck because the silent marauder lives on the deck (One of Earl’s pseudonyms…)

I am going to head off now and spend the rest of today hunting for recipes for ways to use up kefir. Kid Creole and all of his coconutty babies have been going nuts and producing a steady stream of yoghurt like kefir that I don’t consume and that Steve is wary of. I include it in Steve’s favourite sourdough chocolate cake now but 1 cup once a week isn’t going to empty my fridge of kefir and as self-appointed “house researcher” it is my duty to find useful and tasty ways to use it up. Wish me luck folks or we might drown in the stuff! See you all on Wednesday and make sure to take a moment out of your day to be grateful for everything in your life, It is a most rewarding practice and apparently, according to scientific research, it makes you a happier person and who wouldn’t love to be a little bit happier for free? :o)

A Tale of 2 Sourdough’s

Hi All,

Barter is a beautiful thing. I recently swapped 2 of Steve’s lovely handmade spoons for a new sourdough starter and some kefir grains. It’s great sticking it to “The Man” and no “man” deserves sticking it to more than our supermarkets folks! How do penniless student hippies get the extra’s that they want? They barter for them! Aside from being a means to an end, bartering is fun, sustainable and bolshie, all of my favourite things rolled into 1. I know that supermarkets don’t sell sourdough starter and kefir grains but they do sell white crappy bread at $1 a loaf that lures people with reduced incomes to their doom and drags farmers down with them. Milk and other dairy products are also heavily discounted, to dairy farmer’s detriment, and intensive dairy farming with minimal returns result in cost cutting farmers and something’s got to give.  My first sourdough effort resulted in something orange and funky that needed to be flushed down the loo A.S.A.P! I got given Herman’s grandfather by a fellow blogger and after coaxing him back to life from his long journey from N.S.W. he rewarded me by 2 months of slavetude and vinegar bricks. Herman had the misfortune of being fed only once a day and was teaming with lactobacilli, the bacterial quotient of the symbiotic relationship that results in a good sourdough. Thanks to being lactobacilli heavy, he was concurrently yeast challenged. It’s a bit like a seesaw relationship, too much of one means not enough of the other and you have to make sure you juggle your sourdough bacilli with yeast initially until your starter stabilises and becomes strong enough to develop its own robust personality. Herman was sour. Herman was past sour, he was positively vinegary! He couldn’t raise the skin off a rice pudding either and so Herman is in stasis on my pantry shelf in a vacuum sealed bag. I don’t blame Herman, I blame myself. I didn’t realise that a balance needed to be established and Herman was the result.

DSCF9400

My cinnamon muffin mise en place with the glass of cultured kefir and my breakfast smoothie spinach

DSCF9401

A closeup of the cultured kefir which is a lot like yoghurt. The difference between yoghurt and kefir is that yoghurts culture is eaten along with the yoghurt, kefir grains are fished out and reused over and over again and can be used to culture just about every kind of milk aside from UHT milk (what does THAT tell you? 😉 ), goat, sheep and non dairy milks as well.

DSCF9405

Here’s the fermented starter, flour, milk and rolled oats for the cinnamon muffins. You can see that the mix has bubbled up and looks somewhat like pikelet batter

DSCF9411

The resulting muffins looking and feeling more like cake than robust sourdough muffins

DSCF9409

A closeup of the fine texture that the fermented sourdough gave to these muffins

DSCF9412

The miracle chocolate cake…once separated oily ropey gunge, now combined and smelling amazing! Sourdough magic 😉

DSCF9433

As dear old Mr M Loaf once sang…”2 out of 3 aint bad”…and he was right 🙂

Now that everyone knows that I am unbalanced…lets proceed! Herman in stasis and me swearing to never dabble in the sour arts ever EVER again lasted about as long as a first time mothers pledge to never EVER have another child…the memory softens and gets a sepia tone to it and suddenly you are pregnant all over again or in my case, begging for sourdough starter from Jessie, a.k.a. “Rabid” from the wonderfully sustainable blog http://rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com/ and a chunk of her brains. Well, little white brain like kefir grains to be more specific ;). Not only did Jessie send me a lovely hand knitted black organic cotton dishcloth (that is too nice to use 😉 ), she sent me the daughter of Bertha that she split with another lucky recipient and some kefir grains. The kefir grains have decided to band together in a mass and spend their days backstroking around a glass of milk until it sets where they call out to me telepathically and I change their milk for fresh milk. I used the cultured milk to make icing yesterday and apparently it tastes lovely. I will give them a week of happy backstroking before I introduce a new medium into the equation and let them take a float in some home-made coconut milk. Variety is the spice of life kefir and life on Serendipity Farm is about as spicy as you can get! I had fed Audrey twice a day for 2 days before I decided to actually use some of the discarded sourdough and following recipes closely I mixed together the flour, milk and starter for a batch of cinnamon muffins, a chocolate cake and a batch of English muffins. The remaining starter was fed a cup of rye and white flour mixed a cup of water and after it rose up in her jar she was put into the fridge. I am going to rename “Audrey”. She deserves to have a much more favourable name because when she was initially named I envisaged a hungry tyrant who would lead me to baking’s dark side and it would ultimately end in tears…to the contrary, this new starter is malleable, compliant and most charmingly willing to please!

13020021

Bezial was hot and bothered on our walk on thursday so we let him off his lead for a swim and here he is fishing, a much happier and cooler dog 🙂

DSCF9386

We found this poor tawny frogmouth in the road on our walk. Steve thought that it was dead but when I went over to investigate it was still alive.

DSCF9385

We took the poor thing in to Launceston to the vet who told us that he was too far gone to recover and he was euthanised. I was in 2 minds whether or not to share these 2 photos with you but decided that he deserved to get his 15 seconds of fame. R.I.P. Mopoke 😦

DSCF9391

We took this photo at a little park in Launceston where we stopped to give the dogs a drink of water and a bit of a walk after taking the Mopoke to the vet’s. This shop specialises in high quality fake flowers and Christmas decorations…very specialised but they must sell enough because they are still there.

DSCF9392

This is the bark of a gorgeous old Pinus pinea (Italian Stone Pine) in the same small park. We have several small ones that we grew from seed collected from another specimen. These trees produce cones that contain the edible nuts sold as “pine nuts”.

I got up yesterday morning and had a little peak and the separate bowls of fermenting milk, flour and starter to find that the ensuing mass had indeed risen and was rippled with bubbles and smelled yeasty and only slightly tangy. If I had used Herman the whole lot would be curdled, it would smell like malt vinegar and would take your breath away and it would be flat as a tack! We were already ahead! We headed out to walk the dogs and when we got back I started to bake. Steve headed out to the shed to make a spoon when he was interrupted by a local calling out to him from over the gate and he headed down to have a chat and was offered several trailer loads of spent horse bedding hay for our garden beds. All we had to do was go and pick it up. Sorry Steve…I am too busy, it’s going to have to be you ;). Steve does all of the cooking in our covered bbq and is quite proficient with it. I have never cooked anything in this bbq and was to be left alone with it to cook my sourdough creations so if something was going to go wrong, it would go SPECTACULARLY wrong! The bbq was behaving itself and I was able to mix up the cinnamon muffins and after 20 minutes (turning halfway) the muffins were ready. They smelled amazing! They had a light and fluffy texture that I wouldn’t have thought possible from sourdough products and in addition to their flour, milk and starter overnight ferment they had rolled oats. After a night the rolled oats had virtually disappeared and the resulting muffins were more like a light spongecake than a robust muffin. That would be a “tick” for recipe 1…I pulled down the homogenous mass waiting to be made into chocolate cake. I mixed the chocolate part and stirred it into the homogenous fermented mass and dubiously poured it into a baking tray (it is a big cake). It had started to separate, had greasy blobs all around it and generally looked like a failure waiting to happen. Being the stalwart that I am, I decided to bake it anyway and after 15 minutes cooking I headed out with dread to check it. Feeling sure that it would have bubbled over and set the bbq on fire I was pleasantly surprised to find a “chocolate cake” doing the right thing under the cover. After 35 minutes of low heat the chocolate cake was finished and set out to cool on a wire rack…that would be tick number 2

DSCF9415

I found this “thing” on my walk with Earl yesterday. We took a bit of a detour down the Batman Highway to check out a source of Foeniculum vulgare (Weedy fennel) seed but it was still in full flower and no seed yet but we DID find this. Steve thinks it looks like it came from an irrigation system. No idea but it is huge…it is metal…and it is mine! It looks steampunk enough to carry one of my more spiky succulents or cacti 🙂

DSCF9438

We went through the overflow pantry cupboard in our middle spare room on thursday and ended up finding several ancient containers of goodness only knows what. One smelled of garlic and was riddled with weevil tunnels…(Italian weevils are a problem on Serendipity Farm 😉 ), another contained Macca powder that had suffered the same weevil infestation albeit a long LONG time ago. These weevils are the equivalent of biblical humanity to their modern day weevil equivalents. The white stuff is some sort of African processed cereal product made from maize that I bought and tried once only. Maybe African’s actually like the flavour of wallpaper paste? The darker brown is from some forgotten (also weevil infested) zaatar and there was a jar of ancient breadcrumbs that joined the throng. I poured a kettle and a half of boiling water over this mass and served it up to the chooks for breakfast. At least SOMEONE enjoyed that garlic, macca, zaatar flavoured wallpaper paste!

DSCF9418

This is the lush foliage of one of the cape gooseberry plants on Serendipity Farm. You can see the green fruit capsules hanging like lanterns from this perennial plant. The offer is still open to anyone (aside from Kym who has already taken me up on the offer 😉 ) who would like some of the seed to grow in their gardens. It produces edible berries that can be eaten raw or cooked and it will grow in the Gobi desert it is so hardy 🙂

DSCF9423

The fruit is inside the husk

DSCF9426

1 of our transplanted artichokes (showing signs of predation) that might just make it. The rest of them have disappeared 1 by 1 into various chicken, possum and wallaby craws

DSCF9436

I found this little fellow in amongst the carrots that our friend gave us recently. I couldn’t bring myself to chop him up. He is currently sunbathing in the lid of my recent coconut conquest 😉

I then attempted to make the English muffins. It has now become apparent that you need to make a somewhat stiffer dough for the muffins and Jessie has given me some hints and tips for making them next time. This time they were more like pikelets or flatbread and although Steve ate a couple of them with some butter I know he was doing so because he was hungry after hauling all of that hay rather than a genuine desire to eat the results. I just processed up the cold remainders to put into the dehydrator to dry out and make breadcrumbs. No waste here :o). At the end of the day I was completely enamoured of my new starter. She is currently hibernating in the fridge where Jessie told me she can wait it out for 4 days before needing to be fed again. She deserves a place of honour for her efforts and my recent bartering has opened up a world of yeasty possibilities, hours of happy researching and a plethora of recipes and experiences waiting to be discovered thanks to a mutual swap. Life doesn’t have to be tough and there are many ways to skin a cat. We need to be able to step back and think about other ways to get what we want if the folding green stuff is remote or completely absent.

DSCF9417

This trailer load of old horse bedding hay got forked into the chook yard for the hens and Yin to fossick through to their hearts content.

DSCF9428

The rest got dumped next to the existing vegetable garden beds

DSCF9430

Garden bed futures…I just realised that our veggie garden area is looking a bit “Tip Like”…time to get on top of that pile of junk Steve! It is all metal and apparently in demand. We owe some of it to our friend in the witness protection’s welder partner and we will use some of it in future ventures but for now we are going to stack it up nice and neat so that we might look like we are growing illicity crops BUT at least they will be neat! 😉

It has been exceptionally windy on Serendipity Farm for the last few days which has reinforced my desire to one day install a small wind turbine to harness the power of the wind. Tasmania is prone to windy gusts and this phenomenon has been given a name, “The roaring 40’s”, which is also the name of a large wind farm in the states north east. I am really interested in alternative energy and as the technology becomes more and more mainstream the prices of sustainable and renewable energy should reduce. We are waiting for a reduction in price before we jump onto the bandwagon. We don’t want to be lumbered with a substandard solar hot water system because of unscrupulous producers racing to take advantage of the windfall that government subsidies dropped into their laps. Many Tasmanians’ raced to sign up and are only now finding out solar powers limitations in our state where summer tends to be peppered with cloudy days. You need to tailor your requirements and make sure that you aren’t hoodwinked by savvy salesmen and green wash hype. Do your homework. Our friend in the witness protection is a case in point. Her home is completely off grid. They rely on water from tanks, mobile phones and a large shipping container bank of solar panels to power their home. The solar panels can’t generate enough power for the requirements of her family and her partner, a welder, has had to put a water jacket in the back of their solid fuel heater to ensure they have enough hot water for their needs. I downloaded tutorials for how to make your own wind turbine but wanting your own wind turbine is a far FAR cry from being able to build one. I know my limitations and electronics and I are not good bedfellows. It’s another one of those “wait” opportunities to learn patience…it’s a pity that patience and I are not good bedfellows either!

DSCF9455

Bev from the wonderful permaculture in practice blog Foodnstuff http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/ has asked Steve to make her a sugar spoon. He decided to try something new and this lovely rounded celery top pine spoon is the result

DSCF9457

This is the back of the spoon

DSCF9460

The angle of the handle and bowl detail. Steve is really enjoying where making spoons is taking him and has been developing lots of ideas for spoons for his website that we will be creating this year. You will be the very first people to see our website designs. Stay tuned folks, it is going to be a most interesting year! 🙂

That brings us to the end of today’s post. I have lots of photos to share with you and they should have finished uploading into my blog by now. Time to tack this post into the appropriate space and dust it all off for you to read tonight (or yesterday if you are in the Northern Hemisphere 😉 ). Have a lovely Sunday and see you all again on Wednesday :o)

There’s a mole in my head

Hi All

I am in the enviable blogging position of having too much to post today. I have at least 4 posts worth of material ruminating about inside my head and am going to have to divide them (much like amoeba) and sift through their content to make sure that no cross breeding goes on. I have an entire post of how I spent an hour on Sunday with my daughters and what we all created. I won’t be posting about that today because I have photos to jolt my memory for that post and need to document the rest because after a few days it fades into the ether and may never have the opportunity to resurface because my head tends to be constantly crammed full of “stuff” and my poor addled brain spends its days sifting through useless information and discarding it ad hoc (Note to self…you need to pay that poor overworked organ more!). I liken my condition to watching a mole at work. It makes a concerted start on an area of earth and starts flinging soil out in all directions until it achieves its holey goal. Most of the dirt that has been displaced just settles into a moley angle of repose that erodes away to nothing after a few days leaving no trace of mole activity. You wouldn’t even know that a mole had even dug aside from the hole, a few missing turnips and the erroneous dirt. Thus is the fate of my thoughts. The main reason for my visit to town was to attend a Sustainable Food Day. I attended last year and many of you can still remember my aversion to the felt hat brigade. Well I am pleased to say that the felt hat brigades were very conspicuous by their absence this year. It might have been too cold for them and aside from one lady who appeared to have made a career of being negative, the rest of us were there to learn. The most interesting (to me) talk revolved around Biochar and the speaker, Mr Frank Strie, was passionately eloquent about how the process of Pyrolysis can produce carbon negative energy whilst achieving increased soil fertility and locking down carbon in the soil at the very same time. Who couldn’t help but get excited about prospects like that?!

Frank is the very first person in this line of speakers all waiting for us to quiz them about their areas of expertise

Despite morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea supplied free of charge and all being substantial and delicious this is the sum of the local interest in food sustainability in the Tamar region. The speakers almost outnumbered the audience! It did make for a very cosy and friendly atmosphere though.

Here is Franks carrot experiment. The small carrots were grown in soil minus charcoal and the large carrots were grown in charcoal (Biochar) rich soil with the same packet of seeds and the same soil/growing conditions. This alone was enough for me to consider hosing down my burning piles before they reduce to ash in the future

Franks basket of tricks containing various jars of charcoal in different grades from coars through to dust and the “tin” at the back of the basket was actually a small model of a pyrolysis set up where the heat harnessed from slowly burning the charcoal is converted to power. A VERY interesting premise and one that I will be looking into in the near future

I met an amazing array of people and some of them are shaping up to be wonderful sources of discount information. A group of us are having a meeting this Saturday about Permaculture and what exactly “Zone 1” means. To keep the costs down we are going to meet up in each other’s houses and supply our own food for the duration of the meetings. Some of us live in far flung places and have started applying Permaculture Principals already so it is going to be very interesting to see just what other people are doing with their own little patch of Nirvana. We are building our own communities and taking what we are learning to friends, family and the wider community in the hopes that we can develop real community relationships that work. Frances (how could she NOT be an unmitigated genius with a name like that 😉 ) is also talking about Permablitzes where a group of like-minded Permies (cute name…like Kermit the frog is “Kermie”…) get together and blitz someone’s garden in a day. Everyone gets a turn to share in the work as well as a turn in getting their own garden blitzed. Frances is an amazing person who is incredibly knowledgeable about Permaculture and who has applied it in various places throughout the world. I can’t wait to see what we can do about Serendipity Farm and the obstacles that have now started turning from huge blockades into something usable. The more I learn the more excited I get because we can use our “problems” to work for us. Piles of weeds and debris? No problem! Use them to make weed tea, compost, and mulch or row compost.  Soil full of rocks that sets like porcelain in the summer? No problem! Use the rocks to form swales for the problem of the sloped nature and water run-off problem and kill 2 birds with one stone! As our lecturer Nick likes to remind us on a regular basis…”for every action, there is an equal, and opposite reaction”. It’s up to US to work out how to use whatever we have here to gain positive change.

A Daphne odora at the back door at my daughters home in Launceston. If you have never smelled Daphne in full flower you are missing out!

Some Hellebores that keep on keeping on also at my daughters home in town the irises just starting to emerge are a lovely bright yellow when they flower

A large camellia that Steve and I crown lifted when we lived with our daughters in town before we moved to Serendipity Farm. The dead looking mass of sticks in front of the camellia is actually a small cherry plant

A mass of my favourite flower, violets. I LOVE spring! 🙂

I think that spring is shoving the rear end of winter a little hard this year as it appears to be overriding the cold and ignoring the last bastions of winter. Everything is leafing up and starting to flower and the birds are all agitated and pairing up for the breeding season. I dare say we have a season of chickens just about to land on the doorstep but we are too busy to care at the moment. It would seem that just as nature has increased her activity, so have we. I seem to be steering a course for real activity on Serendipity Farm with all of the information that we have been getting and we are itching to get out into the garden and start working on our first year of vegetable gardening and planting out. We are going to try to get as many of our potted plants into the ground as we can in the next few weeks. Those that remain are going to be repotted and those that we don’t want, rehoused. My mind is a bit of a maelstrom with everything that I am trying to force into it at the moment and all of the new processes that we are starting. Usually winter blends pretty seamlessly into spring around here but this year seems to have an urgency about it that demands to be acted upon so never one to shirk the urgency of a season (who knows WHAT might happen if I did!) we have been rudely awakened from our winter hibernation and flung head first into instant activity. I just received the last of the fermentation books that I ordered from The Book Depository on Monday and an enormous tomb it is. It’s more an explanation of fermenting various things than actual recipes and allows the reader to experiment with ideas. It would seem that just about everything can be fermented and that segues nicely with my next book arrival, this time from Amazon. I had a bit of birthday money burning a hole in my already holey pockets. When pockets as holey as these start blazing its best to spend your dosh while it still lasts and before the bills arrive so spend I did! I bought 3 books, 1 of which isn’t in stock apparently and I have to wait. Guess which book it was Hannah… ;). One of them I have been waiting for most excitedly and with my latest round of fermentation it will fit in wonderfully. I can’t wait for Miyoko Schinner’s book “Artisan Vegan Cheeses” to get here. I have been using the bread prover over Brunhilda to give my ferments a chance to bask in her radiant love, much like Bezial lies lovingly at her feet with his big black head up against the warming oven.  They have been rewarding me with exponential growth and after giving away 3 of the 8 sourdough starters that Steve and I have been cultivating (to share the love) there are still 5 of them bubbling away ready to move to new homes when the desire arises. Up until lunch time today they were sharing the proving rack with a glass jug of wine yeast doing its thang that is now swimming free and winning the Serendipity Farm equivalent of the Olympic 100 metres breast-stroke in 17 litres of “Skeeter Pee”. Skeeter Pee is apparently potent quaffable lemon wine best drunk chilled in the summer after working hard in the garden. At 14% alcohol you wouldn’t want to drink too many of them in between shifts! We are enjoying seeking out alternatives to paying the middle man our hard studied dosh for something that we can make ourselves out of seasonal produce and by harnessing natural bacteria and fungus to work for us.

My idea of the juxtaposition between winters last bastion and the first flush of spring

Rescued rabbits from a battery meat farm in the North rehoused at Big Ears Animal Rescue where the girls rabbits have now found their new forever home. More about this admirable place in future posts.

Christi and The Bearded One land safely on Serendipity Farm. I am going to put this little picture in a small frame as original artwork by Keith to accompany the wonderful book that Christi sent to me along with some amazing Farmlet jams and some long gone dog treats that are but a fond memory in a sleep twitching dogs dreams now. I am going to use a little bit of this wonderful jam in a small cake that I am taking over for Glads 90th birthday this Saturday. Thank you SOOO much for you open friendship, your incredible generosity and your sisterhood Christi 🙂

I was chatting to the owner of Inspirations Nursery in Exeter the other day when we were picking up some mushroom compost. I love mushroom compost and its propensity to give. Why spend $25 on a mushroom kit when a few bags of mushroom compost will give you pretty similar yields and a whole lot of usable compost to hurl into your garden for quarter the price. We have 7 bags and are just about to lug it into the hidey hole under the house. I have some interesting ideas about what we can do with this wasted space directly beneath the house and growing mushrooms might be a good way to utilise it. After we picked up the mushroom compost we headed inside the nursery to have a little look at the range of seeds that were developed along with Steve Solomon and that are now propagated by a school as a partnership project. I found out that one of the local Resource Management groups is also partnering with the school so the children grow native plants for revegetation. It’s a win-win situation all round and a great way to show children that trees aren’t just for cutting down (it IS Tasmania after all 😉 ). While Steve was roaming about the outside looking at plants in pots I had a look at this amazing seed range and was struck by the wonderful rare old bean selection that was being offered. Apparently the owner has also partnered with another man who is passionate about cold climate beans. This struck a chord with me because one of the points that came out when one of the speakers was talking about food security was that Tasmania doesn’t grow its own grains or legumes. The selection of wonderful looking beans got me very excited. Most of them are grown to dry out and store for use as pulses and ground for high protein flours. Once the owner realised that I was very interested in his selection of beans he opened up and told me about some of the history of the beans. One long black bean was an American Indian variety called “Field of Tears” and was their staple bean crop named after their displacement from their homeland. There were beans of all shapes and colours and one particular kind of bean got me very excited. Getting excited about beans is lame, by the way, and only a fellow vegan could understand how excited I got with this one ;). It’s called a Tepary bean and is a Northern American bean that is just starting to discover a new audience thanks to its incredible drought tolerance and good texture and flavour and keeping qualities. The beans were grown in the desert and living on one of the driest countries on the planet anything edible that promises to perform well in drought conditions is my kind of food! Inspirations Nursery sells 2 kinds of Tepary bean, one nondescript light brown squarish bean and its gaudy white with blue spots cousin, also drought hardy and very nutritious. Here’s a good website with some quality information about Tepary beans if you are interested…

http://www.seedsofchange.com/enewsletter/issue_56/tepary_beans.aspx

The lazarus almond that was stone dead only last year, so much so that I had thrown it up the back of the garden and completely forgotten about it where it spent all summer devoid of water has apparently decided to live! My girls told me that it was alive and I didn’t believe them. It goes to show that plants can be a whole lot more resilient than you might initially think and it also goes to show that I have at least 1 almond tree ready to plant out on Serendipity Farm 🙂

This poor little Pieris japonica had been completely squashed by vegetation all around it last year. We liberated it and gave it a hair cut and it is repaying us (and the bees) by putting on an amazing floral display this year.

The chickens are not content with being able to roam freely all over Serendipity Farm horizontally, now they are determined to conquer the vertical! If they start laying on the chook shed roof you can just about forget paper, rock, scissors Steve!

One of the speakers at the Sustainable Food day talked about spreading various hardy edible plants around your garden and allowing them to go to seed and take up residence all over your property. I dare say this man’s garden isn’t ever going to feature in “Home and Garden” magazine but the idea struck a chord with me. He suggested broadcasting silverbeet, parsley, coriander, rocket, bok choy, chicory and another lady chimed up with celery, carrots, fennel and parsnips as also being easy to let run free on your property. The same man turned what is an incredibly invasive pest plant, Allium triquetrum (Three cornered Garlic) from something that was almost impossible to remove without herbicide to a positive asset by showing that it was indeed a culinary herb, edible and delicious! I love finding ways to turn a negative into a positive and the ultimate revenge is to eat your pest! Making weed tea or piling weeds up and covering them with black plastic for a few years is also a wonderful way to expunge your pent up frustration at a garden full of nitrogen scoffing weeds. Make them work FOR you. Everything has at least one positive (and usually several negative) points and if you can exploit that positive, you are ahead as far as I am concerned. I have a small patch of nettles in the veggie garden area that Steve has been itching to whipper snip since it grew. I am saving my nettles. Not only are they a good vegetable source of iron, make excellent soup and wine BUT they encourage beneficials, they are an indicator that the soil is very fertile (especially in phosphorus) and that the soil has been disturbed. They can be used as a compost activator and can be used to make weed tea that is low in phosphate but has good amounts of magnesium, sulphur (which is low in Tasmanian soils) and iron and coincidentally, they are one of the few plants that can tolerate and flourish in soil rich in poultry droppings ;). For every action (negative) there is an equal and opposite reaction (positive). Cheers Nick! Permaculture teaches us that everything has a use. We were just about to burn some piles of debris and wood and I mentioned this to my new Permaculture guru Frances and she said “DON’T”! She and I had talked about how water runs down our property and how we can’t dig swales to slow the descent and keep the water in our own soil thanks to the rocks. She pointed out that forming the vegetation into rows will act as a swale along with rocks heaped over them. I have SO much to learn but I am going to enjoy every single minute of it :o).

All kinds of fermenting bubbling experiments on Serendipity Farm. This bread proving rack is situated above Brunhilda and is the perfect place to ferment warm cultures. After receiving my latest big book of fermentation I can see this place being populated by some pretty weird foodstuffs…watch this space!

Kipfler seed potatoes ready to be planted into bags…having soil full of rocks is NOT going to stop me from enjoying my new kipflers fresh from the ground! The brown rice in the jar was used last night for blind baking Steves chicken, bacon, mushroom and beer pie pastry.

Another couple of thousand words just flew out of my fingertips. Get in line Merlin I have the magic touch! I might just spend the rest of this evening formulating my next post because I am just getting started and it’s time to finish. Steve is making me vegan pea and “ham” soup by substituting smoked paprika for the ham and green split peas for the regular yellow ones so tonight I will be dining on experimental food. I think that spring is full of experimentation. All sorts of new chances to mess about in the garden, to spend time working on projects outside, to give new life to our poor long suffering potted plants that are envious beyond belief at their already planted brethren. So much to do before the heat sets in and robs us of our energy and will to head out into the garden as surely as the winter rain does the very same thing. Serendipity Farm is awakening to all of the possibilities of spring and it would seem that so am I :o). See you all on Saturday and here’s hoping that all of you in the Southern Hemisphere are enjoying the heralds of spring. Sorry you lot in the North, you HAD your turn! 😉