The Mis en Place of life

Hi All,

This is post number 3 that I have up my sleeve…what a luxury! I have been guilty of only having about a quarter of a post ready to post on the day that I am due to post it. Not only that, but I have also been guilty of realising that the day got away from me and that I have 1 hour to post…as a natural processes person I take great delight in the deliciousness of order and progression and I try to do as many things as I can to smooth the way through our days. I love prep. I love to get things ready and sort things out and am a maestro of mis en place when it comes to recipes. I learned it the hard way and getting everything that you need ready before you start something is a wise lesson to learn. Another wise lesson is to clean up your previous mess before you start a new task. My grandmother always pushed “Clean up as you go along” as her mantra. It stuck. I hate a great pile of dishes to do after I cook so as I cook I wash dishes and wipe them at the same time. At the end of the process there may be some dinner dishes to do but not many. I hate waking up to dishes, or a messy kitchen. It’s a new day after all and a new day deserves a clean start. I know that some of my processes annoy Steve. I can only imagine what his flat in the U.K. looked like but I have a good idea ;). Steve lived on his own and was able to drag a doona out to the couch whilst watching television. He could leave his guitar and amp in the lounge room where it would remain (un-chewed by Earl) until he felt like playing it next. He could dump his clothes on the floor until he ran out of them and could head down to the Laundromat just around the corner to throw a load of washing into the machine and the pace of his life was completely centred on his own processes. We have been together for 14 years now (16 if you count the 2 years we spent in an extremely long distance online relationship) and he still doesn’t get why he can’t just throw his clothes on the floor by the bed when he wants to sleep…”it’s not like I am dropping them in the lounge is it?”…but for once, Earl is coming to my rescue. Earl has started to invade Steve’s deftly dropped clothing…I have an early morning disclaimer here…I did NOT train Earl to demolish any of Steve’s carelessly dumped items…he learned how to do it all by himself! ;). Earl has started pulling things out of Steve’s pockets. Steve really only has himself to blame because he leaves bags of dog treats in his pockets and Earl is always ready to find food. Earl is also ready to extract anything else out of pockets that have been carelessly left at Earl’s beak level and he is VERY good at it. Steve wakes up to find chewed up sweet wrappers (minus the sweets 😉 ), dog poo bags that have been deftly rendered useless (Earl has a problem with us picking up his deposits…he deposited them for a reason and is annoyed and somewhat disgusted that we pick them up after he carefully places them at the topmost point of grass clumps and bushes and low walls…) and obviously the dog treats disappear (that goes without saying) and Steve has a habit of cramming his pockets with all sorts of bits and pieces and Earl has now taken to bypassing sticking his nose into Steve’s pockets and just chews right through till he gets what he wants to amuse him. You can’t blame Earl, you have to look squarely at the person dumping their clothes on the floor and you REALLY have to wonder why this person is STILL DOING IT AFTER EARL ATE HIS PANTS!…stubborn willfulness won’t put the ass back in your pants Steve 😉

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I LOVE having a post up my sleeve 🙂 Here is a photo up my sleeve to match the post up my sleeve. We think that this is some kind of funky ferry but whatever float-a-ma-jig it is, it’s most certainly interesting

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We took the dogs to the dog park today. We took a tennis ball and a rope ring and all the good intentions in the world. Earl tried to slip under the gate and run away and Bezial stood still for 15 minutes sniffing the same blade of grass for the entire time…After we got disgusted with them (the YOUTH OF TODAY!) we got back in the car and noticed this pretty picture so the effort wasn’t entirely wasted on our plebian dogs! 😉

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Check out the olde worlde last century chalk folks! I am getting school memories just looking at it 😉

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May as well stick with the boaty theme of this first set of photos and post a pic of the tug that zooms up and down the river. I say “zooms”, it actually “Chugs” very VERY loudly

Ok, fingers crossed…I am just about to turn the modem back on after a 20 minute hiatus. If it is stuffed we are going to have to head into town soon and get another one because our studies demand that we have an online connection. I will let it do its thing (blinky blinky green lights blinky blinky and a bit more blinking) for a while and will then test and see if I have the net back. This could change our plans for the day and we might have to take an emergency trip into the city to buy a new modem. I hope not, we are saving at the moment. We want to get ahead with our bills and save some money for emergencies and for when bills that are unexpected come in. Penniless student hippies live pretty close to the breadline…in fact; most of us live UNDER the breadline. We are not complaining, we choose this life and are prepared to bypass all sorts of wants and desires in order to keep living the way that we live BUT “The Man” demands a pound of flesh on a regular basis and we don’t have much choice but to pay at the moment. That means “money” and even though we don’t receive a lot of money as students (we get even less than people bumming around doing nothing on the dole) we are still able to save up and we found a plan that if we stick to it, we should arrive at the other end of it with a significant amount of savings for a “rainy day”. Like most other things in life I have a “better safe than sorry”. For a girl who rebelled against her grandmothers “tyrannical rule” on a constant basis, I think I am starting to turn into her! Those early lessons keep coming back “better safe than sorry”, “clean up as you go along”, “don’t put your shoes on the table or you will never be able…” (“Able” to what gran? I had 3 kids after loading up the table with shoes and your method of birth control SUCKS! 😉 )…all sorts of little wisdoms that annoyed the heck out of me when I was forced to comply but that keep coming back to me now as solid proof that my grandmother was a wise and wonderful soul. I didn’t appreciate you enough gran, you really knew your stuff! I think I might be like her…It has only taken me almost 50 years to admit that and she died last century (makes it sound like a lifetime ago doesn’t it? 😉 ). Time to test that connection… (Fingers crossed… 😉 ….

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Here’s the nectarine tree at my daughters house in town AFTER I spent 2 hours removing blackberries from it’s protective circle

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Here is the pile of blackberries removed and on a tarpaulin so that the rotten things don’t invade Poland and start growing from pieces. “Fool me ONCE!” 🙂

Well it looks like it’s either the modem has died or Google has decided to deposit one of Earls mighty dumps on my head for daring to use a tag in last night’s post called “Better than Google Reader” ;). Either way it’s just you and me this morning and those 300+ blog posts are just going to have to wait. I made a wonderful sourdough carrot cake last night. I have made it 2 times now and both times it was amazing. The funny thing about it is that the recipe states that the cake is “nothing special, just a wholesome cake to eat with a cup of tea”… I have never made a carrot cake (before this) that worked. My carrot cakes were always too moist and gluggy and the texture was wrong. This cake has consistently given excellent results and has Steve actually asking me to make it. I threw some ground ginger into the mix along with lots of cinnamon last night and Steve tasted it and pronounced it wonderful (even though he doesn’t like ginger and has NO idea it is in there 😉 ). I love experimenting with recipes and this one is a completely different recipe to the sourdough chocolate cake recipe that I have been baking. In last night’s version I cut the oil back to ½ cup and upped the amount of kefir (not actually called for in the recipe) and added 2 tsp of organic vanilla extract to the mix. I think the trick is in grating the carrots very finely and squeezing them out to get a dry pulp to add to the mix. Whatever the processes, the end results are stellar and my new go-to snacking cake for Steve to have with a coffee. The dogs love it as well and actually beg for it. I took my desire to offload the enormous quantity of mature kefir that I have been amassing of late to a new level. I used a cup and a half (I still have over 2 litres to use up) of very thick mature kefir (it looked like very thick sour cream or Greek yoghurt) in Steve’s quiche last night. I was prepared for a backlash because Steve is VERY suspicious of new things in his favourite recipes but he said that he couldn’t taste anything different and kefir has just elevated itself into a usable commodity on Serendipity Farm…”YIPEE!” I can now add it to all sorts of things with impunity :o). That means that if I want to make a creamy potato bake with bacon, capsicum, caramelised onions, garlic and cheese, I can opt out of paying for sour cream and can use copious quantities of kefir in its place. My little grains work overtime to produce this unctuous thick rich probiotic stuffed product and I owe it to them to use it in abundance. Unlike Jess (Rabid from www.rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com ) I don’t have 3 kefir loving mouths to consume my kefir as soon as the grains produce it and I have to think how I am going to use it. With Steve’s newfound acceptance I can use it with impunity and might even make some kefir icecream after I toss the icecream base into the freezer overnight. The amazing thing about kefir is that it doesn’t go off. It contains in excess of 60 different probiotics and seems to be able to ward off any other invaders so long as I keep it in the fridge it is fine. My stockpile is going to disappear rapidly now that I know I can use it and Steve won’t reject the results with suspicion.

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We decided to open up the computer desk to get maximum space today and ended up making room for a large pine box that we can store things in as well as dealing with the cables that were snaking out all over the place behind the P.C. and making a haven for dust. Much better 🙂

I think I need 10 points and maybe a factotum gold star for not hyperventilating about my inability to use the net today. My early mornings are actually tied up in online use and this morning I am sitting here in the dark tapping blog posts to my dear constant readers rather than expunge my readers exponentially increasing backlog of posts (just typing that made me think I need a paper bag!). I guess Steve is going to have to use his techy skills when he gets up. My instinct is to give it a whack but I will curb that instinct because technology and “bashing” tend to result in dollar signs ;). We have been working a bit ahead of our course because we finished and handed in all of our work early (can anyone say “big fat factotums!” 😉 ) and rather than sit here twiddling our thumbs we are working through our next unit. I know we aren’t meant to be doing this till next term and that we have an assessment that we have to complete on this Design unit but we haven’t been given it yet and so we will continue to work through our next unit on Photoshop. We are enjoying it immensely and are learning a lot about digital manipulation of images. Yesterday Steve was able to help my brother sort out a problem using what we have learned so far. My brother is going to attempt to sell some of his lovely photos at the local markets where he lives on the weekend. He has been paying a premium to print out A0 poster sized prints at the printers but couldn’t work out how to get more than 1 panorama on an A0 sheet and was only using ¼ of the sheet in the process. Steve sorted it out for him yesterday and now he can get 4 panoramas on an A0 sheet and is saving himself $90 a sheet. It’s great to be able to put what you are learning into practical use and help people at the same time.

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Looks like it’s gutter cleaning time again… 😦

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“Hmmm How did you get up that ladder eh?”

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“It certainly looks like a lot of fun…”

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“Ok, I recon I could handle it…”

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He didn’t manage to climb the ladder but Steve did along with his trusty muck bucket and blow-a-ma-jig

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Isn’t it funny how last year this was disgusting to me and this year I see it as a precious resource? It’s all a matter of how you look at things :). Notice that black “thing” (that’s about all it could still be called…) on the right hand side of the bucket? It is one of a pair of “black things” that Steve fished out of the gutter and then was able to identify as some of his socks that he obviously put up on the gutter in order to prevent Earl from predating them…the problem with that very clever idea sir, is that you forgot about them and they got blown into the gutter where they have been mouldering for the best part of 8 months 😉 Needless to say they now reside in the bin! That bucket was a “found thing” that we discovered on our walk discarded amongst the bushes today. It’s an old oil bucket that blew over from the Exeter Show recently and that Steve eagerly took receipt of and will be stowing in the Mumbly Cumumbus as his new bailing/fish bucket

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Apparently the roof is Steve’s domain and this mess blown down onto the deck is mine…funny how no-one talked about this “Domain” stuff prior to Steve heading up the ladder with his blow-a-ma-jig eh 😉

When we were at our graduation ceremony last week, we had a chat to Meg, the team leader of another course who was helping out on the night to take registrations and direct graduates in the right direction when they arrived at the ceremony. Meg is a wonderful generous person who works with disabled and indigenous people to teach them how to create horticultural spaces. She specialises in environmental science and is perfect for the job. She is eminently qualified and her caring nature makes her ideal for helping people to use what they have to facilitate positive changes in their lives and make the most of their situation. Meg loves Steve and I and we love her right back. I think Meg has romantic goggles on and thinks that it would be wonderful to work with your partner and study/learn together. That might be the case if you weren’t exact opposites and had NO idea how the other person can even function with brain/thought processes like that! Steve and I are slowly learning to adapt to each other’s processes but they are as foreign and alien to each other as to be bordering on crazy and as we both think that we are right in our own processes, it can sometimes be a difficult process in itself to unite and learn anything together. We have learned to break down the task into what Steve does best and what I do best. I research best…I type best…I am good at problem solving and Steve is technical and stubbornly keeps going till he works it out. Together we are formidable in both the French meaning of the word AND the English version ;). If we can’t get the net back today we are going to have to find a solution for this problem. Hopefully it is just the network and isn’t anything to do with our connection per-se but it’s been a long time since we had to phone up Dodo and try to wade through those Indian accents to get to someone who isn’t in automatic damage control and who insists that the problem doesn’t lie with them…let’s just hope that the problem can bypass the need to phone Dodo. I feel a headache brewing if it can’t…

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The meat and onions and garlic cooking for Steve’s “BEST EVER” chilli recipe just before the red wine goes in…

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Some of the other ingredients and the recipe. This chilli is truly unctuous and gorgeous and we haven’t met anyone who doesn’t like it yet. We used to make this in HUGE vats when we volunteered at the local Salvation Army kitchen to help feed the homeless. Steve’s chilli is still talked about long after we stopped working there (and they have probably forgotten who we are but that chilli speaks for itself 🙂 ). We will make you some when you come Kymmy 🙂

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Not the greatest photo but this chilli bubbles away to an unctuous thick delicious flavoursome pot of heaven and served with some steamed rice and some oven wedges (home made of course) it will be Steve’s happiness tonight 🙂

It is 6.10am and I have managed to write 3 posts all bordering on the gargantuan this morning. I could keep typing posts but I fear they would be obsolete before I posted them! So I am not too sure what I am going to do now with the next hour before I wake Steve with a cup of coffee and wait 30 minutes while he wakes up slowly before I dump the problem with the net on him. I have lots of things that I can do today that don’t involve the net. We have the lizard piles of wood to collect up (and maybe a lizard rescue might be on the cards) and deposit under the deck and out of the weather (should “the weather” ever decide to come that is 😉 ), I have plans to use as much of my kefir in cooking today as I can. I need my fridge back! Kefir and sourdough starters don’t mix well. I only found out the other day that kefir makes a perfectly good starter all by itself! I didn’t realise that kefir has lots of yeast and that it can be used to raise a loaf of bread and might test it out one day. I know that when I add it to sourdough cakes in place of milk, the cakes always rise well and have an excellent flavour so perhaps I can take advantage of this in some of my recipes. I want to get hold of some water kefir grains in the near future and will be converting half of Kid Creole’s coconuts into true coconut milk loving babies. If they die I will just keep trying to convert more as Kid produces them. He seems content to repopulate the earth with his progeny at the moment so that isn’t an issue. I have been researching and it is entirely possible to convert kefir milk grains to coconut milk grains or soymilk grains… it just takes persistence and a slow progression. I make my own coconut milk (out of coconuts…what a coincidence! 😉 ) and as such, I end up with coconut water as part of the equation. I would like to use it productively to make water kefir and so I might have to send a quick missive with accompanying moola off to Dom in South Australia to avail myself of some of his amazing water kefir grains. I want to experiment with various juices (including the über sweet carrot juice I squeeze from the carrots that I use to make Steve’s sourdough carrot cake staple) and fermenting them.

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On one side we have Steves oven wedges marinating in olive oil, chilli, pepper and salt and ready to go onto the bbq after the dessert on the other side is cooked

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This is the way that I cook apples now. I prefer it to using water or juice. I thinly slice the apples and fry them gently in butter, cinnamon, mixed spice and a tsp of organic vanilla extract till they are tender and then I add 1/2 cup of sugar (you could use rapadura or coconut sugar or honey or whatever you like here) and after a few minutes cooking in the resulting syrup I remove the apples and reduce the syrup to a thick caramel that I then pour over the apples. The results are superb and so far removed from apples stewed in water they could hardly be considered the same thing. I call them my “toffee apples” and use them as a base for my crumbles and for tonights dessert which will be covered in a light vanilla sponge and served with custard. Steve has earned his chilli and dessert tonight with his antics on the roof 🙂

I have been stretching out my posts in order to ignore having to deal with the fact that the modem is not working properly. It might be something to do with the weather (although I am bordering on my mother’s steadfast desire to cling to superstition there! Whoa neddy! 😉 ) but my guess is that our network is down and that an unmarked white van will turn up at the little wooden box up the road that is ostensibly Telstra’s and that Dodo has to share with them and will do a bit of fiddling around and hopefully the problem will be solved. I dare say you will know if we get back online by the presence or absence of posts ;). I am going to leave it there for today folks. It’s now 6.21am and the rubbish truck just took our rubbish and soon the recycling truck will be rumbling past to collect our recycling as well. It is still dark but I can spend the next 30 minutes getting ahead of my processes thus allowing us to launch into our day a bit earlier than we normally would. I hope you all have a wonderful day and weekend ahead of you and that you are able to spend some quality time doing what you truly love to do. See you all on Saturday  :o)

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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

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

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Veggies and herbs

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

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

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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What do you do with 2 litres of mature kefir?

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You drain it till it is quarter of its original bulk

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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.

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Freshly harvested walnuts “NO MORE FOR YOU RATS!”

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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 😉

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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

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

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

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

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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.

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

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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

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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! 😉

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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…)

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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! 😉

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A close-up of lasagne heaven

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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!) 😉

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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)

Inspiration

Hi All,

What inspires you? What makes your heart sing and ignites your soul? Forgive me for waxing myself lyrically there but at 4.44am this morning (Sunday) I read a blog post that completely inspired me. I will post a link here so that you can all check out this amazing story and marvel at the level of dedication that one man was able to muster against a wealth of odds to create something amazing out of refuse and rubble and at 88, is still working on. Have you got an opus? Something that makes you get up every morning and that sends you to bed tired but completely content? Neither have I, but we are getting there 🙂

http://landscapelover.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/the-rock-garden-chandigarh/#comment-5338

I spend a lot of time getting inspired by amazing people out there. I can’t get over how clever and creative some people are! We all have something that we are good at but some people seem to be amazingly gifted and I am only wonder at the creative processes going on in their minds. Since we started working on design we have been learning all sorts of things about the creative process. Here I was just thinking that you slap a bit of paint on something or drew a picture freehand or just messed about a bit with some sort of medium but apparently there is a lot of thought that goes into art, design, music etc. The creative process usually has to follow an ordered process no matter how chaotic it may want to be…even anarchy needs to conform when it comes to web design ;). There are so many rules that you have to follow and it requires a degree of mathematics…thank goodness I covered rudimentary maths last year with landscape design and won’t have to bang my head on the wall this year trying to make it all come back from last century when I went to school…

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This nice foggy bank heralded a week of overly warm weather here in tassie that culminated in the second hottest day that we have had here this summer. The poor garden is on it’s last legs and I can’t wait for autumn!

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“NO PRISONER’S!” 😉

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Someone REALLY hates having his photo taken 😉

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It really pelted down raining today (cheers Port Hedland for that lovely cyclone that you are currently hosting 😉 ) and you can almost see the garden sighing with relief…you can also almost hear Steve and I sighing and doing “Paper, rock, scissors…” because we remembered that the guttering needs to be cleaned 😉

I have been trying to work out why cooking gives me so much more satisfaction than it should. I get the feeling that condensing your efforts down into creating things is immensely satisfying beyond the sum of the result. I think it’s another “living through the processes” moment and after reading Lynda Wallace’s small book “A Short Course in Happiness” I realised that a lot of the reasons why I feel inordinately happy for a middle aged penniless student hippy is that I am finding my happiness in simple processes. When we condense our thought processes and actions down into using what we have and our own mental alacrity in order to create something (especially if it is an original idea) we are giving ourselves a chance to explore the road to happiness. Making something is an outward expression of what makes us “us”. It is 5.59am and either “Stock” or “Pot” is crowing lustily underneath the deck just to my left. His processes are automatic and start as soon as his tiny little brain senses the dawn. My processes are often as a result of a desire. I want something, for whatever reason I can’t just go out and get something and so I have to work through a series of processes to give myself what I desire in a lateral way. I wouldn’t have ever thought that making things yourself, growing, cultivating, culturing, preparing and all of the other processes that begin with an idea/ideal and end in a satisfying dusting off of hands could give so much satisfaction, so much “happiness”.

I remember my grandmother doing all different kinds of unusual things. Back in the 70’s when I was a small child she always had something interesting for us to do when we got to her home. She had a large tin box with strange things in it. What was in the box on one day wasn’t necessarily in it when we next went. I remember a plastic spinning top, a box of dominoes, cards and my memories start to dim up a bit…it WAS last century folks! 😉 What I remember was that there were LOTS of things in that box. I also remember grandma making us small nets out of twisted repurposed (back then it was called “making do”…) coat hangers with some of her ex pantyhose stretched over the wire so that we could go fishing for the tiny shrimp in the inlet at the bottom of her property. I remember my sister and I arrived one day to new home made wooden looms that had silky smooth wood and my carpenter grandfather must have worked hard to make them. I often wonder if my grandmother was the instigator of this deep and most earnest desire to seek out and understand things. Perhaps my mum was right when she said that I always reminded her of my grandmother…perhaps I can see that now as a compliment :o). All I know is that if I am ever given the grace to become a grandparent, I, too, will have a large box that will change on a visit by visit basis. I will teach my grandchildren all kinds of things especially the incredible value of books and libraries and I will attempt to give them a deep passion for learning.

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Kefir production on target for Wednesday…we will soon be drowning in the stuff! 😉

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A nice pot of delicious rich pasta sauce made with local onions, our own tomatoes, some olive oil, herbs and lots and LOTS of garlic.

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Soon to be frozen ready for lasagne, spaghetti bolognaise and other tasty future tomato rich meals

Its amazing how fast habits, things that you do on a regular basis, become ways of life. It must be part of our human psyche to follow pathways of regularity. I have been eating a different way now for just on 7 weeks and in that time I have completely changed the way that I eat, the size of my meals, the content of my food and I actually have breakfast and have lost a fair amount of weight. It wasn’t hard, it was all just following little pathways that were initially new and that are now well worn grooves in my day. The same goes for getting up early. Anyone who knows me knows that I was a true died in the wool night person. I loved staying up late and would spend hours trawling the net hunting for information etc. and would go to bed between 12 and 1.30am most nights. Now I can’t make it past 8.30pm and as soon as my head hits that pillow I am gone! I sleep like a baby (unless Earl decides to sleep “on” me…) and wake up refreshed and raring to get up. The strange thing is that my initial reason for getting up early was to be bolshie! I didn’t want to be a hostage to feeling like a zombie for a fortnight after daylight savings crashed onto our doorstep last October so I decided that for the month before I would wake up a bit earlier in increments…15 minutes earlier each week, to allow me to make a steady transference to the hour block that they shave off in a day. I arrived at the day triumphant in the knowledge that my usual 7am wake-up was now 6am and they weren’t going to phase me THIS year! I then did what I usually do and thought “ok, so what if I keep getting up an hour earlier? Then I won’t have to do Daylight Savings ever…EVER…again!” And suddenly I went from being a night person to a morning person over a matter of months. I discovered the joys of those few quiet dark hours before Steve and the boys get up and all of that amazing time in the morning when my brain is raring to go and eager to take up new ideas. I now get up at 4am! YES 4am! I love it :o). I put the kettle on, I turn on the computer and cuddle Bezial who bravely stands guard all night on the sofa (Earl shamelessly takes the day watch and sleeps all night in the bed) and give him his early morning scratches and hugs. He shakes himself off and heads into bed and then the early morning is all MINE! I check emails and reply first, and then I head off here and check comments. I am a prolific commenter on other people’s blogs. If someone has put the effort in to share something precious with me, to give me one of their amazing recipes or tell me something that I didn’t know and am excited about finding out I want to thank them. I get a lot of replies from other blogs in the morning and its fun to read and reply to them first up. After that I head straight to my RSS Feed Reader and start wading through my morning’s blog posts. I have umpteen-eleventy-squillion blogs that I now follow and a 4am rising usually gives me enough time to deal with most of the posts for the day unless I get side-tracked by links in posts and then it might take a bit of night time reading to complete the deal. I have an eclectic mix of vegan food blogs, heavenly food porn (gorgeous photos and amazing recipes) that aren’t vegan, philosophical blogs, instructive blogs and blogs about sustainability that feed my mind and get it positively charged for the day. By the time 7am rocks up and Earl is prodding me with his nose to start the processes that eventuate at him getting a walk, I am fully charged, extremely happy (usually) and Steve gets his 7am cup of coffee and a wife who is raring to go for the day. I used to be the one lying in bed waiting for my cup of tea and stretching out the “getting up” process but no more… I am a changed woman and the possibilities of “Early Morning” only came about because I was being bolshie and wanted to take control of the situation…I wonder what you could do with your life if you tried? Do you have any habits that are dragging you down? If I can change my way of thinking, doing things then so can you. It really isn’t hard, its just a matter of starting. “Start where you mean to finish up”, another one of my grandmothers sayings and a most pertinent one for habit breaking and starting :o).

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Last minute ideas for how to use up some spare sourdough ended up with this interesting version of cinnamon rolls with a filling of chopped dates, grated left over hard caramel sauce from a sticky date pudding and lots of cinnamon

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After they were rolled up like a Swiss roll and cut I put them to prove in a greased and lined round cake tin until they increased in size a bit

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The finished results that are apparently very tasty 🙂

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Sourdough pizza prior to baking…

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And after…also, apparently, tasty 🙂

Does anyone else out there venture far and wide in their hunts for new and interesting food ingredients, how to use them and authentic recipes and cooking methods that contain them? Well I do! I love finding new things to do with previously unknown ingredients. It really excites me to delve into other countries cuisines, especially in the frugal ingredients that most of us wouldn’t think of using or don’t even know about. It’s nothing to do with elitism and everything to do with learning more about what is out there and available to eat. It’s the same thing that has me reverently placing foraging food blogs in my rss feed reader side by side with gorgeous food porn sites. When you love something you want to explore it all! ;). In my food travels I find a lot of recipes and links taking me to sites with recipes galore but all in languages that I can’t understand. A recipe that you can’t understand is an abject fail…UNLESS…you use your gourd and head on over to Google Translate and use it to translate the recipe for you. I must admit that sometimes the results are hilarious and totally incomprehensible BUT you at least have to try don’t you? And the worst you can get it a really funny read ;). I love finding blogs that skate along the fine line between Western cookery and their own culinary genius being applied to it. I found just such a site this morning and eagerly stuffed it into my Rss feed reader after exploring it for a bit to make sure that it was worth the stuffing. It most certainly was! Check it out if you would like to see some very interesting Asian takes on common recipes… http://ellenaguan.blogspot.sg/2013/02/longan-and-cranberry-yogurt-cake.html .

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The only eggs that we have had in a fortnight and all apparently laid by the same hen (the only one that has a free ticket to the next round!)

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One of our tasks for our course had us finding advertisments in various kinds of media that used “White space” to highlight and reinforce the subject matter and here is one of my examples…

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What do you do when it’s hot, you don’t want to pay “The Man” for his rubbish cordial and you have a freezer full of frozen fruit…you make your own cordial! This amazingly coloured variety is the result of a recipe for Lemon and Lime cordial that I messed around with so much that it hardly even resembles the original recipe. I used oranges instead of the lemons, I added a ziploc bag of frozen lemon juice, about 2 cups of frozen ripe mangos, the zest of the 3 oranges and about a cup full of ripe strawberries. These were all processed until smooth in my Vitamix blender and were added to 2 1/2 cups of sugar and then I added a tsp of citric acid and as much boiling water as I felt it needed to render it to “cordial” thickness. Steve is enjoying it whenever he feels the need for something other than coffee to drink and again, has pronounced it “tasty” 😉

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I needed to clarify just how “MASSIVE our harvest of potatoes actually was that I mentioned in the last post. Here you see the full extent of them being eaten by Steve for his tea last night…note the size comparison between the potato on his fork and the green pea next to it… I rest my case! 😉

Well we had a hard day today trying to find examples of design that doesn’t contain guide lines. And are planning on resting our poor addled brains this evening with a nice easy meal and an early night for me, and most probably some horror movies for Steve (his favourite genre). I am actually really enjoying this course (so far…) and we are learning an enormous amount. Steve will hopefully be picking up a copy of the student edition of the Adobe CS6 Design & Web Premium Student and Teacher edition so that we can start getting serious with Photoshop. So it’s all go around here at the moment. See you all on Saturday :o)

The saga of the factotum and the printer

Hi All,

Steve and I have finally started our online course in web design! We headed over to check out what we had to do and ended up signing up for a new WordPress blog each (part of the course requirements) and doing the equivalent of an online introduction. Reading the other participants intro’s was a bit like waving at the other inmates from your cell when the other inmates are from a different planet to you and you hope to goodness that you never have to come out of your cell and mingle any day soon… Did anyone see “School of Rock”? I did…lots of times. I love “School of Rock” and if those of you who did watch School of Rock cast your mind back to the part where Ned Schneebly (don’t ask me to spell that correctly, it AIN’T gonna happen folks! 😉 ) first comes up against “Summer”…the class “Factotum”. We have our own Summer. She has not only done everything on the list that we are supposed to do, but she has completed the first assessment (only an hour after it was posted) that is due next Monday. We also have an anti-social member of the class whose only threat, as outlined in his S.W.A.T. was that he didn’t want to invade Russia in the winter. This person bears a distinct similarity to my daughters in his view of the world and our class in general and if I didn’t know better, I would say that one of them has decided to crash the class. After reading the credentials of the remainder of the class, my natural instinct is to run screaming but if you ignore the other class members (not too hard to do when you are studying from home) the course content is very interesting. If you play your cards right, you might get lucky and get to see some of our work 😉

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An early morning picking for my daughters in the city

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Earl bagses the eggplant…

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Steve’s tea last night…homemade sourdough bruschetta liberally slathered with garlic butter and with home grown tomatoes, some bought avocados, spring onions and chilli topping. It was DELICIOUS (apparently) and the sourdough had a gorgeous crunchy crust :). Audry is now part of our Serendipity Farm family forever 🙂 (just don’t turn orange Audrey…orange is the blue screen of death for sourdough starters! 😉 )

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Free white nectarines from Roxie and blackberries from the hedgerows on our walk with the dogs this morning. The seeds will be planted and the tomatoes were also from Roxie. The tomatoes behind the fruit are the beginning of our tomato harvest and are left over from last nights bruschetta feast

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Aren’t these blackberries in the height of ripeness (and heady sweetness) gorgeous? I froze the tray with the chopped white nectarines and these blackberries to use in my breakfast green smoothies

Jessie a.k.a. “Rabid” of http://rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com/  sent me instructions for how to knit a dishcloth out of cotton. She made me a lovely black one from some organic cotton that she had and I had mentioned that I had some bright yellow (almost mustard to be honest) cotton that I had picked up from the Beaconsfield op-shop a while ago and thus began our discourse regarding knitting and its foibles. I must admit at this stage, I am NO knitter. I can knit a scarf…bits of a jumper (no cuffs, no collar and DEFINITELY no cable!) and generic squares and after perusing the pattern I decided to hide my knitting needles and go back into my comfort zone and crochet a dishcloth. The progress is slow because I have to work between the hours where Earl is active (approximately 7am to 6pm) and nightfall (at the moment about 9pm). Earl is unpredictable and can suddenly launch into action when an interesting mustard yellow ball rolls past his nose where it just dislodged itself from my knee and aside from being unpredictable, he is quick. He is a master of the grab and run attack because if you grab and “stay” whatever interesting thing you have appropriated tends to get taken off you so running is your best bet. At least you get to chew whatever it is a bit before your humans (arms waving and yelling) catch you and retrieve said item. I have crocheted half of a dishcloth and Earl has been eyeballing me out of the corner of his eyes as I crochet…he is waiting for me to drop off to sleep (highly likely) and he will be on my cotton like a tick on a dog!

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I had to race out with the camera last night because the sky was the weirdest colour! I didn’t think I would catch the weird lighting but I sort of did.

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This was taken a few moments later and you can see a rainbow over the river…Steve has pinpointed where it was pointing as that is his leprachaun pot of fish 😉

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A nice thick layer of free mulch has made the garden under the deck a MUCH happier place to reside for our poor long suffering parched plants

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One of the large enclosed compost heaps that I planted potatoes in and a single sweet potato that is growing! The white patch is a species of fungus known as a “dogs vomit” fungus…it is harmless but as you can imagine, it isn’t all that aesthetically pleasing 😉

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Another one of the large enclosed compost heaps full of pumpkins and a few potatoes that the slugs haven’t managed to scarf (yet)

I have been inundated with kefir. I have at least a litre of it in the fridge and am scratching my head how to use it. I have decided to bake a chocolate sourdough cake with kefir and a large tray bake spice cake with kefir to replace the milk. I am also going to make the kefired equivalent of labneh so that I can make small balls of extra thick kefired labneh and preserve them in herbed olive oil with chillies. Our jalapeno chillies are doing amazingly well and it looks like we might have a bumper crop of them this year along with the small fingerling eggplants. I am so glad that we decided to go with the smaller eggplants to make sure that they had the best chance of ripening fully before the cold season sets in. The excess kefir grains (that are growing exponentially on plain old “ordinary milk” Jessie 😉 ) are going to be given to customers who would like some at our local health food shop. I believe in sharing excesses and David can pass them on to interested customers. I have also offered him the same deal with excess sourdough if he gets customers asking about it. I am starting to get into the flow of feeding and working with my small batch of homely cultures. Now I need to find a kombucha Scoby and some water kefir grains and after that the sky is the limit! I will be spending a lot of time reading my fermentation books this winter and learning all about just what I can, and can’t culture here on Serendipity Farm.

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Not sure if we can use this photos but I liked it. Nice and clean and isn’t that sky a gorgeous colour?

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This old ramshackle building is right in the middle of the city. It has stood, unthreatened, for years and is situated between a boutique pub and our local Centrelink office. Considered an eyesore for years, developers have just obtained permission to remove it. I just wanted to remember it in a photo and I quite liked how this one turned out

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These buildings all belong to Boag’s brewery (including the grain silo’s in the background) and are part of the inner city industrial area. I love how they have restored the older buildings and made this a really attractive part of the city

I noticed some unusual small black pods on the side of a tiger lily in the side garden. It has ceased flowering a long time ago and has seed pods on top of it. I know that they form bulbs that spread under the ground but on closer inspection, the little pod-like thingo’s had small leaves growing out of them…I headed inside to check out my good friend “Google” and discovered that these pods are called bulbils and not all lilies produce them. Tiger lilies are well known for producing them and they are another form of plant division. Each little black bulbil is an entire new little lily. After a while, the bulbils will form leaves (as mine are currently doing) and will eventually form roots and will push themselves off the stem of the spent lily flower and will drop onto the ground where they will take root and start growing. After 3 years they will start flowering and you have a plethora of new lilies for free to either plant out or give to your friends. Aren’t plants the bomb? :o). I will need to collect all of the little wandering bulbils to pot them up so that I can find them in spring when they start growing again but for now I will let them cling tenaciously to their mum for as long as they see fit. I also discovered that lilies are extremely hardy belying their delicate appearance. Many plants that we might think are tender or delicate are actually incredibly hardy and I am in the process of compiling a list of incredibly hardy plants for Serendipity Farm. A friend from down the road (Boof’s owner) gave me a bag of fragrant ripe white nectarines and tomatoes today as we walked past her house when we were walking the dogs this morning. She also gave me a bag of curly leafed parsley seed to plant out. We swap all sorts of things and have a really good bartering system going. Roxy is a very resilient lady and knows a whole lot about growing vegetables, keeping goat’s etc. and how to do just about everything herself. I love sharing knowledge and “stuff” with her because it is a win-win situation for us all. We are just about to give her one of our feral roosters as she doesn’t have a rooster and is tired of having to ask for fertile eggs from friends. This way she will have all of the fertile eggs that she likes to put under her clucky chooks and can have lots of hens to sell her excess eggs from the roadside. The value of community and individual knowledge when combined with others is priceless…the resilience of a community is only as strong as the individual members that group together to share. I love forging community here in Sidmouth :o)

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My gorgeous chooky potmits that are WAY too nice to use with Brunhilda 🙂

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These are cuttings of Tagetes lucida, Mexican marigold or Texas tarragon were sourced from a local plant and are apparently easy to grow so I am letting them get legs in this mug of water.

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This long suffering philodendron had been almost on the brink of extinction for years before we inherited him and decided to release him out into the wild. He had bright yellow leaves and only had 1 leaf and now he is happy in his new environment

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A nice new stem on a lovely orchid that we inherited that dad only watered with beer. He said that the beer made it flower and maybe he was right because it hasn’t flowered this year on its new regime of water…might be time to reintroduce that vitamin B quotient to make it happy 🙂

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Look what the wallabies did to my Loquat japonica’s :(. They had been growing completely untouched for months and suddenly the wallabies decided to eat all of their leaves. They are incredibly hardy small trees and will grow more leaves but the wallabies are skating on very VERY thin ice! It just goes to show that you can’t take it for granted that ANYTHING is safe on Serendipity Farm

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This little fig tree has some figs on this year. We grew it from a cutting and this year it just might keep those figs to full term 🙂

We had to go to Launceston this morning because as we were reading up about our course and our very first assignment we realised that we were going to need printer ink and our printer was out of ink. We had already walked the dogs and I had already watered the veggie garden and released the baying hens so we hurled the eager dogs into the car and set off for an adventure to buy printer ink. We checked out what we needed to accomplish for our second assignment (technically “Assignment 3” but it’s the second one that we have to hand in…already they are trying to trick us! Not WE wily black ducks! 😉 ) and realised that we needed photos of billboards, advertising signs and road signs and we threw the camera into my bag so that we could take as many artistic shots as we could. We hadn’t read up on what we actually needed but we took all kinds of photos so hopefully we can use some of them for our assignment. We then headed off to pick up some printer ink, only to find that the shop that sold us the printer had just superseded it and were no longer stocking the ink! They recommended K-Mart but Steve knows that K-Mart don’t sell the ink either so we looked at each other and decided to buy a new printer. We managed to buy a printer with ink for less than we were going to have to pay for the ink alone on our old all-in-one printer. I can’t believe that this sort of equipment is so “throw-away” these days! How can they justify selling something if they are not going to stock the peripherals for any length of time? We have 2 of the printers that we can’t get ink for…one was ours and one we inherited from my dad when he died…what to do with them? I am NOT going to throw them into landfill and am going to be spending some ingenious time finding ways to use them rather than disposing of them. Perhaps I need to cram them full of cacti and succulents and sell them at the market? ;). We got back to discover that my bestie, Kymmy from Norseman Western Australia had sent me 2 absolutely gorgeous pot holders that she had quilted. What a doll! Kymmy, you are so talented! I am refusing to use them till you get here and we can cook up a storm on Brunhilda because they are too pretty to use and get grotty :o). I might even have to frame them and put them on the wall as I can’t bear the thought of Brunhilda and her messy ways turning them into sad representations of the lovely things that they are today :o). Your gooseberry seed is drying nicely and will be ready to send to you soon…bartering is SO sweet :o)… oh, and Bev from http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/ has offered to send me some leaf AND seed amaranth! I love you guys! Along with Jessie and a plethora of people I have yet to meet and barter/swap with in various seed swap meets etc. this bartering thing is absolutely ripe with mutual possibilities :o).

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Bulbils! Note the leaves growing out of the bulbils…each one of these dark coloured “pods” has the propensity to become a new lily

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A native hibiscus (Alyogyne huegelii) flower on a crown lifted tree that is much happier since we started giving it a helping hand

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Finally I get a cornflower! The wallabies have been snipping the tops off them as they protrude from the top of the ex-fish farm netting but this one escaped to flower 🙂

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This Aquilegia vulgaris (Grannies bonnet) grew right next to the back door…note the dandelion…I would have normally removed it but now that I know how amazing they are (and how much Bernard and Manny our Java Finches LOVE them) I leave them to carry on regardless 🙂

I think that might be all for tonight folks…I have to race out waving my arms around now to find you some photos to decorate this post and I will be starting with the bulbil’s so that you can see what I am talking about. Tomorrow we will be juggling with the new course and tap-dancing on unfamiliar territory all over again. I can’t count the amount of times that we have gone back to kindergarten with new areas of study and it’s all in the processes…my favourite place of all! :o)

Processes and possibilities

Hi All,

It’s Tuesday and we are heading into Launceston for the day. We decided to go today because we received a “power outage” forecast in the mailbox for today promising us a day without power so we decided to kill 2 birds with one stone and go in to pay off our Polytechnic fees for the year and sign up for our course. Since I last posted we have been beavering away in the garden and bumbling around Serendipity Farm in general. Steve has been out fishing and caught a few that he felt sorry for and put back and he went to town to help a friends mum remove a pile of debris that came from an old carpet warehouse that was in the upstairs building of an inner city shop that she purchased and is going to renovate the top part as her home and have a shop underneath. The warehouse contained lots of long steel poles that go in the middle of display rolls of carpet and Steve’s friend told him that he could have as many as he liked. Steve had the brilliant idea that they could be used when we make our enormous edifice to human ingenuity of a vegetable garden and a morning helping a friend has given us another cornerstone to our ethos :o). I learned from Jessie/Rabid that I had to feed Audrey (soon to be renamed) directly before I put her into the fridge for her sourdough hiatus so that she could languish in style whilst feeding on her bounty. I had fed her, but about 8 hours earlier so I pulled her out of the fridge and fed her up and she rose up beautifully…is there nothing that this lovely and most gracious lady can’t do? Rabid shared about how she and Bertha (Audrey’s mum) are harnessed together and work as a team. I am still learning all about the team work and am having to do a lot more forward planning because you can’t just grab a jar of dried yeast from the cupboard and “bake”. You have to nurture the sourdough back to a happy state after feeding it and you have to plan your prospective baking event in advance because just about everything that involves cooking with sourdough takes more time. I am a processes girl and love the new routines but am still learning my timing. Last night Steve was running a diagnostic on the computer that took a LONG time and I didn’t get access to my sourdough information until 9.30pm. I was tired and crabby and poor Audrey needed feeding, dividing and putting back to bed in the fridge. I managed to grump my way through making the pizza dough for Steve’s tea tonight and what seemed like an ENORMOUS quantity of bread dough for baking later on today when we get back in and ended up with a kitchen full of flour, a bad temper, a twitching husband and poor Audrey being subject to being harnessed to a cranky cow rather than a willing helper. Once I learn the processes I love to refine and hone…I am always carving and grooming my processes and making them run like a well-oiled machine and someday, hopefully soon, this new baking friend and I will share some amazing adventures :o)

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This is what we feed our chooks and it is fortified with calcium (in the form of shellgrit) and has lots of grains and seeds. They seem to like it and when we discovered the 3 newly hatched chicks the other day we turned this into…

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This with the aid of my trusty Vitamix high speed blender.

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Here’s 1 of the babies, the rest are underneath “Blondie” our silver laced Wyandotte hen

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Steve made another thin spoon out of golden sassafrass…the metal teaspoon is for size comparison…Steve isn’t quite up to forging his own steel just yet 😉

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What’s left of my most comfortable early morning slippers…If you are reading this Stewart (oh dearest son of mine kissy kissy)…you know what to get your dear old Mam for this mother’s day! (Cheers Earl…sigh…)

We are still going through troubled times with the dogs refusing their food on days when it isn’t straight meat. Bezial is the worst culprit. We know that dogs need more than just meat for their health. They aren’t straight carnivores like cat’s are and need fibre and vegetables etc. for their internal health. Bezial and Earl are both good representatives of what is known as a very strong willed dog breed and Bezial is up there with the most stubborn of dogs. He has been refusing to eat for 2 days now and Earl has just been skimming the meaty lure off the top of his fibrous ingredients. They have a bone stash outside that Bezial has been living off and he even ate a few of the despised dog biscuits last night whilst looking at me piteously as if to say “you are starving me woman!” I can’t back down on this issue because it is what is best for the 2 of them but ignoring those pathetic eyes is very hard! Bezial is chief manipulator and attempts to get Earl to join him on his hunger strikes but Earl’s hunger is more important than Bezials need to be the boss and get his way and Earl has yielded to the foodie lure much to Bezials disgust so he is standing stolid on his high moral ground and I can hear his stomach creaking…good luck with that Bezial! If my children couldn’t make me give in to their foodie whims, you have NO chance! 😉

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Mum and baby kookaburra having a drink and a bath in some of the water baths that we keep topped up with fresh water. We have had a lot of babies born on Serendipity Farm including baby cuckoo shrikes, baby black cockatoo’s, baby butcher birds and baby kookaburras.

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Mum on watch while her baby splashes about in the bird bath

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An oak sapling takes 10 years to produce its first acorn…I think this might well be Serendipity Farms very first acorn! It grew on an oak tree that grew from mulched oak leaves taken from the front of the property

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There isn’t much flowering on Serendipity Farm at the moment…everything is on heat watch and is just marking time till we get some rain but this little nigella proves that if you pick the right plant for your situation, you can still have colour in an arid place

I have been following a lot of blogs that share how to do all kinds of things for yourself from foraging from weeds through to building your own wind turbines. I am up for the weeds but not quite ready for the turbine yet! I knew that you can make kefir with coconut milk and so decided to make my own coconut milk from dried coconut in the pantry. I found a good recipe, I whizzed up the soaked coconut with its soaking water and strained it all through a clean cotton pillow case (gotta get me a nut bag…). I took the remaining pulp out to the food dehydrator to make coconut flour and smugly placed Kid Creole (my kefir grains…newly named from the 80’s band “Kid Creole and the Coconut’s”…) into about a cup full of my coconut milk. My coconut milk separated into cream on top and whey underneath and I didn’t care…my kefir grains sat there…and sat there… and sat there…and nothing happened. I got a bit concerned when the next day the milk was still watery and the kefir grains hadn’t set the milk and I decided to take mercy on Kid Creole and clean him off and put him into a glass of regular milk where he is fermenting to his heart’s content. I blame Rabid and her organic milk…she has spoiled Kid for anything other than pure dairy! ;). When we were in town on Tuesday we headed to the fruit and veggie shop and I found 8 mangoes for $4. I thought that was a pretty good deal and bought them along with half a rockmelon for $1.50 and when I got home I cut them up and froze them for my morning green smoothies. I also found passionfruit with lovely wrinkled skins that were fragrant and promising so I bought 2 and when we got home I sieved the pulp and juice from the seeds and poured it into Steve’s home-made orange and lemon cordial that I made the other day. It was already delicious but the addition of 2 passionfruit made it heavenly and after I picked some of our fragrant ripe ex-tip strawberries and pureed them up with about 500ml of the orange and passionfruit cordial the results both smelled and tasted amazing. Homemade isn’t second best folks…it’s the bomb!

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Passionfruit seed from 2 passionfruit drying out on a coffee filter ready for me to have a go at growing them from seed

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Same goes for rockmelon 🙂

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Here we have a plethora of seed etc. all waiting it’s day in potting mix. The bags are full of fermenting fruit. I am doing experiments and am trying to echo nature to get the best germination rates. I figure that plums and fleshy fruited plants would drop their seed and it would either go through an animal or would ferment on the floor and so I am prefermenting the fruit in it’s parental juices to see if it doesn’t grow better. Might work…might not. Thats the beauty of experimentation and if it grows “Good oh!” if it doesn’t “Them’s the breaks” and I will put it into the compost bin 😉

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Coconut milk on the left and coconut pulp on the right. The pulp is now dehydrated and in a jar in the pantry waiting to be used in recipes. I might even start fermenting the pulp before I dehydrate it for better digestion…so many experiments…so little time in the day! 😉

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Those large leaves are my turmeric that finally started to grow. I bought organic turmeric from a local health food shop and it loves the conditions in the glasshouse, which is lucky, because that is where it is going to have to live if it wants to survive on Serendipity Farm! 😉

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The last of the turmeric taking its time…pay NO attention to the Oxalis…I don’t! 😉

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A pot full of Oxalis and Discorea elephantipes developing their basal cordex amazingly well…nice and corky and round, my favourite kind 🙂

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One of my cardamom plants that seems to be loving the conditions in the glasshouse. I might get Steve to make me a big raised planter box that we can plant the turmeric and the cardamom in as a more permenant fixture in the glasshouse

Before we headed into Launceston to sign up and pay for our new course at Polytechnic yesterday, I took out the sourdough pizza dough that I had mixed up the night before from the fridge where it had been sitting in stasis. I left it on the counter because the recipe called for it to ferment 8 hours so I figured that it would be ready to turn into pizza when we got home. I eyeballed it when we got home and gave it a suspicious sniff and it smelled lovely and had risen to double its size.  We had more than enough for a large pizza tray and so I rolled some very thin and put it on another tray along with some thinly rolled out dough with some cheese pressed into it. We baked it in the bbq while we were topping Steve’s pizza and when we were ready to put the pizza in the oven Steve got to taste the results. He was more than happy with the flavour and how crunchy the thin dough was and the cheesy twisty thing’s tasted great as well…I was starting to get excited by now because the sourdough was actually rising, rolling and behaving like real bread dough! Steve pulled his pizza out of the oven after 15 minutes and ate the entire thing and pronounced it “delicious”. We have a large bowl of sourdough bread in the fridge rising slowly and tomorrow we will bake 2 loaves. If the loaves turn out, I am going to pronounce this sourdough experiment completely and utterly successful and will start baking in earnest (or Brunhilda…whichever one comes first 😉 ). I checked Audrey and found that she had escaped her container and was spilling down the side so rehoused her in a larger taller container to allow her to slowly grow and eat her organic rye flour at her leisure. It is going to take me a little while getting used to having to plan so far ahead when baking but I love processes and so am enjoying the learning experience and the possibilities that sourdough baking bring to Serendipity Farm.

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Isn’t this baby gorgeous?! I had to take a photo of it and share it with you 🙂

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The possums have been restless…sigh…note the complete lack of leafy greens on the top of this bean cube? They don’t eat the bean pods so I guess I shouldn’t complain too much…mutter…mutter…

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Eggplant futures!

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Mulch futures soon to be seen to migrate about a metre to the left…

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The last of the mulch futures…not sure where this is going but if we don’t need it in the front garden it can go into the stockpile ready for using in our new enormous enclosed vegetable garden…I love saying that “ENORMOUS ENCLOSED VEGETABLE GARDEN”! I am going to yell it tonight at the top of my lungs when I go outside at about 10pm before I head off to bed and I can hear the possums fighting over my bean bed… sigh…

I was thinking about processes while I was making my coconut milk (which I am going to have to think of something to do with now that Kid Creole has refused to work with it 😉 ) and how we can choose to pick up something ready made from the supermarket OR we can choose to have a go at making it ourselves. When you buy a product from the shelves it has “cost effectiveness” embedded into its ethos. The product is there because someone wants to make a profit out of it and you can rest assured that its flavour profile has been compromised in order to give it an extended shelf life and keep the cost down. When you make things yourself you might have to factor in the cost of making the item (electricity, personal effort etc.) BUT you get so much more out of the process. You get to learn the process of how to actually make the item, you get various items through the process, i.e. When I made Steve his homemade cordial I got orange skins to preserve and some for the compost, I got passionfruit shells for the compost and I got passionfruit seed that I am going to attempt to grow. When I bought rockmelon to put into my green smoothies I got the shells to put into my compost and the seed to attempt to grow as well as the frozen rockmelon pulp to add amazing flavour to my drink…we can customise what we make to our own personal tastes…too much sugar? Add some lemon juice…not enough sugar, add some more. It might take more time to make something yourself than it takes to grab something from the supermarket but there is an amazing depth of satisfaction to be gained from making your own and cutting out that insidious middle man who thrives on the profits of others. You can also take advantage of what is in season and preserve it for later and again, the satisfaction of shoring up your supplies for another time and giving yourself a degree of food security is immeasurable. There is another benefit to doing things yourself…in my case it results in my efforts to collect and save fruit seeds makes the kitchen smell AMAZING! :o)

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More pumpkin futures…another experiment. This is inside one of the compost heaps and aside from a few manky potatoes that get regularly stripped of leaves by either possums reaching in, wallabies waiting for the potatoes to (stupidly) poke out or slugs just slithering about at their leisure picking the tastiest bits to chew…they don’t like pumpkin leaves but they DO love the young fruit :(. Again, I see it as another way to learn how to be clever…I figure by the time I am laid 6 ft under I will be the cleverest woman in Sidmouth! 😉

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The chives are so happy they are flowering…wallabies LOVE the allium family, the chives close cousins, the garlic, have all had their tops munched down by the wallabies that parade around the outside of the veggie garden at night looking for anything poking out

The more you pare back from your life the more beautiful the simple things you retain become. I am enjoying my early morning wake-up cup of tea SO much more now that it is my only cup of tea. It tastes amazing and I fully appreciate it accompanying me as I read my rss feed reader blogs. I always have my eyes open for opportunities to collect plan material on our early morning walks with the dogs and have a large pile of all different kinds of seeds collected locally from perennials, trees and shrubs that are doing particularly well in our area. I collected some seed from a shrub at the Polytechnic where we signed up that appears to be a type of hawthorn with large panicles of white flowers and very large red fruit. It has enormous thorns and was growing in a very arid part of the garden all of which make it an excellent choice for growing on Serendipity Farm. Thorny plants are great habitat for small birds as are shrubs that are tall enough to make it difficult for predators to climb. Fruit and flowers are a bonus for bees and food for birds and it appears to be hardy enough to grow in very dry conditions making it ideal for our area. I phoned up the West Tamar Council and asked them about a large pile of wood chips that I have been eyeing off for about 9 months now. The parks and wildlife resources manager phoned me back and told me that if the pile had been there that long without being used that they obviously didn’t want it and that I was welcome to it! Steve and I spent 1 ¾ incredibly well spent hour’s today collecting 4 trailer loads of free mulch. It is rotting down nicely and is a good combination of leaves and bark and was nice and damp which shows how good it is at retaining moisture because we haven’t had a lot of rain for the whole summer. We left some around the base of a large liquidambar so that it wouldn’t be compromised by our removal of its windfall mulch and I am going to spend most of tomorrow shovelling it all over the garden under the deck and along the driveway to cover the exposed and parched soil.

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The tomato jungle…all the fruit is contained in this jungle…I am going to have to be narf7 the explorer and go hunting in here one day soon (or try to con Steve into doing it for me 😉 )

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My spinach beds, plundered on a daily basis for my morning green smoothie habit but it seems to have made them stronger and they haven’t wanted to go to seed so far…maybe pinching leaves all of the time is a good thing for a plant? The little beetroot haven’t amounted to much (they were the teeny ones left over when we harvested the bigger ones) but I figure I can eat the leaves if they don’t form roots so they have earned their place in the garden…note the numpty who’s shadow is included in this shot 😉

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Our corn bed with rocket going mental/to seed. I am allowing the rocket and lettuces to go to seed now so that I can collect seed for next years crops 🙂

I had best stop waxing lyrical and head off to sort out some photos to accompany this post. No Bev… it aint short! ;). I just have to hope that my enthusiasm for life is infectious and that my happiness in the simple processes bleeds through to you my dear constant readers and gives you your own simple enthusiasm for your own lives…at the end of the day…what more can we really hope for? See you on Saturday when I may, or may not have made some lovely yellow dishcloths with the pattern that Rabid sent to me…more like I have knitted a few rows…Earl has pounced on my most interesting moving yarn and either grabbed it and run, rendering the square suddenly puckered and decidedly unsquarelike or snicker snacked off the wool and run off with the ball…either of these 2 eventualities are highly likely! 😉

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.

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

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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.

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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

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

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

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

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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!

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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 🙂

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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.

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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 😦

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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.

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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

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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 🙂

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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!

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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 🙂

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The fruit is inside the husk

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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

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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.

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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.

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The rest got dumped next to the existing vegetable garden beds

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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!

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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

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This is the back of the spoon

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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)

Herman and Ethel Merman run amok on Serendipity Farm

Hi All

“Bojon”c. 1900. Probably combined and condensed from Bo-hemia +   Hun-gary. Used as a pejorative.
A very stupid person of Central/Eastern European Slavic descent who works   with their back instead of their head. Fit only for manual labour, the bojon   nonetheless frequently finds him/herself in political office, especially in   areas of heavily bojon dominated constituency in the USA, as well as the   backward, shithole areas of Europe where they originate. The bojon is   characterised by a very brief attention span and being unable to perform   tasks requiring much mental agility. Ideally suited for repetitive tasks, as   long as it doesn’t involve anything very important.“The stupid bojon was unable to pour the piss from his   boot, even though the directions were clearly written on the heel.”(appropriated from urbandictionary.com)

I love the word Bojon. I discovered it last night when hunting for sourdough recipes on a wonderful blog called The Gourmet Bojon. I had NO idea what a Bojon was and the assumption was that “Bojon” meant great unwashed unemployed masses and it struck a chord with this penniless student hippy. Aside from that, the blog was both humorous and very well written and is now tucked up to bed in my rss feed reader for my next mammoth perusal. Check it out here if you have a few spare moments and a yen to dabble in some pretty amazing recipes…

http://www.bojongourmet.com

This mornings breakfast consisting of oats, chopped dried dates soaked in boiling water with home made almond milk and a dollop of pure sunshine a.k.a. Christi’s precious peach and rhubarb jam 🙂

Not a patch on my breakfast in their present state but soon…these little seed kipflers will be planted out in bags and are the beginning of our potato futures on Serendipity Farm

The surreal screen saver that greeted me this morning…Steve has been messing aboot!

I have been replying to comments on the blog and only I could make a comment that was almost as long as a blog post! I think I am going to have to channel all of this verbosity and literary enthusiasm into writing of some sort. I could drain that bubbling spring and see if what eventuates is less verbose and more pointed and pertinent, condensed, LOL see what I mean? I use too many words to get to my point ;).  Saturday was a bit of an anticlimax to me. The permaculture meeting that I attended was interesting and somewhat informative but was more along the lines of a get together over a cup of tea and a bit of an informal chat and lunch. I don’t want to appear ungrateful for the effort that the lady facilitating the meeting took BUT…I am a bit past talking about things and want to get stuck into “doing” on Serendipity Farm. I can find out things out of books by buying the book myself. I can check out blogs and I can educate myself online without having to take 140km round trips that eventuated in a sense of deflated excitement for something that didn’t quite hit the mark with me. As Steve would say “It wasn’t quite what I was after today” and I would have to agree with him.

The results of 9 trays of sourdough starter turned into sour little crispy shards

A closeup of the sourdough “crisps” looking a whole lot like Lavash bread

The process of turning sourdough crisps into salt and vinegar scented sourdough starter powder for sourdough futures and for sharing with friends and family

As this IS my year of living honestly, the second deflation of the day was the sad homogenous mass that awaited me when I got home that refused to raise much and that when baked could have been used to construct the foundations for a mud brick house. I am talking about the sourdough bread that we baked. One of the loaves was reasonably easy to cut and could possibly have been eaten without having to check in to the dentist’s emergency department soon after attempting. The remaining 3 were decidedly terrifying in weight, height, texture and taste. I have to admit to adding about 3 times more sourdough starter than was called for in the recipe (thanks to my frugal heart, my desire to use the starter rather than throw it out AND my fear of what might bubble up out of the septic tank should I be stupid enough to flush it…), using up all of the various packets and bags of flour left on Serendipity Farm (some of it expired last December…) and just about every single process involved in the production of said bricks being ignored . What did I expect? Vinegar bricks is what we got :o(. The vinegar bricks were cut up this morning (Sunday) and strewn in the compost heap in a vain attempt to initiate a few new suites of “organisms” in the mix. I think it is somewhat telling that they are still in the compost heap and even the sparrows are shunning them. After some online research and the addition of several new blogs into my rss feed reader, we are now enlightened members of the online community about sourdough. We have a few adjustments to make to our starter and a couple of new recipes to follow and we should be able to produce something at least edible next time!

Little grape hyacinths that were lazily dumped on the ground to be dealt with later, still in their heap on the ground but flowering against the odds… “way to make a girl feel bad guys!”

Aside from the wonderful crop of Oxalis growing in the pots, these orchids are really enjoying their freedom in the mottled sunshine

Aren’t they beautiful? Very exotic looking but one of the true tough survivors on Serendipity Farm

I wish I had attended the Tamar NRM (natural resources management) Sustainable Living seed swap day before I headed to the meeting because I could at least have collected some free seeds that we could have used in our vegetable garden. I think I am going to have to call yesterday a bit of a dud. Never one to be kept down by a dud day, I got up this morning full of renewed energy and excitement about turning Serendipity Farm over to the Permaculture side. We have decided to move our veggie garden into the external chook coop that is protected from wallabies, rabbits, possums AND chooks (who do the most damage of all 4 if you ask me!) and extend this compound out to form a large area for veggie gardening in. If you can’t beat them…join them! That’s what we are doing…moving our veggie production inside the chook pen to stop them from scratching and pecking their way into the record books for vegetable destruction. They can stand and stare into the compound with their sad little chooky eyes and watch those delicious vegetables grow bigger and riper and the ironic thing is that when the door was open to this area, they never set foot inside!

A little Camellia Reticulata discovered in the undergrowth and free to flower in the sunshine note the clivea underneath

A little flowering quince (Chaenomeles) coming into bloom with a little flowering chook hiding underneath.

One of the natives dropping in for a visit.

It’s been raining for the last few days on Serendipity Farm but we don’t care! We have been holed up slaving for “the man”. In this case, “the man” is our lecturer Nick and we are his beavering slaves. We had procrastinated enough about not doing our Job Specifications for the unit that we are currently undertaking and the memory of manipulating our way around the vernacular and jargon of “the industry” has us twitching at the thought and the Job Specifications are penultimate only to the actual costing of the job where we find out that all of those lovely sustainable touches that make everything more simple and natural actually cost twice as much as doing it old school. The planting alone amounts to $14 000+. Isn’t it lucky that it’s only theoretical? We may be only working on this plan for our Diploma but our lecturer gave us freedom and said “knock yourselves out!” with our plans and we have discovered some amazing products, wonderfully sustainable practices and now have several plans up our sleeves should we ever come into any form of ready currency in the near future.

A bank of mushroom compost and some wood futures (sensibly stacked under the deck close to the house) along with hay for the chook roost

After abandoning Herman’s sour building material offspring earlier in the week, I found a fantastic blog that walked me through the process of sourdough excellence from start to finish and as usual I have been overcomplicating things. The blogger actually said that they don’t even measure their starter, flour or water and just give rough approximations in their bread making. I have been messing about with hydration levels (whatever they are…) with the remaining 3 sourdough starters that I have left. Herman, my original, is still half rye and half white because I am aware that should I kill the other two, I won’t have a starter left so he is being maintained “old school” so that I can fall back on his regular rise and fall should something strange hybridise out of the others. From Herman sprung Ethel Merman, the unbleached organic sister of Herman and mother to Myvanwy (Miff for short) who is a 75% hydrated variant of her mum. Both Ethel and Herman have a steady rise and fall but Miff seems to be bucking the trend. I would have thought that less water would make the process slower and shorter but I would have been wrong! The flour rich sourdough starter goes up and stays up much longer than her predecessors and actually looks very yeasty in comparison to Herman and Ethel who look more “doughy”. I also read that the strongly vinegar smell that I have been concerned about is just a starter phase that most newbies (consider me numero uno newbie on the sourdough starter block!) mistake for their sourdough starters declining and is the cause of many a good sourdough being flushed into the sewer system. The acetic acid bacteria clean out all of the bad bacteria and lay the path for lactic acid and yeast which are the desirable proponents of sourdough. Herman, Ethel Merman and Miff all have a nice fruity yeasty slightly lemony smell now. I expected Herman to still smell vinegary but he has changed. It’s great fun messing about with fermentation. I still haven’t worked out how to stop things from going mouldy in my vegetable crisper. Most probably use them within 6 months might be a good start…

Mushroom futures!

I am going to let you off easy with a shorter post tonight. I don’t even know if I have photos to accompany it! I am usually very regimented about sorting everything out early but sometimes it’s good to fly by the seat of your pants and wing it! I am looking forwards to Christi of http://farmlet.wordpress.com/  blogging fame’s post because she is going to tell us all how to make the heavenly heady concoction she humbly called “Peach and rhubarb jam”, sent to me recently that we are just about to run out of and are doing paper, rock, scissors over who gets to scrape the jar out with their finger…I am just about to head off to the net to see if there is a way that I can cheat to beat the odds! See you all on Saturday when it’s supposed to be a sunny day and Earl has bagsed a nice long walk on the beach :o)

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