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)

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 🙂

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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)

50 Pumpkins and 2 sourdough cakes on Serendipity Farm

Hi All,

The title of my post today is, coincidentally, the source of a great degree of twitching on my behalf. Pumpkin, the great orange starch of choice of South American’s, African’s and we Aussies en masse could hardly be seen as anything other than benign. Slightly to very sweet, with dense flesh that can be roasted, steamed, mashed, made achingly sweet in the great American traditional pies or soothingly silky in a roasted pumpkin soup and all things in between. Versatile to a “T” BUT that’s when you are cooking with them. I personally LOVE pumpkin but the thought of wielding a pencil and drawing 50 of them makes me twitch. We just did a Google search and found some past students work and I don’t feel so bad any more…I am still going to practice drawing pumpkins and be innovative about what I draw but I no longer think I have to be artistically gifted after seeing what other students have cobbled together…the net is a great fear leveller ;).

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What was left of the pumpkin vine on the large compost bin next to the chook shed after the possums decided that they might just eat those prickly pumpkin leaves as a remedy for starvation…

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Something invaded Poland and scarfed all of the leaves off the potato plants…can’t blame the possums for this one (unless they breed them miniscule these days…) and my money is on slugs but those spuds needed to be dug up…

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The MASSIVE haul of potatoes from the heap…I have to say with 10kg of potatoes going for as little as $6 a sack in Tasmania I am seriously asking myself if it is actually worth attempting to grow spuds on Serendipity Farm!!!

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Trying to make them look more but any way you look at it, a bit of a mingy serving for 1 methinks! Back to the drawing board! 😉

Steve noticed something out of the corner of his eye in the side garden when we were hitching Earl up for his walk yesterday morning. Apparently it’s not only the wallabies and possums that have been evicted from their native bushland by the bushfires…3 large grey kangaroos hopped away and up into the first paddock where they stood watching us and waiting for the troublesome humans to head off before them came back for second helpings…I know its them that have been tag teaming my vegetable garden all summer and they have been working together to push in the netting and eat whatever lush green things protrude. I can’t be overly angry at them because times are tough at the end of summer in Sidmouth and we veggo’s have to stick together. We have noticed an increase in the amount of birds coming to drink and bath at our bird baths because the little fresh water creeks are all dried up and water is a precious commodity. We have water bowls on the ground for our 3 feral chooks…”Stock”, “Pot” and “Ermingtrude”. I would imagine the wildlife take advantage of the opportunity to avail themselves of some free water after they have been predating (doing their rounds) our helpless potted plants on the outside of Steve’s shed, selecting the tenderest leaves and shoots to eat first. I note that one of them has eaten the leaves off a small (only just regrown) rhubarb again and can only wonder at the cast iron stomach that could digest something so poisonous!  I read an article http://permaculturenews.org/2013/02/23/fernglade-farm-late-summer-2013-update-australia/ this morning about a fellow Aussie food forester who has had to get ingenious with how to keep his food forest alive over an extended long hot and VERY dry summer. Using permaculture principals and ideas he has managed to prevent 90% of his trees, shrubs and perennials from drying up and blowing away. It’s a most interesting read and there is a short video accompanying it.

Serendipity Farm in lights

If you would like to check out the article that I wrote for the latest Tamar N.R.M. newsletter…click the above link 🙂

I am in print folks! I wrote an article for the Tamar N.R.M. February Newsletter about my recent attendance at some of their free workshops, in particular, their sustainable living workshops and if anyone would like to read it, please head over using this link to read my very first “published” article ;). I have also been asked to review someone’s book. I follow a blog called “Active Happiness”…no surprises that I would be following a blog that actively encourages and fosters the act of happiness as a valid choice in life, but to have Lynda ask me to review her book was a real privilege. I love how her blog gives little daily pictorial wisdoms and the occasional article about promoting the act of happiness as a choice, rather than waiting for it to come to you. I have been SO busy this week that I haven’t been able to read the book yet but it’s not huge and I will be reading it today. I get to review it on Amazon and another website and if the book is anything like Lynda’s blog, it will be a runaway hit. Feel free to head over and explore her blog… if anything, it is refreshing to find a blog in pursuit of such a noble cause :o)… http://activehappiness.com/book/

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Steve’s River Rats weather rope

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They say that adding something unexpected into a post gives it more interest and weight…is this unexpected enough for you folks? I found it on one of my walks with Earl and thought that Steve would like it for his music room…the music of the seagull isn’t really something that would lull me to sleep but hey, the ditch was suffering from a lack of nightingale skulls the other day…what can I say! 😉

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This is what our Aussie plain wrap ciggarette packets look like now. Steve and I don’t smoke so when I found this packet on the road I was most intregued. I realise that the government is worried about the aged population of smokers who started smoking back when smoking was hip and cool in the 50’s and 60’s and they also want to disuade the young women who take up smoking as an aid to weight loss…these packets are probably going to at least make their target audience uncomfortable whenever they flip the packet lid to light up BUT they just might be shooting themselves in the foot…sort of a 2 steps forward and 1 step back moment because every single 8 – 12 year old boy is going to want to collect every one of these packets…may as well take up smoking while they do! AND imagine the emo’s, steampunk alternative artists etc. who would not only be completely unfazed by these photos, but would get actively excited by them! Back to the drawing board Australian Government…you just robbed Peter to pay Paul!

Steve just made the equivalent of a “Redneck Weather Rope”.  He made it for our friend Guy who lives opposite the boat ramp just around the corner who rather than calling himself a hillbilly, would rather be known as a “River Rat”. He even has a flagpole with his own Triple R (River.Rats.Retreat.) Bar flag which is flying at half-mast today in honour of Roxy’s now defunct cat that was found dead in the gutter by Boofy yesterday a victim of a fast cornering car. The cat’s most dubious name was “Maggot Guts” and I haven’t ever asked why the poor thing had that awful moniker…some things just “are”. Roxy and Guy are good friends and most interesting people. Thinking about our little local community brings me back to an online conversation that I had yesterday with “Chica” (have I ever asked you your name Ms Andaluza?!!! 😉 ) the amazing Spanish dwelling frugalista of http://chicaandaluza.wordpress.com/ fame who said that where we live on Serendipity Farm in Sidmouth reminds her of her own small village. She has a resident transvestite and we have Michael, our resident aging Californian eccentric with “interesting” views of the world and self-claimed prophet of the rapidly approaching apocalypse. Where her tranny dresses up, Michael passes out conspiracy theory material to anyone who will foolishly take it. The further out of a city you get, the more eccentric and eclectic a mix of people you end up with. It’s funny that people who like to live in the country tend to be somewhat eccentric. It might just be that you don’t notice it in the city because the constraints of city life don’t give you the time to examine your neighbours with a microscope…in fact it might even be against some city ordinance to do so! Out in the country the rules are made to be broken and the officials who make those rules rarely visit (if ever) and so suddenly we country dwellers find ourselves on the fringes of civilisation with a very loose translation of the rule book in our hands and having to make it up as we go along. It certainly makes for a most interesting life! As a proponent of the elevation of Communities above the self-rule model, I think that we have a long way to go until we can feel comfortable with opening up our ethos to group sharing but those communities that do share, are the strongest.

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Luminous over exposed tomatoes…”whatchagonnadoeh?!” 😉

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Not so over exposed but definately over abundant…what the heck are we going to do with all of these!!!

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The beginning of our tomato harvest and the end of our cucumber harvest…a somehow fitting photo

A while ago I was staying with my daughters and I overheard them commenting on a television advertisement “she is obviously a dancer…look at those calves!”… I, myself, am in possession of voortrekkers calves thanks to daily juggling between studiously resisting being pulled up the road and hauling protesting dogs back up the driveway when they have realised that we are on the home stretch  which just so happens to be complete with its own built in steep ascent where the act of dragging a 40kg dog certainly gives a body a set of biceps to be proud of and on the way down, the dogs are in full tractor pull mode which goes part way to revealing why we have worn heels on all of our shoes… Sturdy vorrtrekkers calves that will take me where I want to go…calves that won’t win any medals for elegance or shape but that give me an overall solidity that makes me hard to shove over. What my daughters had said got me to thinking about what we do to our bodies and how they respond. The musculature of a dancer and the biceps of a brickies labourer notwithstanding, how about the pallid, pasty white exterior of a computer programmer or the bespectacled visage of a librarian…we all fall prey to judging books by their cover but are we feeling badly about that for nothing? Certain types of people are drawn to certain types of employment and often a specific “look” is required for the position…read supermodel and weep folks! Are we being shallow and superficial when we put someone in a certain box? Perhaps in hindsight not! There are always exceptions to the rule but I have found that people in the mainstream are perfectly happy to be tarred with specific brushy genres so long as they are seen as “normal”. As a scruffy, middle aged, somewhat bolshie student hippy I can’t complain when someone judges us as such… that’s what we are…voortrekkers calves and all! 😉

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A mix of sugar, olive oil, chopped dates, vanilla and eggs, soon to be wading in a sourdough pond

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The above mass mixed into the waiting starter, flour and kefir mix and doesn’t it love it! You can see the starter mix feeding on the sweet date mix within a minute of stirring them together!

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This is what the flour, kefir and sourdough starter pre-ferment looks like. It’s stirred together about 8 hours before you want to make your cake which predigests the flour making it more nutritious and easily digestable and it smells delightful. I decided to sub kefir for the milk called for in the recipe because I was drowning in the stuff! Kid Creole and his rapidly expanding “coconuts” adore living on Serendipity Farm and are reproducing en masse…anyone in Tassie who wants some Kefir grains let me know!

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Stirring the cocoa, sugar, eggs, baking soda, vanilla and spoonful of coffee granules into the above sourdough starter mix to make a chocolate cake

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Here’s the “fresh out of the bbq” sourdough spice cake next to Steve’s little handmade dragon cup

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Spice cake + chocolate cake = happy Steve 🙂

Yesterday I separated out a batch of sourdough starter that I had been feeding at room temperature. I have been meaning to make cake for a few days now but haven’t managed to find the time and so it has been merrily bubbling away over a slumbering Brunhilda waiting for my attentions. Just after lunchtime I decided to get the ingredients for both a chocolate cake and a date spice cake together and separated the starter in two. I then added 2 cups of plain flour to each of 2 bowls, a cup and a half of kefir (in lieu of the designated milk) and a cup of starter then went into each bowl and after stirring, I covered the bowls with a dinner plate so that the mix had a teeny bit of oxygen and promptly forgot about it. The recipe states that you should leave this initial mix for 8 – 12 hours but does anyone out there think I am going to be getting up at 1am to make cakes? Not bleeding likely sunshine! So I just left them do their thing and today at 11am I started making cakes. The recipes for both of these cakes can be perused at the websites below. The chocolate cake recipe is the cake that I made recently but the spice cake is a new one to try. I also found a gorgeous looking sourdough carrot cake recipe at the King Arthur site along with lots of other scrumptious looking cakes, breads and other treats. Check them out if you want to drool!…

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/sourdough-chocolate-cake-recipe

http://gnowfglins.com/2010/06/23/sourdough-spice-cake/

With the addition of a cup of chopped up dates, no cloves (Steve doesn’t like them) and an extra tsp of cinnamon, a shake of chilli flakes and using olive oil instead of the coconut oil or butter, the spice cake was the first one into the covered bbq. The cakes are incredibly forgiving and don’t mind you opening up the bbq to spin them around after 15 minutes or all of the prodding, poking, spiking and general fussing about that Steve and I tend to do to cakes. After the cake tested clean with a metal skewer we took it out, whacked the chocolate cake ingredients together and poured it into a greased and lined baking tray (these recipes make BIG cakes) and it is currently toasting its cocoa-y feet in the bbq as I type this. We are going to put orange icing on the chocolate cake and chocolate icing on the date spice cake after cutting the cakes into thirds and freezing 2/3rd of the results. Sourdough starter gives you a whole new world of possibilities. There isn’t much you can’t add a bit of sourdough to where it won’t give you improved flavour and better nutrition. If you mix the ingredients and allow it to work its magic for a matter of hours the results are always stellar. I love the smell of a baking sourdough cake. It has a rich yeasty tang to it that makes you instantly want a piece.

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Bezial the great blowfish hunter. He almost fished a dead one out of the river that was floating past him the other day…puffer fish are deadly to dogs! Steve managed to grab him by the neck as the blowfish floated past on the tide that was taking it out to sea and Bezial hasn’t forgiven Steve yet…

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The lengths a person has to go to to get a photo of a dog who spends at least 40% of his time in this position who rolls over the second he hears the camera start-up sound and gives me stink eye…guess what Bezial…Ma 1, Bezial nil! ;). Steve just told me that he would like it known that whenever Bezial is reclining in the sun like this he calls him “Upside Downey Juniour” 😉

Well that brings us to the end of today’s post. Steve and I have to get into studying again and giving up the complete free reign that we have had for the last few months to do whatever we want, whenever we want. It brings out the petulant child in me sometimes but as I am actually enjoying this course a whole lot more than I thought I would, that isn’t really a problem. I am off to read Lynda’s book and try to write a review that really reflects how noble a cause the pursuit of happiness really is and what a “good sort” she is for sharing her secrets with us all and giving it the old college try to extract our twitchy morose modern day ethos and insert a degree of gratefulness, thankfulness and happiness for our lives, no matter who or what we are. See you on Wednesday when I will be the world’s BEST pumpkin sketcher! 😉

When “The Booze Bus” comes to town…

Hi All,

We might like to imbibe a little of the amber fluid on the odd occasion on Serendipity Farm but don’t panic dear constant readers, we didn’t drink and drive and live to suffer the consequences…Steve just had a brilliant idea for a business. We are in NO position to take this idea anywhere and even if we had the money to facilitate its start-up, we have much better things to spend our money futures on than the rabid New Year’s delusions of a man fond of a tipple who is currently on the wagon…we were walking the boys this morning and I could see a light bulb of an idea switch on while we were talking…”I have a GREAT idea for a business” said Steve. “You know icecream trucks?”…Yes…yes indeed I know icecream trucks, or the legend of “icecream trucks” anyway as everywhere that I have ever lived has managed to maintain a severe dearth of the perambulatory frozen sweetened dairy variety of truck. “What if someone delivered alcohol to people…what if they were on the road from 6pm till 12 and were open for delivering booze to people out in the country who either couldn’t be bothered to head into town or who were unable to do so for whatever reason…”…yes…yes I can see where you are going Stevey boy…a constant stream of supermarket trucks up and down the Batman Highway delivering to our immediate vicinity has lent this idea a bit of strength…”It could be called “The Booze Bus” and the driver could wear a suit and a pork pie hat and dark sunglasses and could be called a “Booze Brother”…”…o…..k….. “And the bus could actually trawl for business like an icecream truck only instead of Greensleeves…it could play Tubthumping!”… I have to give it to him. The man can certainly navigate himself around an idea! No funds Steve…no endless tap on the keg of life is going to deliver you that dream any day soon but to anyone out there entrepreneurial enough to take this idea on board and take advantage of the fact that whenever there is an economic downturn and funds are low there is a distinct spike in the sales of alcohol and people go back to the movies…the masses have to have SOMETHING to entertain them…feel free to take Steve’s dream BUT there is one clause…when you are millionaires from the profits of another man’s dream…could you just send one of those booze buses down Auld Kirk Road with “Tubthumping” blaring as loud as it can and stop right out the front of the Auld Kirk Church, drop off a freebie carton (you owe him that much…) and make a broken man’s day? 😉

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The Booze Brother himself with his entourage…

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Looks like one of the entourage has left the building! Thems the perks of being a “good dog” when you go out…

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“Me Alone”…what happens when a dog thinks that he is cleverer than he is…this one thought that because I was making a cake, we were going to leave them on their own the day after (our usual polytechnic routine)…this one refused his tea…this one’s stomach was grumbling and THIS one won’t look at the camera…

Somer of Vedgedout blogging fame http://vedgedout.com/ has given me permission to blog about my experiences on her green smoothie challenge. She recently made a free PDF of this plan available for anyone who wants to start the New Year off with clean gizzards who doesn’t want to resort to falling prey to salmonella or a wandering gastro bug to give them the same results. I decided to try it because after taking a look at the plan, it certainly gave you a lot of choice and aside from the obvious health benefits, you might just lose a bit of weight in the process. I still have a few kilos to lose before I am completely happy to call my weight acceptable but I like to lose weight slowly now because years of yo-yo dieting has taught me that if you get something quickly and with very little effort or determination to change it very rarely lasts.  Admittedly it took me about 30 years to learn that but better late than never is my motto! I am really enjoying the processes of this plan. I like working through the choices and I am even enjoying my pond water with frog spawn. You don’t have to choose “pond water with frog slime”…I am just partial to it now. I add chia seed that has an interesting tendency to swell up and become decidedly frog spawny and I put tonnes of home grown fresh spinach into my smoothies so they end up verdant green and reminiscent of algal bloom on a duck pond. The best thing about this plan is that it gives you the ability to customise it to your own wants and needs. It is completely meat free and grain free (aside from a bit of quinoa in one of the soup recipes) but I figure that anyone could handle a week of this. I very rarely manage to eat/drink everything that I am supposed to eat in a day because there is so very much of it! It just goes to prove that you can eat a low calorie diet without feeling empty…you just need to be clever about what you are eating. If you like to eat a LOT (like I do…) then increase the veggies in your diet…eat HEAPS of them, especially the green ones because they tend to be low calorie and very filling. I no longer diet and if I wasn’t expected to weigh myself to share with the rest of the group of people worldwide that are undertaking this challenge I wouldn’t bother. I go by how I feel and I am feelin’ fine my dear constant readers…I am waxing lyrical, I am not grouchy in the mornings and I have lots of energy so I am calling this plan a success. You could technically eat this kind of food for the rest of your life. It is full of vitamins and minerals and it is positively brimming with vitality but I love my grains and starches and want to integrate them back, albeit in smaller portions, to my regular diet so I will be revisiting this green smoothie challenge on a regular basis to keep my intestines happy. I might do this once a month it is that easy to follow and I am someone who quintessentially bucks following “programs” of any kind. I heartily endorse this free program and anyone wanting to feel a bit healthier or lose a bit of weight feel free to head on over to Somers and download the plan. She is a most gracious host :o)

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Prime crunchy sweet organic home grown cucumbers 🙂

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A barrow load of chicken coop hay about to be used to mulch the capsicum garden

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What happens to rocket when you show it a good time…note the capsicum in the foreground (a bit of a “Where’s Wally?” moment 😉 )

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The pile of rocket extracted and mulching complete!

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A newly refurbished capsicum and chilli garden bed well covered in spent hay to keep the moisture in the ground where it belongs to cut down on watering in the month and a half of summer that we still have in front of us

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Possum invaders!…sigh…back to the drawing board!

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Bread clips from too many loaves of supermarket cheap bread 😦

I just tossed another bread tie into a small bowl that I keep them in. I once saw a blog post on how to turn them into things…to repurpose them but all I have is a bowl full of them. It stands as a constant reminder that I should be baking bread…baking bread is actually very easy and incredibly therapeutic. It doesn’t even take all that much time aside from the proofing so my only excuse is that I am too lazy to bake it and these little tags remind me of how I am a slave to the bread “man”. This recipe doesn’t even require the obligatory kneading! I have NO excuses… http://gggiraffe.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/no-knead-honey-and-oat-bread-ii.html I try to give myself excuses “It’s only for the chooks…Steve doesn’t eat much of it…it’s cheaper than making your own…” but it all ends up at the same place sustainable “FAIL!” I don’t like failing…I fear I have a type A personality and failure is tantamount to …well…failing! I know how to make bread. I make GOOD bread…I will feel a sense of accomplishment when I make bread BUT there is something stubborn and primal inside me…call it my middle aged child that bucks my desired ordered system and wants to read a book or go online or phone a friend…it’s a sad sorry state of affairs when you are having a parent teenager battle with yourself! “Get off your derrière and bake some bread and while you are at it, you could wipe those crumbs off that breadboard, put that washing on and you could wipe down that counter”…”You NEVER let me have any fun! It’s NOT FAIR! I HATE YOU”… a body could end up needing therapy if they allowed their teenaged selves to win!

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Isn’t this Stapelia hirsuita gorgeous? At this stage it looks like a beautiful purple hairy star…

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It then turns its petals up and forms an orb of foetid stinkiness to attract the blowflies and other carrion scavenging insects that it needs to pollinate its beautiful but nose-holdingly stinky flowers…we don’t care, its too beautiful not to love 🙂

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Myrtus communis (Common Myrtle) a wonderfule xeriscape plant that has edible fruit that are used to make a type of liqueur in the Med. I just love these flowers and might propagate some more of this lovely shrub for some of the dryer areas on Serendipity Farm

I was just considering retitling this post “Never mind the bollocks…this means WAR!”… We are fighting an ongoing battle with possums that sees them gaining ground in the night and us having to rethink our fortress and add all sorts of protective devices to the best of our abilities to stop the little buggers! Yesterday I removed an enormous crop of rocket that had gone to seed and was bitter and inedible. Obviously the possums thought so too because they had left it well alone, even though I now realise that they had been into the veggie garden questing for food! I thought that Steve had left the veggie garden open yesterday because the netting was loose. Steve had been checking out the size of his capsicums nestled amongst the tangle of rocket and I thought that he had just done his usual half-assed job of closing up the veggie garden when he emerged but today I realise that the rocket actually did a sterling job to protect the veggie garden against the possums that had tentatively pushed the netting till they were able to get in. Not so much luck today (for us, anyway) because the bitter rocket was gone and the tender capsicums were exposed and highlighted by a lovely empty garden bed full of easily navigable hay…you can guess what happened and they took some tomato with them and although I know that capsicums are perennial, the two that were completely decimated are most probably not going to bear fruit this year. We were walking the boys in Deviot today and stopped at the hall where the wonderful community of Deviot have built a lovely fully enclosed heritage apple, pear and herb garden and we had decided that we were going to copy their idea to build our much larger fully enclosed veggie garden. Steve, after inspecting the damage to his capsicums (not only did they chew the leaves, they took a single bite out of his precious first capsicum rendering it rooned!), has decided on using a large yacht mast that was left in the tangled pile of metal next to the veggie garden to erect a sort of circus tent style roof for the veggie garden when we make it in autumn (so that we have softened ground after the rains) and it will be fully enclosed in ex-fish farm netting. It will be a HUGE enclosed garden and good luck to the possums even getting a sniff at our coming season’s veggies! I want to enclose our small orchard eventually as the possums hoovered the pears from the last of the pear trees the other day. I didn’t cover them so I guess I deserve the dearth of fruit but I am starting to wonder at how many possums are parading the grounds of Serendipity Farm after dark there must be a veritable army of them!

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Our local “Loire Valley” equivalent “Marrion’s vinyard”. The West Tamar region is well known worldwide for its quality wines and this little vinyard is a fine example of its ilk

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Lonicera hildebrandiana (Giant Burmese honeysuckle) in a garden on one of our walks this week

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2 of the scented geraniums that I have grown from cuttings taken from plants on the road verge on past dog walks

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Bakewell slice made for a man who was lusting after “something sweet”…

Steve is off pootling again…he pootles at will now and spends lots of his time creating spoons out of enormous piles of wood shavings. I am using the wood shavings in my compost bucket and can’t wait to see the fungi that grow from some of the exotic woods that he is working with. I have just finished a week of green smoothie challenging and aside from losing 2 ½ kilos effortlessly I feel amazing! I feel bright and vibrant and clean and have decided to incorporate this plan into my everyday eating repertoire. If it aint broke, don’t fix it! I was broke…I fixed it ;). It would seem that the possums were held at bay last night with the measures that Steve and I took yesterday to curtail their night scoffing. Nothing was touched and I noticed that our eggplants are going gangbusters and since I mulched with hay around their bases they are taking off and are flowering all over the place. I love a good eggplant in the morning and these little finger eggplants promise to give us a good harvest this year (so long as the possums aren’t hatching any plans that is…). Aside from bouncing around full of good health I have a spring in my step because everything is starting to come together and work in cycles like I had hoped. Where we cleared out the side garden the buddleia is not only attracting bumble bees, regular and native bees and a plethora of exotic looking butterflies, it is shading everything underneath it and giving it respite from the heat of the sun. The garden is starting to take off how we want it too and I have been collecting seed and cutting material on our morning dog walks that I can then propagate or broadcast around the garden when we get home. I got some Washington hawthorn cuttings yesterday that we are going to trial and see if we can’t grow some of these valuable habitat plants that have edible fruit and that have the most amazing autumn foliage display. The thorns on these babies would dissuade the most persistent predator and if we can grow some, they will be planted around Serendipity Farm as hedging for the local birdlife to nest safely in. All in all I am feeling incredibly happy with my lot these days despite us remaining the penniless student hippies that we were last year. The sun has stopped frying everything in its pathway and the lovely 25C days that we are having have allowed Steve and I to be both creative and relax at will over our holidays from Polytechnic. We are doing what we want to do and are enjoying every single minute of it. We will be back at school soon enough, but for now, we are loving our time to ourselves bums up in the garden and in a wild flurry of woodchips.

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Two more beautiful spoons…the top one is made of Native Tasmanian Olivewood (Doral) and the lower spoon is made from Blackheart Sassafras (Atherosperma Moschatum) and the black line is actually caused by an interesting fungal relationship with the plant and makes for a very striking result…who KNOWS what wood Steve is going to use for the Valentine’s Day spoon 😉

I might finish todays post there folks. This Saturday we will be offering you another chance to get one of Steve’s beautiful handmade spoons…this one is specifically for Valentine’s Day and will be perfect to give your sweetie so let us know if you want to enter to win a spoon and you will make Earls day! The more walnuts in that bowl, the happier Earl will be :o). The draw will be open to anyone, anywhere because the cost to send a wooden spoon to just about anywhere in this wonderful world is extremely cheap and we truly enjoy sharing See you all on Saturday :o).

Frans AWOL so i am in charge

Hi All, I love potatoes…as I was walking home with Earl the other day I was thinking about my brother’s friend who is (how shall I say this…) a bit on the rotund side ;). As with most Aussie “blokes” they all have their little nicknames for each other. Why on EARTH go with the moniker that you were given at birth when you can shorten your name and add a “Y” or an “O” or an “A” to the end of it i.e. “Jacko” , “Bazza” and “Barnsey” (in fact ANY vowel at the end will do…). Another fun thing to do is to give your mate a nickname that has something to do with their choice of employment like” splinter” (works with wood) or the best of all (and the most pertinent to this post) is to take a look at your mate…size him up for his physical attributes and think up something HILARIOUS to call him for the rest of his life. My cousin Chris has always been rake thin and so “spike” ended up being his moniker and my brother’s mate “spud” obviously fell into this category. I, personally have a love Love ADORE! Relationship with potatoes a.k.a. spuds so much so that I have, in my previous life, somewhat resembled this versatile and humble tuberous vegetable myself.

This is all our own grown food and it tasted emmmm

This is all our own grown food and it tasted emmmm

Ok Steve here, I suck at typing firstly and my spelling is awful.. Ok Fran seems to have left and I can’t seem to see any words to post in her blog. Here are some words for you all from me… ok time to get wordy arty and clever. Emm ok firstly we have made it, we have become double diploma students and I am really proud of us and especially Fran. Earl says he is a diploma student and his is in chaos and Bezials is in sulking. Ok now we have a few weeks off till I drag Fran off into the world of web design , I think we will both have a bit of fun here and I’m sure a few arguments lol. I wish I was able to talk and the computer typed stuff, I remember a friend in the uk had a program that supposedly did that and it was hilarious , ok I just boiled the kettle and decided that I was going to have a beer instead. I have a beer problem here as when I have it I want to drink it all really fast and then I fall asleep and that’s bad, I want to watch batman tonight so I won’t have another after this. I’m sorry to frans readers that this post won’t be a stimulating work of words but I know that the girls will like it , I think they like to take the piss out of how I say stuff and type it , that’s ok they don’t know I will use spell check to make this shine lol. It’s a weird thing when you have been at a place on and off for the best part of 4 years, you sort of feel weird and a strange thing happened today Fran said I will miss this place , and you know what so will I. I think it’s the fact we have spent so much time putting us onto paper and sending our words and designs into Nick that we will miss the way we have had to sort what we do and make sure it’s all ready to be seen , I hope that makes sense to you all. We would work really hard at time and spend days in the house making plans and sorting out online what we needed to make sure that our work was the best we could make it. We made a lot of friends at the Polytechnic and some we don’t see much and some we hear won’t be there next year ( don’t panic Nat lol) (Cory) I guess people come and go from you lives but I also think some people will always be there and will always be a part of you and what you have become. James Nat Nick and all the other people that we have met along the horticulture way will have all played a part on what we are today (bums lol ). ok so I think that we all have this in our lives , I remember when I left school for the last time at 16 the feeling was very odd and a little scary if I’m honest, it’s the unknown as I didn’t have any pathways in my life set out and drifted from one job to another. I guess fate drive some people and I was defiantly one of them and fate I thank you for the day I answered the question to what is the meaning of life posed by someone that I hadn’t met yet but was destined to meet. We are here for a reason some may not know that reason till they die, some know why and are trying to make a difference and some float along and let things take them. We all have a path and we can try and change that path but boy does fate , god, some other force try and pull you in a certain direction , sometimes this makes you feel like you are out of control but you never really are. My answer was 42 and my life was never the same from that fateful and amazingly lucky day. Fran always says do you feel lucky and do you know what you have in your life, I can’t really ever say just how lucky I am and how happy I am, I’m not good that way with words but I am a lucky man as I am a lucky dragon in the stars, my life became a life because of the number 42 and a woman I hadn’t touched yet and hadn’t seen in this life. Fran said today we are a pearl. I won’t go into who’s the foreign substance and who’s the nacre that covers it but we need each other to make something amazing and precious. Ok thanks for listening to that, Earls demanding some time I best go for a bit and I will return later for now here’s an interesting link to the 42

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/42_(number)

you have to copy and pates that link as it wont hyperlink?

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My dinner that tated as good as it looks

that’s a lot of words for me there, we have a few weeks of time now and we are going to get our asses into the jungle here and shape it a bit more, we have been so tied up with the day to day things we haven’t had a chance to get out and work at what we are good at and that’s growing stuff. We gave Nick a pachapodium today and he was genuinely chuffed as we gave him a plant he can’t actually buy here in Tasmania and therefore something that he hadn’t seen and to a horticulturist that’s like getting a gold nugget is to a miner. I have been asked this weekend to make a tyre garden for Fran and plant some seeds, I will do that on Saturday and plant the seeds and see how they grow. We are gettin g ready here for our first alone Christmas, it will be a very different time of the year and I’m sure Fran will have a little reflection on her mums visit last year, we will raise a glass to her and she can sit out here with us, I’m sure my dad sits watching as play guitar here sometimes. Earls really bored he just dropped the Shrek toy behind the computer as IF TO SAY PA IM BORED AND BEZIAL SUCKS COME ON OUT ON THE DECK AND LETS GET HIM. OK BACK SOON , AHH caps lock I will leave that as I was knocked lol.

Dont ask why earls on the table again

Dont ask why earls on the table again

Chickens… ok we have too many and Fran said the other day we (me) could eat them and I have been thinking it may not be a bad idea if we can kill them. Ok I hate killing but then we have raised a flock of 8 to a flock of over 35 and they are getting to the point where we could play the game wack a mole and replace the mole with a chicken lol, we will see? ok what else can I tell you all about here, Fran reads me here blogs and they are full of interesting things and I can’t write like she does, she’s should write a book lots of people say that. The house looks like a series of a slasher cartoon at the moment as Earls killed homer Simpson Shrek tigger and pooh. We get our toys for a $1 a bag at the op shop when we head into Polytechnic and the boys love to get that plastic bag when we get home, the fun is very messy though and always involves fluff, we don’t get toys with beans in as we have learned from past experiences that beans are bad and get everywhere. Well everyone I think for Friday night I’m done here and may do a little more tomorrow before I post this post for Fran and I bet when I ask here she will tell me she’s done heaps lol , I seem to think she hadn’t done much as Madeline rang last night and she didn’t get a chance to do a post. Ok girls there are the wise words of pimmy and you can take them and place them in your book of great sayings lol hey I’m flattered they like the way I type. Ok all I may spend Saturday in my shed making someone else a spoon I will have to see how my wood futures are at the moment and what I can whittle out from them. Ok for now byee

its my egg i found it lol

its my egg i found it lol

Good morning all. Ok a teeny bit more here and then I will head off and do whatever I am going to do today. The weirdest thing this morning ….. we decided to head off to Deviot on our walk and we were driving down the road and just got to the corner of the road and I spotted a peacock in the bush , cool eh now we then saw it walking on the road as we came back , it may head up here lol Earl was very excited when we saw it and I think it’s the biggest bird he’s ever seen. Its planning on being a lovely day here today so I am going to head off in a bit and do this little tyre bed and then I may split some spoon wood to see what I can make in the next week or so . Ok Frans readers this is steve saying have a good week and hey I have added 1600 words to her post, not sure if they make sense but they pad this post out. Have fun be happy and may your god go with you Steve

ok some more pics to end with

our bean tyre gardens

our bean tyre gardens

old style Beaconsfeild mine shot

old style Beaconsfeild mine shot

spooky eh  the cool thing is you can see how it realy looks by using invert in adobe ;)

spooky eh the cool thing is you can see how it realy looks by using invert in adobe 😉

earl watching a crazy cat on youtube , he was very curious about this cat and dog fight

earl watching a crazy cat on youtube , he was very curious about this cat and dog fight

My best water dog , he wont go in higher than this lol

My best water dog , he wont go in higher than this lol

I took this while me and Bezial waited for Fran and Earl. pretty eh

I took this while me and Bezial waited for Fran and Earl. pretty eh

Ok heres a few pics of what we have been doing of late . The first one is Frans drawing of a hydroponic system , unfortunatly i cant get her concept plan to translate to a JPEG , we know why and hey its lucky we could make it a pdf lol

heres her drawing

pretty clever eh

pretty clever eh

and this is my concept , and no im not trolling for buisness lol

informal formality final concept

sorry they are small but thats the best we can do on the blog as they are A3

Remember we are allowed to charge like wounded bulls now for this ROTFL

I did it heres Frans concept plan 😉

Nice eh

Nice eh

Earl is my Muse….

Hi All,

Our 4 years of horticulture have just flown past. In 4 years we have managed to pack in Certificates 2 and 3 in horticulture and a Diploma of horticulture with a soon to be Diploma of Landscape Design following suit. It’s amazing how much information can be crammed into your head before it bursts. I still haven’t reached bursting point but I sometimes thing I am getting close. You NEVER stop learning when it comes to gardening and nature. All of these (usually self-proclaimed) garden equivalents to Gordon Ramsey who easily impressed gardeners aspire to be are merely skating on the surface and tend to be more marketing tools than true information highways. I tend to head over to the alternative side whenever I want to find out truly useful information but am as prone to envy as anyone when it comes to a really spanky garden. Steve and I are not natural gardeners. I shared Nat’s little piece of heaven with you all on Saturday and our garden will NEVER be like hers. We are too lazy and our sentiments and aspirations lie elsewhere (predominately in the gastronomical arena of edible plants). Whenever I drop in to Nat’s house I can spot something desirable in one of its stages of envy inducement glory. I gave up long ago with my aspirations to a gorgeous cottage garden cram packed with glorious perennials BUT I can use some of the principals of cottage gardens to help us get what we want on Serendipity Farm. Cottage gardens are mass planted. Cottage gardens have tiers and levels and borders…cottage gardens mass all different kinds of flowers together and in so doing they promote natural pest control and the massing minimises the weeds. There are many incredibly self-sufficient perennials that truly deserve a place here… I just have to sift them out of the hard work basket and work out where I can put them (most likely the side garden) so that they are close to the house so I won’t forget about them. The Catalpa bignonioides (try saying that with a cold 😉 ) or Indian Bean Tree that we bought 2 years ago from our fellow horticultural lefty mate Andrew at Red Dragon Nursery that has been only barely hanging on to life in its too small pot and its regular water stressed environment got planted out a few months back and is leafing up now. We planted it on the fenceline between our place and Glads as one day it’s going to be a gorgeous tree and it can get full sun where it is. Just a quick aside, I just checked how to spell “bignonioides” and found out that the leaves secrete extrafloral nectar as well as regular nectar in the flower in an effort to attract pollinators. What a clever plant! We have decided that we are going to plant a row of Brachychitons down the fenceline from the top of the property down to our woodshed. I can only imagine some future visitor to Serendipity Farm marvelling at the eclectic mass/tangle of plants and wondering at the minds that decided to use the eclectic selections of plants that we are choosing and what was in our minds to do so.

We took the boys to Paper Beach on a lovely cool still day and Steve took some lovely photo’s with his phone

I love the round stones on the riverbank and covet them beyond belief. It’s just lucky that I am aware of how unsustainable it is to pinch river stones or I might bring a rucksack with me every time that we visit this lovely beach

So we are plant rebels! Who cares! Someone has to be :o). Most Brachychiton species have edible seed. They thrive in dry conditions and you won’t get much drier than our back block. They were grown in Tasmania and some of the seed was collected in Tasmania so it is from established stock that has acclimatised itself to our conditions, in other words, it has provenance. Something with provenance has been grown in local conditions and is more than happy to survive and flourish. They are the perfect plants to grow in your garden or on your property because they have a proven track record. I like to check out peoples gardens in the local area. I am naturally nosy but that isn’t why I wrangle Earl in from his rabbit hunts and his sniff fests to crane over someone’s fence to attempt to see what they have thriving in their garden. I do it because if it’s happy on my neighbours property there is a good chance that it may be happy on ours.

River grass contrasting with the pure still river in the background and the 2 black swans made this a nice photo

I really liked this persons fence. The gates appear to be hand made

This photo is to give you some idea of how massive this oak tree was. The house is underneath it and is totally swamped by this enormous specimen. We couldn’t even fit it all in the shot as we would have had to back up into the river to get it all

I want to trade this wonderful man for our stupid prime minister. He is living a sustainable life by choice not postulating about it and doing deals with China behind her back to sell us and keep our economy afloat on the books. Check out this inspirational article about the President of Uraguay. This is one politician that I would actually invite into my home to share a meal. Bravo Jose Mujica you might be “The world’s poorest President” but you are one of the richest in human spirit :o).

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20243493

It’s a pity Jose isn’t the president of the United States of America isn’t it? Imagine how easy it would be to change over to sustainable ways of doing things with someone who lives it every day as his creed in the top seat? Oh well…we live in hope :0).

I am SO envious of this little segment of wasteland between a house and a shed that we spotted in Exeter today. Obviously the home owner used this area to throw their green waste that obviously consisted of a proportion of potato. Isn’t it both amazing and ironic how well vegetable grow when you could care less about them? 😉

If a boat wants to head down the river into Launceston we get to see it heading past Serendipity Farm. This little tug boat is off to be serviced in Launceston. We also get to see the Astralobe, the boat that goes to Antarctica, when it comes in to be serviced. Life on the river is never boring 🙂

I just got another example of how life can give you a belly laugh when you least expect it. “Aubergine”…for 1, we don’t use that word here in Australia. We call them eggplants…but I was trying to find a really delicious looking recipe that I saw on an episode of “Andy Bates Street Feasts” last night. The recipe was for a vegan burger that started by cooking all sorts of curried things in a large pot and then adding coconut cream and THEN adding polenta to soak up all of the liquid and the resulting burgers were shaped and fried and looked scrumptious. They then kicked it up a notch by using Khobz flatbreads instead of burger buns, adding all sorts of delicious chutneys and salads and folding them up into a nice neat envelope shape that was open at the top and eating them. My kind of grub! Anyway…I was hunting for the recipe and after finding it, I copied and pasted it into a word doc and as usual Word took offence to some of the spelling. It usually takes offence to Americanisations where the words have been changed but this time it wanted me to change “aubergine”. Fair enough…I don’t use the word aubergine so lets just change it to eggplant and be done with it. I clicked on Words suggestion and it wanted me to change aubergine to aborigine! That might not have been such a terrible swap apart from the context of the recipe that wanted me to take said aubergine/aborigine and peel and dice it! I had to laugh…I guess you had to be there 😉

It may not be the most beautiful of gates but I love my new rustic garden gate :). It has given me the ability to head out to the vegetable garden whenever I like and it has given Earl the newfound joy of being able to lay in wait and terrorise passing chooks

This photo is looking back towards the new gate. The star pickets and white bird netting contain the first of the little figs that we planted out. He will soon be joined by his 3 siblings because he has responded so well to his new home.

It’s suddenly time to post my hump day post and we have been flat out fixing up things in our designs. It would seem that we raised the bar in our designs and our dear esteemed lecturer Nick has raised his expectations right along with them…sigh…oh well…I guess we were back to the drawing board on a few things! We have just finished off the work and hopefully Nick will be happy with what we have changed and added and our next meeting might be our penultimate meeting. I plan on making a celebratory cake…maybe a nice orange and almond flourless cake with an orange glaze? Who knows…maybe a coffee and chocolate spongecake…whatever we make it usually goes down well for morning tea. I have really enjoyed studying the way that Steve and I have been studying over the last few years. Studying online gives you the freedom to work at your own pace and so long as you are disciplined, it’s the best way to study. There have been times that we kept going long into the night to finish something off and there have been times that we haven’t laid eyes on a book for months. Flexible delivery is the best of all worlds. It doesn’t use precious physical resources in a classroom situation and it allows people to work at their own pace and effectively receive 1 on 1 tutelage. Steve and I attend our meetings together and poor Nick has to juggle us both but I think that it really works well because we have different strengths and weaknesses and we are able to work well together once we know what is expected of us. Nick has always expected our very best and we have always strived to give it to him…plus 10% 😉

Earl in his element. As you can see, this is the part of the loungeroom that we have given up on and have allowed Earl to systematically disassemble whatever he finds in his mouth at any given time. He is munching on one of Steve’s t-shirts that he stole this morning…sometimes Earl’s games start a little bit too early for us and racing about the house after Earl with an “I am the Stig” t-shirt in his mouth is too hard for us at 7.30am

A man and his buddha

Earl has been helping me to write this post. He wants it known that he is my muse. This morning he was trying to sing something to me and I am obviously pretty stupid because I didn’t get it. I can see him staring at me sometimes as if I am brain dead. I know that I am not very good at my doganese but I have come to it fairly late in life and can’t be expected to learn new tricks all that fast. Earl spends most of his days trying to get one or the other of us to let him out of the gate…preferably unleashed but if he MUST he will wear a collar. Due to his penchance for attempting to ethnically cleanse Serendipity Farm of all domesticated and wildlife, his days unleashed have been few and far between and usually as a result of some bloody idiot forgetting to shut one of the gates before releasing the hounds after their walk. Earl is part alien part feral and part ADHD dog. He spends his life actively pursuing life on the other side of the fence and apparently I am the weakest link in the chain and as such his telekinetic powers of persuasion should be able to get me to do his bidding. As a muse Earl sucks. The “music” that comes from within is manic. The creative thoughts are terrifying and the literature pure horror. When Earl gets bored he eats things. His latest trick is to sneak into the spare/middle room when I am stupid enough to go in without shutting the door behind me (which is all the time…) and pinching walnuts out of a large container of them that I didn’t get around to stratifying this year. Once he gets the walnut it’s game on until one of us gets bored and then its a quick “crunch” and the walnut falls neatly in half suddenly becoming a very boring game and something to be shunned. I get to pick up the slobbery bits and deposit the walnut into the compost bin. Good try Earl…today isn’t your lucky day…I am wearing my tinfoil hat! Alien BEGONE!

A newly thin Fatty after recently giving birth…sigh…we now really REALLY have to deal with the exponentially exploding cat population on Serendipity Farm

This is Steve’s favourite little female feral that he has called “little pig”…don’t ask me why but she is very tame and may just end up being caught, sterilised at the vets and become part of life here on Serendipity Farm 🙂

I don’t usually type my post straight into the wordpress arena. I might actually save it before I hit “publish” because wordpress has a habit of losing entire sentences of prose and rendering the author hair free and rabid. I have cooked Steve some interesting curried pasties with home made curry paste, mashed potato, onion and cheese to be wrapped in puff pastry later on. I have been on a roll this week with making tasty meals and hopefully this one will fit the bill tonight. We finished off our studies at 4pm and after racing about to feed the seal eyed dogs (who want their evening meal at 3pm promptly and BOLLOCKS to daylight savings…) and sorting out what has to be done at the end of the day I find myself running short of time. Its that springtime thing again combined with it being the end of the year very soon. I am slowly getting used to waking up at 5am aside from my brains attempt to sabotage me into sleeping in by having me in deep dream sleep mode right when the alarm goes off. I have learned that precisely as the alarm goes off the automatic radio track has the “good” song on. If I lay in bed too long I end up with the “bad” song…good song = creedence…bad song = katie Perry…The first song that I hear in the morning usually stays with me all day and I have learned to quickly get up in the throws of the good song and turn off the radio before the bad song starts playing and sticks in my head to torture me for the rest of the day. I guess the universe is telling me that old adage “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”…it might make a “man” all of those things but it makes me “sleepy, dopey and grumpy” and as all of you know, that’s just on half of the 7 dwarves! Talk about a weird way to start the day! Ok, you get off lightly in the posting stakes again. If Nick gives us the OK it will be back to having the time to actually contemplate our navels whilst choosing what to do with our days rather than study…Study… STUDY as our sole option. See you Saturday when we may have started our big chook run thanks to Steve picking up some ex fish farm netting with a promise of more to come. Once those ninja chooks are behind bars where they belong we can mulch the poor long scratched and suffering garden and cover it up to minimise water loss. Once that happens we can install some irrigation to keep everything (mostly us) happy and we can then start to do a few more pressing things around Serendipity Farm. Have a great rest of the week and remember…it’s just on a month till Christmas (just thought you might like to know 😉

Add a liberal dash of humour to life and let the flavour energise your outlook

Hi All,

Have any of you wandered far away from home on the search for a good recipe? I am not talking physical miles here folks…I am talking ether miles…a long hard slog to find a rare and precious gem of a recipe that will serve as a holy grail in your degustory repertoire. I am at all times a magpie. I have beady little eyes that seek out precious shiny things in all aspects of my life and recipe hunting isn’t immune to my scavenger hunts. I head all over the place hunting for these shiny little tasty morsels and usually I find what I am looking for. I found a recipe for Korean rice cake noodles…I found a recipe for how to make home-made healthy margarine…if it’s out there I will find it BUT…the downside is that it usually comes wrapped in someone else’s language that doesn’t quite compute with my own. What’s a girl to do but head on over to Google Translate, copy and paste and spend some quality time falling off my chair laughing at the translation. I found a fantastic recipe for butter cookies via another website via another site via a link that showed a wonderful picture of a pig bun. Yes folks… I ended up finding a recipe for butter cookies written in Spanish after seeing a picture on a non-food blog for little pigs made out of bread. This brings me to humour, and where we put it in our lives. I would equate humour to being the salt in life’s recipe. Without it, life is just a pale representation of what it could be. Pepper might be passion but my mind isn’t made up on that one yet…maybe chilli for passion? Perhaps I could write a translation for human emotions using spices and herbs! I have always prized a good sense of humour over all else. I figure it can get you through some really tough times. It can also get you into trouble but you just have to learn where and when to burst out laughing …that and the ability to stifle yourself in both job, and police interviews 😉

We recently headed into town for a lecture with our illustrious leader and after our lecture we dropped off what was left of our hosta’s to live at their new “forever home” (until the snails and slugs find them here that is!) at Nat’s. I got Steve to take some photos with his phone because Nat’s garden is gorgeous. I want to lay down amongst all of the beauty and just absorb it like mushrooms absorb horse manure…deep into my soul. This garden has been created by a TRUE natural landscape designer. Nat just has “It”…I, sadly, don’t. The photos in today’s post are garden porn…enjoy my friends…enjoy 🙂

Everywhere you look in Nat’s amazing garden there is something special. It doesn’t hurt that you have the old quarter of Launceston as your view…

Even a gratuitous clothes line shot can’t take away from Nat’s gorgeous garden

I must admit to being drawn to a good sense of humour like a moth to a flame. My rss feed reader is stuffed equally well with amazing food blogs and well written blogs tempered with humour and insight into our common condition…life. I think we all take ourselves too seriously. So we have a wrinkle! Who really cares…the only ones making money out of them are the plastic surgeons and mirror salesmen. Who wants to decompose in a coffin with only their botoxed foreheads and silicone implants remaining for some poor future archaeologist to discover and wonder “WHY?!” Now I am laughing! I just made myself laugh…I had best put myself in my rss feed reader ;). You see? It’s easy to not take yourself seriously. It puts a bit of a barrier between you and the rest of the world. To give yourself a little space and permission to be yourself. Life wasn’t meant to be easy but it was also meant to be bearable. Humour gives us the edge to counteract many of the little irritations that life brings and tempers our days. I love nothing more than immersing myself in some well-honed comedy programs on television like Black Books…Futurama…My Name is Earl… there are some really amazing and funny shows out there…how about Third rock from the sun? Hilarious! We Aussies haven’t contributed much in the way of hilarious television comedy BUT we tend to live our lives in a humorous manner so perhaps we don’t need to manufacture it wholesale. The very best humour…the crème de la crème comes from working class front line communities. It comes from places where life is close to the edge and where people meld together in rows of terraced communion and are forced to wake up together, to empty their bins together and to live side by side no matter how much they don’t get along…comedy was born of salving the seething mass of variety that humanity breeds and giving us a way to all laugh together…healing the gaps and making us whole again. When you stop taking yourself so seriously you are allowing yourself to see someone else’s point of view and you are giving yourself permission to just be “you”.

Every available space has been loving stuffed with something gorgeous. This garden is only 4 years old (barely) and as Nat said the other day “It’s just starting to look how I saw it when I planted everything”

Isn’t this clematis growing on an archway with a gorgeous Pierre de Ronsard rose absolutely beautiful?

This beautiful Sambucus nigra “purpurea” (black elderberry) is just starting to flower and the wonderful dark purple complements the Cercis canadensis or forest pansy and on the left of this shot you can just about see a wonderful Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Lace Lady”. Nat most certainly knows how to use beautiful, special plants in a reasonably small space

It’s Thursday and in between the sun shining and then clouds zooming over and threatening to rain Serendipity Farm is basking in the spring weather and everything is blooming. Steve and I have been working incredibly hard on our final design plans to ensure that everything is as perfect as we can get it. We have the gift of a lecturer who expects our best and we have the ability to realise that this is indeed something precious. Nick is one of those true teachers who actually love learning and knowledge. The acquisition of knowledge is probably one of my most base desires and I spend a lot of time trying to learn things to salve my way along my chosen life path. We are going to miss Nick and that incredibly high benchmark that kept moving to accommodate our new found skills. I, especially, truly appreciate where your expectations took us Nick and although you will most probably never read this, I am indebted to you for your dedication and your desire to teach. You gave me the confidence and the sheer pig headed will to succeed where I would usually have thrown in the towel and I have learned to never give in when something becomes hard work and THAT is a precious thing to learn. We have both completed online forms where we had to support our applications to study graphic design and printing next year…I HATE blowing my own trumpet. It goes against every single tall poppy slaying oath that an Aussie born in the 60’s was subject to by their parents…”Don’t get up yourself” was our parents creed and any early attempts to elevate yourself above your common brethren was dealt a squashing blow and you returned to the fold both chastened and knowing that no matter how “special” you were…you were part of a familial machine and that machine wasn’t going to work if you decided that you were too special to take your place and do your bit. As such, I had to gild the lily and wax lyrical and point out how amazing both Steve and I were and at the end of it I felt much like I would imagine a prostitute feels after her first mark…a fair bit dirty and feeling like something was not right in the state of Denmark. Hopefully the artistic temperament’s that decided that we nameless faceless applicants should fight it out using our literary and physical accomplishments will appreciate a few diplomas and a desire to use their services as a springboard to better graphics in our concept plans and a springboard to university. We can only hope that they believed my pained and plaintive outpourings and that they don’t see through to the squirming middle aged hippy below who just wanted to tell them to shove it!

A better shot of that wonderful tree pansy complemented by the lime green of the Cotinus behind it and the darker purple of the succulents in pots

Another Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Lace Lady” and a maple with some more lovely things massed in the foreground.

Isn’t this border wonderful? Nat is a natural with roses. Every single rose in her garden is spectacular and complemented by salvias and all sorts of other perennials that set of the roses to a “T”

Histrionics aside…we really both want to do this course. We have decided that it’s “one in…all in” and if only one of us gets in, we will both pass. We have other ideas for how to pass a year…who knows…we might even have to fall on the “Work for the Dole” that so terrifies Steve as a brief hiatus until we can reunite ourselves with higher education…we might even throw ourselves into the job market for a year and see if we can’t “mow ya lawn guvnna…” it all remains to be seen and all we are assured of as I type this is that we have about 8 weeks off where we are going to make hay, compost, vegetables, eggs, propagate seeds, take cuttings, graft while the sun shines and enjoy all of the processes along the way. We have reached a point where we can start to really make some changes here now and we are going to have to sit down and use some of our newfound landscape design skills coupled with some hard grafted permaculture material online to change the sustainability contours of Serendipity Farm. We are on a hill…the top of the hill is very dry…the bottom of the hill…not so dry. We have the knowledge and the will to apply the knowledge needed to be resourceful about doing what we need to do to improve our land and give it back a sense of identity other than the sad Madge, Dame Edna’s bridesmaid, which she has become.

This garden is true eye candy that is backed up with a solid background in hard slog gardening. It’s a real tribute to Nat as a gardener and she was married in this garden…

Isn’t Nat’s house lovely? Note the colour scheme repeated throughout the garden. Nat is a big fan of blues, purples and dark reds and uses the palette to the max. I am in awe of Nats design skills 🙂

I just noticed that this photo is pretty similar to another one but whatchagonna do eh? It’s magnificent!

It never ceases to amaze me how many answers and ways to do things there are out there when money is conspicuous by its absence. There are so many ways to get what you need if you really want it and forging a sense of generosity within your community is a good start. As I type this I am eating my breakfast. I only mention this because I am attempting to meld health with satisfaction and have ended up with a very strange brew indeed! I started with rolled oats…I added a teaspoon of dried ginger…I then added some chopped almonds and some chopped dried dates…no problem there…I poured over boiling water and allowed it to steep BUT then I added a teaspoon of turmeric powder. It’s supposed to be amazing stuff and no doubt it is but when you add it to my first set of ingredients you get a really strange tasting result. I think I might just stick to putting turmeric in my savoury dishes, especially dhal, because it tastes best there. I have curried oatmeal at the moment and I am not sure how I like it. That doesn’t mean I won’t eat it…just I won’t enjoy it ;). I found some more amazing food blogs this morning. I subscribe to the amazing “Vivian Pang Kitchen” blog and with amazing recipes like this I feel like I won recipe lotto whenever she posts…

http://vivianpangkitchen.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/vanilla-steamed-bunsmantou-straight.html

I have found all sorts of amazing Chinese recipe blogs out there and using Google Translate to give me both a hilarious interlude AND some amazing recipes I am a much richer person for subscribing to this blog. The only problem is that I keep stuffing more and more wonderful food blogs into my rss feed reader. I had only just flensed the dross from it when I padded it right back out again. I guess I am a blog glutton (this curry porridge is growing on me…still metaphorically but you never know!). I have a recipe for making curry puffs with interesting home-made spiral flaky dough that I am going to trial tonight for Steve’s tea. I also have some great steamed bun recipes with all kinds of flour. I love messing about with the road less travelled and I might not be dabbling in gluten free or paleo but I like to find out how to use different flours like rice, potato, tapioca and chickpea to give interesting flavour and variations to my recipes. You never know when you are going to have to change what you use and if you already have a wide variety of alternatives you are less likely to come unstuck.

I really like this photo…I think I might sell it to a garden magazine…or use it to run paying tours to Nat’s garden when she is at work 😉

There are some truly special plants in this part of the garden

More of that gorgeous view and Nat’s gorgeous garden

I am waiting till Steve gets back to plant out a punnet of bicolour sweet corn. It’s apparently a fast growing quick cobbing variety which is lucky because we are behind the 8 ball on this season. I read “Sarah the Gardener’s” blog and feel a compelling need to expand and grow more. Perhaps it is my natural competitive streak and a little dash of over the Tasman rivalry but I get this desire to compete whenever I read Sarah’s wonderful posts. You can check her out here if you would like to see how a real home gardener does it…

http://gardeningkiwi.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/there-are-only-16-days-left-in-spring/

Sarah has been some of my inspiration for cobbling together veggie gardens and is one of those amazing “propagate your own” people that I so aspire to be. Next year I want to be able to grow our own seeds for our own vegetables and keep saving seed and growing it year after year. Sarah gives me hope that despite the local wildlife having degustory desires firmly aimed at mass consumption of our hard work, there IS a light at the end of the vegetable slavery tunnel and it does taste incredibly good. I want to go a whole lot further than vegetables though. I want edible fruit, nut and “other” trees, shrubs, vines, ground covers etc. all over Serendipity Farm. When we got here I realised that I should be careful about what I wished for because indeed…Serendipity Farm was totally covered in edibles…blackberries and banana passionfruit prevailed so I am glad that at least SOME of the edible species are under control!

The only bit of this garden that doesn’t have anything in it is under the clothes line and Nat had just been working in this space removing some enormous herbs that had gone feral

This small collection of conifers are all very special conifers and a source of great envy with both Steve and I…hey Nat…we might have time to do whatever we want whenever we want…we might have HEAPS of land to plant anything we want and we might be living the life of student hippies BUT you have the most GORGEOUS home and garden. I think we can call it even 🙂

Steve just made a whirlwind return and has unloaded the pile of grass clippings that we got from Glad’s place the other day and will be loading up our little trailer with as many bolts of ex fish farm rope as he can fit. They have lots of it and just put it out into a paddock for anyone to take. We have first dibs and a good free source of good quality ex fish farm netting is top of our priorities at the moment so he has raced back out to ensure that we don’t miss out. He has been sharing a cup of tea with an elderly German gentleman called albert who makes his own everything and who, along with his elderly wife are entirely resilient. Albert, up until this year, made all of his own wine. He had put in a series of grape vines and this year he decided that it was all too much for him. We all volunteered to pick his grapes for him but he isn’t willing to pay for the fertiliser that he says he needs to keep them going so he is going to pull them out. Methinks it’s an opportunity to gain some productive plants if he wants us to tow them for him. In return we can help him if he needs anything in the future…the building and forging of communities only happens when people are willing to share the love and the work around. We met a young couple with a young family last year when we attended one of the Tamar NRM’s seed collecting days. At the time we were not interested in the native seed that we collected and gave it back to Tamar NRM to propagate for field work. We met Tod and Shelley who are building their own home not too far away from Serendipity Farm and who are completely smitten with permaculture, homesteading and sustainability. I loved their ethos but we haven’t kept in touch. We wave to Todd as he drives past and he does the same with us but methinks it’s time to get back in touch again and add another community bow to our communal strings. I want to delve into the Deviot community basket as well. The community over there is resilient and self-sufficient and most determined. It’s hardly surprising that they are go-getters with most of the population comprising doctors, lawyers, architects and artists and I would like to put out my feelers whilst working with them to find ways to extend that sense of community and communal commitment to our own little local borough to see if we can’t get a few things going around here. Why can’t we have a community garden? Why not a farmers market? How about using the Rowella hall to get some homesteading or sustainability meetings of like-minded people going. Let’s reinstate the Country Women’s Association and the injection of community and family spirit that comes with it. It would seem like everyone is too busy to put anything into their community and we have the Madge communities that we deserve. I get the feeling that if we were able to get a few passionate people together and head off with purpose to various local government authorities we may just be able to get our community back.

A while ago I took the time to complete a submission towards allowing hemp seed to be considered as a viable and legal crop in Tasmania. I got an email saying that my submission had been accepted and the other day I got an update on the proposal and they are actually looking into it and it looks favourable that someday soon we will join the rest of the world in being able to take advantage of this crop that will give us an amazing food source full of omega 3’s and 6’s. As a vegan I would LOVE to take advantage of this amazingly healthy food on a regular basis. In the U.S. you can buy hemp seed milk like you can buy soymilk here and it would be fantastic to be able to produce my own hemp seed milk. It would also be a boost to farmers because this is one of those crops with a large demand and very little supply in Australia. It’s good to know that when you take the time to put an effort in, sometimes you DO get rewarded :o). I will keep you in the loop about hemp and one day we may be able to grow our own on Serendipity Farm :o)

Oops! I got so excited about hemp I almost overshot the mark and hit 3000 words! I had better stop there so I don’t. Have a great weekend and see you all back here same time, same place on Wednesday :o).

The frugal bug bit me hard

Hi All,

Frugality is a bit like exercise. You start off noticing every time you set off and you are knackered when you get back BUT pretty soon you find yourself enjoying the previously taboo subject and finding all sorts of ways to slip it into your day to day life with good results. Frugality conjures up scrooge. I am too generous to be a scrooge but frugality has really started to sit well with me. I love to share the love around with anyone who wants to share but I am learning to condense my efforts into those that offer a bit of reward for your hard work. I am starting to get very enthusiastic about making our own pasta and the prospects of taking it a step further and making all sorts of weird and wonderful farinaceous goods from far flung countries. Just about every country has some sort of pasta equivalent albeit made from yak’s butter and a dab of the local earth to get it started. I have always wandered the degustory earth like grasshopper in search of foodie Nirvana…not “Foodie” like Anthony Bourdain, but Foodie like “Oh MAN that tastes so good I need to make it again…right now!” That sort of foodie :o). As a penniless student hippy there are certain ingredients that are out of my reach but they are not unattainable, just luxuries. I save them for special events where their inclusion will lend an air of “special” to the occasion. Growing our own veggies is another case in hand…not only can we grow our own vegetables, we can plant things that we otherwise would never be able to get in the shops. I am in the process of working out how to set up an Australia wide network of Seedy Pen pals to share open pollinated seed and other edible and ornamental seed with we long suffering Aussies whose borders shall be protected at all costs! I am right there with customs on preventing disease from entering our borders…I just see the end results where we can’t get cheaper seed material BUT if we are willing to pay the earth and at least one of our limbs we CAN import the bare rooted material from a nursery who is willing to make massive profits on the mainland and pass ALL of the costs onto the poor Tasmanians or Western Australians who are desperate enough to want something a bit different. Plant material should know no boundaries except those that exist to stop diseased material from passing them.

Some of Noel Button’s glorious special irises that he grows on a small allotment in Exeter and sells them once a year at Entally.

I LOVE living near the water. There is something magical about being able to watch the ebb and flow of the river

It was hard to take this shot when there were 2 overexcited dogs trying to drag us in so that they could have a swim. I don’t know how Steve managed to take it!

The more Serendipity Farm starts to emerge like the phoenix from the ashes of Highfield Gardens, the more excited I get at the possibilities. While we will NEVER be the glorious manifestation that Wychwood is (check out this amazingly gorgeous and highly enviable garden here… http://www.wychwoodtasmania.com/Garden/gardenM.htm and it’s only 2 ½ acres AND it’s not too far from Serendipity Farm!) we can make this a little permaculture paradise in an oasis of dry summer humidity. I know “dry” and “humidity” don’t really work but we have the luxury of a short growing season coupled with a lack of rain (thanks to the mountains to the west stealing all of the rain before it gets to us) and a LOT of natural vegetation that tends to leak out its moisture as soon as the temperature gets over 25C. Couple this with the hole in the ozone being directly over us and the sun really packing a punch and our conditions become humid and dry…go figure! Finding free edible plants like our figs and our little loquats was great fun as well as money in the bank. Frugality breeds frugality simply because it feels so good. We aren’t going to start hoarding what we have but we are most definitely enjoying living simply and richly. It’s now Sunday and I am SO excited! I only recently told you about my lack of success with growing Moringa oleifera. I had purchased seed online several times and no matter what I did it wouldn’t germinate. I blamed on selling and old seed BUT that didn’t stop me from tossing the last of the seed that I bought about 2 years ago into my automatic sprouter along with the purple king beans that Bev recently sent me and the last of the beansprouts that we used most of last night in a wonderful stirfry. I was watering the strawberries when Steve called out to me and came out of the shed with his hands cupped around something. I thought that he had caught one of the little banjo frogs that live amongst our potted plants eating the insects that are attracted to the moisture but he had one of the Moringa seeds in his hands and it had sprouted! As my dad would have most euphemistically spouted “You could have bloody well knocked me over with a feather!” The only reason I tossed the seed into the sprouter was so that I could emphatically finish the sad saga of the Moringa and call it the bad lot that it was but it paid off and I might just get those (well…at least one!) Moringa’s that I have lusted after. That’s the thing about growing things from seed and cuttings, you get a chance to mess about with the mystery of life and the end results can be nothing short of enlightening :o)

Lest we forget…

Buttercups!

We managed to grow at least 1 Muscat grape from our original vine that we left with our daughters in town and hopefully we should get some more as the cuttings are starting to leaf up well

It was Remembrance Day today. We remembered. I remembered my grandfathers who both went to war. My dad’s dad was in both wars and my mums dad was in WW2 in Papua New Guinea. I remembered that the fantastic life that we lead today is only because of these men who were brave enough to do what their country called them to do. I am not talking about whether or not they SHOULD have been called to war…just that they were ready to go to protect their families and their country…nothing is nobler than being willing to lay down your life. We were over at Glads collecting a trailer load of grass clippings and old dead leaves to bring back and inoculate our new hot compost heap with. We had been chatting to Glad and Steve was still enviously staring at the sky where not 1 but 2 sea planes were swooping low…landing in the water and then taking off again in tandem when Glad said “must be getting near 11…” and we remembered that we needed to observe 1 minute’s silence. Glad headed indoors and Steve started the car and then suddenly stopped it. From the car radio the last post rang out clear and pure and flowed down to flood the river where boatloads of people stopped what they were doing and looked up and listened. We do remember grandad. We remember that life is too short to wage war on each other and that any time there are enough brave men who are willing to lay down the law there in the midst is humanity. Thank you SO much for what you did for us. For the chance to be able to think what we want to think…do what we want to do and be who we want to be. I don’t know much about what my grandad’s went through. I know that my dad’s dad got gassed by mustard gas. I know that my mum’s dad came back harbouring a particularly virulent form of malaria and had to spend a long time convalescing in hospital. I know that neither of them would have been the same after they returned and the burden of what they had witnessed burned deep into their psyche forever. All I know is that I will be eternally grateful for what they did for me.

Serendipity Farm looking “spesh” for spring 🙂

A plethora of eggs

Bean futures on steroids with a punnet of bicolour corn and some tiny little Cavello Nero

I also remembered something else. I remembered back when I was at school and played the tuba in the school brass band. I remember how on Remembrance Day we would all be shuffled off in uniform to march from the school down to the memorial and most of the town would turn up stoic and scrubbed and looking like the farmers playing dress up that they were. Uncomfortable in their suits and shiny shoes but as soon as the last post started we all stood to attention and we listened…a whole community united by remembrance. After the last post and some other cornet interlude played by a quavering youth whose adolescent honking usually only bore a vague resemblance to the original score, we marched right back to the school and back to our lives without much more thought about what we were remembering. I remember the weight of that tuba…I remember the song that we played as we marched and the “Boom Boom” of the big bass drum. I remember how badly we marched and how heavy that damned tuba started to get about halfway down to that memorial. The memorial had the epitaph “Lest We Forget” emblazoned on its monolithic brow and we never forgot…not once…to march for the soldiers.

Things certainly grow quicker in spring. This is the little walnut that was only just out of the ground on Saturday…

and this is one of the little hazelnuts that stratified over winter and we forgot about till we wanted the esky back. The little nut trees are being protected by the wheelbarrow till they are old enough to move out of the shed as Pingu the great defoliater lives in the shed with them!

The weather is starting to heat up and my thoughts are turning to irrigation systems. We have a lot of irons in the fire at the moment and as one iron gets beaten by the blacksmiths hammer of activity, the others have to lay there smouldering until we can get around to dealing with them. Irrigation is going to have to come to the fore soon as we have been planting out our precious babies and whilst they are going great guns with the spring rain that we have been having, pretty soon we will hit our 3 months of summer with very little rainfall and we need to be ready to irrigate. The cleverest way to irrigate our widespread trees is to use black polypipe and brown dripper hose in a circle around the tree/shrub that you want to irrigate in a series of watering stations. Black polypipe is cheap… brown dripper hose is not. That’s why you need to use a whole lot more black polypipe than brown dripper hose and make it count. You also need to ensure that the precious moisture that you are giving your plants stays put in the ground around their root zone and so you have to mulch Mulch MULCH to the max. In a couple of years’ time our trees won’t need our supplemental water. Till they are able to establish deep and decent root systems we will need to give them enough to survive on till they can stand on their own two feet. We are always mindful of our sustainable ethos here on Serendipity Farm and one thing that has been grating on our consciences is the lack of a large water tank to take advantage of the annual winter rainfall that cascades from every orifice on site. We have several outbuildings on the property and any one of them could be collecting precious sky water for use over summer. I wish we could afford an enormous rainwater tank but we simply can’t. That won’t stop me looking for as many water barrels as I can over the coming year to shove under drainpipes and harvest next year’s water but for now my frustration at not being able to have collected all the water that we need for the summer watering regimen is pretty high.

My new fortified compost pumpkin and potato future bin. Good luck breaking in possums…I overengineered it to the max!

Our veggies are going great guns. They seem to like the position in full sun that we gave them and are growing like crazy. The tomatoes are happy and I am about to trial pinching out the shoots on the tomatoes and potting them up to grow tomato cuttings to keep the harvest growing well into next year. I learned this technique from Bev at “FoodnStuff” a wonderful Victorian blog that taught me all about water wicking garden beds and Hugelkultur gardening techniques. Bev is a mine of information and is living real. Check out her website for some wonderful ways to garden Aussie style :o)

http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/dehydrated-pumpkin/

That post was a most interesting run down on preserving pumpkin for future use. Rabid little Hippy just told me about another new Aussie sustainability blog that one of her friends has started up in Queensland. It’s called The Tropical Hippy and although she hasn’t posted many posts yet this blog promises to be a most interesting read and I have tucked it in my rss feed reader between “These Light Footsteps” and “Turning Veganese”. I hope she likes the company ;). If you would like to check her out feel free to wander on over to

http://thetropicalhippy.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/growing-veges-from-veges/

And this post should reward your efforts handsomely. It’s about growing vegetables from the ends of other vegetables and is great fun!

The tip strawberries that are now incredibly happy (and also fortified) and are just about to start producing strawberries for us. Some of the berries are starting to turn red…Hopefully there will be some strawberries left to show you 😉

I am SO glad that I had this mostly done post cribbed up my sleeve! We have been working exceptionally hard this week to finish off a mammoth design each and suddenly it’s Wednesday and my eyes are sore and twitchy from being forced to watch a computer monitor for hour after hour. I actually really enjoyed the process though. AutoCAD and I have had a bit of a history going. We didn’t like each other much and we still treat each other with a degree of suspicion but we are learning to get along now and I am actually proud of the sustainable landscape design idea that I created. In the few brief minutes that we allowed ourselves away from the computer I fortified the compost heap because I had an epiphany. I was tossing the latest contents of my compost bucket onto the heap under the interested gaze of the chooks who instantly fall on any scraps with gusto and scratch them all over the place eating very few of them (fussy sods!) and leaving the way open for the possums to wander about scarfing scraps at their leisure. I have been noticing pumpkins popping up in the compost bin along with a potato growing out the side. The potato has lost its leaves to wayfaring wallabies but the pumpkins were managing to survive because I tossed a large dead lavender into the compost because it was too hard to snip up and was waiting for it to decompose and it was protecting some of the young pumpkins from the possums…as I upturned the compost bucket into the compost bin I thought to myself…”why don’t I contain this compost bin and grow spuds and pumpkins in it?”…just like that I had a great idea! Serendipity Farm soil isn’t anything to write home about thanks to the heavy clay and the plethora of rocks BUT my compost bin has been sitting there full of happy worms elevated above the rocks and the clay and things are growing in it magnificently. Rather than hump the compost off to the veggie garden, I am just going to plant the veggies IN the compost! A win-win situation all round and so I headed outside with the dregs of a bag of King Edward spuds that had gone to sprouts and some Kipflers that we bought a while ago that I just never quite got around to planting. I am going to put a trellis up the side of the chook house and train the pumpkins up the trellis. Once the pumpkin gets to the chook roof it will have all the space to run laterally that it can and hopefully, if I do my job and keep it happy with food and water, I will get some pumpkins AND the chook house will get some thermal insulation against the heat of the day.

Cacti enjoying the sunshine in their pot 🙂

Ok, it’s just about time to post this post and I am going to spend the evening (you guessed it) staring at the computer screen doing a bit more work to complete one of our final units. In a few weeks we won’t be horticulture students any more. We will students of fortune…our own good fortune. We will have time to spend in the garden. We will have all day, every day, to put our heads together and make gates, bean beds and sort out our chook yard. We have applied for the graphic art and printing course that we want to do next year and now we just have to wait to see if we get accepted. I am really enjoying the processes of Serendipity Farm in the spring. I was looking out the window this morning at some of the hard work that we have done here and realised that it feels like “our place” now. The amount of pleasure that I get out of getting down and dirty is completely out of proportion to the act of getting down and dirty. I have a sense of peace and happiness that I haven’t had in ages and I feel like a woman in her castle…perhaps we should have called this place “Serenity Farm” ;). To all of you who don’t know what I am talking about…go watch one of the few amazing Aussie movies called “The Castle” and you will get it :o). See you all on Saturday when we will be up to our armpits in beans and we had better have remembered to get that bird netting to protect them or they might take over Serendipity Farm! :o)

The 1 1/2 hour duck and Steve Solomon reads our soily tea leaves

Hi All

Now that the sap in my brain is flowing at an equal rate to that of the plant community on Serendipity Farm I am hurling myself into a new phase. I am researching cool climate permaculture at night and in the day, Steve and I are venturing out into the sodden soggy wasteland that we call home with new eyes on. No more overwhelmed city slickers for us! Its year 3 on Serendipity Farm and we have learned to combine our studies with our ultimate reason for being here, our desire to change Serendipity Farm for the better. Procrastination stops action and is the scourge of our generation where change seems to be ramping itself up on a daily basis and it’s wonderful to immerse ourselves in a slower more holistic approach. It’s also wonderful to be able to stand back and see what we once thought were problems, turn into solutions and actual assets before our eyes when permaculture and other systems that work sympathetically with nature are applied. I have actually managed to get my rss feed reader blogs down to a manageable level. I am loath to rid myself of any of them and have found a way to make sure that I get an amazingly broad spectrum of my personal interests in a nice slice of daily mind nourishing blog cake. It’s like one of those rainbow layer cakes for the brain but substitute artificial colours, flavours and white flour for healthier alternatives and you have my daily rainbow cake of happiness. Spencer at anthropogen.com never ceases to amaze me with his never ending search for ways to apply natural solutions to the worlds current problems and more importantly, he shares his findings freely. Yesterday I learned how rainfall in the Amazonian rainforests is initiated by microscopic organic fungi particles…a fully self-perpetuating environment ensuring that water falls where it is needed most and it could almost be seen as the rainforest itself directing water where it is needed. When you start to remove mainstream human endeavours from the equation and step back and take a good look at what nature is actually doing ad-infinitum, you can’t be anything but awestruck by the magnificence of that amazing cyclic symphony of perpetual life.

Red sky in the morning, rain on Serendipity farm

Keen little certificate 3 horticulture students at the soil carbon day…I am sure that our class never looked this enthusiastic about anything!

I sat with Nat and our friend from the witness protection at the soil carbon day today and a great time was had by all

I TOLD you my brain sap was rising ;). Steve has been finding me all sorts of information about permaculture that is fuelling my inner fiery desire to get “stuck in” to working outside again. Steve sources the stuff and I mainstream it. As usual, we are entirely different when it comes to how we work. Steve is a hands on man who works from the outside in and isn’t all that interested in where the information came from. He would rather just go out and “do” it. I am the exact opposite. I am the researcher, the porer-overer of books, the disciple of knowledge and information who positively beams whenever I find a precious little gem that gives us a way to do something that we can use to effect change on Serendipity Farm and together we are formidable! I started wading through everything that we have been finding over the weekend and discovered that most of it is stacked for the tropics. I accept that its heaven on a horticultural stick to grow plants in the tropics BUT we don’t live there…so now I am honing my searches to cool climate permaculture so that we can use what we find directly without having to sieve it through several filters to sift out the heat, the plants that will NOT grow here and the sense of disappointment that comes from not being able to apply a large swath of information directly to our needs. Never one to give in that easily, I have managed to source a cool climate permaculture book by David Holmgren called “Sustainable living at “Melliodora” Hepburn Permaculture Gardens: a case study in cool climate permaculture 1985-1995”. Written for a cold climate and extremely pertinent to our local conditions (we might even be a bit warmer than David’s property!) this book has been placed on hold at the local library and we will be able to see how someone else has juggled a 4 season cold climate as compared to a 2 season (hot and dry or VERY hot and wet) tropical climate.

Frank Strie with another wonderful presentation about Biochar and how the process of slow cooking wood gives a multitude of benefits when dealing with our soil and with energy/heat production

The components of Franks illustrative biochar burner model. Note the can full of twigs that approximates a 44 gallon drum full of dry limb wood

Now tip that 44 gallon drum (imagine people…use your imagination!) upside down and drop it into a slightly larger metal drum that you have drilled large holes in the base so that you have a slight margin left between the sides of the drum full of wood and the slightly larger drum

The internet is wonderful! Not only can I talk to you from the comfort of my computer chair in front of my massive television monitor (I DON’T NEED GLASSES!), but Steve can ring me from town while he is in my Aladdin’s cave of great happiness…”Wholesome House” health food shop in Mowbray where David and Lee not only sell the products but know everything about them and practice what they preach and I can check something online for him to make sure that it’s what I want in an instant. Technology isn’t all bad folks! I have been delving deeper into Korean cuisine and found a wonderful website that I actually added to my rss feed reader it was so good. Mochi is something that I absolutely adore and this website gave me several recipes for how to make it along with how to make your own Korean ricecakes which are a sort of extruded thick paste (think big fat rice noodles as chunky as your little finger) that is cut into segments and used for body and texture in Korean cookery. Korean food is all about healthy, spicy tastiness and being a vegan, most of these recipes can be adapted to my kind of food. Steve and I were talking about vegetarianism yesterday whilst watching Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s great adventure into vegetables. Under his cover story of “I wanted to get healthier” was an apparently sky high cholesterol reading and a rapidly invading middle aged paunch. I forgive him his vanity because he is one of those genuine people who put his fame/money where his mouth is and gives as good as he gets. Cooking vegetarian is a doddle folks! Vegetarian cookery is full of eggs, cheese, cream and the only thing missing is the meat. Not hard to get something scrumptious when you coat it in sour cream, roll it in egg and crumbs and douse it liberally in thickened cream and when you add all of the options of other countries cuisines you can see how easy it is to venture into a world without meat. Going vegan is a bit harder but is now sufficiently mainstream as to be a “desirable” way to live. The extremists have veered off to Paleo diets and raw food diets and left us vegans to get on with quietly living our lives out of the spotlight.

Now you loosely fill that gap with small twigs, leaves or sawdust and light it

To eliminate smoke from the chamber you add a lid to the equation with holes in to catch the heat/smoke exchange

A slightly smaller metal drum (an old oil drum from some bulk cooking oil?) with a piece of metal tubing inserted through the top to carry the heat byproduct up through this second chamber

Going vegan is a worldly experience because there is a world of experience and love for pulses, legumes, grains and all sorts of weird and wonderful cultures and fermentations out there that open your eyes to just how amazing the human race is to have survived on local and attainable foodstuffs. Even things that are generally considered inedible or unpalatable have been messed about with and tweaked to yield edible foodstuffs. The humble acorn is one such food. On its own its disgusting. I know…I tried one! After being dried, pounded into a flour and washed continually until the tannins are leached out of the flour it is not only edible, it’s a staple food for many Baltic and other European countries. Try eating a ripe olive straight from the tree (again…I know because I tried one…) and you are given to wonder how ANYONE would think that “maybe I might be able to make this tasty if I brine it?”…we owe so much to our forefathers and foremothers for their dedicated hard work in showing us that you can not only eat these things, but they are delicacies. Crickets, worms, fermented stinky tofu…hmmmm maybe there are limits! But everyone takes for granted the amazing wealth of knowledge out there regarding food preparation and how to get the most nutrition out of what we eat. Food production is generally outside our sphere of thought because we just go to the shop and get it right? That’s what we did when we moved in and decided to make the most of the 4 acres of land that we have, we decided to make it work for us, and for all of the native inhabitants of Serendipity Farm.

Now for the bit where you diversify! You need a metal drum slightly larger than the second (bulk cooking oil) drum with copper pipe coiled in through a hole lower down in this drum and coiled to fit loosely around the inner drum and exiting through a hole further up the drum…stay with me here folks…

Here’s the second chamber over the holes in the lid of the first chamber

And now you invert the last drum (with the copper coiled pipe) over the top of the drum with the pipe and voila, you have a small personal biochar manufacturer coupled with a hot water heater! I love this idea so much I am going to attempt to manufacture one of these for summer use on Serendipity Farm

As we walk the dogs every day, I have started to really look at what grows well in our local area. Cherry plums grow amazingly well. In Tasmania its apparently a sport to whinge about Cherry Plums. They grow like topsy here and I, for one, have made a mental note to plant some along the boundary fences to feed the possums and distract them from our more highly prized fruits. I dug up 4 little loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) from a road verge last year and they overwintered in the glass house and are going great guns. After a sufficient hardening off period in a sheltered spot on Serendipity Farm, these little free babies are going to be put to work as possum bait futures. We will be planting out kiwifruit, Muscat (and other) grapes and all sorts of currants and berries including ground covers (strawberries), vines (thornless blackberries) and shrubs (currants and native plum pines and native cranberries) to lure the possums away from our primary crops. It’s all about sharing the land and once our local possums get wind of a year round food supply they will be battling the ensuing hoards for their position of superiority. Feeding a few possums to guard from the many is a good sacrifice to be making! On Wednesday (today but typed on Monday) our friend in the witness protection and I are heading into Launceston to “The Tramshed” where we are going to learn all about local soil and its limitations as part of the Tamar NRM August Sustainability Month. I have gotten an incredible amount of free knowledge from this wonderful organisation and feel very privileged to have met so many passionate local people. It’s a huge pity that Tasmanian’s as a whole would rather eat their own feet than learn something new, and even the prospect of an amazing free day with morning and afternoon tea and a fantastic lunch provided can’t even lure them out of their armchairs. I am NOT Tasmanian. I don’t even mind being a “Mainlander Outcast”…suits me folks! If that means that I can sit in a room of 15 people with a fantastic view of the podium and learn quality information for free then so-be-it! I have really been reinvigorated by everything that I have learned over the past month and am inspired to apply most of it to our day to day working on our property.

Check out the root system on one of Frank’s lettuces grown in compost layered with biochar. This stuff is amazing!

I just had my very first case of what might be construed as “homesickness” since we moved to Tasmania. The funny thing was, it wasn’t even “home” I felt nostalgic for! It was the Western Australian capital city Perth that got me feeling a little wistful. Perth is an amazing multicultural hodgepodge of everything a person could need. We used to head up at least a few times a year on the 400+km long haul to stock up with everything that we couldn’t purchase locally, usually Asian grocery items and other ethnic foodstuffs that Albany simply didn’t have. I loved Perth aside from the heat when it was summer (which was coincidentally our usual time to visit…). I remember one of our “must visit’s” being Kakulas Brothers bulk produce that made me incredibly envious of people in Perth who could just drop in whenever the fancy took them. For us, it meant a large spend to stock up on all sorts of dried beans, herbs, spices etc. that we simply couldn’t get in Albany. The very last time that we shopped in Kakulas we were served by Mr Kakulas (since passed away) who started this thriving and no doubt incredibly profitable landmark in the city. He had to leave part way through serving us and the girl that took over told us that he had a real hands on approach to his business and was often to be found serving behind the counter and chatting to customers asking them about what they liked and didn’t like about his shop. I dare say that this 80 something year old man had his finger on the pulse of that well-oiled machine because every single time we ventured through those hallowed doors, the place was thronging with customers. You give people what they want, they come back! I also remember Kong’s, a large Asian supermarket, one of many in Northbridge a multicultural suburb of Perth and the restaurant strip of the city. A very exciting place to wander around and immerse yourself in culture. I love Perth. I haven’t found a city close to its vibrant eclectic laid back sense of entitlement and always loved to visit even though the 6 hour car trip had knobs on!

The stuff that dreams are made of!

Back to Wednesday and just about to have a shower ready to head off to Launceston with our friend in the witness protection for a day learning all about soil carbon courtesy of the Tamar NRM. I have a newfound appreciation for this humble behind the scenes group who have been putting on some pretty amazing free events in the hope of educating some of us as to what we should and shouldn’t be doing with our soils. Steve has been hunting. He has found me a myriad of information about permaculture including videos, pdf’s and all sorts of documents that I am going to share with my friend today. “Just bring your laptop and I can stuff you full of garden hope!” We are in similar situations with our garden. “Chaos”. Hers is denuded of all vegetation and anything that she plants is instantly visible and noted as “prey” by the many nocturnal visitors to her 50 acre property out in the bush. She is so far out in the bush that she doesn’t have electricity, water or phone and her family are completely off grid.  We have plenty of vegetation’s but no order and both of us have those troublesome little nocturnal visitors who like to swing about on our tender new vegetation, however the feral cats have been leaving us “tails”…we can only guess that they were once young possums! No sign of the duck that we owned for 1 ½ hours that we bought for our lonely girl who quacks herself hoarse for her sister. We bought it from the grouchy old bee/duck man up the road for $15. Lucky we didn’t spend a fortune because after luring us to let it out of the outside coop area by making doe-eyes at our duck and trying desperately to get out “to her” it hightailed it over to the nearest high spot and made like a tree and leafed! The last we saw of it, it was running faster than Earl on the scent of a chicken towards the bush at the back of our neighbours block. We must have made a funny site, just on dusk, running with rakes in pursuit…our neighbour to the rear drove down to see what the commotion was about (no rake I note Noel…not going to join in the frothing melee?) and we had to reassure him that we were not insane nor were we intent on taking our rakes to Frank’s house. Not only are we now “those crazy hippies down the hill” but we are also “those crazy whacked out hippies down the hill!”…sigh…I have found a use for a large stainless steel enclosed drum that we inherited on dad’s “steel pile” left here for years by nefarious steel pilferers around the state. I am now the king of that castle by default and so I am trying to make the most of what we were left “cheers for that pile of steel dad…” by putting it to uses that my dad would have shaken his head and said “done ya dough” to whilst walking away disgustedly. I have come to terms with the fact that I was never going to be one of my dad’s favourite children and actually enjoyed the rise I got whenever discussing my fantastic schemes…dad hated hippies…my job there was done!

Looky here people, another massive post rolls out onto the printing floor and I haven’t even had my shower yet! Sorry about sitting here overnight smelly and with unkempt hair but you know how it is… the press never stops! Got to get you all something to read over your cocoa and here it is, unadorned, severely unedited and most definitely passionately heartfelt. Have a fantastic time till Saturday. The sun is weakly sniffing around the perimeters of Serendipity Farm but I am NOT lured into thinking that we are going to have anything other than the rain that was forecast! A day sitting indoors listening to precious information about soil amelioration and soil carbon is most probably the best outcome for today. See you Saturday and don’t sweat the small stuff folks…it will still be there tomorrow! 😉

A hand full of oca and a head full of rising sap

Hi All

Today is the first of spring and the weather has turned on a most magnificent day for it. We had a nice sleep in (7.30am) by ignoring the chickens scolding us underneath our bedroom window, the cuckoo shrike tapping  on the kitchen window and calling out, the dogs alternately hopping into bed and hopping out in anticipation of their walk and got out of bed when WE wanted to. We then fed some bread and butter (our chooks are connoisseurs and will only eat butter) to the chooks and the feral cats; let Pingu out for a few more chunks of bread and butter and then the rest of the coop for a mass orgy of bread and butter flying in the air. Sparrows, cats, chooks, duck EVERYONE had some and then we headed out to walk our boys in the beautiful spring air in Exeter. We parked the car and headed off for a nice long walk and then dropped in to drop off a few “Barbara” pumpkin seeds to the local nursery man who was most grateful and gave me a hand full of what we call “New Zealand Yams” but on further research, their real name is “Oxalis tuberosa” or Oca in their native South American Andes homeland. The New Zealanders are prone to pinching things and renaming them after themselves starting with kiwifruit, a native of China and Pavlova, Lamingtons and ANZAC biscuits ALL of which originate in Australia and now Oca from the Andes…I won’t be hearing that you don’t pinch things you Kiwis! I think you have been learning from your native Kakapo flightless parrots. I watched a Discovery channel programme about them a little while ago that showed how they might not be able to fly, but they can certainly steal things! Australia might be founded on convicts but you have no excuses for pinching things but we do forgive you because your economy is totally stuffed and heck, most of you are heading over here to become Aussies anyway so I guess we will go easy on you for the while…but we are watching you…

More mushrooms growing after we have already harvested a kilo of nice big mushrooms from our freebie bags. After they finish shrooming, we can use the mushroom compost for our garden

One of the feral cats has decided that she likes Steve and follows him around meowing. He does feed them every evening so I guess it might be cupboard love, but she seems particularly taken with him

Serendipity Farm is emerging from its week of drowning and aside from it now being leech heaven around here, we are hoping that the sun will dry it out a bit over the weekend

Its the first day of spring! Time to wash the car and clear out the boat ready to launch it on that lovely water in the background…

While I was at the nursery in Exeter I took advantage of their kind offer of a bag of red wriggler worms for free. Our compost heap does contain worms, however they are the enormous native kind that breeds slowly and that just slug about waiting for blackbirds to eat them. Red wrigglers are adapted to living in compost heaps and the small bagful that I placed carefully into our overladen heap should be incredibly happy to be relocated. Their home at the nursery was seething with comrades but here on Serendipity Farm, they will be pioneering their way into history. Once they breed up we will start a worm farm to collect the worm tea for use on our plants. So many ideas! Steve found me heaps of online information about permaculture the other day and I have been immersed in videos of hope and sustainability. There is nothing like being a penniless student hippy to make you realise that consumerist gardening is not for you! Who can afford to populate their gardens with purchases from mainstream nurseries (and indeed, who would want to!). Our pathway in life gives us lots of time but precious little payola to spend but never people to let problems stand in our way, we negotiate our way around the outside like gyrating, belly dancing hippy buffalo girls and find a lateral way to solve our problem. No money for plants? No worries! We haven’t just spent the better part of 4 years studying horticulture for nothing you know! We learned how to grow plants from seed, from cuttings and how to bud, graft, layer and many cleverer hints and tips to allow us to grow our own.

Thursday over at Beauty Point walking the dogs in the sunshine aren’t we lucky to have such lovely places to walk our dogs?

A clever way to enhance a standard wooden fence

The rest of the fence is the same and most certainly makes this home one to remember on our walk around Beauty Point

We fixed up the glasshouse and have a heat bed of our own to get our cuttings to strike and our seeds champing at the bit and we have the will and the desire to find solutions to our planty problems. The gazillion strawberry plants languishing at the Exeter tip that I waded through mud (after asking permission from the tip guy) to save from a waterlogged death are all potted up and flowering like crazy. I planted the oca in with the strawberries so that I know where they are and aside from the strawberries there is a tiny little Babiana corm that I found amongst the debris and planted and that is now sending up greenery to greet the sun. I love gardening. It’s one of the most positive things that you can do. It’s a way to feel the cycles of the seasons and immerse yourself in the natural world and as the spring sap rises in the deciduous trees and shrubs I can feel it bubbling inside me and rising in unison, full of possibilities and the excitement that comes with effecting change.

Myvanwy doing what she does best. She is a hybrid of Herman and Ethel Merman and is a 75% all white hydration. She appears to be rising magnificently and taking her time to fall so it looks like there is a lot of happy yeasty activity going on in that nice tall glass jar. She is raising at least double every time we feed her and so Miff, is going to be our next baking event. Anyone laying bets as to how she turns out?

Steve’s delicious creation soup the other night.

We found a packet of cloud ear fungus that I must have bought in a past life hiding up the back of the cupboard the other day and decided to use it in our cooking. You soak it in warm water, cut out the bit where it joins to the tree and it is crunchy and vaguely seaweedy. Delicious and we will certainly be using the rest of the packet soon

A young currawong looking through our bedroom window wondering if he might just move in. I know life here is paradise for animals but inside is off limits matey!

I have grand plans for how to slow the rapid descent of water from the sheoky dry bit up the top of the block down to the marshy melaleuca infested area down at the bottom of the property. I am going to build a hugelkultur garden bed. We can’t dig the usual swales that permaculture suggests to perform this task, but if you look a little outside the box you can usually find an answer and hugelkultur seems to be ours. You can start with biochar logs (slow burned to get a honeycomb pattern in the charcoal) or you can start with regular garden debris and we have a depressing amount of garden debris littering Serendipity Farm. I think that the true value of permaculture is being able to use what you have available to effect change rather than having to wait until you have enough money to do it. I can “take a frown and turn it upside down” and those piles of debris that were hanging about waiting for me to hire a mulcher or tote them off to the tip are now a positive asset on Serendipity Farm. I can cut them up, lay them in a long line, cover them with chopped up branches and dead plant matter, I can head off to our friend who has given us all the topsoil that we can handle and get trailer loads of soil to spread on top of our branches along with bagged manure (probably sheep) and then cover it all over with some large bales of hay and I can plant fruit and nut trees and other edible shrubs and herbs directly into it. It’s all about looking at the reality that you have in a different way. Seeing what you have as positive and learning how to use it to your advantage.  I no longer look at the tangle of debris down in the garden as being a massive pain that has to be hacked away in sections, but somewhere that is going to protect our young fruit and nut trees until they grow enough to be able to stand on their own two roots. I am also carving what has to be done into small manageable portions. Instead of being totally overwhelmed with 4 acres of hassles, we now have 4 acres of future edible food forest just waiting for us to wade in and make it happen. We are going to use everything that we have learned to give us what we want here including vertical gardening, aquaponics, hugelkultur gardening, permaculture, biodynamics, xeriscape gardening…all SORTS of things that just typing out here make me excited. I love learning and even more than learning…I LOVE putting what I learn into action and having something to show for those hours spent hunting for the elusive, precious information in the first place. Life is good people, let’s live it!

A lovely little Acer rubrum, a waterwise small tree, one of many that we managed to get to grow from some seed that we bought online. We now have lots of little shrubs all budding up and needing to be repotted. Might be time to do some giving away, planting out, swapping and THEN with the few that are left, we can repot…anyone else out there procrastinating about repotting?

Where the Acer rubrum is hiding amongst his compatriots…one small stand of many small stands dotting Serendipity Farm and all needing our care and attention in the near future

A lovely Nectarine blossom on one of the fruit trees out the back. This is a lovely yellow nectarine and we have a delicious white one next to the chook yard. Here’s hoping that Big Yin doesn’t show his girls how to jump and eat them all like he did last year…

We had our fortnightly visit to see our lecturer the other day and got to paint our assessment model so we are now officially able to share it with you here. We are suitably proud of our efforts and our lecturer seemed to be pleased as well so it was a win-win situation as our lecturer now has 2 models to use for the upcoming Polytechnic open day to show what our course (only offered this year for the first time) is all about. Steve and I didn’t have to learn how to use AutoCAD this year so we could get stuck straight into model building which fitted in nicely with the open day because all of the other students in the course are still getting their heads around the dreaded AutoCAD and without us there wouldn’t have been any models to share. Nat made a flitting visit and it was great to see her. I told her that I would put something about her in the blog because the poor girl doesn’t get to even look at the blog much as she is so busy these days. Her class will be putting on a floral display at beautiful Entally House soon and I can’t wait to see it when it’s done. All of the annuals have been grown especially for this event by her students and it’s an amazing chance to learn how to grow for a specific event and how to pull it all together. Good luck Nat, but you don’t really need that because you are fantastic at organising and are a true asset to the Horticultural department at Polytechnic. Our friend in the witness protection gave me a whole lot of Hippeastrum bulbs a little while ago. She had been keeping them in her polytunnel but we have just stuck them outside in the sun. They are happy enough and hopefully they will flower this year. Our friend is a very generous person and we like to be generous to so sometimes the give and take can go on for a long time with a single gift starting it all off :o). I am off with her to a soilweb presentation in Launceston on Wednesday while Steve stays here with the dogs. I have all sorts of information about permaculture to give to her as I know that she will be as excited as I am with the possibilities that it brings to our lives.

Our original (practice) model construction on display inside the Horticulture Department at our Polytechnic

Our final model painted and ready for submitting to our lecturer with yours truly hovering around anxiously in the background with a paint pot in case we missed a bit…

We passed our model making 🙂

Spring appears to have awoken more than the plants. Steve has been following “The Bearded One’s” stick drawings on Christi’s Olalla Washington farmlet.wordpress.com blog for quite some time now and he decided that he was going to put some drawings of his own on my post for today. I watched him feverishly crouched over his piece of paper (shielding it from my inquisitive eyes whenever I went too close) and when he finished with a final flourish and presented me with his magnificent creations I told him not to tell me what they were (which should tell you that they need a degree of interpretation to say the least!) so that I could attempt to guess. Here are his pictures and firstly my interpretations and then what they are actually meant to be…

Err…

My interpretation of the first picture: I think that this looks like one of the young roosters that has broken into the shed and has invaded the chook feed. They are constantly hungry and hover around under the deck avoiding Big Yin and his deft attacks, crowing, jumping on any passing hen and tomorrow night, they will actually BE their namesake…”chicken” and “stock”!

Steve’s actual description: He said this was originally a self-portrait (no…he hasn’t drunk his 2 bottles of Guinness that he picked up in Exeter this morning…) and then he changed it and it is now “The Cockatrice of Doom”…I think that Steve is having flashbacks to Nam!

Hmmmm…

My interpretation of the second picture: I have been eating a lot of kimchi and lots of cooked beans lately…I think that this is Steve’s way of telling me to not only stop nagging him about his Guinness habit but also to lay off the farty stuff. He is obviously holding me down and I am trying to elevate him from his one true love…Guinness…

Steve’s actual description: I am full of the lightness of spring and he is thoughtfully grounding me and stopping me from flying away. The large pint glass of Guinness in MY interpretation has been replaced with the 20 litre bucket of skeeter pee (lemon wine)…at least I got the booze bit right!

Eek!

My interpretation for the third and final picture: THE ZOMBIES ARE COMING!!! They are rising along with the sap from the graveyard next door and they are apparently armed and dangerous! They have a couple of pigs in tow (for sustenance?) and have attracted some blowflies as they lurch towards our home and our certain doom…(note to self – I must stop watching the Crime Investigation channel before I go to bed…)

Steve’s actual description: We are walking hand in hand through the spring garden where the roots and shoots of the trees are awakening (at least ONE of us remembered our horticultural studies…), the birds are flying above us and our two dogs are with us and Steve has plus fours because he can’t draw board shorts very well…

Ok so I kind of got it a bit wrong. I got it HEINOUSLY wrong. You know those shows and quizzes where you are supposed to guess what your partner has answered for a specific question? Well I don’t think that I will enter us in any of those shows aside from the entertainments value as we are guaranteed NOT to win. We are totally the polar opposite of each other and that is more than obvious by our answers BUT Yin and Yang we are. I am starting to sound a bit like Yoda there so I think it’s time to call this post sprung! See you all on Wednesday when I will have been to a Tamar NRM day all about soil with our friend from the witness protection and I will be all hyped up on mountain dew and knowledge…my favourite state of being! See you all then :o)

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