The colours of Serendipity Farm

Hi All,

I was going to be very clever and give you a bit of a different style of post today. I have a delightful constant reader called Katie who has an amazing blog. She does everything that I admire! She takes awesome photos, she has the most scrumptious artistic ability to match colour and texture and flavour all together with good humour AND the girl can garden, make her own cosmetics and can keep her posts concise and beautiful! Head on over to check Katie out and marvel at her icecream palettes and her glorious ability to make me want to eat her photographs.

http://katienormalgirl.com/

I thought that I might give you all a palette for spring on Serendipity Farm. I headed out with my trusty camera and the will to succeed. “If Katie can do it…I can do it!”…I came back a broken woman. It turns out the colours of Serendipity Farm in the spring run to chook poo green, mud brown and angst ridden overwhelmed dull red. The kind of red that is muted at the moment but that might just flare up into full blown pillar box waving a rag at a bull red in a moment! I decided to forget colours and head over to textures…they turned out to be equally as “delightful” with the texture of oozing wet mud predominate with hints of the aforementioned chook poo dotted about and plenty of unhindered slug and snail trails assisting in the overall look. Never one to give up easily I headed for the last bastion of the photographer and went hunting for flavour…I gave up as I dejectedly did a panorama of Serendipity Farm drenched in torrential rain, bathed in fog and flattened by saturated new growth and a herd of rampaging chickens hell bent on destruction. Serendipity Farm in the spring is not to be held in artistic esteem folks…it is to be regarded with terror! That’s why Steve and I are bums up, heads down effecting change as fast as we can and it’s why I have a new respect for people like Katie who can take what nature throws us and make it look delightful, wholesome and downright tasty! You get massive kudos from this amateur photographer whose muses only run to words and can’t comprehend the reason for me wanting to share our vision for Serendipity Farm. If you are a “Normal Girl” Katie, goodness only knows what I am! 😉

See these nice healthy azalea bushes that are just about to flower? Last year, when we cleared out this garden under the deck, we hacked the living daylights out of the old gnarled up overgrown half dead azaleas and were so tired at the end of our efforts in the hot sun that we had no energy left to remove the stumps. We left them there and promptly forgot about them. Nature didn’t forget about them!

And they are all growing back! 😉

This is an unusual grevillea. I haven’t seen this before, it has greeny/blue flowers and very large leaves. If anyone knows what this grevillea is please let me know!

I am on a mission. I have been researching water wise, self-seeding perpetual plants that will take to living in Serendipity Farms less than stellar soil right here, right now. I am not going to be stupid and pretend that the soil is going to suddenly become AMAZING overnight. It is going to be a hard fought battle but we WILL win! It’s just that we will win slowly and I want ground cover now! I discovered, from personal observation that salvias seem to have a wonderful range of xeriscape plants that tolerate a myriad of terrifying conditions. Overall, we are lucky on Serendipity Farm. We get a long dry summer but it isn’t usually that hot, and despite it being pretty cold in winter, we rarely get a frost in the morning and even then it’s minor. Salvias offer us a solution to quite a few of our problems. Most of them are adventitious growers with fast growth rates and most of them are perennial and like to hang about for a bit and grow back year after year. I know that they will do well here because there were some clinging tenaciously to life sans care and attention for the last 20 years so bring on the salvias!

This poor old Philodendron had languished in a pot that was dissolving around it on the deck for 20 years with very sporadic watering. It had send out enormous feeder roots in search of water and we decided to liberate it into the soil of Serendipity Farm. It’s already looking happier 🙂

There might not be much of this azalea but what there IS is very pretty

Another pretty azalea in the side garden

Nat, of Polytechnic fame and if I have my way, garden design fame, has a love of salvias that spread to me when we were attending Polytechnic in our earlier years. Nat is a natural garden designer. What she isn’t naturally happy with AutoCAD. That makes you a normal human being by the way Nat. NO-ONE who understands and is comfortable with using AutoCAD is normal! I couldn’t have completed my Diploma of Horticulture without Steve coaching me constantly and soothing my desire to throw the entire desktop computer, monitor AND desk over the deck on a regular basis. I made it, but just…I am NOT a natural garden designer. This doesn’t come easy to me and I have to ponder over books, think about it fiercely and give it my utmost attention and when you know me, you know that I am easily distracted, especially when something bores me. If you interest me, I will give you my all…I will research you into the night and I will peer myopically at the computer screen in oblivious rapture for days…for weeks…for as long as it takes to gather all of the information that I need to get going with the project. But if you can’t interest me I am a petulant child. I am borderline with garden design. Nat has a magnificent garden. The kind of garden that makes me drool. I wander about in her small but perfectly proportionate garden and want to hug her shrubs that all look so vibrant and healthy that she must have Peter Cundall AND Costa living under them ready to offer advice whenever she sets foot out into the garden. Stop blushing Nat, you KNOW I am telling it like it is, you are just one of life’s modest people. I am not. Your garden is gorgeous, sensual AND I envy it. There…I said it! Our friend in the witness protection (a long-time friend of Nat) AND I envy it! (Misery loves company ;)). We have an image of Nat’s gorgeous garden in our minds and it would seem that nothing we do gets us any closer to that beautiful vista. In our defence, the native wildlife seems hell bent on removing more vegetation than we can plant and our soil is ancient and old and twice as wrinkly and denuded as Nat’s fertile plot. Nat has a lot less area to work with and more drive than I could harness to a truck. Nat, I salute you! You are indeed one of those “natural gardeners” that I read about all of the time. Envy and kudos is enough for now…I am going to slither off and stand on my deck and look out to the river and imagine that one day someone might turn up and see more than devastated and mangled gardens that look like a re-enactment of the Vietnam War recently occurred here complete with Agent Orange.

Flowers aren’t all that is growing on Serendipity Farm. In the next few days Effel Dookark will be a mum again

A picture of Fatty doing his morning callisthenics

My road find, a silicone bowl scraper. No idea why one of these would be laying on the ground miles away from nowhere but its mine now! 🙂

Talking about our friend in the witness protection, she has now purchased a 1.2 metre tall pink flamingo to assist her with creating a reign of terror to marauding wildlife on her 50 acre bush property. I salute you my comrade in arms! She gave up any vestiges of instant garden gratification after the first few waves of “creatures” scarfed her carefully planted purchases and now battles with everything that comes within arm’s length including this flamingo that she bought from K-Mart (if any of you feel the need to race out and purchase a 1.2 metre tall pink flamingo, knock yourselves out!). You have to admire her tenacity and her spirit…she is a true Valkyrie gardening warrior! I can’t bring myself to decorate Serendipity Farm with hanging soft toys in various stages of decomposition. I live right next to the Auld Kirk Church graveyard and there is something seriously disturbing about someone dangling effigies of ex cuddly and fluffy toys adjacent to hallowed ground. I also have a natural aversion to anything garish in the garden. I hope that doesn’t make me a garden snob. I am not desperate enough to resort to fluffy toys. Should the possums ever get that bad I will purchase a 30 metre long thick piece of metal chain and will tether Earl to the grafted maple garden and teach those possums a lesson that they will NEVER forget! Steve is walking Earl today to give Bezial (a.k.a. fatty Lumpkin’s) a bit of a rest.  That means that Bezial and I can trundle at our leisure through the garden and I can get my pedal to the metal up to my armpits in flying forget-me-nots while Bezial wanders around the grounds with impunity threatening no-one and exploring to his heart’s content.

Still getting heaps of mushrooms from our free mushroom compost and more to come!

And here are is the days egg haul. Looks like Steve is having a delicious mushroom omelette for tea

Here’s our heavily fortified little self pollinating almond tree ready to do battle with the possum marauders. It has 15 tiny little baby almonds on it so far

Forget-me-nots begone! Well “lay low and forget about any virulent activity for the foreseeable future if you know what’s good for you!” Steve has whipper snipped the teatree garden area and rendered it forget-me-not flat. I pulled out forget-me-nots from around the stinky purple lilies, the enormous arums and the persistent agapanthus that I have come to hold a grudging like for now that reality gardening is on the cards permanently on Serendipity Farm. I planted out some of the smaller plants in the side garden. It still looks like Armageddon in the morning BUT it is Armageddon with possibilities (and the odd twig starting to branch up). I planted out all of my lavender’s, my pentstemons and a few other scruffy looking things that have survived against the odds and have thus qualified for rehousing out in the soil. I should put a sign up at the gate with something like “Serendipity Farm…a home for waifs and strays” because that’s what we have here and most of them have attitude and are slightly skewed much like the present owners. I found a really good sign on Facebook the other day that said “Ring the bell…if no-one answers pull some weeds”…that’s my kind of sign and I feel a wood burning event coming on in the near future! For now, I have to head back out into the garden with Steve to plant out some of his trees. Our new creed is “not in our lifetime” so good luck Stewart and Kelsey, some day you are going to inherit giant redwoods, enormous Bunya nut trees with 5kg fruit dropping in season and all sorts of weird and wonderful grottos and groves that eventuated because your parental units got tired of thinking about where to put things and just “bunged them into the ground”…I dare say we just got drummed out of the landscape designers confraternity and it’s all going to come back and haunt us some day but for now we don’t care…get them into the ground!

Steve’s Cedrus atlantica “Glauca Pendula” that will one day be magnificent stretched out along the front of the deck

The Cedrus that we just planted and our other little conifers that are going nuts in the soil out of their pots.

$8 well spent methinks!

It’s not often that I have 87 photos to choose from when I am just about to post. That should give you a bit of an idea how busy we have been on Serendipity farm over the last 3 days. On Friday we stopped working in the garden to get gussied up and head into town to our illustrious leaders Landscaping Expo. We left 2 sulking dogs, one of them hell bent on destruction (once the sulking wore off) and after battening down the house (or those pieces of it that said dog was likely to destruct…) we headed out into the cold cold snow. Well…I may be overemphasising the snow bit but it WAS cold…and raining…when we got to town we discovered that we had been forgotten on the list of people to tell (those who mattered…are you feeling guilty enough yet Nat? ;)) that the expo had been cancelled! Bollocks! Oh well, no use crying over spilt landscaping expo’s so we made the most of it, bought pizza, sweet potatoes and purple carrots, a bottle of Guinness (a man’s gotta have SOMETHING when he has just driven all the way to town and back for bugger all) and a $1 all you can stuff bag of toys for the dogs to mass destruct from the thrift shop behind the Polytechnic that we attend on the odd occasion that someone remembers that we are coming… and we picked up a couple of plates as well. I LOVE thrift shops. They make me smile. I love fossicking about in bargain bins and hunting out stellar bargains that someone else foolishly discarded. When we got the boys bag of toys out to hurl into the maniacally happy crowd (good stress release to diffuse separation anxiety and stop us from being pounced into next Tuesday by heifer dogs who are VERY excited to see us home) I noticed a little smiley plush weighted flower…now I don’t know about you, but I was seriously addicted to the game “Plants and Zombies” and this little fellow looked just like one of the flowers from the game! That plus it was weighed…bright colours…cost the better part of about 5c and would make a HECK of a mess if I gave it to the boys to destruct so I decided to keep him. His name is Herman. He reminds me to smile and he is a constant reminder to Earl that the ones with the opposable thumbs who can place things out of dogs reach rule the world!

What my desk looks like at the moment. A mass conglomeration of seeds, books, C.D.’s and “misc”. Still don’t need glasses! 😉

The almond trees label, the rock melons and mini watermelon seeds and my ever present notepad and pen for “ideas” and Steve’s coffee and Earls back scratcher.

Herman smiling for the camera 🙂

We walked the boys up an enormous hill today just because we could. A year ago…indeed 6 months ago, I couldn’t have walked up this hill inside an hour because I would have been constantly having to stop on the threat of a mild heart attack coming on, but today I just walked up the hill without stopping and without breaking a sweat. On the way back down the hill after a brief detour to look at a MASSIVE edifice that someone is erecting to the thickness of their wallet overlooking the water I noticed something on the floor and after picking it up discovered that it was a silicone bowl scraper! I have wanted one for a while and haven’t justified its specialised worth to myself but now I have one, sterilised in boiling water and stuck on my magnetic knife rack because some wise monkey decided to put a bit of metal inside it so it would stay where you bend it. Bring on the wet dough’s! Bring on hand action to rival Masterchef U.K.! I can now say that my desire to make pastry has moved one step closer to regular. We also had a look at the lady at the top of the road’s little plant stand. She sells plants all of the time for $2 and I noticed a few little babies that I would like to add to my in ground population. When we arrived home we drove back and bought 2 lilies’ of the valley (1 about to flower), a miniature pink Japanese anemone and a blue corydalis and after we planted out our little almond tree in the middle garden and Steve’s Cedrus atlantica “Glauca Pendula” we planted them out as well.

I think Steve is working on his busking routine…cute…but NO-ONE is going to pinch either his guitar or his hat full of money! 😉

Earl loves sitting in Steve’s guitar room with him when he is playing. Especially when he is playing LOUD! Bezial slinks off outside to save his ears but Earl is right there in the thick of it.

I think Earl has settled down for the afternoon…pity Steve wants to put his guitar back in its case 😉

We found a few packets of annual flower seeds that we had collected and decided that we would scatter them around in the middle garden. While we were at it, we headed out and had a look in the shed to see if we had any other seeds and found a large bag of all kinds of seeds that were mostly out of code and that we had collected en mass when we were attending our horticulture courses at Polytechnic. We figured that the worst that can happen is that the chooks eat the seed so we scattered all sorts of things all over the place. If half of them grow we are in trouble! I have a few plans for making “things” out of plastic bags. I am not too sure what kind of “things” but all I know is I am tired of feeling guilty for throwing the bags out into landfill. A friend gave me some dishcloths that a friend of hers had crocheted using cut up supermarket bags and that gave me an idea. I have seen hats, shoes and bags made out of plastic bags and I found a pattern for making “Plarn” on Instructables the other day. Plarn is plastic yarn that is perfect for making all sorts of crafts with and for repurposing plastic bags. I noticed pumpkins growing in the compost heap the other day and am going to transplant them (along with some of their precious compost) into specially formed mounds situated in the outside chook run. We also found some mini watermelon seeds and some rockmelon seeds that we had bought previously and are going to give them a go as well. There is something manic about spring that just carries you along with it. I have been getting up at 5am for a few days now and am just about used to it. I feel tired at 8pm but the trade-off is that I get 2 hours to myself at the beginning of the day. The ultimate trade-off is that next Sunday morning I WON’T be tired! I just noticed that I am back up to my usual post size! I tried people…I tried hard. I stifled my posts natural angle of repose and ended up losing the battle. That’s my way of saying I am finishing up here for the week folks. Have an interesting rest of the week and don’t sweat the small stuff because deodorant is getting expensive!

Penniless hippies of the world unite for we are many!

Hi All,

After walking the boys on a decidedly grey day and taking some lovely photos of wildflowers in our neck of the woods to share with you lucky people who have exotic beauties rampaging through your woods we arrived home feeling a bit seedy today. None of this overenthusiastic imbibing for us, we appear to have caught the dreaded lurgy thanks to one of the speakers at the recent soil symposium that our friend in the witness protection and I attended sitting in between us and coughing violently in a most determined fashion all afternoon…oh well…at least we are miserable together! Steve was grumbling about having to unload the trailer that he had to load with firewood that he collected from our friend in the witness protection’s property on Tuesday as we have just found a source of free spent horse hay bedding laced with nitrogenous deposits in large quantities just as we were scratching our heads wondering how to fill the proposed raised beds inside our (also proposed but veering into the “probable” camp at an alarming rate…) new polytunnels. Suddenly we are to be buried in horse dookie and we couldn’t be happier! I say “we” but it’s really me that’s overjoyed as poor Steve has to take his newly emptied trailer over to meet the man with the excess of spent straw and shovel for the queen. I have been left to mind the dogs and make Eccles cakes and as he has been such a sweetie and hasn’t complained too much, I am going to lace the Eccles cakes with chocolate.

“Chicken” and “Stock” tonight to actual chicken stock. They have assaulted their last hen!

Some of our mushroom futures from the 6 bags of mushroom compost that we were given for delivering 20 bags to a friend

Egg futures! So many egg futures that we don’t know what to do with them (do you think you can dehydrate egg? ECH! ;))

A firework/rocket that we found on one of our walks with the boys

There are only so many fingers that a fork can give you before they become a little bit rude! 4Q, Steve’s new fork enterprise has begun!

When the son and heir and Kelsey, his Texan sweetie rocked up on our doorstep the other day they brought with them all sorts of things. Booze for Steve (anything that you have ever done to Steve has just been forgiven Stewart ;)), cocktail frankfurters for roasting over an open fire apparently… but now safely frozen for future use (next time you come you can take them from their cryogenic chamber and imbibe liberally Kelsey! ;)) and a bottle of Pumpkin Ale for Steve to try. The “Man in the bottle shop” (for “man” read shyster…) had assured Stewart that this was traditional fare for American’s. Kelsey was sceptical, I was sceptical…even Steve, bordering on alcoholic and known to drink things that others would shun just by sniffing them, was bordering on the sceptical and so it was with great trepidation that we opened the bottle and all had a quaff…a very BRIEF quaff…quickly associated with spitting out, loud exclamations of “Good Lord man what is that taste?!”. Firstly I need to assure all American readers that this brew was constructed in Australia…Western Australia in fact, my old stomping grounds so I have to admit that the hideous sweet fizzy tar that briefly touched our lips wasn’t a slight on your brewing heritage, indeed ANYTHING that you could brew would have to be pretty bad before it could descend down the imbibing ladder as rapidly as this pumpkin ale fell…Steve, always the booze trouper, gave it one last swig before he capped it and placed it at the back of the fridge. Why didn’t we toss it into the drain? Well firstly folks, we are very aware of what we throw into our drains because our drains go straight down into the Tamar River and there is NO way that I am going to get the blame for the mutations that this stuff would cause… think the Simpsons episode with the 3 headed fish and that would be tame compared to this stuff and secondly, I decided to give it one last chance to shine. Always looking for a way to not waste anything, I found a recipe for a chocolate beer cake (stout to be more precise and stout tastes like old jock straps after a season of hard play so surely this hideous pumpkin blend might be a worthy substitute?) and am going to make it today. I might even make it a spiced chocolate ale cake just to be on the safe side…spices cover a wealth of evils 😉

My personalised prescription for fixing our soils nutrient problems from Steve Solomon himself. The only problem is that I am having a little bit of trouble working out what he has written…

Bron?…Byron?…whatever it is I need 10% of it!

GYPSY’S! Possums? Ely Possum?

Its VERY lucky that I got Mr. Solomon to translate BEFORE I headed out the door isn’t it otherwise I might be hunting in some inocuous health food shop for some pretty weird things! 😉

Steve should be shovelling nitrogenous masses as I type this now. I have the fruity, chocolaty filling prepared for the eccles cakes and am just waiting for the mix to cool and the pastry to thaw enough to combine the 2, weld them together with egg white and sugar, hurl them into Brunhilda at whatever temperature Brunhilda feels like exhibiting at any given time (we gave up trying to regulate her…everything seems to work out great in her so we let her have free reign!) and hopefully (if I remember to take them out in time) he will have something tasty for morning tea when he gets back. It’s a baking day today on Serendipity Farm. Tomorrow is Bezials 5th birthday. Qi (a.k.a. Princess Pickens) who lives in town with our daughters now, will be 3 on exactly the same day (a decided “woo-woo” moment when we found out!). Earl has to wait till November for his birthday but he doesn’t mind sharing Bezials for the moment. Bezial has asked for homemade bacon, egg and cheese covered beef burgers for his birthday tea accompanied by one of Steve’s spongecakes liberally doused with cream. Always willing to accommodate we will be preparing everything today and tomorrow he and Earl get to shred 2 whole bags of soft toys that we bought earlier in the week to their little hearts content. I figured that as I was baking up dog delicacies anyway, I may as well mess about with the pumpkin ale and reward Steve’s hard slog at the same time. I have a small bottle of prune juice in the fridge that the son and heir had purchased and didn’t want that I am also going to use in baking…might even make some muffins. So as you can see, it might be grey and threatening an imminent downpour on Serendipity Farm, but we are still as busy as the bleary eyed slow bees that are just starting to emerge from their winter hidey holes.

Chocolate Eccles cakes taste a WHOLE lot better than they look

The birthday boy waiting for his birthday toys and spread to be laid before him

Yet another fine spongecake produced for Bezial’s birthday and filled with cream, topped with cream and caramel and white chocolate chunks and heartily devoured before I remembered to take a photo along with the beef burgers with bacon, eggs and cheese that the boys got for their tea. The toys got shredded and I didn’t want to show you the evidence in case any small children ever read these posts!

The title of today’s post wasn’t designed to overexcite the large percentage of the world’s population that live on the fringes of poverty to riot, it was designed to elevate anyone sitting at home wondering how the heck they are going to do ANYTHING with their humble lot. Consider us your humble equals…so humble in fact that we are full of possibilities and the moth eaten sock under the bed is on its last threads. We don’t care. I used to be twitchy about the future and about trying to find ways to make money until I became educated and realised that money is “the man’s” way to keep us subservient (I TOLD you I was a radical hippy didn’t I? ;)). If we sat around waiting for the folding green we would be waiting for a very long time. It’s up to us to find ways to get what we want when we need it without having to resort to cash unless we absolutely positively HAVE to. Some things need money spent on them and some things need good money spent on them. You just have to be clever enough to know what is worth saving and spending on and what can be found for free or for some sort of exchange out there in the big wide world. Our recent introduction to the gentleman with the spent horse bedding material is just such a situation. He has a problem in that he needs to get rid of this stuff…he could care less about the cation exchange rate involved with straw and organic matter in the soil, all he wants is a heap free existence. Along come the crazy hermit hippies from up the road with their trusty trailer and remove his problem. Does he want money? No he doesn’t! He is happy to get rid of the eyesore and overjoyed that he didn’t have to do anything to get what he wanted. He is more than happy to allow us to take what we want for as long as we want and in so doing, we are now able to use this precious soil amendment to our advantage. One man’s horse dookie is another mans (and woman’s) treasure!

I almost missed a photo opportunity! Here are some of the mushroom futures that we ended up drying because we had so many of them that we ran out of things to do with them! 6 bags of mushroom compost have kept us in mushrooms for weeks now AND we have dehydrated mushies to use in stock, soups and chinese food…whats that on the dehydrator sheet with the mushrooms eh Steve?

A nice big round glass jar FULL of dehydrated mushroom futures. I might get out my vitamix and process some down into powder to use in flavoured stocks…the possiblities are endless

Aha! That’s what Steve had tossed onto the dehydrator tray! These are 2 year old thin dehydrated orange slices that I use to decorate our Christmas tree with at Christmas time along with all sorts of other things like star anise pods and home made orange and lemon pomanders. I love Old School Christmas 🙂

We also found out on the grapevine that the local salmon farm just around the corner from Serendipity Farm were offloading their old fish netting for free…lovely thick ropey stuff in large rolls for nothing! Never one to look some gift netting in the mouth we said “Yes Please” to our friend who we had just given some free plants to (again, a good mutual arrangement) in exchange for the plants. Never let it be said that I never learned anything from my sustainability guru Hugh Fearnley-whatsizname (I loved it AND stole it Bev ;)) in thinking outside the box to get what you want. We might be penniless student hippies BUT we are knowledgeable penniless student hippies with qualifications. We can draw you some plans…you can give us some tomatoes…we can help you work out how to landscape your garden sustainably, you can help us in OUR garden when we have a permablitz…so many ways to make ends meet and so many of them don’t have to involve the elusive cash! I have been finding more and more delicious blogs to cram my rss feed reader with. I found a fantastic one through someone else the other day called fixies shelf. This quirky blog is full of whimsical art, sustainable hard work and a wonderful “Can Do” attitude. I got highly excited when I found it because this stuff is right up my alley! Feel free to take my word for it or head on over and have a peek at this delightful marionette filled Aussie blog site…

http://fixiefoo.typepad.com/fixies_shelf/

Dreadies, marionettes, whimsical art, home-made greenhouses and all with an amazing vitality and zest for life that bleeds out onto every post. Consider me hooked!

A nice trailer load of dung futures

Dung futures up close and stinky just how we like them! 😉

The dung futures have arrived! A trailer load for now, soon to be followed up by another trailer load of more dung and a promise of more to come. For now this is good enough for us! We can make a start on our polytunnels (hoop houses) without having to worry about what we are going to plant our veggies into when we finish. Steve is out making my little terracotta butter dish a wooden lid. I don’t like the idea of critters wading through the butter en mass at night when we turn out the light and if they are anything like us when it comes to butter, they will be doing the backstroke in bliss! Anything worth it needs to be protected and butter is right up there in our precious stakes so lidding needs to commence. I bought this little rectangle terracotta pot ages ago and it got absorbed into the “stuff” in Steve’s shed. I re-liberated it and decided that it would make a good butter dish and have been using it as such with the flimsy protection of cling film over the precious golden fat source. I can see it now…out goes the light and the nocturnal insectivorous and verminous wildlife seize their cue to start scrounging around for something to eat. They would obviously start in the dog’s food bowls, not much aside from a few crumbs of buttered oat…butter you say! I know… lets head up to that tasty smelling pot up there and liberate ourselves a HUGE wodge of it to take back to our lair and scarf at our leisure!…all I can see as I contemplate these poor little hungry critters is a motley collection of them all lying prostrate on a thin membrane of cling wrap…the odd one bouncing slightly and peering myopically at the golden headily scented bliss below and wondering just what it would take to find a way through this meniscus of invisibility to that heaven below…sorry guys, I might be a bit of a pushover when it comes to nature and her inhabitants but insects tend to be excluded from the hierarchy of command thanks to their inability to give me seal eyes in any sort of manner that would make me want to give them anything.

Steve’s clever idea for a lid for my little teracotta butter dish with a handle recycled from our old kitchen cupboards

Eco wood oil, our bestest friend in the woody kitchen and many bottles of this unctious orange scented stuff were needed to waterproof and protect our lovely thick bamboo countertops in our new kitchen. This little bit helped us give food grade protection to our new butter dish lid

Oiled and ready to go…maybe a bit of false advertising on the butter dish BUT at least it directs you to what you are about to put it on 😉

I think that there might be something wrong with the new weather notifier at Riverside. Either that or Riverside has gone through a temporal loop and come out the other side a bit ruffled. We drove past the board wearing our winter warming coats and noted the 32C temperature on one side and the 18C on the other…hmmmm…whilst still debating the reason for the anomaly we drove past the Tailrace centre to see “Celebrate Father’s Day here!”…I could have sworn that father’s day was a few weeks ago?! Maybe the fact that my daughters live in Riverside may have contributed to the weirdness wafting around? Who would know, but if it was 32C the other day in Riverside I would HATE to see what it is when it warms up a bit! It’s Friday and it’s raining. It’s not the sort of rain that drizzles a bit and then stops, it’s been going steadily all night and shows no sign of stopping. I love rain and have no problem with it raining for a week if it feels like it BUT it is a constant reminder that we don’t have a water tank. A large rainwater tank is one of those items that can’t be negotiated around and most times you can’t barter your way into one. On the radio yesterday they were talking about Tasmania having a hotter and drier summer than usual…some bampf about “El Nino” and I am starting to think that El Nino is another word for The Boogieman! EVERYTHING is blamed on El Nino. It’s easy to point a finger at a scapegoat rather than on our own actions but for now, that’s the buzz word with the weather men, those self-same weather men who can’t get it right from one day to the next! Maybe El Nino is actually more like “Gremlins”? 😉 Whatever the reason it makes me twitch that we can’t negotiate our way around getting a rainwater tank and that the moth eaten sock under the bed is going to have to put on a lot of weight before we can even consider buying one.

Posts are like caterpillars…they are cute, innocuous and they sneak up on you when you least expect them! This one has been meandering all over the place and has suddenly stopped to nibble on a metaphorical cabbage leaf so it can have its natural hiatus and I am going to call it a day for today. If anyone out there knows how to get a rainwater tank sans cash that doesn’t involve public humiliation or ritual dismemberment PLEASE let us know! See you all next hump day 🙂

Sustaining and the ability to smile while the felt hats spout their wisdoms

Hi All

I posted my hump day post yesterday and suddenly I have to write another post today thanks to me heading off tomorrow to my daughters place to spend the weekend with them and to attend an all-day Food Sustainability series of talks by various local speakers on Saturday. I am looking forwards to learning something from this and am taking my camera so that I can share the day with you all. Our Serendipity Farm soil should be winging its way across our wide brown land and launching into the stratosphere to head to the U.S. to be analysed and then the results sent back here for us to learn just how nutritionally deficient it really is. I wonder what they do with all of the soil from all over the world that gets sent to them. Is there a little multicultural compost heap out the back fermenting all sorts of soil nationalities into one small melting pot of ex worm castings and sifted hopes and dreams? I have been researching taking cuttings from kiwifruit vines because a new acquaintance has kiwifruit vines (both male and female) on his property and has most generously told us to knock ourselves out and take whatever plant material that we want. I was all prepared to head off secateurs in hand with my right index finger twitching in anticipation when I discovered that I am exactly 6 months early for the window of cutting viability opportunity…the story of my life! We are just about to prune the same acquaintance’s peach tree grown from a peach smuggled from the U.S. many years ago. I didn’t have the heart to lecture him as the tree is now a mature specimen and Tasmania hasn’t suddenly been overrun by U.S. peachy boll weevils. He also has a large walnut tree and several hazelnuts, all of which I will gladly take advantage off should the offer be made. He also gave us several currant shrubs that had been hacked down to the roots that I thought were dead, but noticed the other day are coming back from the base. One man’s trash is most definitely this adventitious gardeners treasure and I wonder what else is out there that I might be able to trade for something else?

This is the old Beconsfeild mine building

Steve and I walk the boys around Bonnie Beach in Kayena on a regular basis. It is quite close to home, has a plethora of barking dogs that greet the boys with varying degrees of excitement and is a mix of beach walk, bush walk and country lane stroll with various stop offs for Steve to feed his new pony friends bits of apple and carrot. It was on one of our walks that we noticed a lemon tree full to the brim of ripe lemons and many lemons rotting underneath it on the ground. We had been planning to make lemon wine and were lamenting how people didn’t use the resources available to them. We wondered if they would swap some of our free range eggs for some of their lemons. We keep forgetting to write a note to put into their mailbox when we head out for our walks but I wonder how many people have fruit trees, nut trees and other natural resources on their properties that they don’t take full advantage of? This all comes from me thinking about making the most of Serendipity Farm and the upcoming Sustainable Food series of talks. I have agreed to do a talk next year about minimising your carbon footprint by eating locally and more sustainably. As a vegan I can share lots of unfamiliar (but tasty) recipes with people who may never have thought that living without meat and dairy products and eggs was possible. Tasmanians eat more meat than their mainland counterparts and tend to shun any vegetables other than potatoes and peas and carrots, all of which grow very well here in Tasmania. It’s difficult to change the habits of generations and many Tasmanians’ don’t see why they should have to. It’s not up to me to harangue the natives and alienate them and they are much more likely to listen to me if I present them with delicious food, prepared well and with a low carbon footprint. As they say “you get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar” and I would tend to agree.

A arty pic from Deviot looks gloomy earl looks concerned

I have to leave Steve in charge of Herman my new baby sourdough starter. Steve has to feed him and divide him up twice while I am away. He had quite a traumatic journey through the post and has crossed several states to get to his new forever home and I would hate for him to expire before I get a chance to bake at least SOMETHING with his heady yeasty boozy oozy little body. I have great plans for Herman. He will be the father of millions all over Tasmania and will answer the prayers of several sourdough losers’ lovers who like me, have not been able to negotiate the mystery of the magic starter for whatever reason.  I have been known to sniff the sourdough loaves surreptitiously in the supermarket and linger longingly in the bakery around the large crusty loaves. I have even been known to fondle the wrappers wistfully and never once did I think that I would EVER be able to bake my own sourdough but now, thanks to Rhianna, I have the opportunity to raise my own little sourdough boy. He might develop strange nuances thanks to the local strains of invaders but he will rise above all of the challenges and will produce loaves, pitas, muffins, bagels, pretzels, pizzas, focaccia and more…that’s IF he survives this first critical weekend…I have been reading all about sourdough starters and have learned all sorts of interesting things including how sourdough starters can be represented in different states including liquid and solid and how they can also be lumps of older dough that get mixed into the new batch. What an amazingly versatile ferment! The more I look into fermenting food the more excited I get. I am a naturally excitable person and fermentation pushes my excitement buttons BIGTIME. Just about everything can be fermented with varying degrees of nutritional enhancement, increased digestibility and development of flavour and aroma. My kimchi is still emitting an “interesting” aroma. I put it down to the enormous quantity of garlic that I added to the paste. Steve has made it known that I don’t have anything to worry about him sneaking out Nigella style in the night for a midnight snack involving my kimchi in ANY form. All the more for me babe…all the more for me!

A little spot we stopped with the boys on our morning walk what a beauitiful place we live in

I headed into the bedroom to pack my suitcase tonight and was shadowed by the two boys who instantly put two and two together and decided to stop me from going. Bezial distracted me by giving me seal eyes and Earl promptly unpacked my case and ran off with my shoe. After a brief tussle/scuffle with him for repossession of my shoe I returned to packing my bag and two seal eyed dogs balefully watching me from the bed. They don’t like it when the pack is divided. I don’t know why…If I was them I would be happy to take advantage of being able to steal my spot in the bed, not having to listen to me telling them off and no “fat anchor” dragging behind them on our walks but love is thicker than sulking and I think they have forgiven me after some chin scratches and ear stroking. I will spend the weekend patting Qi, learning about food sustainability and having my daughters cook for me. It will be nice to have someone else cook something for me and the girls are both very good cooks so I am looking forwards to some good meals. Steve was sad when the Olympics finished but he has his Hillbilly television back now so has settled down into gator wrangling, crazy survivalists, hog wrestlers, pawn stars and storage locker raiders. He can watch his horror movies with impunity this weekend, he can fall asleep on the couch without me teasing him and he can bring his shed projects inside and work on them on the kitchen table and I will NEVER know. He can eat whatever he likes and so long as he feeds Herman and the dogs and chickens I will be a happy camper.

I love this mail box

Steve and I spend all of our days together. Unlike most couples, we have learned to coexist together 24/7 even though we are like chalk and cheese. Steve bagses cheese so I guess that leaves me with chalk. It’s curious that the two of us are so very different but when we are able to work together, we tend to be able to do a really good job thanks to the very things that make it hard for us to understand what the heck the other one is going on about. It’s like putting Yin and Yang together and making that nice little black and white swirly symbol. When you separate them you get black and white tadpoles but put them together and you get harmony. We are learning to work together better and not a moment too soon as next year we are hoping to be accepted into an online graphic arts course to learn how to use Adobe Illustrator so that we can use it to create amazing concept plans for our garden designs. I met a lady (also named Fran/ces) at the Transition Town day that I went to back at the beginning of August who is a certified Permaculture teacher and who is interested in taking Saturday classes in Permaculture rather than large blocks of residential lecturing which tend to be very expensive and totally out of our reach. To be able to learn all about Permaculture and to apply it to what we are currently learning and hybridise everything we have learned with a sustainable lien has my excitement valve steaming. Everything seems to be falling into place and pointing us towards a truly sustainable lifestyle on Serendipity Farm and now that we don’t spend our waking study hours like Homer and Bart Simpson alternating with exhibiting protagonist and antagonistic behaviour we are starting to see the possibilities that our studies may present to us. I would love to teach people how to live sustainably and how to design their available spaces to fit their food requirements. I love solving problems (apart from cryptic crosswords…what the HECK are they all about?) and being able to help people AND solve problems would be my idea of a wonderful job. Who knows where we might end up? All I know is that we are certainly enjoying the ride to get there

A cool plant that made our old teacher James very excited and happy

This post is going to be a bit shorter than my usual posts. I will choose to ignore all of you who just cheered and will simply smile wistfully at you in a very enigmatic way to shame you. Consider yourself shamed! I hope to have all sorts of interesting food stories to share with you including the meals that I ate at my daughters, photos of a townie sort of bent and despite all of the fun, frivolity and camaraderie I will no doubt be blissfully happy to return back to the folds of Serendipity Farm and back to Steve, Herman, the boys, the chooks, Brunhilda and our simple but incredibly satisfying life here on Serendipity Farm. A change is as good as a holiday folks and the best part of a holiday is realising that there is no place like home. See you all on Wednesday :o).

same plant pretty isnt it , its from new zealand

I was going to do a little post of my own but have decided to hi jack frans post here while she’s away… I was paying for my petrol today and I was waiting and hoping that I hadn’t forgotten how much was in the bank as it was taking a while to process and the girl said “sorry the machines are running slow today” this struck me as something from an old time film or some old future doom and gloom book or similar. We are so reliant on “the machines” can we function if the actually stop? God forbid we have no power, no machines. We will spiral into chaos I think, teens will be holding their mobile phones in bemusement saying “no Facebook” This is the scenario for the ultimate terrorist strike , kill all the machines and you have the ability to become almost invisible to all you are trying to strike against. I know I sound like a doom merchant here but I just had a George Orewllien moment today lol. Big Brother is watching and if he loses his power grid he becomes blind, we are  at the mercy of machines each day , cash , petrol, you name it we can’t shop without a machine. The local store that used to take (uk here remember) 10 bob now accepts MasterCard and visa and pay pass on a daily basis. I was a kid my machine was a bike and some pegs with playing cards on the  forks to make a cool sound, I had a battery operated tape player and a few other things that ran on power but the main thing I had was cash , coins and folding filthy luka (go check luka out). I had to make sure I had 10p for a phone call if I needed it.  In 30 something years I have gone from a boy on a bike to a man that checks mails and Facebook. The machine are slow some days and I love that we can use them to get stuff and to meet folks , if it wasn’t for a machine I would not have met my wonderful wife (I can say what I like she can’t stop me tonight lol) thankyou machines thankyou technology but I know that if tomorrow came and all went I would not scream to bad , can’t say I would be happy but I could adjust and hey we could all do the same if we had to. I guess what I am saying is we have all this stuff at our fingertips and we don’t seem to realise what we have.

Cloudy paper beach

Ok that’s my bit here and I have to say that I think I have come across sounding like John Connor from terminator lol if the machines rise then they shall fall as they need man at this point in time to start them up , we should worry when they have no needs for man and then we have to ask if the machines are slow today can we take advantage and make the most of the slow day or do we just say oh that’s ok we can wait …… deep ? confused? that’s Steve after a few wines and control of this machine

Yeah not many of these pics relate to Frans post but they are nice pics and im in charge of posting them lol

Sorry that I spouted here babe but I had the feeling that I could add a little to your post lol I will sweep the rugs in penance lol bye folks and remember if the machines are running slow smile and says that’s ok as they are still running and that for now is all we need till they stop and then we will all get creative ….. Bye ( hope this made some sense)

The day that I graduated from my sponge cake “L” plates

Hi All,

Is it just me or do your senses become more finely attuned in winter? Aside from the obvious “cold neurons” going off at random intervals everything seems to be condensed down and sharper. I guess it’s our traditional time when we hibernate. I am not averse to staying in bed for the winter but it would seem that “The Man” wants me out of bed and actively studying for the future. Its Thursday already and Steve and I are wading through the mire that accompanies a Landscape Design. As with most things…it’s an iceberg. That lovely plan that arrives on your desk (along with a not so lovely discrete bill that you probably (trust me) don’t want to open…) is the culmination of some poor sods hard mental labour. We really don’t think about how hard someone has to work to get something like that onto our desks until we actively try to do it ourselves. The same goes for the production of food…how hard is it to keep everything that wants an advance sample of our fruit, vegetables and grains away from our food without rendering said food inedible? A life of conundrums and questions besieges me and occasionally leaves me mentally exhausted. When Steve and I started out on our horticultural journey it was with very tentative feet. We were not entirely sure if our decision to work with plants was going to be wise. It was Steve’s first venture into even considering plants as anything within his peripheral view and he was a bit incredulous to say the least as to whether he could find much about them to keep his mind active. 2 months later this man planted a tiny Sequoia Gigantea seed that grew and the rest is history. Today both Steve and I have succumbed to our plant masters and are their willing and compliant slaves. We tend them…prune them…water them…sometimes mindlessly following their silent but endless requests but at all times rewarded generously for our servitude.  We have melded with the plants and it changed our lives.

What happens to Brunhilda with her first few chunks of wood…I call this “tea futures”! This is an amazingly good stove and I can’t praise it highly enough. We have had this stove burning now for about 4 months without stop and haven’t had to use that packet of late autumn firelighters that we bought aside from it’s initial lighting. It slowly simmers all night and rises like the sturdy, reliable, little black phoenix that it is every single morning no matter how many embers remain in its toasty little fire box…”I love you Brunhilda!”

Obviously I am not the only one who loves Brunhilda. After their morning walk the boys can usually be found (especially Bezial) in the positions that you see them here. Earl is only still because I bribed him by giving him Steve’s music room door wedge…Bezial is entirely content and when I think back to this time last year and remember the 2 of them huddling next to a teeny tiny little 1 bar gas heater that was our ONLY source of heat I can see why Bezial is luxuriating in Brunhilda’s heavenly wafting heat. By the way…the ONLY reason that lime green wood basket is still alive is because I cut off its handles and it’s full of wood. Earls inquisitive beak can’t get a grip on the sides and so it remains alive so long as we remember to fill it up with wood on a regular basis

This is the kind of photograph that you get when you have told a dog that he is too fat and that you are going to put him on a diet. A diet that doesn’t include fresh spongecake with cream.

Occasionally we find it necessary to poke Earl gently to ensure that he is still alive… does this look alive to you? “POKE POKE POKE!”

Bezial in the throws of Brunhilda love…we should leave them alone now to enjoy each others company…

We have a forecast of rain…rain and more rain for the next few days. The potted plants that we selected for rehousing last week are all still alive and the Luculia is positively glowing. It didn’t drop a single flower bud and is now a mass of soft pink tubular scented heaven right outside our bedroom window. The irony is that Luculia flowers in winter…and the likelihood of us having our bedroom window actually open in the middle of a Tasmanian winter is as slim as Posh Spice. The rest of our potted plants are sulking in their over cramped pots and wondering just what they have to do to get planted out. We have no inclination whatsoever to get out into the garden in the freezing cold and rain so it won’t be for at least a few days. Our studies have taken over from our plant overlords at the moment and I never would have thought that I would hear myself say this…but I am actually enjoying the process. Familiarity breeds more than contempt in my case…it breeds a rare form of happiness that comes with the ability to understand and actually follow the process. AutoCAD is a program full of landmines that are just waiting to pull the rug out from under any unsuspecting (read overconfident) person attempting to use it for any purpose other than a door stop (in its unopened package that is…). We learned early on that AutoCAD is a law unto itself. It will do what it wants…when it wants and our particular version appears to have a very strong will indeed. If we forget to save anything it WILL freeze and make us do it all over again. We have taken to kidding ourselves that we are grateful for the chance to do some more practice…remember “there are NO learning experiences in perfection…” that’s what we tell ourselves through gritted teeth in a vain effort to show AutoCAD that it can’t beat us and make us cry. This year these moments of confrontation have been few and far between because we no longer fear AutoCAD and are able to navigate our way through the endless seas of “process” to at least find the ballpark that we want to be in if not the actual fix for our problem. I guess we are learning and learning from home gives you the best opportunity to really learn because you have to sort things out for yourself for the most part. I mentioned in my last post that we had put in an expression of interest to undertake an Art course next year. We realised quite early on in the piece that AutoCAD is a fantastic program for creating exact plans but it is lacking creative flair and it’s difficult to create concept designs (the “sell” part of the equation) that are aesthetically pleasing. We therefore decided to learn how to turn our plans into eye candy and that’s why we are going to attempt to crash the Arts department next year. Do you think that they will be ready for the Pimblett’s? Probably not…but ready or not…here we come!

Proof that we do pound the pavements in order to give our dogs some form of exercise each day. Not that you would know it in Bezial’s case…

The boys eating their greens…when they find a good patch of grass it’s actually quite difficult to get them to stop eating. They are like mini cows

A nice shot taken from one side of Devil’s Elbow (the Rowella side) to the other (The Kayena side). We certainly live in a pretty place and are very spoiled with the scenery when we walk the boys

This photo was taken later in the day because in most photos you don’t get to see the detail of that bit of land covered in trees in the background but at a certain time of day in a certain light you can…I just wanted to share it with you all 🙂

We noticed (well Bezial the water dog noticed…) a little pathway down to the riverbank and decided to head down to see what there was at the end of the little track and found this delightful vista. Bezial proceeded to drag Steve into the water and Earl stood on the shore sniffing a dead oyster…dog heaven!

With the removal of the last 4 official roosters (I know that Effel has at least a couple overwintering in her flock) Big Yin has decided that he must have some sort of amazing powers as he just starts getting cranky at an emerging young rival and suddenly it’s gone. Using his amazing powers of chicken deduction 1 + 1 = KING OF THE WORLD and he has gone on an unprecedented nest building frenzy in a vain effort to increase the flock and fill it with little Yin’s. No doubt there are nests everywhere out there. We can hear chickens all over the place talking to each other in their nefarious chicken whispers. Big Yin can be heard making his “check THIS out baby…” sounds when he has rolled a bit of grass into a circle and thinks that it is nest worthy for his latest paramour. I must admit that having seen rooster activity on a somewhat large scale now Big Yin is an amazingly good rooster. He hunts for food for his flock, he warns them whenever there is danger and he gives the tasty morsels that he finds to his prize girls. He doesn’t hurt his girls either, unlike (tasty) roosters past and has earned his lifetime security here on Serendipity Farm. The problem that we now have is that our hens are getting wily. They no sooner start laying somewhere and we start collecting the eggs than they head off somewhere else and start laying there and Big Yin is ever ready to up sticks and make them another nest more remote and inaccessible than the last. I can see the day that we are actually overrun with chickens. Roosters will be crowing at all hours of the day and night and I will surreptitiously slip an anonymous note into Frank’s (who has been killing roosters since he was 10) mailbox saying “go nuts! You know you want to…”…until that day we will practice hunting eggs and will ready ourselves for spring and the oncoming onslaught of clucky chooks. I dare say most of our fecund flock will be laying low like brer rabbit in some form of briar patch but we clever humans have been active and have minimised those briar patches so that we can head straight to the remaining patches and be assured of at least 1 chicken occupant! We extracted Effel from her own personal briar patch just before winter set in and we can do it again chickens! Consider this war!

What to do with all those eggs? Make a sponge cake. The very first stage of making a spongecake…”First line your tin”…

At this stage I wanted to make sure that you got the gist that I am a darned good cake tin liner. This was to take your mind off the fact that I was, in fact, making an unassisted spongecake for the very first time…I have made spongecakes before and they have been sad sorry flat excuses for something edible that even the chooks refused. I wanted to break my losing streak and so put myself out there yet again to possibly fail…”Isn’t this tin lined beautifully?”…

These are the real reason why I decided to make a spongecake. 4 pristine duck eggs from our 2 girls given to us by Nat’s stepdaughter and suddenly starting to produce these. I know that duck eggs make amazing cakes because mum TOLD me that they did. I decided to find out for myself…

This mixer might be my handy dandy go to mixer that facilitates the manufacture of cakey goodness on Serendipity Farm but one day I am going to drop this thing on my head and kill myself! Perhaps a rethink of where we are currently storing this heavy metal mixer might be on the cards in the near future…

Notes about duck eggs…they are somewhat cloudier than hen eggs…the yolks aren’t quite as yellow…there were more whites in them and lastly the whites were harder to separate from the yolks but these eggs were uber fresh so perhaps that had something to do with it?

A juxtaposition in the cost of an item. The blender (admittedly only the base is present in this photo) cost just on $1300 and the packet of sugar was so cheap as to be negligable. Just a note to readers in the U.S. our sugar is manufactured from sugar cane where yours is mainly corn based or beet. The blender is amazing, high speed and can turn this sugar here into icing sugar in a matter of seconds. It can also (using the additional expensive goblet) turn grains into dust in a similar time frame. I bought this years ago and have only just started to use it to its full advantage. One of those “why on EARTH did I spend that…oh wait a minute THAT’S why!” moments. I also wanted to point out that buying sugar in a paper bag is better for the environment however the day that they make paper from bamboo is the day that I am going to be one happy camper…let’s all stop cutting down trees for newspapers eh?

This is the first sift of the dry ingredients (1 of 3) and has been undertaken using one of the sieves that I found in a cupboard after we moved in. I would like to continue using these older kitchen items as aside from being made to last, it gives a continuity to my dad’s partner Val who never had any children of her own.

If it acts like a spongecake…it sounds like a spongecake…it smells like a spongecake IT’S A SPONGECAKE! :)…Wait a minute…”thats not a spongecake…THAT’S a spongecake!…”

No words people…just get a fork!

By the way…the cake is curiously decorated because one half is Steve’s (thus the chocolately maltesers) and the other half has been designated “the dogs”

I was just thinking about winter again and how in winter we tend to become more insular along with better insulated. We look inside ourselves and the cold weather constricts our physical and mental boundaries. Come spring and everything starts to become active again and we look outside ourselves but in the middle of winter when it’s cold and rainy and bleak outside there is nothing so desirable as a nice warm spot and a good book. I have fallen by the reading wayside of late. I haven’t even finished my copy of “Tuesday’s with Morrie” and I have to take “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café” back on Friday unread. I am drawn more to homesteading books at the moment and a fantastic book that I discovered entirely by accident whilst reading a blog feed was “A Householder’s Guide to the Universe: A Calendar of Basics for the Home and Beyond”. By one “Harriet Fasenfest”. I have mentioned Harriet before albeit fleetingly and mostly because of her chuckle inducing name but this lady is no one trick pony and this book is gold! I have taken to channelling my envy and lust for buying books into a more productive (and less expensive) hobby of trying to gain access to these books through the library. Most of them soon lose that glittering “MUST HAVE” promise when you have waded through the bampf and found them more hype than hope. This book, however, is amazing. It’s one of those books that are actually worth lusting after and indeed pulling that moth eaten sock out from under the bed and extracting the readies to purchase this gem for yourselves. Aside from being one of the most elegant over 50’s women, Harriet has an amazing ability to write what we want to hear. No garbage…full of good humour and actual knowledge gold. What more could you want? (Take note girls who are reading this…my birthday IS coming up soon and aside from wanting a renewed subscription to “Feast” (cheers in advance Bethany…) this book would be most gratefully accepted as a token of your undying love Madeline. Go to “The Book Depository” as it ships fast, costs less and there is no shipping)…I love having adult children ;).

What do you do when you have been given a pile of lemons and you don’t actually use lemons for much and they have been sitting in a bowl for a week and are dangerously close to going over to the dark side…you preserve them for future lemony needs is what you do… first you get yourself a microplane and you remove the zest…

Aside from a boon for the compost heap, these lemon skins made the house smell amazing

Some more tools of the trade with the end results that I batched up into small bags and stored flat so I can chip some off whenever I need it. I love it when my practical side broadsides my lazy side and it is happening more and more often these days. The feeling of putting something aside for future use is exciting and hits just the right spot in this little black ducks homesteading heart 🙂

This was Steve’s tea last night…one home made chicken and mushroom pie in home made cheesy shortcrust pastry accompanied by oven fried chips in olive oil…all of the “Goldens” on one plate! Slather it with salt and vinegar and you have an expat’s chips shop dream on a stick 🙂

Ok it’s time to head out into the oncoming rain and possible hail, sleet and snow to walk the dogs. It’s not worth trying to reason with those seal eyes Steve…just get on your jacket and head outside.  It’s now Saturday so I guess you figured that we got back from our walk in one piece physically (but perhaps not always mentally). I am going to make this post a bit less wordy today because I have a lot of photos that require “ploise asplain” sotto voce Pauline Hanson style. To those of you who are not aware of who Pauline Hanson is (and let’s face it guys, most Aussies would rather forget her) she was a politician who was the face of a political party called One Nation. Her party was so popular because many Australians were feeling very frustrated about the liberal politics that were allowing Australia to be hurled down the politically correct line without thought of consequences but the party took it too far and ended up being more of a sad joke than a force to be reckoned with. Pauline was most noteable for her “Please explain” statements whenever she wasn’t quite up to scratch with what was being asked of her and she came off looking like a quintessential “Dumb Broad” and most certainly didn’t do women in politics ANY favours in their desire to be taken seriously. I have a sneaking suspicion that the reason that she was allowed to advance so far up the political ladder was so that she could be used as a reason why women shouldn’t be allowed into the upper echelons of politics…so…what have we done over the last few days?

  1. Walk the dogs…we ALWAYS walk the dogs…
  2. Study our brains out including plotting out a planting plan for our latest Diploma design that we are suitably proud of and will attempt to share with you AFTER our lecturer gets it first
  3. Cooking and preserving all sorts of things

That would be about it aside from playing Zelda (me) and watching horror movies on the television (Steve and Earl) and sulking (Bezial). We haven’t had time to solve world problems, find a solution for peace in the Middle East or re-inventing the wheel but we HAVE found a fix for Brunhilda’s metal firebox handle that has burned us for the LAST TIME! We have stayed cosy and warm through these short winter days and long winter nights and we have been industrious little beavers with all sorts of fixes etc. I have attempted to give my daughters strong mental and blog posty hints about my rapidly advancing birthday wish list and hopefully they have heard me…if they haven’t…here is a VERY good reason for you to get me the Harriet Hasenfest book “A Householders Guide to the Universe” from The Book Depository Madeline…Its under $20 with free postage and you can’t get a cheaper gift than that (aside from a bag of flour but you just KNOW which one I am actually going to like ;)).  Please feel free to ignore that bit of gratuitous gift wrangling…it’s one of the perks of being the mother of adult children…you get to give them a taste of what it was like when they were kids “MUUUM I NEED a Dr. Dreadful kit…I NEED a Stretch Armstrong…”… Cheers girls 😉

I think that making things for yourself is only hard until you get into the habit of doing it. Here we have the fixings for sesame milk (in the jug on the left) along with the wine bottle that I am storing it in until I can find a suitable container at the local thrift shop…almonds soaking for almond milk (my new tea topper of choice) and the container at the rear has the feral chooks bread cut up ready for early morning degustation and the crust free butter sandwich on the top is Pingu’s breakfast treat. They all get left overnight to be used and processed the next day…easy peasy!

2 of the “Must have” books on my list of “To Buy” books in the near future. I take them out of the library…I go through them with a fine toothed comb (my mind…razor sharp lol) and I ascertain whether or not the information contained within is valuable and precious enough for me to want to hock my right leg and if it is…I buy it…if it isn’t I take what I want (typing 101 and fast fingers Fran) or I just drop it back to the library with negligable cost to the moth filled sock under the bed. I have also found The Permaculture book of Ferment and Human Nutrition has been reprinted! No more lusting after this amazing tomb for me, I can buy myself one for my birthday…I LOVE books! 🙂

Even with his winter wool Steve’s large head is NO match for Earl and his enormous bonce. He accidentally headbutted me this morning…Earls love knows no bounds and he gives it generously…and I am lucky my nose wasn’t broken. Every single part of Earl is solid and weighs a tonne. Here you see him assuming his night time position on the back of Steve’s sofa unless he manages to wedge himself between Steve and the chair and lay full length between the two. Uncomfortable for Steve but HEAVEN for Earl 🙂

Well that’s it for today guys…we have some projects on the burner that I can maybe share with you on Wednesday but for today that’s all folks! Have a great weekend and I hope that Monday finds you

  1. Alive
  2. Happy
  3. Fully functional and able to get out of bed
  4. Finally and most importantly in a good mood and fine spirits ready for doing whatever it is that you are doing this week

I did tell you that this post was going to be photo intensive…I have 2 photos lastly that I would like to share with you. My mum died in January this year and it was particularly difficult to take in because she had just spent time with us over Christmas and then suddenly she was gone. She filled her suitcase up with home made Christmas cakes and preserves and when she died I didn’t have much of “mum” in my life any more. She had been my champion blog poster and is still the third highest on the list and loved all things Serendipity Farm. I had 2 little pots of jam that she had given us…1 she had made the week that she came over here that I couldn’t bring myself to use. I remembered them languishing on the back of the second shelf down in the fridge and decided that mum wouldn’t want that “sunshine in a jar” strawberry jam cram packed full of her own home grown strawberries and gelled to within an inch of its life (thanks to a batch that had been watery the attempt before…) to be stuffed to the back of the fridge…she would have wanted it out there on the counter top, slathered all over some heavily buttered toast and so today I let go of my need to keep my mum in a small jar and opened her memory up to be part of the day to day machinations of Serendipity Farm…welcome back mum…I missed you 🙂

Future trading in nature’s stock market

Hi All,

Steve and I have spent the last year shoring up futures for a rainy day. We have rooster futures, egg futures and wood futures…all grown and collected ourselves. We have also been researching how to make these futures renewable. As penniless hippy students we realised that we needed to take a few lessons from our grandparents and learn how to do as much as we could ourselves. Watching The Good Life recently made me realise how ahead of its time this 1970’s television program actually was. In one episode Tom and Barbara needed to mend their roof and couldn’t afford to pay anyone to do it so they decided to take themselves off to night school to learn how to fix the roof themselves. There is enormous power in knowledge and an immense degree of pleasure. I have to admit to internally snickering at Tom talking about “efficiency” and then heading out every day to get a home made cartload of wood rather than working out a way to be more efficient, but I forgive him because this show was SO far ahead of its time it’s amazing. I love knowing how to do things myself. It goes WAY past the delight in producing a nice cake from the oven and has me scouring the net for ways to propagate our own edible food forest from seeds and cuttings and traded plants. We have found a source of cutting material for blueberries and kiwi fruit, another bag of walnuts to stratify and attempt to grow from a local source (so they should be more resilient to our local conditions) and more importantly, we have found a source of free topsoil! One of the first things that we discovered about Serendipity Farm was that you can’t dig the soil…it’s full of large rocks. This was a BIG problem because as penniless hippy students who had spent what they had been left on shoring up Serendipity Farm for the future we don’t have a lot left for going “up” when it came to gardening.  We tossed up whether to pay big money for raised garden beds and they lost out to our wood burning stove and a trailer. We figured that we could make raised garden beds out of the rocks that were our arch nemesis in the first place, making lemonade from the sour lemons that we had discovered. I used some of the debris that we had generated in our efforts to ethnically cleanse Serendipity Farm from its active and growing weed population to chop up and fill half of the 3 garden beds that we have already built out of some old corrugated iron that we inherited along with the property. We have been trying to use as much of the collection of old rubbish that we inherited because aside from having to pay to have it dumped, it goes against our principals of throwing things away when you could use them and save yourself time and money in the process so old tyres, old corrugated iron and a large bottle population that has been slowly uncovered are all being stored for future use. Now that we have found free topsoil, all we need to do is enrich it with last year’s futures (oak leaf mould) and the contents of our compost bin and we have 3 garden beds ready to plant! The same source of free topsoil offered to loan us their rotary hoe, but whatchagonnado? Rotary hoes and rocks are NOT the best of friends (somewhat like me and middle men…)

Hayfever futures…

Cymbidium orchid futures

Long time futures…this is the very first time that this orchid has flowered since Nat gave it to us several years ago…

Epyphitic orchid futures (dependent on regular beer injections…)

As Kermit the frog once sang “It’s not easy being green…” It’s hard slog! Where you might use the later day equivalent of Agent Orange to take out all of your weedy species in one fell swoop, we choose to manually grub our weeds and that takes time and an enormous amount of energy. Since Saturday we haven’t stopped working. We had a week of sunshine and knew that this was a rare and precious event so we decided to make hay while the sun shines and get out into the fresh air and do what we could to shore up our wood futures and tidy up the garden. For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you know that we are juggling studies in horticulture with working in the garden here. It’s frustrating because our chosen path of indentured student poverty doesn’t give us much scope to actively put into practice what we are learning. We have to either wait until we have the money to do what we are planning, or we have to find another, money free way to get what we want. I am NOT good at waiting! That’s what all of the research and planning has been for… learning how to do what we want at minimal to no cost. It might take a bit more time to get what we want…but at least we aren’t sitting twiddling our thumbs waiting until we can afford to get it the “normal” way. Steve is off shopping today because yesterday (Monday) was our esteemed ruler Queen Elizabeth the 2 had her birthday on a day that wasn’t really her birthday…honestly Liz…HOW MANY BIRTHDAYS DOES ONE GIRL NEED! They aren’t like handbags and shoes you know and with your advancing years I would think that you would want to minimise, not maximise them… I guess she gets lots of presents… but at least Steve realised that it was a holiday (probably due to his expat patriotism 😉 ) and stopped himself from heading off to do our fortnightly shopping when he wouldn’t have been able to do half of it because the smaller local shops would have been closed. This brings me back to futures again… we have learned not to live day to day like we did when we lived in the city. We were spoiled back then. If we wanted to shop we just headed up to the Woolworths shopping centre 4 houses away from us and bought what we wanted and if our need was for something that we couldn’t satisfy at Woolworth’s we were only 4km away from the city centre and could be there in minutes. Here we are 50km away from the city and fuel is expensive. We soon learned to curtail our driving expeditions and use the car only when necessary and so we now shop fortnightly and make sure to have more than we need. Today…2 weeks and 4 days after Steve’s last shopping expedition, we still have everything that we need to go along as normal and that is what futures are all about…

Springtime flower futures

Walnut tree futures

Integrated Pest Management Futures

You have to be very careful when you are planning your futures. You need to ensure that you cut out as many middle men as you can. As you all know middle men are where the money goes and they deal in dreams. They take what someone creates and they flog it to someone else and in the process take a large cut of the profits and increase the price of what they are dealing with enormously…we don’t need them and they are costing us a lot of money! Superannuation is one of those middle man run schemes that can end up (like insurance) being something that costs us dearly. If I had money (which I don’t incidentally)… it would be in a sock under the bed! I loved the episode of Futurama (My Three Suns) where Fry told his convoluted tale of the grasshopper and the octopus…it goes like this for those of you who have been missing out on some quality television…

“It’s just like the story of the grasshopper and the octopus. All year long, the grasshopper kept burying acorns for the winter, while the octopus mooched off his girlfriend and watched TV. But then the winter came, and the grasshopper died, and the octopus ate all his acorns. And also he got a race car. Is any of this getting through to you? “

Far be it from me to not learn something from such a wise young sage…I see the lesson in this tale as being if something can go wrong it most probably will AND  there is always someone out there waiting to take credit and profit from your hard work. There is a happy medium and a very fine line between storing up futures AND living in the moment (sorry Caesar…) and we are attempting to do it all.

This was FULL of leaves, packed down and compressed last year…this was last years oak leaf futures…

Scratching the surface reveals future AMAZING soil amendments

A handful of vegetable futures!

I have a sore back…I have a sore arm…I have a sore chest…I have a sore knee…that’s what happens when you throw yourself with abandon into collecting wood from a steep rocky back block and clearing out debris! Thank GOODNESS Steve is shopping today because I don’t know that I could have worked as hard as we have for the last 3 days for another day… We have cleared out the banana passionfruit in the vegetable garden area that was covering up a nest of blackberries. We have collected wood for 2 days and yesterday we decided to clean up some of the random piles of debris and have a good old fashioned bonfire. Again… the simple act of having a bonfire involved us spending 5 hours collecting up the debris and raking up the piles of leaves, sticks, twigs, grass that we have been generating, loading it up into wheelbarrows and tipping it onto the fire…just a small aside…did you know that technically fire can be construed as being alive? It eats, it breathes (fires need oxygen to burn), it generates energy, it reproduces… it’s also our oldest way to manipulate our environment to give us what we need. I have been researching the Swidden-fallow ancient method of agroforestry (thanks Spencer from Anthropogen.com for EVERYTHING that I know about this…). It’s amazing how we don’t hear about these ancient methods of agriculture isn’t it? Why are we hammered with industrialisation when it only represents an insignificant portion of our past existence? If we could live without it before, we can do so again… I haven’t got time to go into Swidden-fallow principals here but if you are interested head on over to

Anthropogen.com

and find out all about it. While you are there you can check out some really interesting PDF’s, sites and information about all things to do with sustainable agriculture and as Spencer seems to spend most of his life hopping from one continent to the next you can take a wild ride in horticulture with him with each of his posts. Burning debris for the ash and leaving great piles of debris lying about is part of the Swidden-fallow system. As lazy as I am, the great piles of debris are starting to wear thin on me and so we decided to turn them into ash. The great piles that are strategically hidden from sight are still there…those that were in our line of site are now smouldering in a massive pile of snowy white ashes waiting for the rain to distribute them to the teatree garden area via concrete swale drains that we cleared out yesterday as well…another one of my grandmothers sayings comes to mind…”in for a penny, in for a pound” meaning do as many things as you can in one go and save yourself the time, effort and in some cases money. Drain cleaning before the rains hit…debris removal…tidying up our vista and basically restoring some form of order to the chaos that our garden has become. Today we rest. It’s one of the few benefits of being penniless hippy students who study from home…we can organise our lives how we see fit so long as we are able to do what is required of us. We are both great fans of being organised. I do it; Steve likes it so we are united on that front. We have so many plans for what we want to do here…composting toilets…rain water tanks… wind turbines… a generator… most of our plans involve some serious capital outlay and so are going to have to remain plans until we are able to bring them into reality. That won’t stop me hunting for ways to get what we want as cheaply as possible with the best possible outcome. Bring it on world…so long as there is an internet and a library available to me I can find out pretty much anything that I need to do it!

Olive tree futures (looks like peanuts I know but its skun olives 😉 )

Tamarillo futures

Present  Catalpa bignonioides (Indian bean tree) pod

Future  Catalpa bignonioides

Tomorrow will see us off collecting topsoil. We might even drag our tired sorry bones off to do it today because tomorrow has a rainy forecast. I was reading a transcript from an interview that Andrew Denton had with Billy Connolly on his program “Enough Rope”. I love Billy Connolly and consider him to be one of the best comic genius’s around. He is able to be a real person and a naughty boy at the same time bringing everyone into the fold in the process. I have never laughed so hard or as loudly as I have when being entertained by Mr Connolly himself. He said something in the interview that really hit home with me. I quote…

“There’s a little Buddhist saying that says, ‘Learn what you should be doing and do it.’ And it sounds too simple to be, to have any importance, but it’s absolutely true.  The number of people I’ve met who are doing things they don’t like and it’s making them really, you know… The number of guys I knew when I worked on the Clyde who hated their job, didn’t like their wife that much and didn’t like the place where they lived. And I thought, how can you do this every day? But you would be astonished at the number of people who do that, every day of their lives. And, the whole trick is, I would say to my children when you’re going along the road and you’re at the library or wherever you are, watch what you’re drawn to. Watch the type of shops, the windows you always hang out at. Just listen to yourself and see what you’re being drawn to and don’t choose a career. You know let it happen to you. It’ll choose you.”

Isn’t that great? No wonder so many people are jumping onto the Buddhist bandwagon. I think that there are a whole lot of instinctual things that we have learned to suppress inside ourselves because we get swept along by societal needs and wants. When you move out of societies mainstream… and it IS a stream that washes you along… you suddenly realise that there is more to life than the acquiring and spending of money. Thank goodness for that because the sock under my bed is only one that Earl stole from Steve as he lay sleeping on the sofa and if all of my worldly goods were held inside that sock they would be outnumbered by Steve’s toenail clippings and skin flakes! When you haven’t got a lot of money you can choose to get depressed about it or you can choose to see it as a challenge. I choose the latter. There must be some sort of aberrant optimist inside me that keeps on wanting to try weird and wonderful things. I keep going (like the Eveready bunny) LONG after most people would have given up and gone home. I think that this tenacity of spirit came from my mum who spent most of her life trying to negotiate mainstream society when it was more than obvious that mum wasn’t part of it. The more people I meet, the more I realise that “mainstream society” seems to be a metaphor rather than a reality. Most of us feel alienated from “mainstream society” in one way or another. Aside from us all being individuals, “mainstream society” is a concept that was concocted and is being perpetuated by media moguls, advertising executives, purveyors of unnecessary goods and entrepreneurs to keep us wanting more and using our natural competitiveness to make us think that someone out there has something better than us and that we had best start trying to keep up… I say bollocks to it. I got off that treadmill before I even got on it! Not having money is a great way to keep yourself off that treadmill in the first place as it’s all about the folding green stuff and if you don’t have it…you’re not allowed in the club. I have discovered that far-be-it from being a small lonely club; the “buggerybollocksall lack of money” club seems to be the norm for most of us living on planet Earth. I am taking my life lessons from my fellow compatriots around the world. Should you know about some money saving way to reuse, recycle, repurpose just about anything to our avail I am MOST interested in finding out how. I learned a great deal from both my parents and grandparents about thrift and the value of frugality and am in the process of learning about the thrift and frugality of other cultures. In the process I am learning all sorts of valuable life lessons and am having a great time discovering just where we sit in the world. Cheers to everyone out there who puts in the effort to keep sharing what they do and how they do it by the way. Without this massive network of free information so many of us would be reduced to subsistence living without a lot of hope. Your generosity of spirit has given us so very much and from all of us living on the breadline…we thank you from the bottom of our hearts :o)

Oak leaf futures

Garden soil ammendment futures

See that pile of soil down at the end of this driveway? THAT is our topsoil futures 🙂

Ok, so you get another 3000 word post. Verbosity is my gift and my curse and I guess both you and I are going to have to live with it! Hopefully I entertained you a bit and enlightened you (via others) in the wordy process from go to whoa. I hope you all have an interesting and informative time until we meet again. I hope you all get at least 1 chance to step outside your comfort zone and take a little risk and live a little in the process. I also hope that Steve gets home soon with something to entertain Earl before he finishes off the plastic rubber Father Christmas he is working on in his walk-free boredom and starts on the kitchen chairs! Ciao bambino’s c’est finis!

How to steal a life…

Hi All,

I was going to call this post “Put Henry in the Curry” as a tribute to Spike Milligan’s skit that is most probably politically incorrect in some people’s eyes until you realise that Spike was born in India and is therefore poking fun at himself. I changed the name of the post because I just realised that today is ANZAC day. To many of you, ANZAC day isn’t anything that you would stop to think about. I couldn’t be bothered to paraphrase this as it said it all in a nutshell…good old Wikipedia!

“Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, originally commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. It now more broadly commemorates all those who served and died in military operations for their countries”

I recently finished (as did Earl but my digestion was mental and Earls was most decidedly physical) “A Covenant with Death” which really made me think about war and why we seem to keep doing this to ourselves. In truth, most casualties of war are the lower and working classes and the safest place to be in a war is inside an officer’s uniform. I was thinking about this early this morning when I was idly tossing some grain to the hen that inhabits the side garden with her 3 chicks. I say “her” chicks, she stole them from another hen when she failed to produce any eggs herself (after we pinched all 17 in a fit of pique to stop the exponential explosion of hens on Serendipity Farm). She now trots around with someone else’s babies, masquerading as hers. The other hen has sadly given up trying to get her babies to return to the correct fold and this other hen has effectively stolen her babies. I realised that there are many ways to steal someone’s life other than identity theft and war and chick theft both result in someone having a broken heart.

Now that I no longer use pictures that I filched from the interweb for the purposes of making my posts interesting, I discovered, most sadly, that this is the closest thing that I have to a photograph of anything French to tie in with the war theme of this post and keep it relevant in my posession. This is French goose fat. Not only does it have nothing whatsoever to do with France or the war, it’s nothing like as delicious as everyone says that it is and was a bit of a waste of $16. Go with duck fat people, its MUCH better value and far tastier (in Steve’s humble opinion)

Last night we made a huge pot of home-made chicken stock. In my past lackadaisical life where food came from magic supermarket fairies and I never had to think about the ethics or logistics of its production stock making was shoved (very quickly) into the too hard basket. A lot of things got shoved into the “too hard” basket and I am only just starting to discover that the “too hard” basket is a most interesting place to delve. The stock turned out rich and golden and had a heady scent that was totally absent from boxed stock. We then converted this rich stock into Mulligatawny soup. We ground the spices, garlic and ginger and used Korean red chilli paste to add heat and flavour. We try to do as many things as we can ourselves to cut out the middle man. The middle man and I have a Superman/Lex Luthor thing going on. I would like to think of myself as Superman in this equation although Superman didn’t have as many fits of pique as I do and most certainly saved the world on more occasions than I can remember myself doing so but you have to start somewhere don’t you? My world saving ability is to think laterally, to problem solve and to vote with my consumer dollar. We recently had a conundrum. A REAL conundrum for someone who has just returned to the vegan fold in that we had to do something about our burgeoning rooster population that was threatening to take over and wreak havoc on our previously utopian hen house. Something had to be done and we were just the superheros to do it! Henry (Rollins) was “removed” in the night. Over the course of the next few nights his henchmen Trogdor and Big Bertha (the gender confused chook) also met their fate. We discussed how to make the most of our newfound rooster futures. Henry is the only rooster that we have been utilising at this point of time because as the most active for the longest period of time we decided (using logic as our guide) that he would be the toughest (if tough was going to factor into any of them). We have been experimenting with this free range grain supplemented meat and have found it to be a very different proposition to shop bought chicken. Being new to wholesale rooster slaughter we still feel a bit bad about having to kill them but good about taking responsibility for the consequences of owning hens (and in our case roosters). We might just be able to step over that line that will take us from urban existence into true country sensibilities but for now, we are at least happy that we are making the most physically and ethically with our newfound rooster population. We might need a new Mulligatawny soup recipe however, we have a large pot of very heady overwhelming cardamom and ground clove flavoured soup that we are going to have to doctor to make it edible. Oh well…back to the drawing board! Check this out remembering that this was from the early 70’s and life wasn’t full of litigation and political correctness like it is now…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0n88tZQc4Q

Steve was messing about in the shed with some miniature callistemon seeds for the third (and he says final) attempt at getting some to survive beyond seedlings when I heard him calling out to me. I went out to find him clutching one of the bags of potting mix that we had put our hazelnuts and walnuts collected and then stratified a few weeks ago and got as excited as he did when I saw that 2 of the walnut’s had sprouted! I had assumed that they wouldn’t sprout until spring but I was wrong. Given the right conditions (moist potting mix, a series of nice warmish days and a nice dark place to fester a.k.a. one of our eskies…) these babies have decided to germinate in record time and I have to consider that it may be partly because the seed was collected locally and the conditions are perfect for their development. I hope that this burst of activity carries on and we end up with a nice selection of small Juglans regia to choose from when deciding what to plant out on Serendipity Farm.

Here are our walnut futures. There is something amazing about growing your own food and growing your own fruit and nut trees is a step on from that. Wish us luck with these little babies and their little hazelnut buddies that seem to be a bit sleepier than their walnut mates

I have no idea what this little fungus is called. I have been hunting for you and have found some photos of it on a website but not its botanical name. All I know is that it is cute, looks like a flower and puffs spores from the centre making it most probably a puffball family member. I just have to add this bit because I just found out that this is an “Earthstar” fungus and thought that it was fitting that a little fungus with this name would land on Serendipity Farm :). Hows that for 3 years of Horticulture eh? I am a closet mycologist and Tasmania is full of fungi. Check out this link to see some real beauties…

http://www.realtasmania.com/topic/606-mushrooms-fungus/

This is a type of crocus. I am way WAY too lazy to head out to the other side of the house with a torch clutched in my hand to see exactly which crosus this is. You can be sure that it is the best crocus that I could purchase for $2 from a local nursery and appears to be paying me back for my spendthrift ways by flowering before it gets consumed by one of the many vertebrates intent on scoffing our potted plants

Isn’t this little girl turning out to be pretty. I love the furry feet and her colouration. She is perched precariously on a recently felled sheoak sapling that was threatening to short out the entire neighbourhood by reaching vicariously for the nearest power line. Sorry little guy but some life lessons are harder to learn than others and yours was pretty tough!

I started reading Flaubert’s parrot today. I had laboured through the heart wrenching “A Covenant with Death” that had me lying awake late at night thinking about the futility of war, how short life is and reminding me that my sisters birthday was the same day as Adolf Hitler’s which in turn allowed me to race to the PC and wish her happy birthday just before it was too late. There are some merits to being in a time zone 2 hours ahead :o). I was under the impression that Flaubert’s parrot was going to be a bit of light quirky entertainment however it appears I was wrong and despite the promising and glowing reviews on the cover, this book just isn’t “me”. Never judge a book by its parrot. I have 3 other books from the library sitting alongside Flaubert’s parrot. One from the list… “Women of the silk” which is about Chinese women working in a silk factory that form a collective voice to question their working conditions. The other 2 I found on a random website that I initially found a recipe on. The poster had mentioned in the post that they had formed an online book club and being the nosy and adventitious person that I am I had to take a peek at her book choices.  Most of the books were non-fiction (a curious choice of reading material for a book club) but 2 of them stood out and called to me. I decided to order them post haste and “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” and “The Dirty Life” arrived today. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day was written in 1938 the same year that my mother was born. The cover gives me a sneak peek at what I am about to ingest “Miss Pettigrew is a down-on-her-luck, middle-aged governess sent by her employment agency to work for a nightclub singer rather than a household of unruly children. Over a period of 24 hours her life is changed – forever”. Sounds interesting doesn’t it. The other book is a true story about the chance meeting of the author and her future partner over a farming interview and a deconstruction of her sensibilities. It’s amazing how I have gone from wandering the wilderness without prose to guzzling my not inconsiderable weights worth of delicious literature and it’s all thanks to Mary Anne Schaffer and her novel “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” and how it did more to heal me after my mother’s untimely death earlier this year than anything else. Ms Schaffer never lived to see her novel published but she has certainly touched many lives with her beautifully written treatise about love and war all tangled up with stoic good humour and the resilience of the human spirit in extreme duress. I will continue my newfound love affair with literature for the foreseeable future and have no intentions of giving up this fantastic new vice. Who needs chocolate…books are MUCH more indulgent and have the added benefit of being totally calorie and fat free :o)

Here are a couple of the glasshouse babies that needed repotting recently. As you can see they are an interesting and exotic lot living in harmony in the glasshouse. The two Dracena draco (Dragon’s blood trees) had filled their pots with roots and the little Araucaria bidwillii (Bunya nut trees) at the very front is one of  3 that we grew from 3 seeds smuggled back from the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show in 2010. Along with it’s 2 siblings it is doing fine in Tasmania and it’s 2 siblings have been living outside the glasshouse (horticultural experimentation) for a year now so it looks like we might be able to plant them out and have them survive in our local environment. The yellowy green leaves in the background belong to several Michelia champaca or Golden joy trees. We were informed by the source of the seed that these plants wouldn’t grow here in Tasmania but these are only half of our results and the rest have been living outside along with the 2 remaining Bunya nut trees. We get milder temperatures here because we live on a rocky steep sloped block right next to the river which keeps our temperatures more stable and less likely to vary wildly than inland. This means that we can grow things here that are simply daydreams in other areas of Tasmania

Here they are all potted up and ready to grow on a bit before they get repotted again. The joys of being a horticultural student!

I read somewhere once that a dog’s intelligence is equal to that of a 4 year old child. That most probably explains why we are confronted by a most petulant pair if we decide to deviate from our early morning ritual in any way as the average 4 year old loves their rituals. This morning we decided to wait for a little bit before we walked the boys. I had just gotten notice of the imminent arrival of my 2 new library books and it seemed sensible to kill 2 birds with one stone and pick up the books in Exeter and walk the dogs there at the same time. The dogs take an inordinate amount of interest in my personal activities in the morning. Steve can walk in and out of the gate…he can put on a hat…pick up the dogs leads…he can dance the hokey pokey but nothing that he does is of any interest to the dogs because somewhere in the recesses of their minds, their walks are initiated by me. Steve is always ready to go anywhere at a moment’s notice and so the dogs have learned to watch for me heading to the bedroom to put on my shoes. I am shadowed by both of them intent on watching each lace tied and often accompanied by sighs and whining. I then have to head to the bathroom and put my hair up ready for the walk. Bezial is so tuned to this part of the walking equation that he doesn’t even bother heading to the bedroom and waits for the bathroom phase of the equation before he bothers to turn up and complain. After this stage it is straight out the door and a short wait at the gate before we are off adventuring! Imagine having two 4 year olds forever…permanently and perpetually 4…ARGH!

Hows this for a bunch of keys? If you are missing any keys for your property, your suitcase, your car, your shed, your tower that you locked Rapunzel up in, they are most probably here in this bunch. Steve thinks he has the key to the highway in this lot and about the only key missing is the key to the city…and that is one key that NO-ONE is ever going to give we leftist mad horticultural hippies any day soon 😉

Look what I made the other day. Steve requested his oat biscuits in slice form (because he is too lazy to roll all of those balls…) and here is the result

Then I made this tray of blondies. No idea what blondies are apart from chocolate free brownies apparently. I made them so the dogs would stop begging for Steve’s brownies that I also made…they contain dates for sweetness and Steve and the dogs ate them all first because they were apparently heavenly

And here are the brownies. I asked Steve whether or not he wanted cakey or gooey brownies and he chose the latter so that’s what he got! This recipe didn’t fail to deliver him a most delicious squidgy treat

Chestnuts? Why is she showing us chestnuts?…keep reading dear constant readers and you shall find out!…

I have a predilection for chestnuts. I am not ashamed to admit this to you all and am just about to indulge in a chestnut feast for my evening meal. I like to cut a cross in the top of them, steam them until they are tender and peel the shell and indulge whilst watching television. The shells then go into the compost bin where I can feel sufficiently happy that I am not contributing to the landfill problem but in doing that, I need to remember not to become one of those smug bastards who think that because they install energy efficient lighting it means that they are somehow better than anyone else. It’s so very easy to tip into “smug” but that robs you of all of the simple pleasure that you can get from feeling at one with the world and knowing that you are trying your hardest to leave the smallest footprint that you can. We have been working on our latest sustainable design and incorporating all sorts of interesting ideas. Our lecturer told us about a company that makes retaining wall units out of concrete that are also water storage devises. You can make walls, seats and even raised garden beds that also hold water to be used however you see fit. A really fantastic idea and you can check it out here if you are interested.

www.landscapetanks.com.au

Really great if you have a small space and you need a dual purpose module but not really my cup of tea. I like more natural looking things and Steve and I found this local producer of tanks and raised garden beds and are going to use them in our design

http://www.raincatcherstas.com.au/

We have been trying to use Adobe Illustrated cs4 to make a more natural looking design but we don’t have a year to learn the intricacies of Illustrator to apply to our course. Anyone out there wanting to give us a few tips feel free!

I am truly suffering for my newfound desire to make you all happy with a smaller post. I have to keep stopping myself from wandering around all over my mental landscape of thoughts that often look a whole lot like something from a 60’s Beatles movie. I need to learn literary discipline and learn how to condense my words down to find their simple, no doubt intensely flavoured, essence but much like Illustrator and AutoCAD and learning how to knit cable (and socks on 4 needles for that matter) and making stained glass windows and being patient and not losing my temper, I am going to have to shove literary discipline into my failed crafts cupboard along with everything else clambering to get out and push HARD to shut the bulging door. One day they will all burst out and fill up the house like that expanding foam stuff most probably suffocating me in their delight to be free. Until they do, and I have to use Earl as a life raft, I am going to keep stuffing my failures into the cupboard to be dealt with at a later date. See you all on Saturday when Anzac Day will be another year away and I won’t have to feel so sombre and unworthy of those brave young men dying so that I can choose to spend my life scratching my expanding derriere whilst watching people hunt alligators in a Florida swamp on an oversized television. To say that I am feeling guilty is a VAST understatement…

I just have to add something here that makes me feel really “chuffed”. I just checked my emails while I was waiting for the photos to load for this post and found that 10 people had signed my Avaaz petition against the gunns pulp mill (they DON’T deserve capital letters!). One of those 10 was Dr Warwich Raverty whom I hold in high esteem…he signed my petition! I am feeling star struck in the most environmental of ways! Please read this small article to get more of an understanding of what my petition and Dr Warwich Raverty are about. I am going to have a bit of a lay down to recover my composure!

http://tapvision.info/node/117

And should you feel strongly enough about big corporations nefarious dealings with government in order to effect their own needs whilst totally negating the desires of the people and the environment please feel free to check out my petition at Avaaz and sign it. The more people that sign the better. Thanks in advance for your support 🙂

http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Stop_the_Tamar_Valley_Pulp_Mill_from_being_built/