5 Go mad in Sidmouth

Hi All,

Enid Blyton was one of my favourite authors when I was a small child. I got endless entertainment reading about whatever the “5” were up to on any given jolly set of hol’s. Enid was fond of a good mystery and we had ourselves a very Blytonesque mystery on our hands on Monday. We headed out to open the doors of the hen house to allow the hens into the enclosed area that they now live in. We lock the doors because of quolls, a native animal somewhat like a cat, that loves nothing more than a tasty fat docile hen added to its menu for the day and they hunt at night when the hens are at their most docile and compliant. We have the luxury of a cement floored hen house that was once a woodshed and even the most determined quoll is going to come up chookless when faced with 500ml of cement to have to tunnel through. We made small hen sized doors and a ramp down to the enclosed outer area and the hens go into the hen house at night and are ensconced safely till we let them out the next morning. We recently discovered one of the late great Effel Doocark’s daughters who had decided to head WAY down to the front of the property to lay a few eggs and go clucky and after waiting for the feral cats to eat her babies and then herd her into the enclosure along with her other sisters we discovered that unlike Effel, her daughters are EXCELLENT mothers. This hen managed to situate her chick’s right up close and personal in the feral cat’s domain and only lost 1 chick to them. We noticed her near the gate of the enclosure and with some careful manoeuvring; we were able to get them all into the enclosure…WIN! The only problem with enclosing feral chooks, as indeed this hen’s babies were, is that they have a taste for the outdoors and are rarely content to stay put. The chicks have grown somewhat and their mother has taken to going into the hen house at night to be with the rest of the flock but her babies are steadfastly refusing to go into the hen house and on Monday they escaped. Steve and I heard tell-tale “peeping” outside the enclosure and on further investigation we found them frolicking around in the leaves under the blackwood acacia trees and herded them back in. 6 more escapes later and we started to lose our cool! We had inspected the netting for holes…these chicks are not big and so could easily have slipped through a larger hole in the ex-fish farm netting that makes up the bulk of the enclosure.

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The Moscow State Circus comes to Serendipity Farm…

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2 ferals

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A little crab that we found in the middle of the road as we were walking back dripping from a recent walk in the rain with the dogs

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I had a little chat to Mr Crab and we decided that even though he might have thought that he wanted to make like a chicken and get to the other side, his life as a crustacean would be much more fullfilling (and long) if he would just learn to be satisfied to stay in the river

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We are finding more and more of these little reminders discarded on the side of the road that prove that cyclists are full of something other than the “clean green” image that they would like us all to believe that they represent …it’s not only Lance Armstrong that is shaming the world of cycling…

We decided that the chicks were escaping by flying over the top of the enclosure. This confused us a bit because none of the other chooks (including a couple of erstwhile ferals that we had herded in after we dispatched their brothers) had managed to fly over but there is a small mandarin tree situated inside the enclosure and we did notice the chicks all roosting in this small tree…after cutting several lengths of extra ex-fish farm netting we started tacking pieces into the trees that border the chook enclosure and the whole shebang started to look like the Moscow State Circus. STILL the chicks got out! We figured that perhaps they were climbing up onto some blackberries in the enclosure (left to try to encourage the chook to feel safe about laying their eggs outside) and cut back all tendrils…STILL they got out! We put another large piece of netting all along the side of the enclosure where the blackberries and agapanthus hiding spots were and STILL they got out. It was getting beyond a joke and so this time we cut the flight feathers of each of their rotten little wings and smugly headed inside to make a warm drink…when we headed out to smile smugly at the captured prisoners 30 minutes later they were out! “WHAT?!!! HOW???” We took turns to sit incredibly still outside the hen house watching for several hours when the chicks did absolutely nothing aside from lay with their mother and dust bath but as the day started to heat up and the shade disappeared so did we…and they got out…sigh…I had a really good look and decided that their might just be a weak point in the defences and we put ANOTHER bit of ex-fish farm netting up so that we were totally covered. Sure that we had fixed the problem we headed back inside…after checking a little white later they were still in the enclosure and we were ecstatic…”WE WON!”… An hour later 3 of them were out… Again we put up some more netting  and this time we had the whole circus represented…all we needed was a ringmaster and a lion…a lion would most certainly have sorted out our chicken problem! This time there was no WAY that they could escape…we had over engineered the enclosure and Houdini himself would have been flummoxed. When Steve went to close the doors at 8.30pm they were out… Now you can only BEGIN to imagine how bad tempered I was by this stage! I was to the point of leaving them out to their fate with the quolls…

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Steve is starting to branch out with his spoons now

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Mid summer acorns

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A little wallaby next to his blackberry and bracken fern home

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A most innovative name for a vessel that pootles…

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Summer twinkling on the river

We both ruminated about how the heck they were getting out because there was pretty much no way to escape from the top of the enclosure and we both decided that they MUST be escaping from lower down…We both headed off in different directions around the enclosure and inspected the lower part of the run with a fine toothed comb…after 20 minutes of painstaking inspection I heard Steve say “I found it!”…I headed inside the enclosure to where Steve was standing next to one of the poles used to anchor the netting to. What he had discovered was a teeny tiny space between 2 rocks that these miniature Houdini’s were tunnelling through to get out to the other side. They had to squeeze themselves between the rocks, up through a tunnel of netting and then take a hard right turn and squeeze out underneath another couple of rocks to escape! Kudos to them and I will NEVER underestimate the brain of a determined feral chook again! They haven’t escaped again and peace has returned to the Moscow State Circus and Serendipity Farm. I am thinking of writing a children’s book called “5 go wild in Sidmouth” or “The Great Escape 5” in the tradition of a good Enid Blyton sleuth. I might throw a chance meeting in with Justin Bieber and Harry Potter and a guest appearance by the wiggles and Elmo and I should get a book deal with ease 😉

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This grey protrusion is a basking seal. This photo was taken about 200metres from our front gate from Steve’s boat this morning

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Flippy pretending to be a shark…”you won’t fool Steve THAT easily Flippy!” 😉

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A huge sea eagles nest on the river bank. This nest is very old and is constantly in use and is approximately 2 metres across

We just took delivery of 4 more large rolls of Ex-fish farm netting with the promise of as much as we can handle to come. I have visions of Serendipity Farm partitioned off into undercover bliss including an entirely enclosed orchard area that is currently battered and bruised after years of possums being allowed to run amok amongst the trees and our enormous edifice full of protected vegetables. We have smaller projects including compost heap construction and protection of various small garden beds but the luxury of being able to take what the fish farm sees as waste and turning it into our treasure makes me even happier.  Steve has just headed out to see what the river might yield in the Mumbley cumumbus. He is ostensibly “fishing” but in reality he is trawling around like Huck Finn on the river with his straw hat and his fishing line tied to his toe while he eats his cheese sarnies (1 with Brit Piccalilli…Crosse and Blackwell no less, and the other with some of his delicious home preserved ultra-thin cucumber pickles) in ex-pat heaven. It’s a really lovely day here, nice and cool but with the sun shining brightly and packed full of possibilities. Earl and Bezial are hoping for fishing futures and I am hoping for some photos that I can put in today’s post but aside from that Steve is Scott free and able to bob around on the waves in comparative solitude. That’s one of the benefits of being a penniless student and the shining beacon in our gratitude quotient. Sometimes it is difficult when we would rather have the money to instantly gratify our wants. It’s not like we want the moon…a water tank would be nice, a few solar panels to hook up to the water heater when Brunhilda is in hiatus and a mulcher to mulch all of the debris that we are generating via our sporadic concerted vegetative ethnic cleansing episodes…I could care less about fame and fortune, give me a $15.95 copy of Jackie French’s “The Wilderness Garden” and I feel like I just won lotto. I consider myself to be a very lucky woman. I am completely content with my lot and the possibilities in our lives and I am constantly excited and invigorated by simple things. In the eyes of society we are unimpressive and easily dismissed and that’s how we like it :o)

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One side of Redwood Island (Steve’s prime fishing haunt)…

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The other side of Redwood Island…All of our photos are taken with our 7 year old totally outdated FinePix Fujifilm camera. No lenses, no special whistles and bells…we are lucky if it zoom’s when we ask it to but it does take a lovely photo.

Its 5.44am Wednesday and Steve just headed off with his boat in the dark. He has just finished scrying his crystal ball (http://tides.willyweather.com.au/tas/northern/sidmouth.html ) and found the timing is right for a morning’s fishing/pootling in the river. It might be dark but I can’t hear the wind chime’s gentle melody so there isn’t any wind to chill the early morning air further…I love the hint of chill that is starting to creep in before dawn. I love that we have had Brunhilda on 3 times this week. I also love the free hot water and the ability to cook our meals on her as well as cook pots of legumes, have the kettle gently simmering ready for a drink and keep things warm in her lower ovens…my autumnal (sorry my American friends, “autumnal” is a MUCH more lyrical word than “fall” 😉 ) processes are waking up and it’s still summer. I know that New Zealand is enjoying our customary weather (hot without rain…peculiar for them at this time of year thanks to the recent cyclone that has tumbled our weather around) and we have theirs. Cheers for the swapsy guys…any time! I don’t mind the last gasps of summer in February because we have had this little rain fuelled interlude that has soothed the savage beast and eased the crustiness of Serendipity Farm…the garden is happy, I might even get some germination of the free roadside seed that I have been collecting over the summer and broadcasting in the side garden.

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Mandolin + home grown cucumber = very finely sliced cucumbers…

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What we choose to call Steve’s “Never ending refrigerator pickles” 😉

I just found a fellow Tasmanian’s blog…she is about my age and shares my ethos and has a lovely enthusiastic gardening blog like mine. If you want to check out Kate’s blog, head on down south to Cygnet and have a look at her world…

http://vegetablevagabond.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/time-to-sow-and-reap.html

Aside from her delightful blog, she has some really good Tasmanian links that I will be spending some time this morning checking out. Most of Tasmania’s “Hippies” live down south and there are so many seed swapping groups, transition towns and all kinds of sharing going on and I am envious. I wish we had something as vital as that up here but our local groups are not as active and tend to be a bit “closed shop”. There are some very active members but I am going to have to dig a bit deeper to find relevance to our ethos here on Serendipity Farm…oh well…I can admire from a distance :o)

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This last series of photos are an homage to an old video game hero of mine…I thought that this little beetroot (one of our recent harvest) looked remarkably like one “Earthworm Jim”…knowing that I can’t claim to have replicated him (on pain of being sued blue and black) I shall call my little creation “Beetroot Nemotode James” 😉

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Here he is nestled amongst his brethren waiting for his fate…

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“Well what do we have here?”…

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Surely this is the end of our erstwhile hero James! How could anything survive a scalding stream of fragrant pickling liquor! Stay tuned to find out what happens next in the continuing story of our hero…

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I don’t know what you think but he certainly looks like he is happy enough with his lot (ignore the colour, that’s what happens when you let Steve take the photo and he doesn’t want to use macro 😉 ) “Off to the fridge with you young nematode!”…

Have you noticed that I have been cutting my posts down a bit lately? I am trying to ensure that I don’t write marathon posts and make it difficult for you all to get through them in one bite. My muses are both enthusiastic and prolific and there isn’t much I can do about that BUT I can harness them and make them work in the direction that “I” want to pull… February is here and summer is almost over and autumn is just about to crest and that means W.O.R.K. on Serendipity Farm. Aside from turning piles of woody debris into Hugelkultur gardens and biochar (and tidying Serendipity Farm up considerably in the process), we will be planting out as many of our chestnuts, walnuts, hazelnuts as we can along with 4 loquats, 3 figs, 5 avocado plants (well sheltered) and will be situating a length of perforated drainage coil at the base of each root ball so that we can give them supplemental watering next summer…this summer hasn’t gone yet and we are already plotting for next summer! Does that make us “real” farmers? 😉 I don’t think so! Steve wants to get as many of his Brachychitons into the ground along with as many pines as he can fit. We love them with a passion and all of their in-ground brethren are going gangbusters so we figure “what the heck!” I know that my son rarely reads these posts so the words “Not in our lifetime” are not going to make him twitch ;). Most of these pines yield edible seeds so perhaps by the time Stewart and Kelsey inherit this property they may be able to harvest pine nuts along with everything else that we are setting up here for them…any grandchildren (now he is REALLY twitching if he has stumbled onto this post! 😉 ) will be able to graze freely (along with the native wildlife) from the food forest that we are in the process of setting up. I have no idea what I am meant to be doing with my life…so far I have just surfed along the crest of it hoping that I didn’t wipe out too badly but since we moved to Serendipity Farm, everything that has happened in my past seems to be knitting together to form a purpose. I think I was born to do this and the happiness that this simple life is bringing me gives me a sense of real purpose that mainstream worldly success couldn’t. I think I am going to have to put the plug in on my muses…they want to wax lyrical for a few more pages but I need to put some photo’s into this post guys…”SHHHH!” See you all on Wednesday and I hope that the rest of this week flows smoothly…if it doesn’t, remember “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”…best I can do with all these muses yelling in my head 😉

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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!

Putting the AGRO in Agroforestry

Hi All,

Has anyone else noticed that Agro comes first in the word Agroforestry? That is NO coincidence folks! As a very wise sage (one might think equal to heaven…) once said “Before you can have a cookie you have to lift the lid…” much like the delicious reward of that cookie (white chocolate and macadamia you say?!), developing a smallholding food forest comes with a huge degree of Agro before you get the reward of that forest of food. I have been scouring Anthropogen.com to find out as much about agroforestry and edible food forestry as I can. There isn’t a huge amount out there about food forests because to be honest folks…the people doing it are too busy bums up in the air planting, tending and planning to be sharing information with interested bystanders. I have never been one to jump in without a plan and with the dubious honour of being horticulturalists (AND prospective landscape designers…) we have to be seen to know something about what we are doing. In past posts people have commented about how lovely it is here. I think I must have been gilding the lily somewhat and only showing you the pretty bits. We have some solid undergrowth and some massively overgrown plants that are tough, mean and angry about having been neglected for 20 years. Some of the blackberries that we have been dealing with should come with health warnings on them as not only are they thorny and hard to remove, but lugging great swathes of them over to the trailer usually results in at least one of us spending the next few days feeling the love.

Here is a photo of Earl that Steve messed about with on his mobile. I quite like it…Steve says it is “Olden Days Earl”… there were more than one of him!!!

Earl…or who we like to call “Mr Big Head” looking decidedly like a shark…but the best bit you can’t see…he had his arm on the arm rest of the car while I was taking his photo basking in the delicious cool air after a long walk…one HAPPY dog 🙂

“Poke…poke…poke…press…poke…can we PLEASE go for a walk?”…

“I don’t CARE if it is the start of winter…DOGS DIE IN HOT CARS!”…

“Wheres the bus?”…

Today (Monday) we decided to tackle path renovation 101. We had discovered a rock bordered path leading into an enormously overgrown English May bush (Spiraea thunbergia) and as most of this week is supposed to be relatively rain free, we decided to get stuck in and see just where that pathway went. As usual we ended up generating an ENORMOUS amount of debris. Some of the English May bush had thin spindly branches that measured in excess of 5 metres. You can’t help but feel a sense of compassion for something that has had to go to those sorts of lengths to survive and that has had the tenacity to keep going. That feeling lasts all of about 10 minutes until you have to start cutting, hacking, lugging and toting and then the air becomes colourfully redolent and plant love flies out the window. We knew that we were going to meet up with some of our arch nemesis Mr Blackberry…but the blackberries that we had to deal with were mostly dead and spindly. Dead blackberries are more dangerous than their live counterparts because apart from splintering into shards of spiky debris, they hurt more when they stick you. Spindly blackberries are also bollocks. It’s hard to see them…they lay on the ground pretending to be “other things” and you generally miss one or two of them resulting in massive plants in a year or so. We did 2 ½ hours in the garden and created 3 full trailer loads of debris and a small clearing in the undergrowth. Steve sometimes gets discouraged by how much work we have to do just to accomplish a small task. He spent time crown lifting trees so that we could liberate other shrubs underneath so that we could get inside the shrub to the blackberries hiding within. I don’t look at the big picture…I just look at that 1 square metre of “stuff” in front of me and lay waste to it…when I have finished I work on the next 1 square metre and eventually there won’t be any more left. It’s a bit like being a parent. None of us would survive the act of raising children to adulthood if we didn’t first master the art of selective deafness.

We reported a set of stone steps as being dangerous to the West Tamar Council and the very next day this sign appeared! The little hominid in the picture is doing exactly what I did when I stepped on the lowest step…

 Isn’t this an awesome picture? I won’t try to make you guess what it is…it is actually a steel girder that has rusted away and weathered and is part of the original Beaconsfield Mining days back in the 1800’s

I love this photo…it gives me the impression of the age of mechanisation rusting out and ceasing but the trees are still there waiting for all the chaos to die down…

I always check out the blogs of people that like my posts. It’s not megalomania, it’s my natural curious (some would say “nosy”…) nature coming into play. I would like to know what sort of people find Serendipity Farm an interesting and indeed worthwhile place to drop by and take a visit…share a first cup of mental tea/coffee in the morning with me before the sun comes up…I am CONSTANTLY amazed by the people that click “like” on some of my posts. Obviously the picture that randomly pops up for the post is going to attract some readers but reading and liking are 2 completely different things. I think that is what keeps me blogging, knowing that I am making a connection with people out there somewhere in the ether and whether our lives have ANYTHING in common or not, it doesn’t matter. Right there inside someone else’s head I made sense on some level. Now THAT is something special. I click “like” because a post predominately affects me, moves me, sometimes enrages me and often enlightens me…my click is my “bravo!” It takes a lot to make me click and even more to comment. Whenever I get a “like” or a comment it validates this blog and my thoughts about life and the world. It gives me some solace that there are people who think like me out there and that I am not the only one who wants to find ways to make life full of colour and depth. The world is full of uncertainty at the moment. I saw on one of Steve’s apocalyptic documentaries where a scientist said “the natural human tendency when disaster happens is for humans to find each other and group together”… he was talking about alien invasion at the time but I think that whenever times get tough, that’s when we seem to find the best and worst in people. I would hesitate to add that I personally think that without hard times we never really understand how very lucky we are to be living where we are and being who we are. We might all be totally different people but we share a common goal and to all of the people out there who click “like” on my posts, thank you from the bottom of my heart for seeing something in my words that resonates enough for you to tell me that you like them :o)

We had just walked the dogs and noticed this little gem just waiting to be photographed. As you can see this road leads to the tip/waste transfer station…looks like someone didn’t want to pay the $5 to complete the “waste transfer” to me and lends a whole new meaning to “Your bike is rubbish…” 😉

This is the first stage of the dogs getting a walk in the morning…I head to the bedroom to put on my walking shoes…can you see the happiness in their eyes or is that wary disbelief…I have several more stages to go through before I get out the gate…

Its Wednesday already! On Monday we headed out into the garden after walking the dogs to take a look at what stage we are at in our Serendipitous redevelopment. We realised that it won’t take too many days to clear out the undergrowth in the densely covered area of the garden that no-one has set foot in since most probably 2004 when I came to visit my dad after his partner died. I headed down into that area of the garden and remember there being pathways lined with the rock that predominates the entire area let alone Serendipity Farm. It’s a total PAIN to dig this soil but when you are looking for free foundation materials to make raised garden beds…dry stone walls and retaining walls there are no shortages of these weathered rocks and yet again I am reminded that everything has its uses. I remember wandering down into the garden past a large palm and it was already overgrown with buddleia. I just took 20 minutes to get up, take some photos of the morning sunrise, make Steve his first cup of coffee and take it to him and predominately to try to find out what that buddleia actually is that I was talking about. I can’t find it! It would seem that Buddleia davidii is the go when you are after “Buddleia” in an internet search and as persistent and dogged as I can be about internet searches, even I know when to give up and head to the horticultural books! The Buddleia in question is more of a small tree than a shrub and has the most incredible scented flowers that are not like the classic davidii shaped flower at all. They are clusters of flowers on a branch. I will let you know what they are as soon as I can find them…sorry about that little “aside” there, I have a strong need to know things sometimes and that was one of my “need to know” moments ;). Consider it a brief segue back to my story. I wandered around this garden enchanted by how overgrown and wild it was. Since 2004 the garden went wild. I dare say my dad no longer had anyone telling him to get into the garden so he didn’t. My memories are the only thing that tells me that there are pathways, benches, and most importantly “form” out there in that jungle and unlike Steve who often finds himself overwhelmed and bewildered in this area of the garden, I am able to use my memories to guide me to where the good stuff is.

This is one of Effel Doocark’s babies that are now our constant companions whenever we set foot into the garden. We can be completely alone when Steve starts up his chainsaw and within a few moments we are inundated with small chickens and a very determined Effel. They are getting a bit tamer as we are making the effort to pick most of them up. This little girl is quite tame and finds herself being picked up more than the others. Isn’t she cute?

This was big red rooster…now he is Zac Brannigan rooster…if he keeps threatening the female members of the flock he will be chicken lasagne! “We are watching you sunshine!…”

Here is one of my little  Ceratonia siliqua (Carob/St John’s Bread) that I managed to grow from seed. We are going to plant them out on the property and make good use of their leguminous properties as well as their pods. There are many uses for carob and they are a most useful tree to plant if you have room on your property. Now if I can only get my hands on some Moringa oleifera I will be a happy little sustainable camper!

I wonder why whenever you get stuck into clearing out an area of the garden, the resulting “cleared bit” is a whole lot smaller than the generated debris? It’s a bit like the Tardis of Dr Who legend in that it would appear something wasn’t quite right when measuring up the equation. Our lecturer (poor long suffering Nick…) has had to steel himself to understand that my mind is on a need to know basis and whenever you are trying to introduce new and exciting premises…it needs to be shown why it should be putting all of this effort into thinking about said premise in the first place or it simply isn’t going to happen. Nick told me that whenever you alter one side of an equation, you need to adjust the other side accordingly…I saw it mentally as a see-saw effect and luckily I am the sort of person who’s mind is constantly seeking equilibrium and so this made perfect sense to me. Trigonometry…you are now my friend. Not so sure about Calculus though… when viewing the enormous piles of debris generated and the small space cleared my ordered mind found something askew in that equation. I guess I am thinking in two dimensions rather than the 3 dimensions that are actually present and as the third dimensional portion of Serendipity Farm appears to be stuffed to the back gills with overgrown exponentially increasing plant matter, I can let my mind rest somewhat easily. You can only teach an old dog new tricks that make sense to it. If you want to travel outside that box, you are going to have to do some SERIOUS work Nick ;). I have to say one thing here. I doubt that my lecturer reads this blog so I can say it with impunity. Despite having to teach mature aged students who started off being able to share their horticultural knowledge on a 20c piece, he has risen to the occasion remarkably. He is one of those lecturers who are willing to take the journey with you to learn. Whenever we come across a problem with the software that we are using or a conundrum about our course we know that he will be on the case for a solution as soon as we step outside the building. He is a fellow lover of knowledge and information and despite us being very different people, Nick goes the extra mile to actually teach and for that sir…I thank you from the bottom of my heart :o)

This is a lovely small kalmata olive (Olea europea) tree that is one of many situated right on the fenceline at Marion’s Vinyard. There are many other varieties of olive represented in the trees planted along the side of the road and I collected a selection of them so that we can try to grow some here on Serendipity Farm. I am more than aware that olives grown from seed are a very long term proposition and that taking cuttings is a much quicker way to get yourself an olive tree (as well as an exact copy of the olive that you have isolated) but you know what? I like a challenge! I will be taking cuttings next summer from these trees but for now I will plant the seeds and see what happens.

My little money bag of olives. If I can get some of them to grow, this might be a most fortuitous place to be holding them 😉

This is to show you the different types of olives I have. The vinyard owner most kindly has a sign up telling people the types of olives and which trees are representitive of those types alongside the roadside planting so it will be nice and easy for me to identify my cuttings (so long as I remember to label them accordingly…)

On Tuesday we walked the dogs and when we got back we discussed what we were going to do for the day. Steve has wanted to get his weeping maple collection planted out and so we decided to do that. We set about removing as many rocks from the small garden surrounding the bird baths as we could before Steve set about digging some “root growth zones” (a.k.a. “holes…) to plant them into. He swapped between the shovel and a mattock for the task and we removed lots of large rocks from the area. Maples have shallow root systems that like to spread out a lot with lots of feeder roots. This is because they are understory small trees and needed to adapt to their cramped soil conditions. They also don’t like wet feet and need to be planted out in free draining conditions. Our soil isn’t the most ideal soil in the world consisting of a reasonable percentage of silt but thanks to the 20 years of neglect, all of the leaves that “should” have been raked up have fallen and decomposed in the garden and have added some much needed organic matter to this thin denuded soil. The rocks will actually help us with Steve’s maple garden, they will ensure that the soil doesn’t get compacted no matter how many chickens decide to get stuck in and stomp the area into the ground and we used some of the smaller rocks to form a small cairn around each of his precious babies to stop the advancing hoards of chickens from scratching the living daylights out of their newly planted root systems. Being a gardener means having to weigh up the positives and the negatives and trying to get them to work for you…We planted out some really lovely specimens that will become a truly lovely display in spring through to autumn. At the moment they look like a garden of sticks. Their branching is so fine that you can’t even see most of them from the deck but we know that they are there and we also know that they will be delighted to be planted out and ready to take off at the first signs of spring.

Today we decided to head off and do some more blackberry killing in the side garden. We are on a quest to reduce the blackberries on Serendipity Farm to the minimum. We know that the birds are going to constantly bring them here but we will be watching for any signs once we remove the large outbreaks that have been reproducing exponentially for the last 20 years and will nip them in the bud as soon as we see them. The most tiring thing about removing blackberries is trying to ferret them out from the ingenious places that they manage to grow. We killed one today that had actually grown up an irrigation riser and had to be untied from the riser before we could extract it from its hiding place. Blackberries are clever…who needs a rudimentary brain stem when you are able to grow in so many ways. I do appreciate their delicious sweet fruit but I can head out and harvest it in the bushland and waste ground around Sidmouth and Beaconsfield and we don’t need the double edged sword of blackberry vines on Serendipity Farm. Tonight we are going to watch some episodes of the U.K. sitcom “The Good Life” that we managed to get hold of from a boxed set so we get all of the extra and special episodes. I remember watching this when I was very young and loved every single episode. It was like Fawlty Towers…witty, incredibly funny and so far from Steve and I with our humble “farming” endeavours but so close with the honesty that is so very refreshing in U.K. television programs (well…some of them…). That’s what many people simply don’t get…the best humour is tinged with pain. That’s how you appreciate it to the max and revealing something sad in the middle of the humour makes you remember it and feel it more than you normally would. You “engage” with it more… like in the final Black Adder where they all went over the wall to certain death…in the movie 4 weddings and a funeral with the death of one of the main characters… wherever there is pathos and humour there is more of a connection. Tom and Barbara Good are true pioneering spirits for the sustainability Movement and were years before their time. I truly love this show and am going to have a great time watching every single episode. See you all Saturday and have a really fantastic evening…I most surely will :o)

And by the way Kymmy…what was at the end of that path was a WHOLE LOT MORE HARD WORK…sigh…