Philosophy 101 narf7 style

Philosophy 101 narf7 style

Hi Folks,

Uncle Travelling Matt

I decided that 2014 was going to be a year where I learned/tried something new every day. Here are my first weeks reporting’s back to you, my dear constant readers. I feel like Travelling Matt from Fraggle rock, out reporting back so that you can all sit in your armchairs in the relative safety of your homes and learn from narf7’s mistakes…here we go…

DSCF6067

The deck prior to starting work

 

DSCF6158

The deck as of today. I have yet to paint the area in the foreground but that is on the cards for tomorrow

DSCF6162

Around the side of the deck

DSCF6202

The western red cedar that had deteriorated badly due to not being treated in 20 years is now a nice sage green. There used to be a large rose and clematis clump over this area of the deck but as I was pruning it decided to part ways with the deck and now lies on the ground in front of it. A problem for another day!

DSCF6133

Painting the deck step rails

DSCF6209

Bezial surveying his land

1. New Year’s Day – Starting the New Year with a sinus headache sucks. I had a bonus lesson today in the shape of “when sanding the deck on New Year’s Eve, wear a face mask in order to not have a sinus headache on New Year’s Day”…lesson learned TICK!

DSCF6139

A headache isn’t going to stop narf7! It might look like I am lying down on the job but some jobs require a degree of horizontality

DSCF6136

In my “Smurfette” phase…I have since been through my Kermit the frog phase and a brief stint with thinking I was Casper the friendly Ghost. Now I think I am a Jackson Pollack original. I am going to sell my bespattered trousers off to the highest bidder 😉

DSCF6230

Clever green washing to attract the unwary husband. Steve brought this home the other day on the shopping pronouncing it “organic”. He associated the green colour, the name “nutrients” the image and the “premium” with organic and figured it was better than the brand that we usually buy. I said “did you check where it was grown?” (he obviously hadn’t…) and surprise, surprise it is grown in China! It might have worked once but they won’t fool him again

DSCF6154

The awesome 8 litre jar that Steve bought for me the other day. I am going to get a couple more for my buckwheat and my sesame seeds

DSCF6215

Some of the bargain plants I have been picking up from small roadside stands lately. I am collecting monocots (grasses and iris type plants) for the driveway

DSCF6161

Who needs chia when you have buckwheat? I soak my buckwheat now for my morning breakfast smoothies and it forms a thick layer of gel. I love how these smoothies keep me going for the whole day until I am ready for my evening meal. Combined with my homemade kefir and Kombucha they are nutrient powerhouses

DSCF6232

A pint of free blueberries from our crazy American friend…trying to win us back 😉

2. Breaking large seemingly insurmountable tasks into small manageable chunks prevents you from hiding under the bed with Earl and not coming out. I realised that Steve’s desire to “do the deck” could be considered to be an insurmountable task and when I found myself shuffling mindlessly sideways towards the bedroom on Thursday,  I chose, instead, to pick up a paint brush and just “start”. A few hours later and many small chunks of painting and I had finished off the deck stairs and most of the deck railing. I learned the value of small chunks from Mr Adam Richman of “Man vs. Food” fame. When faced with having to ingest a hoagie the size of his not inconsiderable derrière, he would always break it down into small bite sized pieces…lesson learned TICK!

jewelled_caddisfly_riverfly.co.uk

I am probably going to get sued for using this image but this is the lengths that some jewellers go to in order to not have to do ANY work at all and get the maximum profit. The ultimate in middle man…poor cadis fly larvae!

3. Life IS like a box of chocolates. Mr Gump’s mama certainly knew what she was alluding to. When faced with a full and open box of chocolates we all go for something different. My personal favourites are chocolate covered Turkish delight. I was walking back over the Batman Bridge today after heading off with Earl for his daily exercise (and my daily drag) when I noticed a little trail of “jellybean stones” on the roadside. Jellybean stones are little smooth stones in the shape of jellybeans and I collect them whenever I see them on the side of the road. A truck delivering garden stones to a nursery must have passed by and lost some of its cargo and ever the magpie I bent to pick them up. We are all different. What one of us finds irresistible is so much “meh” to someone else. We pick and choose what we find attractive and worthwhile as we travel through our lives. We collect little piles of whatever we fancy and we stockpile them like Caddis fly larvae (Put picture in of those jewelled cadis fly larvae) in order to make our lives comfortable and attractive to us. I learned that I like simple natural things. I also learned that you don’t head out into the road part of the bridge in front of large log trucks to pick up tiny stones or that life that you wish to add those little stones to might be somewhat shorter than you imagined it…lesson learned TICK!

DSCF6228

My BAD in situ ready for me to elbow open the pantry door…I LOVE gifts from the universe, they are always perfect and exactly what I need, when I need them 🙂

4. “Keep your eyes open today” was one of my grandad’s favourite sayings…”why grandad?” “because you can’t see with them shut!” Most of us walk around as if we have our eyes closed most of the time. We think about all kinds of other things while we are doing our day to day tasks. We are miles ahead of ourselves and plotting up to the middle of next year while today is slipping away from us. Right this minute is the only time that we are guaranteed of. I learned that keeping your eyes open is a good thing. I found a BAD today while I was walking Earl. What’s a BAD you say? As Steve so succinctly put it “that is one BIG ARSED doorknob!” so BAD it is now known as. I put it in my bag and wondered at how it got on the side of the road. I had no idea what I was going to use it for, or if indeed, I was going to but when I got home when Steve was joking around about what we could do with it, I realised that one of his suggestions was actually pretty clever. We screwed the BAD into the pantry door that contains the rubbish bin and the compost bin. I am usually approaching this pantry with something unsavoury or wet in my hands and now I can just elbow open the door via the BAD. Not bad for something that the universe gave me 🙂

DSCF6194

Our almost new 10 000 litre rainwater tank. We got a pump with it and at just over half the new price

DSCF6213

The lady of the house gave me this New Zealand lily. She bought one plant and she has managed to line her entire driveway by dividing that same plant up! It is growing in hard clay so it should find life here on Serendipity Farm pretty cushy after that

5. The universe gave me something else today. It ALMOST gave me a hernia but let me backtrack a little here to give you the details. Today I learned that sometimes, when you put something out into the ether you get a reply. Everyone who is anyone knows that narf7 has very few actual desires. I am a pretty simple little spud who enjoys simple pastimes and my favourite things are usually free. I am a cheap date. My 2 biggest desires are to get hold of a rainwater tank in order to have a continuous supply of clean rainwater and to afford a small wind turbine for Serendipity Farm. In the scheme of things, they are pretty small requests. Whenever you go to a website you are faced with the site loading you up with cookies. The cookies that the site loads you with won’t make you fat but it will fatten up and customise the advertising that you see from that point onwards. Steve has been visiting Gumtree (our Aussie equivalent to Craig’s List as far as I can see…) in order to see if we can get more 200 litre blue barrels in order to put his genius plan into action. While I was perusing my early morning blogs in my RSS Feed Reader I kept noticing advertisements for Gumtree on the sides of the blogs and my eye was drawn by a blue barrel for sale! Pity the blue barrel was on the other side of Bass Strait in Victoria but the next series of ad’s that were all rainwater related contained a large rainwater tank. For some strange reason I decided to click on the rainwater tank knowing that it was probably in the Northern Territory but when the advertisement opened it was for a 10 000 litre rainwater tank and pump for $1000 and the best part about it was it was in the suburb next to us! I looked eagerly at the date of the advertisement and noticed that it was early December and figured that the tank would be long gone. I sent a tentative email off to the seller asking if they still had it and received an email back by lunchtime saying that he did so Steve and I phoned him up, set off to check it out and on Monday morning we headed around to pick up our new rainwater tank that we ended up paying half price for (after Steve did a bit of dickering) and one of my 2 biggest desires can now be ticked off the list. The moth-eaten sock under the bed dragged itself off to die but we now have a tank that will supply us with more water than we can use and the blue barrels are about to be creatively used to collect and supply rainwater to the veggie garden. Sorry that was a big one, but it taught me the value of waiting and of keeping my eyes open, “cheers grandad!”

DSCF6176

Gratuitous vegetable shot of the yellow zucchinis with the spuds in the background

DSCF6172

A mystery is afoot! I might have prevented the larger vertebrate critters from scarfing my precious veggies but obviously something pretty hungry is giving my silverbeet the old college try! No idea what but I bet it comes in caterpillar form…mutter!

DSCF6173

Lush garden full of “stuff”

DSCF6166

More lush garden…more stuff

DSCF6183

The beans that are growing in the compost

DSCF6184

The compost heap with its volunteer brigade of stalwart veggies

6. Monday saw me doing some serious hard yards on the deck and today I learned that sometimes, when something isn’t really important to you, it doesn’t hurt to give it up. Steve wanted me to paint all of the cedar walls the same colour and I wanted to leave one wall (the best preserved) as a feature wall. I usually get my way but this time I had a think about it and realised that Steve really wanted it to be the same as the rest of the walls and so I painted it over for him. It made him happy. I learned that making Steve happy makes me happy, a win-win situation 🙂

DSCF6186

2 very happy yacon plants

DSCF6178

Last week these zucchinis didn’t have fruit and I noticed that the beetroots have small beetroots the size of Ping-Pong balls

DSCF6181

Patty pan squash

DSCF6188

A little tomato plant that was growing outside the veggie gardens that I dug up to prevent me from trampling it

DSCF6189

All of these tomatoes are volunteers! I probably should have transplanted them…I wonder if it is too late?

7.  Tuesday was a doozy of a life lesson. I learned that sometimes the choices you make can have amazing results. I walked Earl and decided to take him over the Batman bridge and feed the 2 little chooks that have been abandoned there. I try to do this once a week just to make sure that they get at least 1 square seedy meal a week. When we got there I noticed that the little black bantam hen has had babies! 8 tiny little fluff balls. As I started to throw the grain on the ground 2 completely different chooks emerged to peck at it! Obviously the Batman is a prime dumping ground for unwanted poultry 😦 I thought about going to the loo at the public toilets but that would involve taking Earl into the loo and I didn’t quite fancy that level of intimacy so kept walking. We got back home with me almost bursting for the loo and I took a small detour to relieve myself in the bushland at the front of the property. I then decided to head through the tea tree garden and take a look at how some of the small trees we planted are doing (well as it turns out) and on the way back to the house I happened to glance down at the ground and saw a dead puffer fish! Obviously the feral cats brought it back to our property and they chose to dump it right where Bezial goes to sniff when we let him run down the driveway off his lead. If I hadn’t chosen all of the sequence of choices that I did this morning, Bezial would now be dead. He can’t resist eating blowfish. Only last week we had to prevent him from picking one up at the beach and he would have eaten this one as fast as he could with dire results. Is our life made up of choices or is it actually directed by our choices? I would like to think that our lives are the result of an incredibly long and convoluted “Choose your path” book. You start out as a baby and once you get to make choices they form your pathway to your life. YOU get to choose your pathway. That is really the only thing that we get in life, our choices.

DSCF6192

I thought that this was just a pretty weed but it is a useful herb called “self heal”

DSCF6198

The property is covered in oregano. This one is in flower

DSCF6199

Golden oregano

DSCF6200

A mystery…this hydrangea had bright blue flowers last year. This year the flowers are obviously pink. Nothing, aside from some bark, was added to this garden bed so why on EARTH have the colours changed? The pH is somewhat acidic (which would account for the blue flowers) so changing to pink is very strange indeed!

8. That brings me to today. What has narf7 learned today? I learned that on February 2nd I am going to head off to Hobart with my 2 wonderful daughters for what is ostensibly a trip to pick up a boot load of Korean foodstuffs and ingredients that my daughters can’t source here in Launceston. I am also going to head off to a park to find a statue of John Woodcock Graves who wrote the poem/song “Do ye ken John Peel” and take a photo of a book of poems compiled by a fellow bloggers dad (with lots of assistance by her) alongside the statue. Social media can assist people to do things that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to do. I am honoured that I can help Joanna (Zeb Bakes) to make her dad happy. The lesson is that if we can do something small/simple for someone else that will make them happy, why not? We are all in this together and if we share and we help other people we make the journey a little better.

DSCF6212

After I finish painting I am going to tackle this. You could be forgiven for thinking that this was a jungle. It is actually an archway, heavily fortified and the garden behind it is being guarded by 8ft tall Scotch thistles. I imagine some of the lessons that I am going to learn next week are going to be painful ones…sigh…

That’s about all I have to report today folks. I am absolutely knackered after painting half of our deck and after I get tea on I am going to settle down and have a bit of a rest. A bonus thing that I learned over the past week is that hard work makes me feel incredibly satisfied. I might be dog tired but I feel satiated body and soul. This learning thing is turning out to be fun 🙂 See you next week when the vegetable garden will have probably outgrown its enclosure and gone on the rampage…

To bee or not 2 bee gnat is the question

Hi All,

Ok, so that was lame…VERY lame…but it got you looking at my post didn’t it so it worked 🙂 The post also has a little bit about insects in it and a bit about jellyfish so while you are here to chastise me about my lame pun filled post, you may as well have a look at the post over a cup of mental tea on Serendipity Farm. You never know you just might like it here and want to stay…

Lets start our photographic evidence (some might say forensic looking at this…) about what we have been up to on Serendipity Farm this week. We had these bamboo screens plastered all over the 3 metre high wall that we put up in town to minimise our forced cohabitation with the troll when my dad was alive. Our daughters are now living in the house in town (with no troll in sight) and asked us to take down the Berlin Wall so we had these screens left over and so we decided to put them to good use. The garden in front of these screens is sad. It is full of Cape gooseberries, tiny native raspberries and some azaleas that are proving incredibly hard to kill. Forget delicate things, azaleas are survivors people. After being hacked to death they are all growing back and some of them are flowering.

All this week I have been expanding my mind and attempting to redress a few years of stagnation in body and soul. It’s really easy to sit back and let life lead you where it will but you run the risk of not having much of a life at all and in being perpetually scared because being reactive is being out of control and being proactive gives you a modicum of choice. Along with that choice you also get the chance to shuffle people out of their ruts. If someone does something unexpected or reacts in a way that is different to the norm it isn’t only the “Doer” that has to think and thus starts a most interesting chain of events. I doubt that first sentence is going to rival Moby Dick any day soon but it was where my mind was settling on Sunday last week. Steve was in his shed cleaning it up which apparently gives him a great degree of joy and so it is now understandable why he makes such an awful mess every time he uses his shed. I can hear him howling outside and doing extreme injustice to some band on LAFM. Thank goodness for Chilli FM by the way. It has taken all of the crap music from LAFM and left us with “all of the best music from the 70’s’ 80’s’ 90’s and today” meaning everything that wasn’t manufactured on some countries form of “Idol” or spliced by a DJ. I am not going to run every DJ down because there are some very clever people out there making some amazing music but the problem is…most of them don’t make it to the airwaves and we get some watered down hash of 80’s pop spliced together with any recognisable riff that they can pilfer and BAM! Just like the Spice Weasel, we have a cloud of dust that delivers no flavour to our musical palate and that leaves us jaded and world weary.

Here’s the reason that it is always wise to call before you rock up to Serendipity Farm. Should we not be here…the boys will be and as you can see they take their job “watching” very seriously…

We also have killer chickens roaming all over Serendipity Farm. This one is particularly dangeous. She has taken out 4 Jehovah’s Witnesses, an encyclopedia salesman and a morman and that was in the space of a week…enter at your own risk.

It’s now Wednesday and we have really been making a difference this week on Serendipity Farm. Last week I gave up sitting on the PC and it seems like a lifetime ago (and several leech bites) since I sat here safely tapping away living an entirely surreal mental life over the school holidays. We are back at Polytechnic now and armed with our work and as we work from home, our lives can be planned around when we study. We have a month off before our next meeting with our lecturer that encompasses his trip to the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show and Easter and so we figured we had a bit of time up our collective sleeves before we needed to get stuck into completing our latest task (with the aid of Google Earth and a well labelled copy of the plans to the block to assist us) and so with my newfound desire to effect change on Serendipity Farm we decided to throw ourselves into reducing and removing the various piles of debris that we created over summer and couldn’t burn. We are very mindful of how wasteful burning is. We have spent the last 3 days working our way through these piles of debris and removing all of the limb wood, logs, kindling sized wood and allowing the leaves to remain in situ (as mulch) and the brushwood is going to be burned and the resulting ashes and embers will not be wasted either. We plan on baking potatoes in foil in the ashes and the feral cats will savour the warmth from the fire like they have on previous debris removal attempts. We almost removed Houdini with our last fire because she was hunkered down with her latest lot of ferals in a shrub that got scorched when the flames went up. She steadfastly refused to give up her hiding spot and is a most formidable mother despite being the smallest of our hens. We have piles of logs and limb wood all over the place now as we have steadily worked our way down from the house paddock around to the front of the house. We have heaped up the brushwood to enable us to collect it all and take it around to our metre squared fire site (so that we can get a permit to burn) and render it ashes.

Never let it be said that we don’t take advantage of natures bounty. These hazelnuts were selected from a large quantity of hazelnuts given to us by our neighbour Glad’s daughter Wendy. Wendy has several trees and very generously donated some to us. I ate most of them over a period of a few weeks and these select few remain to be stratified along with these Juglans regia (English walnuts) that we found on one of our walks popping out of their little husks and begging to be collected and stratified

I think this is what is colloquially called an “Ark”. I think it is several cubits long and quite a few wide and whoever made it appears to be heading down the Tamar River to higher ground…

When we were clearing the blackberries out of this poor long suffering rhododendron we discovered this leprechaun nest. We have spotted several of them darting around Serendipity Farm and now that we have isolated them down to this communal nest we should be able to wait them out and collect their pot of gold the next time that we get a rainbow

I can’t say that I can even remember working as hard as this, getting as dirty as this or being on the go quite so long as this in a long time. Steve and I are hauling logs, hoisting brushwood on the end of long poles, have a newfound angst at all things “wattle” and “cotoneaster” because whenever they are culled (the New Zealand word for killed…) they remain stubborn and difficult to deal with right up to the bitter end. I am covered in scratches and had some of my precious life fluids removed by stealth when in a shaded area of the garden yesterday. We had to stop cutting up logs because “a man” appeared on the driveway and we had to stop and find out what said “man” wanted. It turned out he was from the water board and was trying to isolate our water meter so that he could change it over to a new meter. It’s just lucky that we were home because our water meter is nowhere near the front of the house where any sane person would think that it would be. The poor man would NEVER have found it all the way up the back paddock and halfway along the fenceline where some bright spark decided to put it. When we were looking at our block plans the other day (and raising a silent prayer up to God for giving us Degrees, Minutes and Second readings for the entire site CHEERS GOD!) we noticed that all around our property were roads where there are currently none. We know that there is an easement between our property and Frank’s next door because Frank has already called “dibs” on it should council ever release it to the land owners. There is also apparently an easement just behind the house at the rear of the property for the very same purpose but our nasty neighbour at the back obviously assumes that we are too numpty and red necked to even know about anything as technical as an “easement” and has decided to simply assimilate it into his property without prior permission…are you starting to see why we don’t like him? We directed the poor water board worker, who had himself been bitten by a leech the day before whilst being kind to some neighbourhood chickens that had materialised when he and his workmate were eating their lunch. His bite site was a rather embarrassing one as the leech had slithered down the back of his pants and situated itself between his buttock cheeks (always honest at Serendipity Farm is my motto…spare not the sensibilities of my readers as that is everyone else’s job) and I was most relieved when my 2 leeches had the decorum to situate themselves on my lower back and leave a representation of a walrus gone Dracula on my person.

Not too long ago this white hen would have been taking her life into her own hands walking into the “Lion’s Den” like this. This conifer houses most of the feral cat population on Serendipity Farm on and off throughout the day. With the burgeoning population  of poultry exploding all over Serendipity Farm the feral cats are now significantly under represented and have had to take a back seat to the hens. It is a common site to note hens stealing cheese right out of the mouths of the cats. Nature is a most interesting master and the hens now rule this roost!

The price of operating our house phone has increased to a ridiculous amount and so we have decided to use a more sustainable method to contact friends and relatives. We did a bit of research online and discovered a site where we learned to use smoke signals to make up messages and Telstra can bite us now because we can bypass their robbing asses!

This is a bunny plant (Oryctolagus cuniculus). I grew it specifically  for easter. As you can see the 2 green leaves truly represent a rabbits ears and this amazing plant produces easter eggs that ripen on easter morning. I have NO idea how it is able to ascertain when Easter occurs each year as I am clueless about it’s whereabouts until someone reminds me that it is on its way. The small trees behind the bunny plant are money trees. They take a really long time to grow and most probably we will be in our dotage by the time they start to produce the coins that precede the notes that these trees are held in high esteem for. At least the kids will get something from all of our efforts. Maybe we can graft some note scion onto our coin rootstock?

Hard physical slog and making sure that I eat my evening meal mid-afternoon has ensured that I am now sleeping like a baby. I haven’t got time to miss sitting about here wasting time because we are doing things and making a difference. Steve is taking full advantage of this because he knows me of old and thinks that all of this activity is going to be stuck in the “failed crafts closet” along with the lead lighting and the manufacture of kefir in the not too distant future and he is trying to save himself some solitary man hours by using my new found desire to get “stuck in” to the max before it recedes, dwindles and dies for the year. I am ever a cyclic person (something about women and the moon and water or something…that’s my excuse and I am sticking to it!). I can’t blame him for thinking like this but I am here to stay this time. Not only am I feeling satisfied and content at the end of my day (some might call it knackered out) but my previous gym training has decided to allow my muscles to recover and take on forms other than “flabby” my least favoured muscle form of all and I am starting to understand what keeps people working hard in the first place. Forget bungie jumping and base jumping, this is as close to adrenalin as this woman is going to get! We are walking the dogs first up as we have to leave them on the deck while we work around the house. We found some Juglans regia (English walnuts) falling out of their husks and collected 8 of them (roadside benefits of walking the dogs) to stratify along with the biggest and juiciest looking of the hazelnuts that I shared with you in a previous post and they are now settled nicely in their potting media waiting for springtime and new life. If anyone out there can smuggle me some Juglans sieboldiana var. cordiformis (Heart nuts, a relative of the walnut and pecan) I will be eternally grateful to you and would give you my first born child but he has told me to stop offering him for slave labour on the open market because he is too busy at work to mow lawns, make people’s dinner and generally wave large feather fans and peel grapes (party pooper!) so I will have to find some other way to recompense you 🙂

European wasps have 2 phases. A sugar phase and a meat phase…can you tell which phase this little fellow is in? He is attempting to eat the boys dinner and he is VERY lucky that he is situated on the bbq out of the reach of Earl because Earl takes pilfering of his dinner to heart.

When we were walking the dogs the other day we decided to go to Bonnie Beach, a very pretty walk around the old gardens at Kayena. There are some lovely old trees in this area but for once we were more interested in what was drifting off the pontoon than what was growing in the earth. We decided to walk the dogs out onto the pontoon because the tide was low and the oysters were exposed. We have a plethora of oysters on our local river bed and at certain times of the day it is very unwise to walk out to the water unless you want your shoes shredded and to get an instant infection. Bezial is part water dog and you can see the gleam in his eyes and his faraway expression whenever he gets anywhere near water and as the oysters were beckoning, we decided to allow him to get closer to the water on the pontoon. When we started walking out we noticed lots of the big white jellyfish slowly manoeuvring their way through the water. They are really quite graceful and despite thinking that they were just prisoners of the tide I watched one that had gotten too close to the rocks do the equivalent of what people in small boats with outboard motors do and “whack it in reverse” and head back out into the free flowing water. The jellyfish themselves were most interesting but what really interested us was how little fish that appeared to be leather jackets were swimming out from the rocks and swimming right next to the jellyfish hunting for any excess food that they might be finished stinging and scoffing. What a clever symbiotic relationship! The jellyfish are called “Jelly Blubber” or Catostylus mosaicus and are apparently very delicate. If you want to learn more about them check here…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jelly_Blubber

We also saw schools of tiny little fish and much larger fish that we thought might be cocky salmon. Cocky salmon are the young version of the ubiquitous Australian Salmon. This fish is nothing like its European counterpart but is an excellent sports fish and is good eating if it is bled as soon as it is caught which confuses a lot of tourists on our local beaches in salmon season when they see fishermen with large fish stuck upside down in the sand. It’s just gone 7am on Thursday morning and we have a big day ahead of us. We have been working our way through tasks that we have been unable to do and some that we have been putting off. Yesterday we cleared a large stand of ancient blackberries that had been clinging against the side of the wood shed and that were threatening to move in. We removed an old ramshackle fence between the house and the area of property behind the house and opened up the area to make it easier to walk around the property. We want to get on top of Serendipity Farm and need to finish off the clear up before we can get stuck into making it really ours and effecting the changes that we want to make here so we have a few solid weeks of hard slog before we can start planning and planting out. We also have some serious pruning to do to open up the jungle down in the second garden but we are dropping a tree in that area and so we will be forced to work there after the apocalypse. Nothing like dropping a tree in an area to effect change!

Here is a load of wood being carted up from the front gates to dry out this year to be used for next years fires. We had to remove these mostly dead hakeas from the driveway and their death won’t be in vain as they will be used in all sorts of ways as well as being used for our wood fired stove. We have some plans for using up some of the spindly tea trees that we have to remove from the teatree garden in order to allow the remaining trees to grow properly. We are going to use them to make possum barriers around our vegetable gardens. Stay tuned for our prototype in the coming weeks

Here is another one of those killer hens. Note it has made itself a den where it can drag its unsuspecting prey back to dismember it in peace and quiet. Note the graveyard right next to the hens den. These hens cost us a lot of money but what price security?

Here is our newly tidied up (no piles of messy debris thanks to our fire off to the left…) first garden. See those 2 giant mushrooms that grew after the last rain? Being someone who loves mushrooms I am proud to have these Guiness World Record Largest mushrooms growing right here on Serendipity Farm.

Did you notice the blog roll in the right hand margin today? I got the idea from a few blogs that I had been to and handed over the “discovery reins” to the techno maestro Steve to deliver me a blog roll to share my favourite blogs with you all. Hopefully I can run that sucker for miles because I am FULL of fantastic blogs to share. I am being decidedly picky and making sure that all of my dear constant readers will be able to get at least something out of at least one of the wonderful blogs listed. I have always been interested in nature and how things are interrelated and work. I like to pare back everything to get to the simple natural essence of things and I am most interested in fungi being the predominate species on earth and insects. I like to take a leaf from Annie from The Micro Gardener and see “Pests” and “Weeds” as prospective mates that I haven’t yet learned how to harness for the benefit of Serendipity Farm. Everything has its good and bad sides and we tend to focus on the bad when it comes to pests, diseases, weeds etc. Where would we be without penicillin? Where would be without lactobacillus? 2 prime examples of humans being curious and adventurous enough to mess about with some natural processes and make them their own. Weeds are fantastic things. We should all yearn for the ability to not only grow, but thrive, in harsh environmental conditions. Forget trying to eradicate them, we should be trying to isolate just what it is that gives them their tenacity. They are pains in the neck but they are also indicators of our soil conditions and just what is missing or in overabundance in our soil. Like weeds, pests are just adventitious little insectivorous wanderers who are taking advantage of good conditions. It’s up to us to find ways to use these little babies to our advantage. My hens are currently making short shift of a mini plague of small grasshoppers. They are all over the place but here on Serendipity Farm they are hen food. Some bright spark in the warmer areas of Australia has harnessed the native honey bee and is selling hives to people who want to farm their own native extra sweet honey. We can’t have them here in Tasmania but we do have bumble bees and various other bees that all come for a visit. I found this interesting specimen when we were walking the dogs the other day. I have NO idea what it is. It’s either a bee, a fly or a wasp (see…I am destined for a career in entomology obviously!) and it is most decisively deceased. The closest I got to working out the identity of this little fellow was an Amegilla dawsoni which are the largest bees around. Weird and freaky they are typical W.A. specimens (I come from W.A. I rest my case) and are otherwise known as Dawson’s Burrowing Bees. As we are in Tasmania and quite a long way away from W.A. I figure my detective work may have led me down the path to taking a wrong turn at Albuquerque somewhere, but these bees can regularly be found trying to get out of the windows of our home. No idea why they come in, but they most definitely want to go out once they get in. Perhaps they don’t like dogs… check out all about our endemic Aussie bees here…

http://www.aussiebee.com.au/beesinyourarea.html

I think it’s time to post this post now. It’s a bit higgledy piggledy today and hopefully it has something of interest for you. I made bread and fishcakes today along with some cauliflower cheese. While the oven is on I try to make sure that we use it to its full potential to take advantage of all of the heat generated. The bread is just about due to come out of the oven and will be duly stuffed into the gaping maws of various creatures waiting under the deck for their regular titbits. Steve will get a bit and the dogs will also share some toast in the morning (along with the fishcakes that they just shared with Steve). Life is good albeit tiring on Serendipity Farm and it’s been great to share this week with you. See you all next week and to all of the wonderful blogs that I subscribe to…keep those great posts coming! By the way… I haven’t gone stark raving mad…It’s April fools day somewhere around you reading this post so I am taking a little creative license with the timing as it’s also the end of daylight savings and we are entering the realms of mathematics here so you are just going to have to work with me on this one and accept that you are all April Fools! 😉

Next book in the list coming up

Hi All,

I am just waiting for some photos to load in my last post (last night) and am contemplating whether or not to watch rubbish T.V. (the easy option) or read my book. Reading the book is hands down the best idea but there is no doubt in my mind that I will fall asleep within about 15 minutes of starting reading despite it being a fantastic story and I really don’t want to miss anything in a blurry world between sleep and awake. So what do I do? Do I watch “Pawn Stars” with Steve and numb my brain or do I chance falling asleep and missing the developing romance between Captain Corelli and Pelagia? Hmmmm I guess I could just sit here typing for the rest of the evening but tomorrow is a study day and we need to do some serious research to isolate plants that will grow well on Serendipity Farm and sustainable materials for our prospective Sustainable Landscape Design. Steve is going to try to drag some “Complex Access” out of his brain from 4 years ago when we completed 3 complex units in Certificate 4 in Business Administration…Complex Word documents; Complex Spread sheets (Excel) and the most pertinent one for tomorrows work, Complex Databases (Access). Steve has been checking out Access all over again and you know what? We have completely forgotten everything that we learned…Steve is going to tinker around with it tomorrow to see if anything comes back but if it doesn’t we might just be giving our lecturer a nice Word document in place of a database. We are going to drop another tree tomorrow down into the garden area. We were only thinking today that it is lucky that we hadn’t created our vegetable garden area in earnest because the 2 trees that we dropped today completely mangled the veggie garden area and it would have been very disheartening to have that happen with veggies growing (and wasteful). We are hoping that Effel doocark wasn’t mounted on top of her Guinness World Book of Records sized clutch of eggs down in that garden when the tree dropped…

Bezial is determined to hide from Earl on the bed

Earl loves being bounced up and down upside down on the bed…mental!

Tomorrow’s effort will fall into the jungle part of the garden and the blackberries should go part way to softening the blow. We are making sure to get enough firewood for our winter needs. We are going to get a few loads of limb wood from our friend she who must remain anonymous and a decent load of good wood in exchange for some old metal in the first paddock. Barter is sometimes the way to go when you live out in the country and don’t have a lot of money. It rained for queen and country last night and we had a decent amount of thunder and lightning to accompany me getting to the final chapters of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. This book is most definitely going on my favourite book list right up there with Mary Anne Schaffer’s quirky classic “The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society”. It is almost the same book if you look at it with the eyes of a copyright troll but as both books are delightful I will suspend my sense of disbelief that Mary Anne might have borrowed a fair bit of her material for her book from her list…the more books you read from this list the more Mary Anne is revealed…I think that reading your way through someone’s favourite book list is like reading their diary. It is so very personal and what makes them feel deeply gives you a real and unclouded look at who they really are. It’s Friday and the skies are very dark outside as I type this. The dogs are both lying in bed with Steve which appears to have become a morning ritual over the last week. I like getting up and checking emails and spending a little time sitting here thinking about the day. Now that we are studying it takes a degree of order and planning to sort out just what we are doing and I keep finding all sorts of great information that keeps forcing me off track of my original query when I am hunting online. Anything great and anything free needs to be saved which slows down the hunt considerably. Steve and I have come up with some really amazing sites. One of them is an Australian site where you can narrow down native plant species that will flourish in your endemic area and you get the common names and botanical names so that you can head off and hunt for them in your local nursery. I would personally get stuck in to collecting some seed, not all…I have been to a seed collecting workshop with the local Tamar N.R.M.A and appreciate leaving some for plant diversity in the immediate vicinity. After collecting seed we will spend some time growing our own endemic plants to grace Serendipity Farm. I discovered a most enthusiastic lady permaculturalist in a series of videos yesterday whilst hunting for information pertaining to rocket stoves (another story). Her name is Rosina and she is like so many others out there who catch the permaculture bug and use it to change their lives. I don’t think that Annie from The Micro Gardener would mind me sharing the link to Rosina’s story on her blog Green Journey.

http://www.greenjourney.com.au/inspiration/112-general-body-copy/167-rosina-a-garden-to-call-home

The main thing that I get from learning to live a sustainable life and using permaculture (and other sustainable) principles to guide your garden and your life is that far from feeling overwhelmed, it gives you a real sense of empowerment (what a wanky word!) over your immediate situation. Anyone can apply as little or as much permaculture process to their requirements. A small set of pots on a balcony (see The Micro Gardener for some amazing ways to do this) to a 50 acre property are all based on a series of zones and processes. Cycles of things that act with nature to facilitate good change. Working with nature stops all of that hard work trying to stop nature from doing what it does best so you are saving time in the process. The more I delve into permaculture the more I appreciate its fundamental truths. I am starting to sound like a permaculture zealot aren’t I! The good thing about falling in love with permaculture is that it doesn’t do anyone or anything any harm; it’s a way of giving you back a degree of choice and a direction for your life. In this day and age of hopelessness when we are all faced with the growing concern about Global economics and how they seem to be taking a turn for the worse on a daily basis, permaculture and its hope is a shining light through the gloom. Not only does it give you back your choice, but it also allows you to hook up with all sorts of people from all over the world and the sense of community that dealing with people that are trying to affect positive change can’t help but brighten your outlook. I have added some really good blogs to my “Follow” list and now eagerly await a new post from Milkwood permaculture after checking out the site and finding it a most valuable resource for those seeking information and a good story at the same time. If you are interested here is the link to the site

http://milkwood.net/

A friend gave us these quinces the other day with an assurance that I could have lots more in a week or so. Quince jelly…baked quinces, poached quinces and maybe even some quince paste but I need to find my welding gloves first as that stuff hurts!

I have no idea where we are going to walk the dogs today. It rained all night accompanied by thunder and lightning and apparently it is going to be a rainy day all day all over Tasmania. I love rain and despite having to wade through mud to give the boys a walk in winter I wish that we had discovered swales in our implementation phase last year at Serendipity Farm. No doubt all of that heavy steady rain washed most of our steep driveway away again and dumped a deluge of water down into the teatree gardens where it is least needed. We have plans to install a series of swales and perhaps collection ponds to ensure that the water stays on Serendipity Farm in the future. We have learned so much from hunting about researching for our studies and are eager to implement some of the ideas right here. The top paddock isn’t called the top paddock for nothing. It isn’t far from the lowest point of Serendipity farm (we are only 4 acres) but if you were forced to walk from the front gate straight up to the top of the property without a rest and you were as unfit as I am you might need to pretend to faint clean away about halfway up just so that you could have a rest. The top paddock is mostly native vegetation and consists of native tussock grass (Poa labillardierei) and Sheok trees (Allocasuarina duncanii) interspersed with a few blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) and a disproportionate quantity of rock. We have plans to use tough fruiting trees like olives and figs that don’t mind low water conditions at the top of the property in an area that had previously been cleared of large eucalyptus trees by the neighbour to the rear when we were not living on the property. I still can’t get over the cheek of this man and how he took advantage of us to get a view to attempt to affect the sale of his property. He had come to my father’s funeral and subsequent “wake” (for want of a better word) and had asked me if he could clear away some trees from the boundary fence. As you can imagine I wasn’t really all that concerned about trees on the boundary fence at that time and agreed that he could remove the trees on the fenceline. He then proceeded to remove all of the trees all of the way down to the gate on the second paddock and was attempting to try to persuade the man that we had caretaking our property while we were living in town finishing off our year of studies that we had assured him that he was allowed to clear fell all of the trees all of the way down to the house block. I am glad that the caretaker decided to balk at this brazen attempt to gain a view and that we now only have to deal with a back paddock that 1/3rd of the vegetation has been removed from. When we plant olive trees and fig trees that block this man’s view I am NOT going to feel at all remorseful. I might feel a twinge of guilt when we install pigs up there…but you know what? There is nothing like a large pig to dissuade someone from climbing over the fence in the night to poison your fruit trees…

I love how this old enormous conifer stump has spawned a young juniper…life goes on

Does anyone know what this tree is? I really liked it and noticed it on our walk. It has the look of a poplar.

This is a stand of the tree that I am trying to identify. Very nice shiny thick green leaves and a nice shaped tree to boot

We ended up taking the dogs to Beaconsfield and giving them a nice long walk. It is cool today and overcast and threatening to rain quite heavily. We are working on our project design brief for our lecturer for our course and are starting to wish that we hadn’t let things get in the way of us buying a whole pile of those big blue plastic barrels last year for $5 a barrel as I think that there are new Chinese people managing the orchard around the corner from us and they appear to have disposed of all of the barrels. The Chinese people come here for the picking season (cherries and peaches) and then disappear leaving a much neglected orchard over winter. No pruning has been done this year or weed removal around the peach trees. They don’t actually want to deal with the peaches and don’t export them because they are not big enough to satisfy their market requirements. Locals are able to buy them at a reasonable price and we bought some last year and made peach poison, the wine that knocked your socks off but that had a taste like some sort of oven cleaner. We drank it though… that is why we gave up drinking! When you are able to persuade yourself that something that smells like paint thinner is worth putting into your mouth you need to stand back and have a think about your motives. I just headed out to the shed to retrieve a load of dry limb wood that we stored there to save us having to go to the wood shed (previously the boat shed) to get wood for our next fire. With the weather at the moment our “next fire” is likely to be today so in between showers I raced out with the wheelbarrow to get the barrow load of wood. I stayed up till 12 last night/this morning (never quite sure what to call it when you put your book down on the stroke of midnight…) reading Captain Corelli’s Mandolin as mentioned previously in this post and Mr Lois de Berniѐres is a true craftsman when it comes to being honest in a story. I hate it when I am watching something on T.V. that has a bad plot line or that is heading somewhere and suddenly everything turns out A.O.K. and everyone goes home hand in hand with big smiles on their faces and they completely disregard the honesty of the situation to save the audience having to face some uncomfortable truth. This book is dealing, blow by blow, with the harsh realities of the invasion of Cephalonia in the war and isn’t sparing a moment to waste time pussy footing around how I, or any other reader, feel about how things pan out…it tells it like it is/was and there is a degree of truth to it all because it is based on a true story. I thought that this was an entirely fictitious story but on researching a bit there are many aspects of truth involved that give it a solid feel. I think I am going to spend the afternoon finishing off this wonderful book and then I have another one to start. How lucky am I? See you all tomorrow when we can talk about lumber jacking, tree felling and gathering wood (not nut’s…yet…) somewhat earlier than May.

A pod of happy kittens

Jacko’s hiding place on a cubic metre of potting mix next to the shed