R.I.P. Reprobate

Hi All,

“Stone the crows” it’s Saturday already and I haven’t started this post. It would seem that life has again trotted away from my Zelda red eyes and found me wanting in the posting department. I have gamers droop…but because I love you all so much I am back to share our latest adventures on Serendipity Farm (if you could call the last 3 days “adventures” that is). Steve is off taking photos for me to use in this post and Bezial and Earl are sighing heavily despite going for an extra-long walk this morning and it being a cold drizzly day so the BEST place is right in front of the fire sighing with contentment.

A gray midwinters day in Sidmouth Tasmania

Still pretty gray after our walk but at least the garden will enjoy the rain

One benefit of cold winter days is that they burn off extra calories through shivering…that allows you to eat copious quantities of delicious carbs and a large helping of Steve’s amazing chilli

Its 2 years to the day since my dad died and life turned upside down for us and started the adventure that we now know as life on Serendipity Farm.  The first year was chaos and more life lessons than I could ever have thought possible or have wanted if I am being honest. At the end of the first year we were all frazzled, fried and exhausted with the process that goes with death in the family. Dad would not mind me calling him a reprobate by the way. He absolutely delighted in wayward behaviour and was a quintessential Aussie Larrikin to say the least. He was once dared to ride a circus elephant down the main street of town and hopped up without a second thought to the cheers of the locals. When my working class dad inherited a large sum of money and property from his long-time partner Val his spiel went something like this…

“The working class can kiss my arse…I’ve got a bludgers life at last!”…

“The Foreman’s Song” is a somewhat bastardised version of “The Red Flag” a union song intended to unite the working classes to rise above the oppression of the class systems. I come from a long line of union representatives and members and am most certainly proud of my working class heritage. Dad enjoyed the privileges of his newfound wealth but at a bipartisan cost to his working class roots. Here’s Billy Bragg sharing a bit of my dad’s ethos with you all…


Dad was fiercely passionate about his history and with my son Stewart in Ireland at the moment; it is only fitting to remember that Ireland was one of the initiators of the trade union movement for change and equality back in the 1800’s. Australia was founded by Irish convicts. The English sent them as far away as they possibly could so that they wouldn’t find their way back to spread their political poison and many of them were exiled from their homeland through their political liens rather than any crimes that they committed. We don’t treat Ireland like the American’s do…it’s not our “Old Country”…it’s part of what makes us what we are. We share a working class history and a classless (supposedly lol) society with Ireland and a sense of humour that could only have come from a shared hard existence in a hard land. Life goes on (certainly Shane MacGowan does despite his obvious excesses) and our quiet understanding of our historical link with Ireland is apparently mutual…


Here’s to the working class dad and to the ongoing struggle for equality that carries on today.

Back in dad’s early school days that name would have been a decided disadvantage to have to write in copperplate with ink. I never would have thought that I would find this many flowers mid winter in Tasmania. I didn’t kill all of them dad now can you PLEASE get your present crow incarnation to stop telling me off from that big Eucalyptus viminallis branch?

Dad and Val’s graves and in the close background you can see the jungle presently known as “Serendipity Farm”. I dare say dad is keeping his eye on what we are doing and its very easy to believe that the crow venting his spleen most passionately overhead as we work is his reprobate spirit.

I drop in a few times a day to visit my Facebook page. It’s somewhat compelling to see what my friends and “liked” pages are up to. Apparently it’s been 25 years since the movie “The Princess Bride” was unleashed onto an unsuspecting world and if I was asked “what is your favourite movie of all time?” it would have to be this amazing, beautiful and thoroughly enjoyable treatise to love. Call me an old romantic fool but this movie makes you glad to be soppy :o). Guess what I am going to watch tonight? “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” I also saw a post by Milkwood permaculture about a low cost aquaponics system consisting of a pond and a bathtub (low cost excellent for any sized property) and allowing you to grow herbs/vegetables or even flowers, should you see fit, in an integrated closed system involving the processing of fish waste via plant roots and involving a few strains of microbes in the process. You can be as base or as creative with this setup as you like and you can also run it in a tiny little flat or spread it out as big as your imagination (and your plot of land) will allow. Talk about creative license!


I would love to attend some of Milkwood Permaculture’s tutorials but aside from the cost…Tasmania is to Mainland Australia as Ireland is to the U.K. so unless I learn to swim MUCH better than my present doggy paddle I will not be attending a Permaculture course any day soon…

As an “almost vegan” (I still have milk in my tea “institution”) I subscribe to many vegan cooking blogs. Vegan is now mainstream and has been subsequently deserted by the trendy set for greener (literally lol) pastures. That leaves vegans to be able to carry on doing what they do best in relative peace and quiet with a greater degree of mainstream acceptance thanks to the fruitcake fruitarians and radical raw adherents making veganism look positively tame in comparison. Bryanna Clark Grogan is a vegan authoress and daytime librarian which sounds a bit like a comparison with Superman and to be honest, she could be called a vegan Superwoman of sorts. She is one of the most selfless people in the promotion of vegan eating and shares her amazing recipes for meat free food with anyone who is interested. Her generosity is amazing and she allows people who change their diets for ethical reasons to continue to eat delicious food whilst learning to adapt their ingredients with no loss of taste and a major boost to health and our environment in the process. She shares how to make mainstream staples vegan from scratch and has taken the reins firmly back from the extremists who would have us believe that unless you are using freaky ingredients with exorbitant price tags that you are simply not vegan. Bollocks to that! Cheers Bryanna for your services to vegan kind and for your generous spirit. We all thank you from the bottom of our hearts :o). Here’s an example of Bryanna’s recipes…you can be vegan AND gourmet…


Whether you like tofu or not this is a very clever recipe for how to make gourmet tofu. I no longer eat soybeans because I don’t want to develop any problems associated with the mimic oestrogen that soybeans produce but tofu can be made with various other beans including chickpeas and so I might give some gourmet chickpea tofu a whirl around the dance floor and see if we can Charleston. Or perhaps I will run its red flag up the flagpole and let’s see if it salutes? ;). I love experimenting with new recipes, especially when they originate anywhere other than mainstream cultures and even more so when I can try something right out of my comfort zone and can make it myself. I also like to mess about with regular recipes and tweak them with more interesting ingredients to see if I can’t invent myself something better. Call it “Magpie’s licence” and you are about where I go with food and cooking. I don’t want to perfectly replicate a recipe; I want to make it taste great for me. Who could care less if something looks perfect if it tastes like cardboard? I am all for “Real food” and bollocks to fake replication. I like to make as many of my ingredients myself aside from base things that is. I enjoy the process and the feeling of developing a pioneering spirit. I come from a long line of pioneering women and love that it lives on in my desire to learn how to do things for myself.

One of Steve’s bonsais in mid moult in sympathy with the chickens

This maple bonsai has been carefully pruned on a periodic basis by our local possum bonsai group. They are very vigilant in their pruning. This stumpy looking almost dead stick will turn into a beautiful maple in spring…at the moment it looks like a walking stick that sprouted

We had another meeting with our long suffering lecturer in a vain effort to complete our 1/5th scale pergola. Making a model is MUCH harder than a full scale pergola because any slight aberration (and I am prone to the spectrum of aberration thanks to a complete dearth of prior experience or ability in the “building” game…) becomes a major problem. A tiny miscalculation is very obvious and so you have to be precise to the nth degree or your small indiscretions are most definitely found out! So far so good but it’s taken us 2 meetings to progress to this somewhat underwhelming structure…

We had to brace the pergola for hampsters with what turned out to be a dismembered warning sign purloined by the ever errant sensei groundsman Cory. The problem was that these strips of ex-sign were not able to brace the poles while they were setting and so a lesson is learned for the next lot of bleary eyed students that stumble into the model making unit…

As you can see our structure was being built in the propagation shed at the Alanvale Polytechnic campus. The big green bin contains perlite used for ammending soil to make it drain more freely. The potting mixtures are concocted in this building as are the practical lessons in everything from cutting taking right through to grafting and specialised methods of pruning. We spent a lot of hours inside this building on the coalface of horticultural practice and it would seem that we are never going to be allowed out of this building any day soon!

A closeup of our amazing craftmanship…”marvel at the straight lines… delight at the symetry…try not to notice that this looks more like a set of balance bars for gymnasts or a ladder that someone forgot wasn’t supposed to have a solid side panel on rather than a pergola…sigh…”

At least its straight Nick…surely that counts for something? We learned a new word in our Landscape vocabulary the other day…”Eye Sweet”. It denotes that proportion of a landscape construction phase where you reveal what you have done and the person paying you the big bickies says “SWEET!”…(well that’s how I remember it Nick lol 😉 )

To all of you snickering behind your hands at this point I concede it doesn’t look like much, but I have certainly learned a whole lot of “process” to carry me through to this result and it might not look all that much but I am as proud of this little baby as I would be of many of my more attractive accomplishments. Talk about pioneering…we are forging ahead with this new Diploma, offered this year for the very first time, and are no doubt acting as guinea pigs for future students. I dare say our lecturer is ironing out the kinks on “The Pimblett’s” before he unleashes these units on his other unsuspecting students who are still slaving their way through the intricacies and various minefields of AutoCAD. Hopefully none of them have been blown up yet…I know I came close to blowing up several times whilst negotiating its processes and pathways. It’s only because of Steve and his inherent ability with technology and subsequent ability to translate what he had found out to me that I actually completed the course last year at all! After we finish this structure (we still have to install the crossbeams) we have to build a 1/5th scale model from a plan that our lecturer will give us all by ourselves. How much fun is that? Terror and fun run hand in hand whenever I think about that prospect so I will stop talking about it for now!

2 chickens underneath a tree…”noice”…

Wait a minute…those chickens are on the other side of the fence to us…

“STEVE THE BLOODY CHOOKS ARE IN GLAD’S PROPERTY!”…Oh well… Glad was only just telling us yesterday that she loved the sounds of the country. Perhaps we can toss Big Yin over the fence to round them up and she can revel in his dulcet tones over a cup of tea

I keep trying to pare back the blogs that I subscribe to in my rss feed reader as I have spent the moments since I discovered Rss Feed Readers (cheers Rhianna ;)) positively stuffing myself with wonderful blogs in an unmitigated display of blog gluttony the likes of which shall not be seen again. I just went hunting for the correct spelling of Angophora costata (Sydney Red Gum) and ended up subscribing to ANOTHER one…sigh…it would seem that life imitates nature in my case and my online desire for knowledge can only be quenched by MORE blogs and more information. The truth of the matter with my blog hoarding (like Daffy Duck when he finds treasure and utters the words “MINE MINE MINE”…) is that I rarely get to actually read posts now thanks to the exponentially growing outpouring of other people’s minds that assails me whenever I dare to head over to read a few posts on my rss feed reader. Gluttony…thy name is Fran! I will attempt to suffer in silence from now on but can’t promise not to throw in the odd whinge in future posts. This Angophora costata is a magnificent member of a very small Tasmanian clan of 2 that we know of in Northern Tasmania… the other one is situated about 3 metres away from the 1st one and also lives on Serendipity Farm. We also have a few Brachychitons growing here that have suffered in silence for quite some time in terrible conditions. We freed them up recently and they are starting to reward our valiant attempts to minimise the weeds in this area by looking positively healthy which is a far cry from what we thought when we initially uncovered them. It’s situations like this that keep us forging ahead with our efforts on Serendipity Farm. Sometimes we non-natural-gardeners are completely overwhelmed by the scope of works that need to be undertaken and completed here without the added time greaser of money to ease our efforts. We get challenged…we find a solution. We come up against a brick wall…we find a BIG hammer to knock it down. In the process we learn more about life than we could have ever imagined and that makes it all worthwhile…along with the positive beaming delight of the newly liberated plants once they get back on their feet again.

Gnarley old Angophora number 1 in mid winter moult…

“Son of Angophora”…coming to a cinema near you…

One of the now happy Brachychitons no longer suffering from crowded root syndrome thanks to a mass infestation of weeds.

I am attempting to multitask and type this post while I am eating my lunch. I Made pumpkin and potato soup for my tea the other night. The recipe consisted of peeling some pumpkin, peeling some potatoes (about equal quantities of both), peeling 2 medium onions and half a head of garlic. Steve sautéed the chopped onions and garlic (pulverised within an inch of its life in my pestle and mortar) in some olive oil and when arrived just this side of caramelisation I threw in my roughly cubed pumpkin and potatoes and Topped the stockpot up with water and deposited an appropriate amount of Massell Chicken (vegan) stock powder and let Brunhilda turn it into liquid heaven. I have NO idea how you could take 5 ingredients and tap water and turn them into something that tastes this good. After reading recently about the health benefits of soup (a scientific study showed that men who eat soup once a week live 7 years longer than men who don’t…) and being more than aware of how economical a recipe soup can be (one of the earlier lessons in how to dupe the paying restaurant customer into parting with their hard earned readies for minimal output in my commercial cookery classes) and with winter mid buffet soup is the thinking cooks choice for soul food. Steve has a newfound delight in all things liquid gold since we made our first batch of chicken noodle soup with our own ex-rooster stock. We then condensed the stock down to a dark brown replication of beef stock and he made another pot of soup that was the pure essence of “chook”. So many soups…so little time!

A Luculia pinceana shrub, one of my prized cold climate species that now graces the side garden on Serendipity Farm. As you can see it’s flowering and aside from Daphne odora (also flowering en mass in Tasmania at the moment) it has the most amazing scent of any flower that I know. We have several Daphne odora to plant in amongst this garden and one day in the future this garden will deliver the most incredibly heady scent sensation directly in through our bedroom window.

Our plants that we deposited into the side garden are showing no signs of being unhappy with their placement and indeed the Luculia pinceana, that has just started to indulge us with most deliciously scented pink flowers that we most sensibly planted near our bedroom window, is flowering on regardless. Luculia’s are supposed to be some of the most “precious” of plants when it comes to their growing conditions. We bought this specimen a long time ago and to date it has stayed in the very same pot under the very same conditions and should it choose to turn its toes up and die, at least it died a free shrub! Now that the shrubs have been planted it’s time to fill in the dots with the smaller shrubs, perennials and bulbs that are littered all over the place in pots. We will be kept busy for the next few weeks finalising the plans, job specifications, planting plans and detailed drawings of our Sustainable Landscape Plan until we next see our lecturer. I will no doubt spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to collect my weights worth of virtual reality gems in Zelda with no real net worth aside from some seriously red eyes. Come rain or shine we will walk the dogs and our ongoing indentured slavery to the chickens goes without saying. Aside from that, Serendipity Farm will carry on regardless, wending its way through the time space continuum in perpetuity albeit a somewhat chaotic careening rather than an ordered and organised pathway. Earl just disdainfully judged my pumpkin soup bowl “unfood” and (at the moment) politely requested that I remove myself from my computer addiction and head on over to his food bowl and feed him. He already ran amok with one of my badly placed socks and enticed Steve, Bezial and I into the ensuing chase but now that the excitement is over, he is going to start applying his willpower into effecting a result that eventuates in his being fed come hell or high water. I will end this post by saying that no matter how dysfunctional my relationship was with my dad…leaving me Serendipity Farm made up for all of the shortcomings that went beforehand. Cheers dad for my new life. No hard feelings. So long and thanks for all the fish :o).

Even on a dreary drizzly rainy mid winters day you can see why we have fallen in love with our little patch of Tasmanian ground. This photo was taken from the doorway leading out onto the deck as its too cold to keep wandering in and out taking photos even if you ARE my dear constant readers