Short but full of flavour

Hi All,

Thanks to Queen Elizabeth 2nd I stayed at my daughter’s house for an additional day which means that I am behind the 8 ball with my posts. Steve did a sterling job on Saturday’s post but now the baton has been passed back to narf7 who has been studying all day and who isn’t cram packed full of words. Let’s see what narf7 can pull out of the recesses of her mind to amuse and entertain you…I headed off to my daughters on Friday morning. We had walked the dogs and were talking to a friend on the way who mentioned that it was the queen’s birthday holiday on Monday which ensured that I had to stay another day because most of the shops that I needed to frequent were shut on public holidays…bollocks! I did have a great time at my daughters house and we had a lovely Korean takeaway and created some delicious food. I attempted to capture as many of the meals as I could but by the time we got around to eating we were starving so a couple of them slid down our throats before I could remember to snap. I would like to point out that I think that the queen is a bit greedy to be honest. I was chatting to “quarteracrelifestyle” this morning and she mentioned that the queen had actually had her birthday in New Zealand last week…I get the feeling that she is mooching for extra gifts and as she is officially the world’s richest woman I think that is a bit cheeky.

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This is Qi. She is our daughters Staffordshire terrier and lives with them in town. This photo was taken just before we left her at home to head out and pick up Korean take-away for our evening meal…Qi decided to pick up take-away of her own and rifled through my things till she found a bag of dog treats that was supposed to last her all weekend…they didn’t 😉

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Some of my daughters indoor chilli’s and spring onions that seem to be growing just fine by the well lit windows

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Breakfast on Saturday. Note the Chinese red dates and I discovered that “Aztec Berries” that are quite expensive dried fruit are actually Chinese Gooseberries that grow like topsy here on Serendipity Farm…kudos to the entrepreneur who managed to con someone into marketing them for him 😉

We didn’t get around to making waffles like I was planning to make because by the time I was able to get my youngest daughter out of bed it was closer to lunch time than breakfast. To her credit, she did have to adapt to my early rising habit although I did limit my emergence from my room till after the sun rose which I think was pretty big of me ;). The enormous Liquidambar tree in the front garden of the girl’s home has decided that it doesn’t want to be deciduous anymore. It has been taking longer and longer to lose its leaves and this year they seem to be firmly welded to its branches. Our poor sorry possum chewed specimen lost its leaves weeks ago but the girl’s tree is going strong. I remember our horticultural lecturer telling us that we must have been living in a microclimate. I think we must have been living in an alternate universe sometimes…strange things happen wherever we Pimbletts settle in a district. Glad next door has told us that we can have free reign over the leaves that have fallen from 2 of her enormous oak trees and we just have to find a spare day to head over there with our trusty trailer to rake and collect them. This will be our third year collecting leaves from next door…I am starting to feel quite nostalgic :o). Along with the enormous pile of horse dung and the remainder of the stall hay that we collected prior to now we have a good start on being able to fill our new veggie gardens with more than just chopped up branches.

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On Saturday night we had a chilli night. My contribution was to make guacamole

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My serve before the girls added beef mince to their portions

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My daughters have a most eclectic range of staple foods in their house. Here is the Asian quotient of their fridge…

We are almost ready to start putting the netting up around the perimeter of our fully enclosed garden. We had forgotten to get any strong rope to contain the netting and had to wait till I shopped to pick some up but now we are armed with more rope than we could possibly envisage needing so the next phase of our garden is just about to eventuate. I have decided to dismantle our existing veggie gardens and start using the material that they are built of to start forming garden beds around the netting as soon as we get the netting mounted on the poles we set into concrete a few weeks ago. Why pfaff around with limbo dancing my way into our existing gardens when I can rebuild them (like Steve Austin, the 6 million dollar man) stronger and better. We have enough netting to cover the gardens and protect them from the possums because the wallabies will be officially out of the equation once we get the fences up. I bought a chocko (cheers Jean for reminding me that they are useful food sources :o) ) when I was grocery shopping and plan on getting it to sprout and planting it out against the new fence. I also picked up some red coloured Jerusalem Artichokes that I was assured by the grocer were “just like the white ones, you know how some spuds are red and some are white? Same here…” That was enough to get me to buy a bag of them to plant out alongside their white counterparts…no racism here on Serendipity Farm!

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Steve took a photo of the small tins of loose leaf Chinese tea that the girls gave me

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And here is an artistic shot of the tins…

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The red coloured Jerusalem artichokes that will soon be under the ground ready to sprout for spring when the time is right

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Doesn’t this happy looking choko look like it is hovering over our bamboo countertop! I don’t know how it happened but lets just be happy that most choko’s are content to remain grounded 😉

Our rainwater tank is full to the brim! Steve checked the other day and discovered that there are actually benefits to rain aside from watering the garden. We have been drinking our tea and coffee made with rainwater and it does taste different. My daughters gave me some small tins of Chinese tea leaves along with a large friand pan, some Matcha green tea powder and a lovely reversible blanket to wrap around myself when I am up early before Brunhilda heats the kitchen up in the morning. I have to find myself a recipe for vegan friand’s. There is bound to be some clever clogs out there who has found a way to replace the 5 – 6 egg whites with some vegan equivalent, I just have to hunt them down. I am going to make some vegan green tea ice-cream with some of the Matcha powder and I made a cup of the Chinese loose leaf tea this morning. Thankyou girls, I most certainly appreciate my gifts to the max :o).

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Some more of my daughters pantry cupboards…

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And this one is a bit messier than the others but still laden with interesting ingredients

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The noodle cupboard…

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And this cupboard contains various “stuff”

Steve and I noticed something when we were out checking what we had to do with the veggie garden today. A pane of glass had been broken on the roof of the glasshouse…on further inspection we were able to deduce (just like Sherlock and Watson…bags I being Sherlock!) that something rotund had either fallen off a branch from the sheoak tree that towers over the glasshouse or attempted to negotiate a landing on the roof that went terribly wrong. We know this because exhibit A was the inside of the glasshouse where just about every single potted plant that remains inside was upturned. We figured out that one of our erstwhile possums had made an error in judgement and had found itself trapped inside the greenhouse with no way out aside from the way it came in. We also noticed that there were large shards of very sharp glass pointing inwards reminiscent of one of those fly traps where they can’t crawl out once they venture inside…we have NO idea how this possum managed to get out without cutting itself and there isn’t any blood visible so we have a mystery on our hands (and Steve had to use one of our chook food bags and some silicone and some logs to ensure that nothing else ventures into the glasshouse). Somewhere on Serendipity Farm there is a possum with a bad headache…

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There are a lot of unusual condiments and herbs and spices ready to be used to add interest to everyday meals

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The large blocks of milk chocolate to the right of this image are Belgian chocolate that gets grated into warm milk for “real hot chocolate”. It certainly is fun to cook at my daughters home 🙂

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My evening meal on my last night there consisting of Seasoned sushi rice topped with ingredients of your choice also known as “Chirashizushi”. My bowl contained rice, finely sliced carrot, daikon radish and cucumber, shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, half an avocado, pickled ginger, toasted black and white sesame seeds and nori squares. It was delicious!

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My daughters added egg and raw fish to their bowls

The days are getting decidedly shorter on Serendipity Farm. It’s dark by 5.30 and it’s still dark at 7am when Steve wakes up. They are also getting a lot chillier and Brunhilda hasn’t had a break since the beginning of May when we broke her out of her somnolence and press-ganged her back into service. We have finally learned how to feed her and are no longer wasting wood and ending up with a house that feels like Florida in a heatwave in the middle of winter. Steve got an infrared filter in the mail today. He has been hunting for interesting camera equipment online and so far has managed to pick up a good quality table-top tripod, a timer that Steve can use to take long exposure images with his camera with and that allows him to manipulate shutter speed and remove camera shake completely. After that he ordered an adaptor ring that will allow him to use his old Nikon lenses with his new Canon camera. He also ordered the infra-red filter he received today and a set of U.V. polarising filters and 3 variations of neutral density filters. Buying them online saved him a fortune. You have to wonder why we Aussies have to pay so much for what the rest of the world seems to get for a lot less. We have been most pleasantly surprised to find that buying from Hong Kong hasn’t been an issue. The infra-red filter took a week to get here as did items ordered from the U.K. and the U.S.A. The postage from Hong Kong was also free so we just need to see if his filters get here along with the adaptor ring (both ordered from the same company) for a clean sweep of happy online purchases. Even if they didn’t turn up, they cost so little we were willing to take the gamble.

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Thanks to Lizzy having her birthday on Monday Steve ran out of bread to give the chooks for their morning treat so he whipped them up a delicious looking damper

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Look how fluffy and light the crumb is…more like scones than damper!

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This is a peculiar predilection of the Londoner…this is “Pie, Mash and Liquor”. Pies, mashed potato, peas and a liberal splattering of white sauce containing parsley was just what the doctor ordered for Steve apparently

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Apparently this is what men who are forced to feed themselves eat for tea on a Saturday night…homemade oven wedges and fried rice 😉

Time is fleeting folks and although this might be a shorter post than usual, I can justify it because most of my dear constant readers are from the summery north and have more interesting outdoor activities to undertake than reading blog posts about some southerners winter activities. To my Southern readers, you can count yourselves lucky this time that narf7 has managed to contain herself and keep her post to a comfortable 1 cup of tea/coffee length this time. Have a great rest of your week everyone. I will be attempting to wade through my RSS Feed Reader blogs but thanks to it being summer in the north, I didn’t have over 1000 like I would usually have and it would seem like summer has rendered you all externally restless and thank goodness for that or narf7 would still be here next week trying to climb the equivalent of Mt Everest of blog posts ;).  I returned to lots of new followers on my Pinterest boards so that should tell you what a busy little beaver I was in my week of addiction. I have settled down to a steady hum that encompasses both blogging and Pinterest in a less manic way. I can’t promise that I won’t get addicted to Tastespotting and FoodGawker in the coming weeks but at least I know that my addictions are as fleeting as this post and everything should be back to normal within a week. See you all on Saturday when hopefully we will have this external netting fence up, some of the garden borders created and filled (and hopefully planted out) and I will have had time to do a post a bit of justice.

Trade offs

Hi All,

“What are you willing to trade for the life that you want to lead?” That seems to be the common thread running through my life. This morning I headed out to water the strawberries…a few handfuls of deliciousness for all that water…I watered the poor long suffering maple trees that we grew from seed about 3 years ago that are stunted in their pots and that are likely to still be stunted in their pots in a years’ time (those that are still alive that is…) because of a trade-off…veggie gardening and food production is more important than the cost of the potting mix required to repot these now, unnecessary, trees. After watering the “unnecessary” I headed up to the veggie garden and noticed that something has chewed my kale leaves off again…sigh…I know it wasn’t possums because they were too busy laying on the bird netting on the top of the bean bed reaching their hairy little arms through to pinch whatever vegetation they could manage to grasp…the trade-off here is that I don’t like using poison on my garden and the enormous slug that is apparently the reason behind my now skeletonised kale can be taken in triumph out to the henhouse where the duck will dispatch it with loud squishy joy (a degree of personal human joy can be obtained from said “squish!” so double bonus there!) and I cling steadfastly to my city dude attitude that one day we are going to be able to live with our native brethren in harmony because Serendipity Farm will be so cram packed FULL of food that neither of us is going to make a massive dent in its productivity. The trade-off is trampolining possums with rope burn on their arms and wallabies that are brave enough to circle the “unnecessary” bed and are picky enough to only eat the newly emerging leaves of what they grazed down prior to this present buffet style munching episode.

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Firstly I have to say “THANK YOU; THANK YOU; THANK YOU!” to Jessie from the wonderful “Good life” blog http://rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/an-update-and-things-coming-together/ Jessie sent me some of her sourdough starter that she makes her gorgeous loaves with along with some kefir grains. I was over the moon that they only took a day to get here and I plonked the kefir grains straight into some milk and Steve headed over on a mercy dash to buy some organic rye flour from Beaconsfield. Jessie also made that lovely black dishcloth that you can see underneath the jar of milk and happy little kefir grains doing the backstroke. I got it this morning (hence the green smoothie behind…note the spoon that Steve made me for my smoothies, extra long and has a pointy end to liberate “bits” from my vitamix). Take careful note of the 3 almonds in front of “Audrey” (my new sourdough’s name because she is going to want me to “FEED HER SEYMOUR” ASAP…). They are the result of a very caring man who decided that they looked like they were “on the turn” and that he would save them from dying…sigh…it looks like Jessie’s children aren’t the only ones prone to picking unripe almonds from trees 😦

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After the mercy dash we have 2kg of rye flour to feed Audrey…

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Audrey ensconsed in Herman’s old pot after being fed and watered. She is VERY happy by the way Rabid! It is a warm day here today and she has crept right up to the top of Herman’s old pot! I am going to feed her twice a day as a precaution against vinegar bricks…I now know that it wasn’t Herman’s fault…it was MINE! I should have been feeding him twice a day to encourage yeast growth, once a day encourages lactobacilli that make your bread sour and they must have been inhibiting the yeast as my bread didn’t rise enough…result…vinegar bricks. Maybe Audrey will be able to give me something that Herman couldn’t…an edible loaf of bread ;). Steve said “I don’t even want to look at it ok?” He has bad memories of us both being enslaved to Herman and his kin…around the clock nurturing that took over our lives! Now I have Audrey and the information that I need to ensure “I” don’t stuff it up, lets see if this little black duck can’t turn out something resembling “edible” :). I am over the moon Jessie! You just made my day, my week and my month and I don’t even care that I am going to be Audrey’s indentured slave until I can wean her off her rye and get her back into the fridge where she belongs…she has earned her warm spot and her fast raise for the next few days 🙂

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I don’t know where our local grocer gets these Mainland mangoes from but for $1 each, and supporting an Aussie farmer I am there!

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This is what they look like after cutting away the seed and freezing them ready to be added to my breakfast green smoothies. The seeds have all been put into the compost heaps all over Serendipity Farm as an interesting experiment. I figure that if mangoes fell from trees, they would do so in hot and humid conditions not all that different to my compost heap so lets just see what happens…at the worst, the seeds will rot down into the compost, at best I get a mango tree…a win/win situation!

At the bottom of this philosophical ethos, I guess what I am trying to say is that I have chosen to live like a penniless student hippy and the trade-off is that I can live how I please. I can experiment with my vegetable garden and I can take the time to “feel” this space and work out what I want and where. I can research long into the night and I can get up early and do the same thing until lunchtime if I wish. I temper my efforts to learn everything that I can about our world and everything that is pertinent to what we are doing with studying to advance our “worth” to society. I am able to spend the time working out which plants are going to be right for our situation and our requirements. I can download PDF’s and head off on as many tangents as I like to find what I am after and to me, that ability is worth our “penniless” label. Money is pretty overrated. I can hear the son and heir scoffing now. He is a money man…he deals in it and his job pretty much revolves around the acquisition and hoarding of it. If you choose to live simply and think laterally you would be very surprised at how little green folding stuff you actually need. Rabid, my erstwhile idealistic heroine of Ballan who has more energy than the Eveready bunny and would give my chin out mum a run for her money with her stubborn refusal to give in, has recently opened my eyes to the power of bartering. Bartering has been used for millennia as a way for we proletariat peasants to access the goods and services that we need without the requirement of ready cash. Rabid likes Steve’s spoons… Rabid lusts after a little spoon of her own…Rabid sends sourdough to a lustful Narf7 and suddenly a world of possibilities opens up… I love sharing. I really do. I don’t know why, but it is part and parcel of “me” and Steve is learning how much happiness can be gleaned from generosity. By the way, does anyone out there want any Cape gooseberry seed? This plant is a marvel for drought ridden areas and will grow just about anywhere. The chooks love to eat its large leaves and adore the fruit. I love the fruit and it is related to tomatoes and tomatillo’s but if you let it ripen it is sweet and tasty. You can even make jam and chutney out of them and they grow like weeds. I love how they keep popping up everywhere courtesy of the chooks and their past pilfering of the lower fruit on one ancient perennial shrub that has been here metastasising since dad was alive. Let me know if you want some (anyone in Australia that is) and I will start drying some. I have them growing in the garden and the compost and can spare a few seed ;).

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Not only are the cape gooseberries in the main garden, they grew all through the compost that we used to make the first set of garden beds and you can see one growing maniacally on the left of this shot…does this garden/jungle have any sort of order?! Not really…this is the result of 2 people hell bent on preventing the possums and wallabies from scarfing their produce…so hell bent that they have made it a virtually impenetrable fortress…and that includes for themselves! ;). The lettuce has gone to seed but I am going to collect it for lettuce futures and you can see the clover growing, I just left it because it is nitrogenous. I love how the veggie beds are evolving and doing their own thing (because that means that I don’t have to become a middle aged contortionist and slither sideways into them to correct anything that has gone wrong! 😉 )

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The trade-off for having a maniacal rocket plant is that it is rocket in the bank. I get to save the seed, the rocket keeps the soil covered and moist and NOTHING eats this bitter plant when it has gone over to the dark and seedy side The rainbow chard are also doing well and I will share some more garden shots with you on Saturday

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This is a teeny little compost heap. Well fortified and apparently of no interest to the possums because it didn’t have anything pinched from it last night. I have decided to kill 2 birds with 1 stone and make lots of little compost heaps all over the place where we want to plant trees. I figure that they will soften the soil, attract worms and add nutrients to the soil where we are going to plant in autumn. I think I am starting to learn a few things!

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The lengths we have to go to just to keep compost inside our compost bays but as you can see, “things” are growing in them. This was the last half 10kg sack of spuds that had gone stringy and are just starting to grow through the layer of leaves. I have also planted mango seeds (you never know…) and adventitious pumpkins are sprouting all over the place. The other large compost bin full of potatoes has been hit hard by the slugs but they are soldiering on regardless. I “found” some jerusalem artichokes out on the nature strip (and some comfrey but that is for another walk with the dogs 😉 ) and brought a couple of them home and put them in the centre of the big compost heap…again… you never know!

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Here is one of the culprits who are eating leafy things in the veggie garden…this one made a most satisfying noise as it slid down duckies happy beak!

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Some of the veggies that we harvested this morning…thank GOODNESS I have a recipe to make “Zucchini Cream” out of that monster zuke!

Compost is another one of my trade-offs. I spend the time making round wire mesh compost bays and I spend the time putting my fruit and vegetable scraps into a bucket in my pantry and supplement them with the vacuum cleaner emptying’s and paper and cardboard snipped up as it becomes available. I cut up all of my cardboard boxes and use the little $4 paper shredder to shred all of the newspaper etc. that we are able to find. I have been known to pinch extra I.G.A. catalogues when we are in Beaconsfield as they are made with thick newspapery paper that is great for the compost heap. 1 ½ years ago I could have cared LESS about composting…composting was something that mum nagged me to do and thus went straight into the “NUP” basket. Now I lust after leaves in the park underneath big deciduous trees, I twitch when I see people carting green waste branches to the tip, I can’t even begin to imagine throwing paper and scraps into the bin where once it was something I did without thinking about it. The trade-off for this vigilance is that I get amazing compost to put into my gardens and to feed this poor dry ancient topsoil. Swings and roundabouts folks, there is always an up, and a down and it’s our place to find the best balance between the 2 that we can whether that involves learning to suck it up when you find yourself with a bean cube rather than a mass of foliage and knowing that if you take that problem and find a prospective solution, next year you will be triumphant. Learning and constantly finding new solutions, not only keeps your brain active but fills you with possibilities beyond what you thought possible. If you aren’t a materialistic person you might just find that living with less and going lateral feeds your soul. It has certainly opened up some incredible doors for me :o)

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An ENORMOUS pile of ex-fish farm netting 🙂

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A photo that Steve took from next to the veggie gardens…can anyone…ANYONE tell me how photo’s make things look so much better than they really do?!

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This is a $2.50 “drinking coconut”. Back in the day I would have consumed the juice, eaten the meat and tossed the rest into the bin…not any more!

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The liquid and the meat go into my morning green smoothie…

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I also get this empty shell, that  I dried out completely, that I can make a bird house out of or a simple coconut bowl…either way, this valuable resource won’t be wasted…

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Even the white fibre on the outside of the coconut was chipped away and will go into the compost to enrich it’s suite of organisms… where once $2.50 wasn’t worth all that much, It most certainly is worth MUCH more in the sum of its parts now 🙂

I am starting to think about seed swapping again. Saving seed and swapping seed must be one of the most fundamentally fulfilling things that we can do. Not only are we “Sticking it to the man”, one of my favourite bolshie pastime, but we are feeding a tradition that goes back to our very human roots… survival through spreading the love (and load) around. Diversification is the means to survival. Monocrops are not the answer to our food problems. I would have thought that the great potato famine would have stood as testament to that. Back in biblical times there was famine and we need to learn from those lessons and not rely on single crops to be our saving grace. Monocrop’s are designed to line the pockets of the über rich and nothing to do with producing nutritious food for humanity. We need to diversify and work with what will grow best in our own little neck of the woods and learn to be satisfied with our lot, something that in the artificial world that humanity now manages to inhabit is an entirely foreign concept to mainstream thought processes…we are taught that we can have ANYTHING so long as we work hard enough…no we can’t folks. We can manipulate our environment just so much before it goes on the blink and refuses to do what we ask it to do any more. We need to work “with” rather than just take and that’s what we need to be learning now, how to solve the industrial sized problems that humanity has been forcing the world to live with for the last century. We CAN do this; it just involves that awful word that so many of our children would rather eat their left food than do…”work”. I, myself am not ashamed to admit to being incredibly lazy. I was one of those people contemplating the benefits of life without a left foot but I changed and if I can change, so can anyone. Again, all it took was a good hard honest look at how I was living and a strong desire to do something positive. I am NOT of the school of thought that “we are going to hell in a hand basket, let’s just group together and moan about “the end days” with sackcloth on our heads”…not THIS little black duck! If I am going out…I am doing it whilst trying to do something positive. If you can’t pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start again it’s pretty much game over and I plan on living this life to my full potential for as long as I can and as happily as I can. I want to leave a positive legacy, led by example, for my children of just how important it is to keep going and learn to live within your means and be satisfied with your lot. In saying that, I am not talking about being stagnant. I am talking about exploring the parameters of the life that you have been handed and doing everything that you can with it…go as far to the left and right as you can and put miles on that life before you have to hand it over to be checked in.

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Before ANY of my facebook friends do a double take and say “I SWEAR I have seen these last few photo’s before?”…yes you have and yes I AM going to use them here in the blog…whatchagonnadoeh? ;)… I found these empty water bottles on a walk and decided to title this photo “EPIC fail”…

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If you haven’t already got them, you should get these babies soon Jessie :). I LOVE bartering! Bring it on! 🙂

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“1 more photo…just ONE more photo and I SWEAR…”…

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Everything except for the cheese came from Serendipity Farm :).

I suppose it is all about that precious thing that makes humanity such a wild card…our ability to choose our own pathways. Our choices can change the world. Whether we know it or not, every action has an equal and opposite reaction and what we do DOES matter. I am talking science here folks, not hippy mumbo jumbo…call it “the butterfly effect” if you like. We are all here for a reason and it’s up to us how we choose to live. Steve just phoned and told me that David, the owner of “Wholesome House” our wholefood establishment of choice asked him about his wooden spoons! Steve is starting to see that his hobby could actually pay off. David is interested in stocking Steve’s spoons! We will take a selection of them in for him to see and we will see what happens from there. I guess you just have to be willing to explore those parameters and be brave enough to occasionally go out on one of those limbs on the boundaries. I have been thinking more and more about community. About developing all different kinds of communities, online, through the blog, locally and globally. Forging relationships with other people isn’t hard. Keeping relationships with other people is much more difficult. We aren’t taught how to negotiate, to listen and to suck it up these days and dealing mano-a-mano with other people isn’t as easy as it once was. Back in the day (say a century ago before industrialisation…) you HAD to get along with the other people in your community. You might not have liked them but each and every one had a place and a job within that community. You learned to live with each other because you HAD to and that is an incredibly valuable lesson and part of the reason why humanity survived and metastasised into what we are today, our adaptability. Industrialisation allowed us to play God. It gave us a false sense of our superiority and we ran amok. The problems that we are all having to face up to are a direct result of corporate greed and our insatiable desire to elevate ourselves above the rest and we are going to have to learn to live with less and accept the consequences of our actions BUT we can learn to do this with grace and hope and we can leave a better world for our children and their children. We just have to be willing to accept the trade-offs.

What a Mingy Comumbus a.k.a. “Oh COCK!”

Hi All,

To find out what the title of today’s post means you either have to find Series 2, episode 4 of James May’s “Man Lab” or you need to get your fingers googling. No laziness here folks…this blog is all about educating the masses and how are you EVER going to get ejamicated without a bit of work from your side eh? Steve actually prefers his version (well…the version that he was hunting for this morning online and curiously finding nothing at ALL to do with it…) the “Mumbly Comumbus”. Steve loved this SO much he has renamed “The Tubby Piggins” to “The Mumbly Comumbus”…A fitting name for his little aluminium coracle…go look it up! I KNOW it is driving you crazy! ;). I had a Mingy Comumbus of a day on Monday. I went to town with Steve and the dogs to do the fortnightly shopping on a hot day when the dogs and I spent most of the time in the car because I can’t hold both excited boys myself and we were forced to endure extended periods in a hot car. I KNOW that dogs die in hot cars but so do middle aged women! We had the windows down and doors open (well my door was open, Earls door was decidedly NOT! 😉 ) but that doesn’t make up for having to sit in the sun while Steve dashed in and out of various shops hindered by an exponentially grouchy wife and 2 panting pups. I completely forgot half of what I wanted to buy in town because I was feeling so twitchy, I have lost my city legs and was swaying from side to side mentally the whole time I was in the city. We got home and Steve had to race out to go and pick up some more craft wood from a man who is moving away from the area but Steve teed up to buy some more delicious varieties of wood from so he had to be there for 2pm. I hurriedly opened the kitchen window to give the insistent cuckoo shrike some cheese cubes and in the process hit our knife sharpener that caused a chain reaction that knocked a little blue and white flowerpot that had been on mums windowsill in her tiny little unit over. The pot didn’t break but every single one of my lovely blue and white ceramic jam spoons that it contained flew out all over the place and shattered into smithereens…”OH COCK!” as James May would say…the day was just “one of those” days…we all have to bear them…it wasn’t particularly fundamentally “bad” but it wasn’t one that I would have chosen and we all need days like this to show us how good our normal days really are. Update: not all of my ceramic spoons are broken! I found one in the cutlery draw…Steve must have put it there and for once, I am glad of his absentmindedness about where he puts things after he washes up :o)

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Earl bagsed top bunk…

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“Is this how you drive? Why isn’t it going?”

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“I prefer to be chauffered…”

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“Any fish in here?”

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Tilly, Nat’s dog enjoying one of the dogs treats

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“So you won’t get up for me to sit down eh?”…

I don’t watch a lot of television but I do LISTEN to a lot. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen/living room because that is where my base station is. Our desktop P.C. is the centre of my day and I have invisible threads that allow me to head out and do everything that I do in my day but I inevitably end up back checking something, researching something that I thought of while I was bum’s up in the garden or making sure that I didn’t forget to do something. I was doing the dishes the other day when I heard that Tasmania is going to have the driest January on record. We have a very lean 3 months in Northern Tasmania over the summer period as it is and rather than see this as an imminent threat, I prefer to see it as a challenge. Enter my arid food growing guru Bev from the wonderfully informative blog http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/ she is my kind of problem solver. She uses a variety of permaculture principals on her property and reading about her exploits is both interesting and informative. I especially love her water wicked containers. In her latest post she shows how she has grown salad veggies in one of her wicked boxes and in arid conditions where water is likely to be limited these wicked boxes give you a whole lot of control over your food supply. I found a tutorial on how to make self watering raised veggie boxes here… http://www.josho.com/gardening.htm But I have to say that Bev had an equally excellent tutorial on her website that you can check out here… http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/preparing-a-wicking-box/  . Bev is also an incredibly generous gardener with sharing her hints, tips and spare seed. I am eagerly awaiting some parsnip seed that she managed to grow in copious quantities…no parsnips but plenty of seed and when life hands you parsnipless seeds, you pass them on! Lesson learned…no snips BUT a plethora of new interstate friends who love to collect seed and share as well. I am still ruminating the Aussie seed swap. I think it’s a fantastic idea and just because I have had to go back to horticultural kindergarten with my sideline into vegetable gardening

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One of Steve’s finds whilst pootling around on the river the other day…isn’t this place lovely?

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Part of the lovely house in the last photo and we think that they might be walnut trees

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Walking down the driveway to check the mail…

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And walking back up again…it’s no wonder Steve has skinny legs 😉

I have just realised why I am willing to be kicked out of bed at 3.50am by the dog and head out into the dark early morning to read blogs through my rss feed reader…it enlivens and invigorates my mind. I LOVE learning…I love the cut and thrust of replying to comments and sharing my opinion and I love that I can do it from the comparative safety of my own little kitchen miles away from the coalface of the original idea. I can wander through a list of amazing personally selected blogs that feed my mind and act as jumper leads to my day. I flick from amazing food blogs…lots of innovative vegan blogs and gorgeous foodie blogs with amazing recipes to cutting edge fermentation sites and sites where I learn how to make just about everything. Then I have my environmental sites. I hate depressing doom and gloom sites and refuse to frequent them. I love positivity in the face of insurmountable odds and that’s the sort of blogs I frequent…”the world is going to hell in a hand basket but we will be bullocked if we are going down without a fight…” that sort of site. I had best clear up now that I don’t frequent crazy stockpiling hillbilly “shoot the neighbour Brandeen…they are stealin’ our food stores!” sites that sort of site can make you crazier than you already are! I might occasionally veer side left to pinch a plan for a rocket stove or wood fired oven plan but I cover my eyes because I KNOW they are probably taking on other forms! ;). I have blogs in my rss feed readers that defy classification…one such blog I actually hoard. It’s called “23 Thorns” and if this man puts out a book I am buying it. I don’t care if I have to work down t’ coal mines for a month to do so, his writing is that entertaining. Check it out if you want to end up on the floor laughing…this man is the bomb! This link takes you to his series of “The Lowveld Posts” an absolutely hilarious look at the wildlife that inhabits his local area. You should go there merely to read about these amazing creatures in Africa and woven through his amazing posts that are incredibly well written (the man is a wordsmith) is a background of Africa warts and all…

http://23thorns.wordpress.com/category/the-lowveld-posts/

One day when I have more time available to me when I won’t feel guilty for taking perhaps an entire tea fuelled week, I am going to wade through every single one of this bloggers posts. He is the Patch Adams of blogs and I, for one, prefer 23 Thorns to chocolate! There…I said it :o). I urge you all to at least have a look at these wonderful posts that will hopefully bring a smile to your day :o)

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Steve got a shock when this seal shot out of the water right next to his boat the other day

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A visitor to Serendipity Farm hunting for insects (or maybe a drink of water?) on his way through

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Our friend in the witness protections front garden (well a bit of it) to show you how dry it is in our region at the moment

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Our friend in the witness protections all enclosed veggie garden doing as well as ours is. That compost is pure gold!

Today we are heading back into town. We need to get some fruit (for my daily green smoothie habit) and chia seed that I completely and utterly forgot on my “diem horribilis” on Monday. We are also going to visit our friend in the witness protection ostensibly to “visit” but really, for me to have a good perve at her fully enclosed garden and see how her partner Glen made it. Her veggies are also going great guns and she has runaway snow peas going crazy all over the enclosure. We can only assume that because of our widely varying soil conditions, our joint success has come from the rich organic compost that we purchased by the trailer load from Exeter Landscaping. I don’t think that they are going to benefit from my free plug there because their office receptionist, although eminently pleasant and approachable, is completely unable to navigate her way around their new website and completely bypasses it should anyone make a web enquiry…sigh…(and they wonder why Tasmania is lagging behind the rest of the world?). We have some young junipers and other hardy conifers that we don’t intend on planting out on Serendipity Farm that we are going to give her to plant out on her 40 acre property. She needs drought tolerant species that don’t mind getting their feet wet in the winter. Her property goes from arid desert in summer to swamp in winter and is festooned with possums and wallabies and rabbits at night time, all wanting to completely consume everything that she plants as soon as the sun goes down. Despite these drawbacks she is surprisingly willing to keep trying and her horticultural persistence is starting to pay off. I will take some photos of her garden unless it is starting to look like Serendipity Farm, dry, arid and like a 70’s Instagram version of its modern self all turned up corners and orange hued where I will allow her a degree of anonymity. We are also going to walk the dogs in the city again and also on Jenny’s property. They are going to have a ball! I have to say “Hi” and “Welcome back” to Nat, one of my best mates and a dear constant reader of this humble blog. She is back at Polytechnic working as a horticultural lecturer for another year which allows her to occasionally take a brief foray into the world of Serendipity Farm and keep her on the cutting edge of insanity on a regular basis. I do my bit girl… I do my bit! 😉

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Our friend in the witness protection gave me this enormous sack of silverbeet, carrots and snow peas…Earl had a bit of a sniff but found them all wanting

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My fruit haul including 7kg of bananas @ .90c a kilo, 5 enormous mangoes @ $1.00 each and some nectarines and apricots @ $4.99kg. I have enough fruit for green smoothies to last me a month!

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The bananas have already been frozen and just the mangoes and sundry fruit to go 🙂

It’s now 5.23. Bezial threw me out of bed at 3.50am and the young rooster that lives under the deck is tentatively crowing the new day in. Another series of processes is just about to begin and as they weave their way into our psyche let’s just hope that today isn’t a repeat of Monday and to make sure, I am going to hide that one remaining ceramic jam spoon! See you all on Saturday and remember to tell us if you would like to win the spoon that Earl will draw on Saturday morning. EVERYONE can enter. We don’t care if you live on the moon…we love sharing with you all and please don’t think that you can’t enter the draw because you live in Timbuktu…so do we! We know what it is like to live in the sticks and feel out of the loop and we love to share with fellow out of the loopers all over the world. Secretly, Steve wants his spoons to be represented in every single continent so I am going to have to work hard to market this blog to several underrepresented countries (Africa…”who wants a spoon!”…same goes for India, Russia, China, Korea, Japan…sigh…)… you have to be in it to win it folks 😉

Bolshie broads and the lessons in a spoon

Hi All,

Steve is up to his eyeballs in wood shavings. He is out in the shed producing spoons out of Serendipity Farm wood. We have been hunting through our wood piles and have managed to find some Cotoneaster wood that is an amazing light fine grained wood much like oak and very hard. Steve is working on one Cotoneaster spoon now and has enough wood for another one and after that he will be working with some native Cherry (Exocarpos cupressiformis) that we plucked from our huge wicker man pile of wood in the teatree garden. Native Cherry is beautiful pink wood and if the moth larvae have left it alone it should make some very attractive spoons. We have been thinking about the dog’s diet lately as they seem to have fine-tuned it specifically to straight beef steak and each night we offer them a slight variation they turn up their noses and choose not to eat it. The food that we are offering them would be snapped up by most dogs, our boys are just spoiled and we are doing them no favours in the health stakes allowing them to continue eating only beef steak. Dogs, unlike cats, are not designed to eat only meat. They are NOT carnivores and are omnivores like we humans. In saying that…Earl is quite certain that he is the exception to the rule! Bezial is partial to mashed potato so long as there is a LOT of butter folded in. We have decided that we are going to have to do battle with the dogs on their stubborn and steadfast refusal to back down whenever we try to introduce fibre into their diet. We headed over to Georgetown today to pick up a large sack of dog biscuits. Little do the boys know but there are worse things than potatoes… they are just about to be introduced to the dog biscuit diet. For the next 2 weeks they are going to get dog biscuits for their evening meal. I am assured that dogs will only refuse their food until they are really hungry and the only thing wrong with our two is that they are incredibly spoiled and strong willed. Much like children, you have to give them boundaries and our boys are just about to learn an important lesson, refuse your meals at your own expense. Tonight they dine on Dr Harry’s finest ;).

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We visited our daughters today and Beth showed me some photos that they took over Christmas and was kind enough to allow me to share them with you on my blog…this is Qi. She is the queen of her street and God help ANYONE walking past on the footpath that she doesn’t like. Here you can see her performing a most useful trick for the camera…this trick has been known to get her all manner of tasty treats in the past… if it aint broke…don’t fix it!

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One of Bethany’s chalk drawings on a blackboard in her room…both girls are very talented artists

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Qi waiting for her Aunty Madeline to return from the shop before she is presumably allowed to get stuck into those presents under the tree!

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A white chocolate cake Buche Noel complete with chocolate acorns and a chocolate maple leaf on top

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Christmas dinner well underway…

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A mustard glazed ham covered in fruity goodness

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This cake has NOTHING to do with Christmas but everything to do with carrot cake deliciousness…it would seem that the girls artistic abilities drizzle over into their culinary triumphs as well :). Well done girls! I would sink my teeth into this beauty any day!

Another spoon has found its way out of a chunk of aged Tasmanian oak and into spoon form. Steve has decided to share his spoon making with me and has bravely taken on the task of teaching me to find spoons inside wood. He makes it seem so easy…a line here…a shave there…a bit of a look and the application of an auger bit or a hand held rasp and suddenly there it is…beautiful in its simplicity with smooth sides and wonderful grain. I have decided to make small spoons. Until today, I had wondered why you don’t see small wooden spice and condiment spoons apart from those mass manufactured Chinese imports but I now know that the return that you would get on them is far outweighed by their fiddly nature. I like fiddly things. I like untying knots in things, unravelling wool and Christmas lights. I like the process of taking something exasperating and releasing the calm. It’s a pity I can’t find it in myself to do the same thing but that is another story ;). Making smaller spoons allows me to use the offcuts from Steve’s bigger spoons, minimising the waste and allowing the wood to yield a lot more bang/spoon for our metaphorical buck. While I was digging through Steve’s offcut bucket I noticed a very large spoon blank that had been partially formed. When I say large…this blank was 2 ½ feet (76cm) long and extremely chunky. Steve had apparently discovered a bit of a flaw where the spoon basin meets the handle and tossed it (in his own words) “into the too hard basket”. I looked at this behemoth of a spoon and immediately felt an instant camaraderie. I, too, am a bit of a handful spoon. I am a bolshie broad. I don’t fit easily into societal moulds and bits of me hang over the side protesting loudly and waving banners and the spoon inside that massive chunk of wood called out to me and the deal was sealed. Forget those little spoons for a bit, my very first spoon is going to be a massive great Blackwood ladle. I used our Dremel and a special carving bit to remove all of the spoon that didn’t want to be there…I know it didn’t want to be there because I asked it. The spoon guided me around it saying “Don’t take that bit, I need that!” and “gently…gently…GENTLY! Can’t you understand spoonese?”… As I carefully pared all of the bits that weren’t spoon away, saving the sawdust for using in my compost bucket to minimise smells and maximise the suite of organisms that infest our compost pile, I thought about how Steve goes about making his spoons and how very different our processes were. We both let the spoon talk, but Steve let the spoon “out”…I think I have a bit too much of my German heritage in me to let some mad artist take over the status quo and I like simplicity, order and symmetry. Steve’s spoon has curves, angles and wends its way into being. My spoon is solid, heavy, deep and should last centuries even if it gets used to repel boarders on more than one occasion.

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A chunk of dry cotoneaster we culled from Serendipity Farm. Steve uses his chainsaw to cut a sliver from the side of the log and then runs it through his thicknesser to make a thick plank. He then draws a spoony outline onto the wood and cuts out the shape with his jigsaw

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After some serious rasping and shaping with an auger bit on an angle grinder he removes all of the bits of spoon that aren’t “spoon”…

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Almost finished aside from the handle and the final sandpapering

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Hows this for a massive great chunk of Acacia melanoxylon (Blackwood)? This is MY spoon/ladle and over the next few weeks I will be slowly allowing it to take shape (or…I will hurl it in a fit of pique across the shed where it will remain until some rodenty creature adds it’s own mark to my shame! 😉 )

I love to think of the spoons that we are creating heading off into the kitchens of friends and family. I love to think of the continuity and the simple day to day use that these spoons will be part of. Stirring preserves and jams while the kitchen resonates with discussion and music or simply being part of it all…these spoons will see kitchens that I will never see…they will be privy to amazing celebrations and the darkest moments in someone’s life. Babies might cut their teeth on the ends of these spoons, harvests will be put up, and stews will be stirred, strange regional specialties that I can only marvel at will be spun into existence and all from a chunk of Serendipity Farm wood that was destined for the fire. I thought about attempting to embellish them but something stopped me… most probably the inner German who likes things simple, unadorned and classic and that wants these hand crafted spoons to find their own voices and speak for themselves. I can see this becoming something that Steve and I can share. We are so very different and our interests are incredibly variable but this is one thing that we can do together, side by side in the shed and sharing a common bond of creation. It is going to take a LONG time for my ladle to emerge. It has promised to fight me every step of the way but in so doing, it promises to give me some precious life lessons in that process. I sometimes think that we bypass so many opportunities to learn and grow in life because they are tossed into the “Too Hard Basket”. It might be time for us to go back there and pick something out and give it a go…see if you can’t find whatever it is that exists inside your chosen chunk of life and pare away everything that isn’t it. In so doing, you might just find something precious

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This is the spoon that Steve made for Christi to give to her daughter who is getting married. It’s made of Tasmanian oak and has a very classic shape. It’s hard to get too artistic when you don’t know the person that you are making the spoon for and although this spoon started out with some “interesting” collar bones that Steve swears the spoon told him it needed, my Germanic need for Art Deco simplicity came to the fore and said collarbones are now only a memory (you can thank me later Molly! 😉 )

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The chunk of aged Tasmanian oak board that Steve used to create this spoon…another reason why we should take to heart the lesson “you should never judge a book by it’s cover…”

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We ran out of Eco oil (a blend of edible orange and tung oil) to finish the 2 spoons that Steve made but you can see them here with Christ’s winning spoon almost ready to be finished and sent and being guarded by Mr Steve Vai himself 😉

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And here they are after a nice rub over with Eco oil. It really brings out the natural beauty in these spoons. The first spoon is the cotoneaster spoon, the second is the Tasmanian oak spoon and the third is Christi’s winning spoon in Blackwood. We will send them next week and I hope that you enjoy them girls 🙂

I got the book that I won from Emily over at “Sincerely, Emily” in the mail today. If you would like to see a cracking way to use up some of your zucchini’s this season, check out her latest post that pairs potato and zucchini in a most scrumptious, innovative and healthy way…

http://emilysincerely.wordpress.com/2012/12/26/zucchini-and-potato-au-gratin-sort-of/

It’s a lovely book full of weird and off the wall creations that really makes my heart sing because I can’t be abiding with boring things and I love to create customised recipes because life is too short to eat lima beans if you don’t like them. I, personally, LOVE lima beans but I do understand that there are some of you out there (mad, foolish people that you are) who don’t and so I won’t go hunting for a lima bean recipe to share with you from the book but on opening the Index I get instantly excited by the possibilities. I might be the Sidmouth equivalent of Letitia Cropley (if you don’t know who I am talking about, head off and watch “The Vicar of Dibley” for goodness sakes… you are missing out severely if you don’t!) but there are amazing combinations in this book that I haven’t even heard of and I had heard of Gremolata before the chef that taught me commercial cookery so that is no mean feat in a book! I am going to treasure this book because it doesn’t only instruct, it educates. It doesn’t only share; it gives you the impetus to try new things…to experiment and in so doing, to create new recipes of your own. That’s what makes the cooking world go round folks and “Put ‘em Up!” A comprehensive home preserving guide for the creative cook from drying and freezing to canning and pickling by Ms Cherri Brooks Vinton is one of those rare tombs that you simply don’t want to put down let alone lend anyone. Please don’t ask me for a lend of my copy because I won’t be letting it out of my sight for a good few years yet. I have too many things to learn from it like… “What the heck are ristras?”…and “Heirloom watermelon jelly?” …and “Agua Fresca?”… and any book that talks about probiotics and kimchi in the same breath as “red hot vodka” and something as lascivious as a “Strawberry Blonde” (whatever that may be…) is one that is going to be kept in the kitchen, just out of reach of Earls questing mandible’s and right there where I can find it, amongst my wooden spoons ready for duty at a moment’s notice. Thank you SO much Emily. You have given me something wonderful and this coming harvest surplus is going to be such fun to preserve :o)

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My wonderful new cookbook and Emily’s lovely personal note to me included 🙂

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We picked up a few bags of soft toys for the boys to deconstruct on Christmas Day and included in one of the bags was this sock monkey… every man needs a sock monkey in his music room so Earl didn’t get to sample this one…”better luck next time Earl! You are going to have to be content with raiding the clothes hamper and stealing Steve’s dirty socks”

I am officially terrified of our vegetable patch. Steve, who just watered the veggies, is in agreement. The tomatoes have gone mad and have not only invaded the “Poland” of their neighbouring tomato bed but they have both joined forces and are threatening to go all Genghis Khan on the poor lettuce bed. Beetroot that are supposed to be “medium” are now exploding from their bed and the spinach that we were expecting to be lucky to get a few bunches from because it was so slow in taking off, has taken off with a vengeance and is rivalling the silverbeet (Swiss chard) for height and stature. I am not really complaining because aside from going exponential on our derrières the veggie garden is producing edible vegetables. I can only put it down to using compost as the base of our garden beds, lots of small chunks of decomposing wood for air and room for roots to grow and the wonderful black organic compost that we picked up in Exeter as the soil substitute that having to build upwards forced us to utilise. It has certainly excited us regarding vegetable growing and eating and its true folks…home grown veggies taste MUCH better. Steve is eating things that he would have turned up his nose at in the not so distant past and is eating them raw in salads. He didn’t even realise that he ate spinach and perpetual spinach in a salad the other day, he just raved about how tasty it was. You want your kids to eat their veggies? Try growing them :o). Our newfound excitement at being able to eat what we are growing notwithstanding, our terror is still rising. How much bigger can zucchini plants get! I have already cut off their Samson like locks army style in an attempt to allow my poor eggplants to get a bit of light and within a week they were towering over the poor huddled eggplants cowering beneath their enormous elephantine leaves. Not only are they growing faster than is physically possible, they are armour plated and cutting their leaves to put them into the compost heap without wearing gloves is a painful lesson that I will only have to learn once. Our cucumber crop is promising to be amazing as each of the 6 vines is covered in flowers with tiny little Lebanese cucumbers at the bases. I can hear my daughter Madeline applauding as I type that sentence and she will put our excesses to good use sliced thinly with some rice wine vinegar, mirin and sesame seeds. Our corn is magnificent, our silverbeet tastes delicious, our beans are going gangbusters and all in all we are having a great vegetable season.

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In the breeding season the local Cuckoo shrikes are hard pressed to find enough to eat while they are cramming their noisy brood full of insects and we give them a bit of cheese to help them out. Here you can see the rare large spotted nosey bird hunting for cheese…

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While we were in Launceston today I took a heap of photos to share our beautiful city with you all. I don’t get to go there often now and I really do appreciate it’s beauty. While I was taking a few shots of the Japanese garden near the library I noticed someone taking photos and realised it was me! Can you see how tired Earl is of me stopping and taking off the lens cap? 😉

Steve is going to head off and go “floating” again on New Year’s Day. I knew that he would love pootling around in his aluminium dinghy if he took it out a few times. There is something soothing about skimming a large body of water with only a thin skin of aluminium between you and a cold splash and it’s great fun to steer your little coracle between the drifting jellyfish that the tide wash up and down the river twice a day from the sea and back in a never ending cycle of jellyfish waltzing. You can be master of your own possibilities and should you manage to catch a fish you can get your wife to fillet it for you and cook it fresh from the boat…like veggies from a veggie garden to your plate, fish from the boat tastes amazingly good…unless you caught blowfish in your ignorance… Steve used to enjoy catching fish when we lived in Albany Western Australia. I worked strange hours as befits a cook and he would drop me off at work and head off fishing till it was time to pick me up and head home. He spent many a hot summer moonlit night with only the city lights and the sounds of the humpback whales singing their sea shanties in the harbour to keep him company. He would drop me off early in the morning on my day shifts, before the sun came up, and would make a beeline for the aptly named “Salmon holes” where accompanied only by a little Chinese fisherman who couldn’t speak a word of English but who using sign language to ask Steve for his unwanted fish heads and for a time they shared silent communion with the waves and the dolphins in the breakers and the sea, he would catch his bag limit of 7kg Australian salmon and then face the daunting task of carrying them back up the almost vertical steps half a kilometre (straight up) back to where the car was waiting. Salmon fishing is an Aussie male rite of passage. Something that “the blokes” do and that needs to be accompanied by an esky bedecked with beer and bait and tales of “the mongrel that got away” and “I bloody nearly had it!” echo semi-convincingly around the pub with your mates after a day of sunstroke and sunburn. What more could an Aussie bloke want? Aside from a bbq to slap the catch on when they got back and a doting wife with a fridge full of amber ale to keep the stories growing exponentially long after the sun has gone down and half your mates are asleep. Steve is new to blokish behaviour but it certainly hasn’t taken him long to embrace the amber fluid in its chilled form and I haven’t heard him “whinge” in a long time…”we will make a bloke out of you yet young ex-pat Stevie boy!” 😉

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/images__by_christof/6232517839/

Christof in Oz’s photo of the steps leading down to where Steve caught those salmon “You’re legs are like coiled springs young padawan!” 😉

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Generic touristy shot pinched from the interweb of the walkway running along the top of the cliffs above where Steve used to fish for salmon…beautiful, amazing scenery, good fishing and subject to random king waves that have swept many unsuspecting fishermen to their deaths in the past few years.

Well it’s time to wrap up this post and head off to embrace the weekend. It will be 2013 the next time we meet. We managed to all mill together over 2012 and we survived the Mayan apocalypse en mass…we learned, we grew and we shared and 2013 can only give us more opportunities for the same. I can’t wait to share it all with you and I just want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for coming along for the ride on Serendipity Farm…I know I tend to take you in the old 60’s land rover with the bung suspension and I tend to go through the back paddocks and hit every damned pothole on the way but you have to admit…sometimes I find something special to share with you and you are the very first people that I want to share it with every single time :o). See you on the Boxing Day equivalent of New Year’s Day…you would think that some entrepreneur out there would have cashed in on the possibilities but for now, your poor long suffering wallet is safe from New Year’s Boxing Day 😉

Earl is my Muse….

Hi All,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A man and his buddha

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

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

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

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

The best bangers and a mighty tasty calzone

Hi All,

Earl and I braved the highway today for a long walk home. Steve and Bezial are having a bonding day in town and Earl and I are spending a nice quiet morning at home. I quite like the idea of pottering around not doing very much but apparently Earl isn’t all that enamoured of this situation and is sitting on his recliner looking decidedly morose. Steve headed off to town to his awaiting hair appointment with Bezial and dropped Earl and I off up the road next to an apple selling stall and we had a cold but enjoyable stroll home veering off the side of the road whenever a large road train thundered past. I am very glad that Earl isn’t scared of loud noises or walking while traffic zooms by. We arrived home and Earl raced through the house excitedly looking for Steve and Bezial and returned looking quizzical which turned into deflated and now, as previously mentioned, he has receded into morose. Steve just phoned to tell me that Bezial had half a breakfast subway and a frolic with Qi at the girls place in town while Steve was getting his hair cut. Not one to be outdone, I promptly cooked Earl 5 eggs for his breakfast and I dare say the dogs will both sniff each other to detect illicit treats that have passed their lips while they have been apart. With a bit of luck Steve will be able to get some bones from Nigel’s Gourmet Meats on Tamar. Nigel makes the BEST sausages in the world. There…I said it. I just told you that any sausage eaters in your midst need to be EXTREMELY jealous because his bangers are the best. He makes the best Thai chicken sausages around and Steve recently had some amazing pork and black truffle snags that would make the queen drool. Nigel also produces the very best dog bones and Steve will be dropping in today in the hope that he has some left for the boys to share later on this afternoon. I will get another Gillian Flynn book to read…this one is called “Gone Girl”. I really enjoyed her last 2 books that I read and only discovered her through a food blog that I read.

This was the only “person” at the counter when we went to buy a whipper snipper head recently…he stared at us…we stared at him…not to sure what kind of customer service this was so headed on over to another counter!

A gorgeous big Japanese Maple on our walk around Kayena that we do on a regular basis with the boys. I love this house, this tree and this garden. What’s not to love?

Another one of our walks…this time up a steep hill near where we live. We are hill daredevils now! This road leads nowhere BUT it’s a pretty nowhere so we might just take a right here next time we are huffing up the hill…

I have been procrastinating about reigniting Brunhilda. We are on the dregs of dry wood in our woodshed but the weather has taken a turn for the worse and its cold today. I have wrapped myself in a doona as I type and Earl is out on sentry duty on the deck waiting for Steve and Bezial to come home. The weep-weep bird is back along with a particularly annoying new bird that sounds like a cat in distress. It would be bad enough with one bird making punitive cries all day and night but there are two of them singing/crying in unison! I was shaking out the blanket on Earl’s chair this morning  in a vain effort to minimise the hairs floating all over the place in all of the rooms and noticed Adrian next door wandering around looking for something. I think she was trying to find the source of the crying. Hopefully she realises that it is a bird and not something terrified or hurt which is what it sounds like. I just finished a rough draft for the article that I have been asked to write about the Tamar NRM. I can’t praise them highly enough for the recent series of free events highlighting sustainability and natural resource management. Back in the day it was called “farming” and “how to make do with what you have” but as trends change, so do the names that support said trends and everything is green in the state of Tasmania. We just heard that Tasmania has the worst jobless rate in Australia. I am not surprised. There isn’t much going on in Tasmania at the moment and the government seems hell bent on pushing unsustainable quick fixes as our future rather than supporting slow growth via quality food production and clean green tourism and businesses. They cling onto the past with a tenacity verging on panic. No-one wants to say the obvious that Tasmania has lagged WAY behind the rest of Australia thanks to its parochialism and nepotistic desire to cling to the past. The Tamar NRM is showing people how to make positive changes in their lives. Whether you have money or not, you CAN make small changes to how you do things that will add up to a cost saving to you and less of a drain on the world as a whole.

I need to thank Spencer from the wonderful resource http://anthropogen.com/ for sharing a fantastic link with me this morning. I actually subscribe to this blog but somehow missed this amazing article that is completely pertinent to our situation here in Temperate Australia. Here are the two links that caught my eye and got me excited…

http://permaculturenews.org/2012/09/06/perennial-food-plants-food-forest-gardens-and-food-security/

What a fantastic idea and a wonderful way to create a sense of community through ensuring our ongoing food security. That initial post led to this next one which is the first of (hopefully) many land owners sharing what they are doing to shore up their food supplies on their land

http://permaculturenews.org/2012/10/11/food-from-perennialising-plants-in-temperate-climate-australia-for-september-2012/

Its articles like these that keep me fired up for what we are doing on Serendipity Farm. Last week I became incredibly enthused with water wicking. I heard about it initially through Bev at http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com that uses water wicking beds to combat using precious potable water on her vegetable beds. Water wicking promises up to 50% less water used to grow vegetable crops whilst increasing the yield and quality of vegetables thanks to a much more efficient watering system and more readily available water to be used by the plant on call. I learned that you can create a wicked water bed next to your fruit trees and alongside young trees that need initial watering until their roots are able to seek water lower down in the soil profile. The more I learn about these amazing ways to do things that are more efficient along with less energy intensive the more excited I get about applying these ideas to Serendipity Farm. If you are after some quality information for free, check out these resources through http://www.soilandhealth.org/ thanks to Steve Solomon and now Justin Crawford. Its people like these and the many bloggers out in the ether sharing what they learn and know with the rest of us that facilitate a growing grassroots community of resilience and hope. Cheers to all of you and thank you SO much for your efforts. They truly are appreciated by us all :o)

It was a lovely day today on Serendipity Farm. This photo was taken by Steve as he walked Earl. The road goes right up to the edge of the river at this point and gives a lovely photo opportunity most mornings as we set off

I really like this shot of the river…Steve’s phone probably takes better photos than our camera!

It’s a magnificent sunny spring day here on Serendipity Farm. The sun is shining…the sky is bright Microsoft blue and everything is happy and sparkling. The local art group has chosen today to park at the Auld Kirk church next door and are drawing and painting this lovely day for posterity. Our chooks are suspicious of them and are protesting at more humans interrupting their clucking and scratching. Someone has a little Chihuahua type dog and Earl and Bezial have their ears cocked listening whilst pretending to be asleep and basking on the sun warmed deck. Our American hippy friend is apparently going to come to our house and use a Geiger counter to show us how bad our lights are for us…hope he doesn’t go too close to the computer, the fridge, the television and Earl or that sucker is going to go off the dial! Our American Hippy friend sees conspiracies behind every hedge. I prefer to save my conspiracies for when I give a damn about something as much like anything else, the novelty wears off pretty quickly if you immerse yourself in something constantly. He dropped off a couple of conspiracy D.V.D.s for us to watch and one about food forests which I might even watch. He rode his loud old motorbike (that we can hear all the way from his place) up and didn’t even come inside. We had even managed to find a Frank Zappa album in Steve’s collection to add his sort of ambiance to his visit. He was run over by a truck in Nam (or somewhere like that) and has a built up shoe and a strange way of walking but for a man of his age he is most definitely NOT boring. He has a long dreadlock ponytail, an unusual way of looking at things and wants our pile of old steel up behind the house. He can share it with our friend in the witness protection’s partner. The boys whined on the deck while he was here because for some reason they absolutely love him. Bezial thinks that he is his best friend EVER something that was reinforced into Bezials food controlled brain when he bought the boys some pig’s ears and was forever forged in Bezials mind as “A Good Sort”. He is our sort of people. Not completely “right” and definitely not someone that you would take home to meet your parents.

What a lovely part of the world we live in 🙂

As you can see, the road really DOES go right down to the river and this is taken on the border of Glads place next door and our property

I am sure that our respective neighbours will someday come to understand that Steve and I are not manufacturing crack, growing dope or plotting to relieve them of all of their worldly goods. I actually got to talk to one of the more upper crust neighbours who are terrified that our boys are going to eat her fluffy little “Nelson”. I was walking Earl because Bezial has a dicky digit and both he and I need the exercise or bad things happen. I just “happened” to let slip that we are studying our Diploma in Landscaping…not something that I would usually care to slip into the conversation (not being a wanker by choice) but this lady holds sway in the local vicinity and my little ploy appears to have worked because today, Steve was walking Earl on his own (Bezials digit is still dicky) and the middle classers who own the 7/11 on the corner (really an expensive environmentally correct house but it looks just like a 7/11 to us ;)) actually “spoke” to Steve! Normally they would rather walk into the house as the pit-bull toting rednecks wrangled those monsters past…maybe they need a hand with their lavender and rosemary hedges and their dry stone walls and their climbing roses? 😉 Best not ask us then!

Steve took this photo today as he was standing on the deck having a coffee

Looking back towards Glad’s place. As you can see, spring is making everything green here now

Gone girl tastes too good. It’s rich and creamy and I know I am going to “eat” it too fast for my own good and get sick and when I get to the end after rushing/gulping it down in one long marathon, sneaking it into the toilet and carrying it myopically into the bathroom when I am brushing my teeth I am going to be disappointed that I didn’t make it last…sucking the last of the marrow out of its bones and I will be sad. Was that poetic? It’s how I feel when I get a good book and can’t stop being greedy about it. I am a greedy person…generous AND greedy and I love to share my greed. I love how Gillian Flynn writes…she directs you like you are dancing with her and her hand is on the small of your back expertly ferrying you around the dance floor till you arrive at the winner’s podium shocked because you can’t even dance. Authors like that are rare and I am feeling a bit shell shocked that I have only just started her third and most recent novel and I am already lamenting “The End”. I put the book down (with difficulty). I just had to smile because I spelled “difficulty” correctly. The ONLY reason that I can spell that word is that my grandad taught me a little rhyme to remember how to spell it and even though I learned that little rhyme about 40 years ago, it has stuck with me and that word has never tripped me up. I guess one word is better than none! I think I might have to stalk Ms Gillian Flynn and see if I can’t get her to write her next novel A.S.A.P. because the book that I am reading was only printed in August 2012. As nice as she was to write a book for my birthday, it doesn’t make up for the fact that I am going to have to go cold turkey pretty soon so she is just going to have to write faster. If any of my American dear constant readers live anywhere near Ms Flynn, please feel free to head over to her house and tell her that I would like her to write another book… better still…how about she does what they did with the back to the future trilogy and writes 3 at once? Just sayin’…

This little seaplane often comes in for a landing on the river here

Going…going…

Gone!

It’s now just on 5pm and I have a batch of Italian herb bread dough on proving to make Steve some more calzones for his tea tonight. He must have liked the last lot because they are all gone, even the two that were frozen for later consumption. I ran out of sopressa so it’s all bacon, mushroom, capsicum and spring onion with cheese today. For some reason the bread dough was completely different this time to when I last made it. I am not phased because murphy has my name in his book of laws right up there on the first page and constantly feels the need to update me with his erstwhile laws right in the middle of doing just about everything so I am used to things going a bit skewwhiff. It smells good and that’s enough for now!  I might finish up this lazy post pretty soon. I have meandered through the day in a bit of a haze. Unlike most of Australia, Tasmania is still pretty cold through the day and as the last day of the Launceston Royal Agricultural Show has just about come to a halt we can plant out our tomatoes tomorrow! That might sound a bit strange but it’s a tried and tested date that all Northern Tasmanian vegetable gardeners adhere to religiously. If you plant before then…you are a “bloody idiot”! We were bloody idiots way back when we first moved here in 2007 because we didn’t know any better. We made a lovely veggie garden and planted out a multitude of unusual tomato varieties in complete blind ignorance. We didn’t even know to stake them and so we ended up with frizzled dead frozen tomatoes that had to be replaced (muttering and complaining) with more multitudes of varieties because most of them died. We flouted the “after the show” rule and lived to pay the price. Older now, and one would hope wiser, we are preparing to plant our tomatoes, capsicums, chillis and a small punnet of lettuces that Steve bought the other day at one of the local hardware shops (actually Woolworths in “local” disguise) car park sale. Our friend in the witness protection, who works at said hardware shop, was run off her feet and unable to say much because she was being trailed by elderly ladies and buffeted with questions from all sides.

Steve got all artistic today

and again…

Last weeks calzone fillings and a close approximation of this weeks calzone fillings 😉

And so our time together has come to an end…it’s actually come to an end because my calzone dough has risen up nicely and needs to be given a bit of a thump to remove some air and then I will cut it into 4, roll it out into nice 20cm circles and will cover half of the circle with filling, scrunch up the edges in a rough approximation of something that I saw on a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall program (so it must be kosher…), brush it with egg wash and shove it into a nice hot Brunhilda oven to bake. Steve is out trying to stop Felix from scarfing our feral chooks 3 little babies. He can’t sit out there all day and the mother is going to have to take her chances with a proven chick killer. It never stops here on Serendipity Farm! See you on Wednesday :o)

Steve Solomon, seeds and Serendipity Farm

Hi All

Today is going to be a little bit different to most of my posts. I headed off for a visit to Steve Solomon’s garden yesterday and this post is going to be all about my visit. Steve Solomon is an ex-pat American man that moved to Tasmania many years ago and calls my local area home. He developed a seed company in the U.S.A. that my good blog mate Christi who is a prolific author and gives us all her wonderful take on life in Western Washington at http://farmlet.wordpress.com/ regularly purchases her veggie seeds from. He has produced a range of seeds and fertilisers specifically for our local area with mindfulness of how depleted and ancient our soil is in Australia. The man certainly knows his stuff as this interesting article posted on Mother Earth website will show you (along with a free recipe for his great natural homemade fertiliser)

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/2006-06-01/A-Better-Way-to-Fertilize-Your-Garden.aspx

http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/search?searchTerm=Steve+Solomon

This shows the proximity to the street from Steve’s vegetable garden. Note the espaliered trees along the front of the fenceline and the trellised kiwifruit. To the left you can see the feathery remains of a happy asparagus crop that he dug up to sell the crowns at $1.25 each crown and he got 900 crowns from this 10m bed. You can also see the brassica’s doing their level best to repopulate the earth

People wandering around the well ordered winter veggie beds. You can see the colour and structure of Steve’s soil in this photo. He credits his low water requirements to the composition of this soil and he also told us that he doesn’t mulch because he believes that mulch carries and shields too many pest species from view and harbours fungal pests so his plants are more widely spaced to minimise water stress and the soil is exposed but not compacted

Some of the people that came to hear Steve talk about his garden listening most intently to what he has to say. Steve is the grey haired gentleman in the blue jeans standing in the middle of the group. The man in the white pants is one of the Tamar NRM representitives present on the day. You can see how close Steve’s suburban block is to his neighbours

Everyone is sampling Steve’s delicious veggies in this photo. The poor girl on the left hand side with the purple fuzzy hat kept getting passed the plate. She must have thought that she looked hungry. The lady wearing the blue jeans with my backpack over her shoulder and the long dark hair is my friend in the witness protection and I was wandering about taking photos to share with you

As you can see there were quite a few people that turned up to this event. Most of them were interested in organic vegetable growing and some of them just wanted to get more out of their soil and grow better veggies. Steve gave his undivided attention to everyone but there was one younger man who just earned himself a felt hatters moniker. In the photo above he is the young sunglass wearing (on an overcast rainy day mind you…) man in the navy blue jumper and blue jeans standing just to the right of the elderly white hatted man. This guy just couldn’t shut up! I thought that I had a problem with being a bit of a know-it-all but this kid made me look like a mute! He had verbal diarrhea littered with as much scientific jargon as he could muster from his overcharged brain. Steve is a bit of an old hippy and admitted that “I just want everyone to be healthy” to which our sunglass wearing young entrepreneur asked “what is your marketing stragegy?”I rest my case! I could have forgiven him his verbosity if I hadn’t found out that he had booked a spot to gush on we less intelligent mortals at the upcoming Food Sustainability Day that I will be attending. At least I have forwarning and can take some ear plugs should the need arise to give my poor ears a rest!

This shot was taken looking back towards Steve’s lovely home to show you the other view of the garden

More of the garden looking back towards Steve’s house and you can see the green crops (lupins) that he is using to overwinter these garden beds and give them a nitrogenous boost with. As you can see, his garden is a decent size and produces enough to feed his family and to fill 7 CSA boxes a week for locals who love his fresh and delicious organic vegetables yielding him an additional $560 a month in income with very little extra work

The sun came out for 5 seconds and you can get a really good idea of how rich and red this lovely friable soil is. As you can see (when I can be bothered to stop taking arty shots and attempt to focus on a single garden bed for a change) this garden is set out in a very organised, logical way and when we asked Steve why he chose 10m x 2m garden beds he said “to make it easier to work out how much of my fertiliser to apply to them”. Good answer sir! 🙂

Some of the handouts and one of the free pens (in her left hand) being held by my friend in the witness protection. That lovely purple jacket that she is wearing contains goose down and by the end of the 2 hours spent sitting in a cosy warm room she was wishing that she hadn’t worn it! We all expected to be standing around outside in Steve’s garden for most of the talk but he was incredibly considerate of us all and brought us into his lovely home for most of the lecture.

Sorry it’s a bit dark but this is Steve sharing his passion for growing vegetables that are able to take up minerals from the soil. Our health shouldn’t be in the hands of supermarkets and “others”. We owe it to ourselves to eat the best and most nutritious food that we can. Steve is trying to make sure that we all do 🙂

I left Steve Solomon’s garden with a new passion for growing vegetables and with newfound hope that our soil may not be quite as bad as I thought that it was. It obviously isn’t as glorious as the red Ferrosol soil that Steve bought his property because of, but our silty topsoil covering a subsoil of clay and rocks will give us really good soil moisture retention. I am going to dig up as much comfrey as I can from my daughters place in town and plant it EVERYWHERE on Serendipity Farm. Comfrey is a fantastic perennial herb that has very deep penetrating roots and that should be able to deal with our soil and bring minerals and nutrients to the surface. I can then use its leaves to throw into and accelerate our compost making thus killing two birds with one plant! Yeh…I know…I mixed my metaphors…I was never one to adhere to metaphoric correctness 😉

The lovely book plate personally signed by Hannah, an amazingly talented young vegan cookbook author that is going to be affixed with pride as soon as my copy arrives from The Book Depository in the U.K. Check out her beautiful blog for all sorts of decadent, sinful but oh so healthy treats…
http://bittersweetblog.wordpress.com/

My new pumpkinescant best bud “Barbara’s” embryo’s arrived in one piece unmolested by the pumpkin police and hopefully not irradiated beyond an inch of their lives. Cheers to the effervescent and eternally opptimistic Bev from the wonderful down to earth and incredibly entertaining and education blog “Foodnstuff”. I am having a little chuckle here, as I had to head over to Foodnstuff to get the url and read the first paragraph of her new post that I am sure that she won’t mind me reproducing here…
“I know God hates me because I’m an atheist and when he sees me out in the garden, he sends it down.
He must have been otherwise occupied this morning because I actually got a lot of weeding done before he woke up that I was out there.”
Check out why I spend my mornings loitering about in the hope that Bev has posted again and I can sit there with a cuppa and a stiffled guffaw before anyone else is up here…
http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/

Our Mise en plus all ready for starting on our 1/5th scale model…this nice neat pile is now a chaotic teetering stack bedecked with sawdust and slightly Earl nibbled timbers and discarded timber offcuts

The eggs in the carton are duck eggs and are a lovely green/blue colour. I use them in cakes but my daughters have expressed an interest in duck egg futures so I won’t feel the need to be constantly baking to keep up with their ready supply

This part of the post is pre-garden visit. Steve and I had a quick drive-by viewing and Steve’s garden is decidedly underwhelming at the moment but then again, most gardens in Tasmania’s north are the same thanks to a long, cold, hard winter. It will be very interesting to see what Steve has to say about gardening in our local conditions. It will also be very interesting to talk to him about how he developed his seed catalogue to get the best of them with our local growing conditions. According to Christi, his previous seed company, “Territorial Seed Company”, is the place to go to get seeds in her neck of the woods. I think that the word “neck of the woods” is most pertinent to Christi’s local area as I would have a cricked neck for a month from looking up at all of those amazing conifers that grow naturally where she lives.  I am particularly interested in one of his earlier books titled “Gardening when it counts: Growing food in hard times”. Steve says that he grows half of his families food requirements in his garden and it will be interesting to see just exactly what he grows to do this. All in all it will be a most interesting visit and at least Christi should be interested in this post :o).

These are the fluorescent coloured veggie burgers that Steve made for my birthday. My dear sister Pinkus said that they looked like sweets but they were deliciously savoury and full of flavour despite looking like they should taste of strawberries…

This is what the veggie burgers look like when they are cooked…a whole lot more like traditional burgers and no-one would confuse them for sugary treats any more!

A side view of a most delicious birthday tea with sourdough bread, salad AND delicious oven baked chips.

Here’s my delicious vegan wholewheat chocolate peanut butter cake with the only candle that we could find albeit somewhat bent from one of the kitchen drawers. This cake was a triumph and Steve is now my new Sous Chef 😉

We all got to sample some of the vegetables from Steve’s garden cut up raw and aside from some delicious carrot sticks and some lovely fresh cabbage there was a butter yellow coloured vegetable that was tinged with green that tasted as sweet as an apple but with a hint of brassica. We couldn’t work out what it was but assumed that it might be the “Tasmanian Butter Swede” that he had been developing for the seed market. Upon asking the man from the Tamar NRM who was busy passing platters of vegetables around we were told that it was kohlrabi! The only experience that I have had of kohlrabi have been decidedly unpleasant and I swore never to eat it again thanks to stringiness, an over pronounced cabbage flavour and a distinct bitterness from the specimen that I purchased from the supermarket. Growing your own vegetables allows you the freedom to choose what you grow as well as which varieties. You can sample your way through the vegetable catalogue and arrive at your firm favourites and then you can allow the biggest and best to go to seed and collect the seed for next year ad infinitum. Steve is very passionate about people growing their own vegetables and taking control of their own health and nutrition in the process. He is just about to start up a soil testing facility in conjunction with an American soil testing agency and as his first “clients” we were given the chance to have our soils tested, a consultation with Steve regarding our results as well as a personalised fertiliser compiled from the data assessed for $20. My friend from the witness protection and I turned to each other and both said “Bargain!” Steve took us all into his lovely home and proceeded to talk about his past life developing seeds and how he got into the nutritional profiling of the vegetables and soil that he dealt with. Steve has a new book coming out in November called “The intelligent gardener: Growing nutrient dense food” that teaches people how to analyse their own soils and how to redress the problems that present themselves in your soil profile. We now have the instructions for how the soil needed for testing needs to be collected and we will be collecting our soil samples, bagging them and taking them around to Steve’s next week to be sent off and within a month they should be back and we can begin finding natural ways to get the best out of our soil for growing nutrient dense vegetables.

A previously unused attachment for my overworked food processor that squeezes oranges which made The process of squeezing 6kg of navel oranges a WHOLE lot easier…pity there wasn’t an easy fix for the 24 oranges that I had to hand zest…

There are worse things than a sink full of oranges…say…a sink full of oranges that most of them need to be hand zested…sigh…

The reason for 6kg of juiced oranges, 24 zested oranges, 4kg of juiced lemons, the zest of 4 lemons and a coma worth of sugar is fermenting away nicely on its second day of mutual introductions…Dear constant readers meet…orange wine!

I may have lost my hot water bottle last night to a rubber perishing accident but the orange wine is nice and cosy settled down on a woolen blanket right next to Brunhilda’s gentle wafting sideways heat. I might take up residence on the other side tonight if it gets any colder!

I am racing to get this post ready to post and am going to leave it here. Again, I realise that I have barged my way into your heads with sustainability, soil profiling, horticulture and seeds and if this is so much “yawn*” for you I appologise. To the rest of you who are in similar situations and who can see just how chuffed I am with what I am learning and the potential of it all I share my excitement and my delight :o). Hopefully the rest of the week will be kind to you all and you will hit 5pm on Friday running and ready to spend your weekend productively however you see fit. Take it easy and see you on Saturday :o)