Why hippies are thin

Hi All,

Have I piqued your interest yet? Over the last (almost) 2 years we moved from relative bliss in the suburbs, totally devoid of any understanding or care about where anything came from and just predating shopping centres at all hours of the day and night whenever our stomach’s rumbled or we felt like bedecking our intestines and arteries with some form of tasty chemical indulgence and got thrown into the abyss of country living. We didn’t have time to blink, let alone adjust to our situation; we were thrown in running and immediately started trying to reclaim Serendipity Farm from the clutches of chaos. I have discovered many important truths since we got brave enough to come out from under the bed what seems like eons ago and would like to share a few of them here with you now.

1. Everything wants to eat you or your possessions in the country. Termites, rats, mice, possums, wallabies, rabbits and in our case “Earl” all join together in a ferocious free for all as soon as you open the door and attempt to ingratiate yourself with any degree of wilderness and settle down out in the sticks

2. Life runs on a parallel time frame in the country. This is to be confirmed, but somewhat like the unseen university in the Discworld…country living has its own peculiar time portals that swallow you up and spit you out the other side confused and wondering why it is dark and where the day went…or I may have just been taken by aliens…either way, confusion reigns

3. Unlike living in an urban environment, your house in the country will instantly form a tiny microcosm where everything starts looping in cycles. In the city you feel small, in the country you are suddenly aware of how very important these little cycles are and your place within these cycles

4. You have to learn to think laterally when you live in the country. You also have to learn to think on your feet (sometimes concurrently with thinking laterally…no mean feat!) and you also have to learn to amuse yourself because the only other person here is watching The Swamp Men on television and isn’t likely to stop in the perceivable future

5. Last but not least…(this is where the title comes into it…aren’t you glad you kept reading?) everything takes a zillion more steps and 100 times more effort in the country when you are penniless student hippies (as most hippies are) and can’t just buy what you want or pay someone else to do it for you. Simply getting warm involves a trip up to the back block to collect some of the firewood that you hadn’t gotten around to moving down to the wood shed yet after chopping down the dead tree, chain sawing it into logs and splitting with a block splitter, isolating some kindling wood (usually whilst doing some form of callisthenic exercise involving bending and stretching up trees and under shrubs), running the gauntlet of getting the firewood past Earl who isn’t called “The eatinator” for nothing and then rubbing 2 sticks together for about 3 hours. Ok…so I fibbed about the last bit and we do use the occasional match (shock HORROR…send the environmental police around…sigh…). To get food you have to grow it yourself…to have a roast chicken you have to “first kill your rooster”. In the city you can live an idyllic life so far distanced from the origins of your food and without an exertive care in the world. You can reach for the telephone and all manner of piping hot (or its free!) comestibles will wend their merry way right to your doorway. Sugarplum fairies (or their corn syrup equivalent in the U.S.A.) lure you at every café, lunch bar and supermarket but out in the country you have to make your own and you are suddenly confronted with exactly how much of what is entering your digestive tract in the form of hidden fat, sugar and chemical enhancers. When you live in the country you either bury your head in the sand or you fess up to your previous life of sloth and degradation and start finding ways to turn it around and all of the “ways” involve hard slog and nutritional change. Enter the thin hippy. People who care tend to be thin. Do you know why? Because they are so busy racing around after causes, events, volunteering, eating on the run, thinking about their food and trying to eat ethically to put on weight. Hippies are thin because they are living nature how it was meant to be lived and whether or not they end up with a bit of diarrhoea from eating something unwashed, or left out for more than 10 minutes or that hasn’t been scrubbed within an inch of its life or doused in Dettol doesn’t matter because if you grow it yourself, and you embrace sustainable permaculture principals you can put a handful of that fecund dirt into your mouth and eat it and it will probably do you good! There you go…hippies (the lucky buggers) are thin because they are so active and vital and caring and concerned that they don’t even care about how much they weigh and so Murphy leaves them alone. No fun in shoving kilos onto someone who needs them is there?

I promised you a couple of photos of Targa. Steve was right on the corner when this car span out and got bogged. They had to sit out this stage of the time trials and were not all that happy about it!

This was supposed to be Steve’s moment of glory…his 15 minutes of fame…but they never used the footage of him jumping up and down, waving like crazy at the camera or of Serendipity Farm (which is where the helicopter is hovering in this picture). Steve says “Bollocks!” I say “Thank goodness! Did you even LOOK at yourself when you headed up the back paddock with the camera to take a few photos?!

Look at those eyes…latent suspicion and violent tendencies along with ninja stealth when it comes to hopping into my poor long suffering succulents…

The following pots are the sole remaining cacti and succulents that we could save from these marauding hyenas of the veld (a.k.a. ducks)

I used to have so many amazing cacti and succulents that I couldn’t even count them. Each one sourced locally and hunted in various nurseries, horticultural shows and small pieces given lovingly (and sometimes taken surruptitiously) by friends. You will notice that most of what remains is heavily armoured. I swear the ducks have been formulating a plant to remove the spines so we repotted them and put them up out of the assassins reach.

We are continuing on in the garden attempting to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Does that sound a bit like sour grapes? You are darned tootin it does! It seems like the more effort we put into removing years of neglect, the more like a barren wasteland Serendipity Farm is becoming. We have huge piles of debris littering the landscape; we are constantly followed by small members of the poultry confraternity standing in the arches of our boots waiting to catch all sorts of disenfranchised evicted creatures from their resting places in the shrubbery. Our 2 ducks, who until now have been somewhat suspicious of us and who have managed to maintain a significant distance between themselves and our person, have now decided that we are worse than Hitler because we have been removing all of the vegetation that they previously hid in whilst making surreptitious raids of my succulent patch. We have dispatched yet another rooster to that great roasting pan in the sky for attacking Pingu and pulling out heaps of feathers and forcing Effel to subject to depraved sexual acts. Goodbye Trogdor. I am sure you will make a very tasty roast dinner. I have noticed something very interesting about our poultry population. Big Yin is an amazing rooster. We couldn’t hope for a better one. He looks after the flock, he finds food, nests, shelter and anything else for his girls and makes sure that they get all of the choice titbits that we toss out to them throughout the day. As each new rooster gets old enough to start acting like roosters are prone to do, and we dispatch them summarily, the next rooster in line, who has until this point remained latent and benign and who hasn’t done much more than crow takes up the flag and starts roostering for all they are worth! No sooner had we dispatched Henry (rollins) the initial rooster who was causing problems in the hen house, Trogdor, who had up until that point been so benign that we had considered he might be gay, stepped up to the mark and became Big Yin’s chief nemesis. Now that Trogdor is out of the picture, Big Bertha (yeh…I know…good pick…sigh…) is crowing for all he is worth, molesting all and sundry and has just signed his gender confused death warrant in the process. We then have another quandary with Little red. He is the first of the feral chooks that live “elsewhere” to the chicken coop and we are going to have to hunt him down with a torch one night. Is it just me that takes great delight in reading my blog spam? I get quite a bit. Some days I get more spam than I get views! Lately I am getting some hilarious spam that I enjoy over my early morning cup of tea and guffaw outrageously at. Do yourselves a favour and have a read of your spam…it just might make your day :o). Here are 2 examples from my spambox (like a lunch box but with the vegetarian equivalent of spam luncheon meat…perhaps seitan?)…

“You know therefore considerably when it comes to this topic, produced me in my opinion consider it from a lot of varied angles. It’s like women and men aren’t interested unless it is something to do with Girl gaga! Your individual stuffs excellent. All the time care for it up!”

And how about this enlightened comment…

“Great beat! I wish to apprentice while you amend your web site, how can i subscribe for a blog site? The account aided me a acceptable deal. I had been a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided bright clear idea”

If anyone out there can enlighten me to what either of these comments actually mean I would be most interested to find out. Here’s one I actually sent on to share with my daughters the other day…

“You might want to revitalize your best then you will likely have large amounts with high supplement in the male body. Growth hormone is definitely a necessary lifestyle deliver by way of our company’s pituitary gland which may be the culprit for much of our maturity.”

There you go! I thought about hooking up to their company’s pituitary gland but then realised that it was the culprit for my maturity! See what you are all missing out there? Who needs to buy newspapers and turn to the funnies, these are MUCH funnier than that…

“Now you see me…now you don’t!”…one of Effel’s babies showing how well they can camoflage in with the endemic vegetation and why, despite her best efforts, she still has 8 of them.

Most people (at least in Tasmania) would see this pile of tyres that we inherited along with Serendipity Farm (and quite a few more to boot) as a problem. We don’t. We are going to have fun working out what to do with them. We could make a tyre garden. We could use them to make steps (found a site online that shows us how), or a retaining wall…or even as the basis for a wall filled with our local rocks and sand. There are so many ways to use old tyres so why are local Tasmanian’s throwing them into every ditch that they possibly can? Because they have to pay $5 a tyre to dispose of them at the local tip, THATS why…sigh…

This is what we have had to do to protect anything vaguely succulent in nature. Even euphorbia’s, with their irritating sap, are not safe from those feathered assassins…just take a look at that rectangular teracotta pot…the day before it was green! Today it is picked down to the brown base.

It’s Friday morning and we are having an unusual early morning off from walking the dogs. Today we are combining picking up my book requests from the Exeter library, hauling a mass of vanquished blackberry foes to the Exeter tip green waste centre and walking the dogs in one of their more preferred locations all at the same time. We have learned that multitasking saves time and money. One trip for 3 requirements makes me feel good. We had to learn that lesson the hard way when we first moved here. We spent so much time racing back and forwards between the city and here and we seemed to be constantly on the go. Now we wait, we plan and we make sure that we do as many things as we can whenever we get into the car. We have spent the last month really getting to grips with the tangle of foliage on Serendipity Farm. We know that autumn is the very best time to plant out our potted babies and so we are removing as much of the weedy neglect as we can to find space to give them the best start for the coming year. We have learned a lot about ourselves in the process and are starting to fall into our own routine. We have the peculiar distinction of being parents that leave their children. We left my son living in the rental house that we lived in when we moved here. He was working and inner city rentals were both expensive and difficult to find so he was happy to take over the lease. When we moved out to Serendipity Farm we left our two daughters (both adults before you start to phone social services…) in our house in town so rather than have our children move out on us leaving us empty nesters, we emptied ourselves out of the nest! We were in the most privileged of positions when my dad died to inherit 2 houses. My brother and sister both got 2 houses of their own and before anyone starts envying any of us, every single house came with an overwhelming list of repairs, neglect and mounting cost so each of us had to earn what we have inherited. Far from being ungrateful, I know that we have been given a very precious gift and that as penniless hippy 40 something students we would never have had the opportunity to buy a house let alone end up debt free like we are today. We love our life out here and are starting to get a feel for being 2 people out in the wilderness. There is something quite terrifying about being left alone with your partner. I think that is when many marriages start to fall apart and when a mans shed becomes more important than it has ever been before. That’s when there is no-one else to focus on and suddenly you are confronted with each other with no-where to hide. If you throw retirement into the process you get, most probably, the very first time that either of you have had to spend extended periods of time together and someone that you can share a house with for half a day quite easily can become “the enemy” overnight. You just have to watch “Keeping up appearances” with the ubiquitous Hyacinth Bucket (“Boo-kay…it is pronounced BOO-KAY”!) to see just how terrifying retirement must be to a couple. Again, Steve and I spend 24/7 together. Retirement will be much like school holidays…we most probably won’t notice it like we didn’t notice them so again we buck the system.

“Ok, so your back from town…these are in bags…and they appear to be some sort of food…”

“Wait a minute! There’s nothing tasty in these bags!”

2 distinct varieties of Jerusalem Artichokes that I picked up in one of our local green grocers when we were in town on Friday. I am most excited about being able to get really big interesting looking specimens like these and will be planting them out as soon as they start to sprout a little bit. I picked up 3 wizened tubers in a pack at Woolworths a few years ago and planted them out in our house in town. As I type this the girls have harvested tens of kilo’s of these tasty (albeit flatulence inducing but whats a little fart joke between friends?) tubers that have the added benefit of having pretty sunflower like flowers, being perenial and dying back so you can slash the stalks and use them for mulch and in having the ability to reproduce exponentially much to the Canadian’s amazement. They are classified as “weeds” in Canada. Obviously the Canadian’s are not able to take a (fart) joke…once you have these babies, forget about caring for them…they look after themselves and you won’t ever go short of nutty crunchy delicious tubers as they seem to be able to grow in any condition known to man

“Ok…theres nothing tasty in this lot of toys that they brought back from town…you know that someone is going to get the blame for all of this mess…”

Apparently Bernard and Manny (the Javanese Finches in the cage over to the right of this photo) did this. They have taken full responsibility and wish it to be known that they are ashamed of themselves and will clean up this mess post haste. They apparently did it alone with no help whatsoever…

There is nothing like living in the country to remove all pretention from a person. When your lower body is covered in mud and chicken manure, your arms are scratched up with hand to hand blackberry combat, you look like a brown zombie (who remembers sunscreen when you need to get up and going early before the sun is up) and you are starting to regret not listening to your lecturer when he said “don’t forget your earplugs when you use the chainsaw” because much like Pete Townsend, you are starting to have problems hearing people. You go to town looking peculiar because you have attempted to scrub your skin free of dirt and debris that has plastered itself violently all over you in your heady pursuit of finding something ordered in a sea of chaos and you turn up looking wide eyed and innocent in the middle of the city. Simple country folk. I no longer ask Steve “does my bum look fat in this?”…I say “can I get away with this…” or “are there any holes (Earl), stains (no end of creatures and situations want to stain everything that we own) or fraying (treacherous blackberries!)?” It’s no longer a matter of “I need that new shampoo to make my hair look like golden tresses” its “did I wash my hair? Are there any leaves in my hair? “Could you just get the scissors and trim it straight across the bottom for me?”…country life certainly changes a person and woe betide anyone who chooses to attempt to maintain their idealistic romantic notions of picnics in the fields and picking wildflowers and drinking wine out on the deck whilst gazing into the eyes of your lover because the chickens have been in the paddock first…the wildflowers are classified weeds and you had best remove them QUICK before DIPWE catches you with them on your property and your lover has already gulped his glass of wine down in one swig, is too tired to focus on your eyes and you both look like you have been dragged through a blackberry patch backwards (curiously…that saying is incredibly pertinent to our current situation!) and you BOTH have a headache. Much like Tom and Barbara Good from “The Good Life”, we are discovering that country living isn’t quite so idealistic and nostalgic as many wistful city dwellers might have us believe. In saying that, I wouldn’t give up what country living has done for us. We have a degree of freedom that we never had in the city. If I want to throw off my clothes post haste and hunt for leeches on the deck, so long as I don’t choose to do it at 12pm when the Tamar Cruiser wends its way past us on the river delivering its amplified speech about the Auld Kirk Church, I am safe to do so. We can start, finish and “do” whatever we want around here. We can eat what we want, when we want to. There are very few rules and regulations that have to be enforced and we are quickly discovering so much about ourselves and our place in the world and together that we would never have learned whilst surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city.

Another pile of vanquished blackberries off to the hoosegow  to do the time for crimes against mankind

And here they are effectively “zipped” (old school computer talk for condensing to all of you young hipsters out there…) and ready to dump at the Exeter Green Waste Centre. Here we are parked at the Exeter Library where I just picked up Flaubert’s Parrot and Women of the Silk to read over the coming week. I have a few more books in transit, I am getting greedy in my lust for literature…

I hereby swear never EVER to leave a library book lying on the kitchen table and head outside to see what Steve is on about. Earl took advantage of my 5 minutes respite from reading to ingest some literature of his own. Earl is now semi filled with war, death and “The Push”…sigh…the only thing that I have going for me this time is that the first entry in the fading yellow paged cello taped paperback copy of “A Covenant with Death” by John Harris was 1964, making this book almost as old as I am! Steve was actually born after this book entered library circulation and so I am going to argue my case if faced with a hefty bill for replacement. It seems fitting that a book has been dispatched today as we suddenly discovered 2 new roosters. That only leaves 1 of the heavier chickens that we imported in limbo as to its sex. My theory about roosters is gaining momentum as each time we dispatch a rooster, another “hen” steps up to take its place. We now know who is a hen and who isn’t apart from the younger ferals, Effel’s babies and the silver Wyandotte’s 3 who are now shared between a golden laced Wyandotte and the silver Wyandotte. We just took an afternoon wander around the property with Earl on a lead and Bezial free ranging. Wherever we have cleared in the last month is now able to get rainfall down to the soil and everything is looking happy and green. We are starting to work out what plants we can use from our large potted stash, and which plants we are going to have to get rid of. We donated 3 roses to our Polytechnic yesterday because they are simply possum fodder here. We are in the process of repotting all of our stock that we have grown including all sorts of maples (sourced from seed from all over the place) and all sorts of conifers (sourced from seed and cuttings from all over the place). Steve potted up some of our glasshouse specimens to give them some more room to grow and I dumped the remaining potting mix and left over tomato stems into our compost heap. I will be topping it up with spent chook roost hay covered in nitrogen rich manure when I clean out the hen house tomorrow. Bernard and Manny, our Java Finches, are getting their cage cleaned out as well and their spent hay will be added to our compost. It is now second nature to throw “anything that was once living” (apart from meat grandma!) into a smaller bucket in the pantry to be tossed out into the compost heap when it is full. We phoned up a local machinery hire agency and we can get a large chipper/mulcher for a weekend for $95. We have some BIG plans for that mulcher and hope to eliminate our massive great pyre of decaying branches down in the teatree gardens as well as crown lifting and mulching tree branches all over the property. We will remove the Photinia x fraseri “Robusta” that are on the dividing fence between our place and the graveyard at the Auld Kirk church and will mulch them all into a large heap to rot down and use in the garden elsewhere. We checked what had once been a large pile of oak leaves that we raked last year for Glad next door and it has rotted down to a very small amount. We will top it up this year with year 2 of raking and being neighbourly and will use the leaf mould on the garden as it becomes available. I love being able to reuse waste on site. The only thing that we are taking to the tip (vegetative matter wise) are the blackberries. One day, when the blackberries are at a manageable level we will be able to make weed tea out of them but we don’t have a large enough vat to tackle the vast amount that we are dealing with at the moment. We need to isolate some plants for our garden starting with a source of Moringa olifera or drumstick tree. This tree is amazing. You can count the things that this tree ISN’T good for on one hand. We would also like to give neem a go. I know we are not tropical but we do have a range of plants growing here that shouldn’t be happy to do so including Jacaranda’s, Brachychitons and 2 Sydney red gums that should be roots up in Tasmania let alone thriving like ours are. We would like to see if we can grow as many of our own insecticides, food trees, medicinal plants etc. on site. I look forwards to hunting them down and sourcing nurseries and individuals with stock that we can buy swap or take cuttings/seed from.

Here are the veggies and the 15 (hand counted) whole peppercorns ready to be put into the stock water when the carcass has been simmering gently for an hour and fifteen minutes. 45 minutes later we had very unphotogenic but probably heavenly stock

The last of our elephant garlic that we grew this year. Juicy, hot, spicy and incredibly fragrant it was really something compared to the cheap imported garlic that is available in the shops.

Colours…we need coloured food for antioxidents and for visual appeal. I don’t like chunks of carrot so we tend to use a vegetable peeler to make long quick cooking strips that are perfect for stir fries

This pile is waiting to be turned into Steve’s special fried rice

Ok…so this home made black bean sauce doesn’t look all that tasty…that is a BIG understatement, but this fragrant paste is redolent with flavour, heat, texture and low food miles using our own garlic, chillies, local olive oil and only the black beans (salted) were imported. I dare say we could have found an Australian source if we tried or I could turn to my trusty typed out copy of “The Permaculture Book of Ferment and Human Nutrition” and make my own! I love a challenge especially a food challenge. I once made a man with Coeliacs who was also unable to have dairy a vegan pizza made with spelt (he didn’t react to spelt) and home made vegan dairy free cheeze. He hadn’t had pizza in 6 years and apparently ate most of the enormous offering all by himself with no reaction whatsoever. As I said…I LOVE a challenge 🙂

Steve cooking up the veggies and black beans for the brown rice fried rice

Check out the colour in our home grown free range eggs…I almost needed sunglasses to make this omelette for Steve’s stir fry

This chicken has been marinating in chilli flakes, sesame oil and some mirin overnight in the fridge

Brown rice black bean fried rice…absolutely delicious!

The eggs are still this colour when you cook them. Here they are waiting to be divided into 2 portions. One for Steve’s meal and one for the dogs to share. The utensil here is an Australian designed and made “Chopula” made by Dreamfarm, a forward thinking sustainable company who really does care about all aspects of their production. I love this egg slice. It will sit on the bench when not being used without leaving any of its current occupying foodstuffs on the bench. It will hook on the side of the pan when you are cooking and you can chop, slice etc. whatever you are cooking and the shape allows the easiest flipping of a frypan full of pikelets that I have ever experienced. Hell yeh I am promoting this amazing tool! Do yourselves a favour and buy yourself one. These guys are not paying me to promote them, they just deserve it they are so good 🙂

I have just discovered (purely by accident) a site where I can get a like for like copy of A Covenant with Death sent to me for $12. Cheers Jennifer of Parklea books! She might have had to lift it from her market stall but lift it she did and as soon as I can verify her account details the $12 will be wending its merry way to Jennifer and that well-aged paperback will be handed in along with my freezer bag of torn shreds (Earl never does anything by halves…) as replacement all before I have to suffer the injustice of not being able to take any more books out of the library until I replace it. Steve and I decided to cook today and to take advantage of the stove being on to do as many things as we could. We used some of the first rooster to make a chicken stew to be frozen and used later on. We put the rooster carcass and wings on to gently simmer and made a large pot of free range stock with surprisingly little fat despite me leaving the skin on the carcass. We then made a crunchy oat slice for Steve (and the dogs) and cooked a large pot of brown rice and dried it out in the warming oven for my meal of fried rice tonight. Into the fried rice went diced onion, diced yellow (hydroponic) capsicum, the last of our fresh garlic that we managed to wrestle from the wallabies crushed, some chopped mushrooms, some carrot and lots of secret sauces etc. that Steve throws in at the last minute to make something truly delicious. He had stir fried marinated chicken with home-made black bean sauce. We like to do as many things as we can ourselves and after seeing a recipe for black-bean sauce online I decided to try it. The result is salty, hot and sweet and absolutely delicious! We have various pots of food cooling all over our kitchen so that we can prep them and fridge or freeze them depending on their future use. Steve has a whole bowl of left over stir fry and will have that tomorrow night with some of my brown rice fried rice and who knows what I will have…we tend to wing it! I was going to watch some television tonight but remembered that I had to post so you saved me from brain numbing. I am instead going to play Hammer Heads, a most interesting hybridisation between whack-a-mole and gnome warfare. One day I am going to beat the king. Until then, I can but keep trying to whack my hardest and give it the old college try. When I get bored with that I can read Flaubert’s Parrot or sit by the fire with a big cup of tea and simply ruminate mentally about life, the universe and everything (hopefully I don’t get sued by Douglas Adams for that!) Have a great week and see you on Wednesday. Hopefully I will have done something by that stage to share with you as our weather is apparently going to be drizzly for the foreseeable future. Not that I mind, I LOVE the rain :o)

Window to weight gain

 

Hi All,

I gave you a Ben Folds song back on Friday last week. I am not planning on making a habit of using youtube to pad my posts, but I truly think that Ben Folds is worthy of his own post. Ben Folds is the epitome of the unpopular kid’s revenge; indeed “One Angry Dwarf” has got to be the male version of Alanis Morissette’s ultimate break up album but exchanging school endured angst for romance. I am right there with you Ben. As one of only 2 fat kids in my school life was a little bit tough to say the least, the other fat girl was popular (go figure?) so it was all heaped on me so I know how one weedy skinny little glasses wearing kid might feel at any given time. My children were all to be considered “different” to the requirements to popularity and as such have all been exposed to various degrees of bullying behaviour, with varying results. There are always going to be bullies, and there are always going to be vigilantes…that’s a warning bullies…unpopular kids have a way of growing up, being smarter than you, putting in all that effort to work, save, rise up the corporate ladder and harbour seething revenge at people like you. Apart from the psychopathic bosses who need to be humoured at all times and strategically placated and avoided, most “popular” people don’t really amount to much. They have been taught that they are “worthy” and as such, don’t have to try. If you don’t learn to try, you don’t succeed. One day those unpopular kids that you bullied, ridiculed and generally made life hell for at school might just be your boss…your supervisor or one hell of a powerful angry dwarf hell bent on taking you out at the next school reunion. I know that you won’t be reading this post because popular people don’t really have to read all that much, it is all delivered to them on a plate. They never really learn the value of how to do things or to reach for the sky because it’s theirs anyway isn’t it? Talent is also something that comes from experience and the best musicians are those that have been tormented by their own or by other peoples demons and who are able to filter that experience through their respective muse to deliver something raw, desperate and beautiful. Think Leonard Cohen and “Halleluiah”. No more passionate, heart wrenching love song was ever written in my opinion. Ben Folds comes close (and you were wondering when I was going to segue back to him weren’t you?) and some of his songs like “smoke” and Gone” are 2 of my very favourite songs and I have thousands of favourite songs so that is saying something. He has a way of being able to match the lyrics with the music so poetically and poignantly. Billy Joel (honesty), Mark Knopfler (Romeo and Juliet), Cat Stevens (everything that he ever wrote!)…so many people willing to bleed out their emotions in front of us all. There is nothing that can make you feel like you are not the only one going through something like music can. I have found enormous solace in music and no doubt I will do so in the future. Ben Folds takes white middle class blues and gives them a voice. I love his insight and his ability to make total sense musically. Take a listen to Rockin the Suburbs and you can’t help but notice that this man is making fun of himself. He knows who he is and he is legitimising his place here amongst us with his incredible talent. How much harder do nerdy men and fat girls have to work to make it to the top? Just have a look at Adele and how talented she is…you won’t see anyone her size for many years to come no matter how talented they are. There are only so many successful big birds that are allowed in a decade otherwise the general public might actually pick up on the fact that anorexic women do NOT have all of the talent…

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Our 88 year old neighbour Glad’s daughter Wendy had a good crop of apples, hazelnuts and tomatoes this year and asked us if we wanted some…”Yes Please!”

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The hazelnuts in the blue bag are dried and are from last year and the hazelnuts that you can see clearly are this years and Wendy only just harvested them

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These tomatoes look delicious but taste out of this world. Note the little black Siberian tomatoes that do so well in our colder climate and that have a short cropping period. Wendy is experimenting with what grows the best here in Tasmania in her local conditions

 

I am typing this on Saturday…its overcast but not raining yet. We walked the boys for about 5km today and then headed back home to get the fire going so that I could cook up my mountain of beans. The idiom “aint worth a hill of beans” with regards to a trifling matter should set about cooking up a hill of beans…nothing trifling about spending an entire day wandering about your kitchen alternating straining cold soaked beans, putting them on the stove, cooking them and then straining them all over again and starting back with another batch of soaked beans (totally 6 batches in all). I am just letting them simmer till they are tender to my taste and then taking them off the stove. That is one of the great things about wood burning stoves, and this one in particular, you can put a kettle or a stockpot of soup or anything really on the top of it and let it tick over and cook long and slow. I just put the first batch of beans (amounting to about 10 cans of cannellini beans) into the freezer ready to be used for whatever I like in the future. I have made Steve’s pork pies and they are in the oven now waiting to brown and once they are cooked and cooled we have to make the chicken stock and gelatine mix to pour into them to make “real pork pies”. At Christmas time when mum was over and cooking up a storm with her granddaughters, I had a very productive day’s baking where I made an enormous amount of things…too many to even think about and all possible through making sure that I was organised. That is the secret to being a good cook. You can spend all of your time learning how to cook gourmet delights with truffles, foie gras and saffron but if you can’t organise your way out of a paper bag, it just won’t work. Cooking is a progression of steps and every recipe requires at least a vague adherence to those steps to end up with your desired results. I just have to explain the title of today to all of you constant readers who don’t watch the Simpson’s. Homer had to go on a diet and Dr Nick; the family physician told homer that he could have anything that didn’t turn a paper bag clear as if it did “That is your window to weight gain”. I made a template (never one to leave things to chance) to ensure that I had the correct amount of hot water pastry to put into the mini loaf/muffin tin that I was using to make the pork pies. I used a jumbo muffin pan last time but this loaf shaped tin has 8 holes making it better for a double batch of pork pies. After using the template to cut out the first section of pastry the paper turned clear and reminded me of that episode. I quite liked the early years of the Simpsons, much like I enjoyed the early years of Friends…there is something about carrying on after series 6 in a show that sounds the death knoll for creativity and suddenly it all starts to seem very forced and contrived. I must admit to loving Family Guy. There are some episodes of that show that have had me laying on the floor convulsing with laughter and there is something amazingly liberating about following Peter Griffin through his days and watching his complete disregard for anyone other than himself. Hilarious to watch, horrible to live with!

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This small pork pie was an extra to the main event. I had enough mix left over from the larger tray of mini loaf shaped pies to make this little fellow. You can see it here with one of our eggs slathered all over the top. Lovely yellow things aren’t they?

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I once owned this tray back when I lived in W.A. I gave it to mum when we moved over here and when I went over for mum’s funeral and my sister and brother were clearing out mums small state housing unit I saw it and decided that it was going to come home with me to be used again. Here it is being used to create some of Steve’s favourite things…Pork Pies

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Here are the baked results of the tray and mini spring form pan above. They had to cool for an hour before we syphoned in the jelly mix

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Here is a close up of the little round pork pie cooling and waiting for its gelatinised top note application. The rack that it is resting on was made by Steve and is a most amazing cooling rack. We made it because we needed something big enough to put all of our loaves on when we baked and were tired of juggling 5 – 6 various misshapen metal racks and placing cooling loaves all over the place. This rack is large enough for 8 loaves of bread to cool on and more than big enough for cakes and biscuits (not that I cook many of them to be honest). Mum drooled over it when she saw it and wished that she had one of them when she was cooking enormous amounts for shearers back when she was a shearers cook

 

I am sitting here typing in between racing about (in my organised way of course…) rendering beans cooked and making sure that pork pies don’t burn. It’s a real juggling act with a wood burning oven and we have 4 of them with this stove. We are slowly learning the right temperatures for things and how to get to that temperature and more importantly, how to stay there. The temperature fluctuates as you put more or less wood on. That might seem like stating the “bleedin’ obvious”, but the heat can escalate quite some time after new wood is added and can drop quite quickly even though you are attempting to maintain a steady burn. It’s all a learning curve for us at that moment but we are not attempting to cook anything “precious” that will turn up its toes or that requires precision temperatures until we are more able to gauge said temperatures. Steve is hovering between the P.C. and the lounge room where the wrestling is blaring loudly…I think that Austar and the A & E channel might have to be rationed soon…Steve has suddenly recultivated his interest in redneck wrestling and is posting redneck songs all day. We had a most enjoyable morning sorting out songs for the blog posts and I even managed to get Dolly Parton to make an appearance as a prize winning Hillbilly girl. By the way…that “Jolene” must have been one stone cold fox to make Dolly look plain! I also don’t believe that Dolly would just sit back and watch her man be stolen by Jolene, I have more than an inkling that any “Jolene’s” that were foolish enough to attempt to mess with any man that Ms Dolly Parton was interested in would end up with a whole lot less hair and a messed up face. Bring it on Jolene! Steve just took a tray of leftover lard pastry (sounds gross but the dogs will dance for it…) from the oven. Bezial has been waiting near the oven because the smell of the pastry is permeating the air and making him drool. He has had more than his fair share of the pastry in its raw state and can’t believe his luck at home much leftover pastry is up on the cooling rack. He had a brief look at the beans and found them wanting and turned his attention back to the pastry. It is going to be shared between the dogs and the hens who will appreciate something nice and filling as it is cold outside and they are milling about in packs wondering what has happened to the weather. Most of these chooks haven’t seen a winter before so it is all new to them. A bit of pastry will go a long way to restoring their happy hen status. I am sipping on some heavenly soup that we made last night when the stove was on. I knew that we would be busy today and that the stove would be full so decided to take advantage of the lack of “stuff” on the cook plate and so we made soup. Steve makes the best soup that I have ever tasted. Now that mum has passed on I can legally say that his soup far exceeds any other soup that I have tasted. I wouldn’t have wanted to undermine mums marrowbone soup but Steve isn’t known as “The Soup Dragon” for nothing. Anyone who has read this blog for more than a few posts knows that food and I have a bit of a difficult relationship. It’s either boom or bust for me and I am in the process of learning to eat “normally”. I decided that I wanted to stop dieting. I had been doing it since I was in my early teens with varying degrees of success but never actually reducing my weight and staying there. I figure that after 35 years of dieting that I can say, with some degree of accuracy that diets don’t work! Bollocks to them in fact. Deprivation followed by periods of secretly munching through all of those “untouchables”…we are just setting ourselves up for failure people. No more dieting for me. I have swapped over. I am not kidding myself. We had a fellow student in certificate 2 of horticulture who told me once that she had been an anorexic and that she was able to change her behaviour by eating nutritious foods but now she is exercise dysmorphic. You swap one addiction for another, one bad habit for another and I have just swapped dieting for “nutritious eating”. I am not counting calories, I am not weighing myself. I am not limiting my portions (yet) and I am not cutting all fat out of my diet. Who would know what is healthy eating anymore? All I know is that I feel 100% better, I no longer think about food and eating constantly and I am not craving anything, especially sugar. I guess it will take a lot longer to lose weight by eating nutritiously, but then again, it might stay off. Let’s just wait and see…

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Steve and I are not patient people. As such there was only a specific amount of time that we were willing to donate to syphoning liquid gelatinised stock into a tiny little hole. I dare say the amount of jelly in these pies was a bit limited but Steve says that they taste delicious and I guess at the end of the day that is all that really matters…”Form over function” not in this case!

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Hazelnuts are falling from small trees all over Tasmania (and anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere that they are grown) at the moment and we were very lucky to get a big bag of them. I just wanted to show you the hazelnuts nestled in their little nutty sleeping bags all starting to fall out, rubbing their eyes and nestling down for a nice overwintering in the cold (stratification) and if the mice, rats and humans leave them alone they might well germinate to form new little hazelnuts. Cute aren’t they?

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Here’s just a small percentage of what I ended up “shucking” from the husks. I had some help from Earl but that is another story… Some of the hazelnuts are going to be stratified to grow some more hazelnut trees for the property. They might take a bit of time to get to be big enough to bear nuts but mass planted they will make great coppicing material in the future and a fully sustainable source of wood. We are also thinking of using them as hedging around the farm so you will most probably see more about that in future posts

 

Steve just put some foil on the top of the pork pies because they were starting to brown too quickly. Another tweak of the wood stove controls and we get a little bit closer to being wood stove maestros. As mentioned, we spent this morning listening to all sorts of music on youtube and it was great fun. We both love music and have played various instruments in our past. Steve was a guitar teacher in a past life and I played in a brass and concert band through school. We get great enjoyment out of music and it’s one thing that we can actually enjoy together because we are entirely opposite people and we have very diverse interests. You can bet that if Steve is wild about something, its “meh” to me and visa-versa. Music and plants are a safe bet for harmony around here so it’s really good to spend some time together enjoying the same thing. Steve has an uncanny knack of looking for something in images and finding some really interesting and worthwhile sites in the process. He was looking for a recipe for “Gala pie” (raised pork pies made with hot water lard pastry with whole hard boiled eggs nestled in the filling) and found some great sites. The first one appealed to me as if I was living in the middle ages, I dare say I would be a scullery cook.

http://scullerymaidsblog.com/2011/pork-and-egg-pie/

And the second one is just plain bizarre. Only an Aussie male could blog like this and despite not giving us a recipe for that enormous slab of chicken and pork pie that he is holding in his hand… he has some of the weirdest and most amusing inventions, creations and costumes that I have ever seen!

http://penfoldlabs.blogspot.com.au/2009/09/pork-and-chicken-pie.html

You would be amazed at how varied and interesting your afternoon can be if you start with a simple query and allow your fingers to do the walking on your keyboard. I tend to end up so far off left of the original query at the end of my hunting session that it is laughable but on the way I also find an incredible amount of valuable websites and information to store and save for future use. I think it’s time to wander off and have a bit of a look-see now so I will bid you all adieu for today and see you all tomorrow when I can hopefully share a picture of Steve at his graduation ceremony tonight, with you all. He really deserves all of the kudos for all of his hard work and in a way it is fitting that he gets to shine on his own tonight, he has worked incredibly hard for get to this level and really does deserve his moment in the spotlight. Well done Steve :o)

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall turns vegetarian

Hi All,

Howzit! I sometimes like to change my modus operandi of greetings and this one needs to be recycled. Life on Serendipity Farm has settled down to a nice low humming and seems to be flowing nicely along like a burbling brook. Hopefully it doesn’t flood like most of the Eastern seaboard but the garden would love a good deluge of rain and living on the side of a steep slope would allow the rain to drain off into the Tamar River so bring it on! My dad once said that he couldn’t wait for global warming to arrive as it would make his property a waterside property. Good on you dad! Steve and I are just about to set up a watering system for the mass of potted plants at the side of the house. We are getting very tired of having to hand water and have decided to organise them into rows and set up an above-the-pot system to water them all. Being the clever little vegemite’s that we are we have worked out how to make and install this system very cheaply. All we need is some black pipe and some sprinklers (as well as a few elbows to hook it all up). We are going to use some teatree poles from down in the garden to elevate the sprinkler setup and the rest of what we do will be documented for you all to see. We are going to make moveable watering systems for our garden beds that can be connected and disconnected as we see fit. We plan on rotating our crops and allowing the beds a fallow period as well as a green crop between their next (entirely different species) crop. We will also be using companion planting and “confuse-a-cat” (go look it up…) integration of flowering shrubs and perennials, herbs and vegetables. We want to encourage bees and beneficial insects whilst confusing the hell out of the destructive little buggers that wreak havoc. We will be using bug houses all over the place. We had a wasp move into the bug houses that we have in our bedroom (lazy sods that we are who haven’t put them up yet…) so I dare say if we ever get around to putting some bug houses up outside in conspicuous (and most delightful to bugs) places around the garden that they will be eagerly sought out and inhabited (hopefully by beneficials…). I have been researching “Permablitz’s” online. They are a fantastic way to help other people create Permaculture gardens and eventually getting your own garden Permablitzed for free. I wonder if we could do that here. I might have to look into that… I love the idea of finding a way around monetary constraints. Bartering…sharing excesses…swapping…working for stuff and so many other ways around having to have the readies before you can have/do what you want. Another reason why I love Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. Check out this link…I don’t love him this much!

http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2011-10-16/hugh-fearnley-whittingstall-on-why-river-cottage-has-gone-veggie

And this more disturbing story and accompanying shot…

http://www.simplepetcare.com/pets/2011/10/11/hugh-fearnley-whittingstall-puppy-meat-is-no-worse-than-a-pork-chop/

You learn something new every day. I didn’t know that Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall had gone vegetarian?! That will make my daughters smirk. We all remember him coercing a vegetarian into eating meat. Now he apparently has a cholesterol problem and needs to go veggie for a while (heh heh :o)

This is one of my “rose pot” succulents prior to us taking receipt of a pair of most determined ducks.

I don’t know why I am torturing myself by posting these once lovely pots of what I once thought were “indestructable” succulents…I guess I am just trying to remember how some of my urban pots looked. At this point they were still ticking along nicely but the ducks arrived, grew a bit and got brave and started to rootle through my succulent pots. Now this pot has 2 green leaves and a lot of dead and dying stalks. The rose/cabbage looking  succulent above is chewed down to a nub and the other succulent is completely gone. I have 1 pot of them left but that is only because the ducks haven’t managed to find their way around to the side of the house to scoff it quite yet…that day will come…

Steve and I spent an hour liberating our poor long suffering potted plants that have been forced to live an uncertain life out amongst the possums and wallabies thanks to Earl and his penchant for scoffing expensive plant matter. Bezial has been known to prune things but strangely, after we thought that he had put an end to our Muscat grape vine in town, we asked the chief viticulturist at Polytechnic and when we explained what Bezial had done he told us that he had pruned the vine exactly where it should have been pruned! Bezial also enjoys nipping and eating the fruit from fuchsia shrubs. I was worried that he might croak (ANOTHER trip to the vet…) but apparently they are entirely edible and he was just getting his dose of vitamin C. Apart from these minor asides (and a fatal romp with one of Steve’s straw hats) Bezial has deigned to remain abstinent when it comes to plant matter. Earl has made up for that by choosing only the most expensive potted plants and rendering them mere shadows of their former selves. He hasn’t actively killed most of them, but nipping below the graft doesn’t do a lot for their inherent desirability. Perhaps he is telling us something? Perhaps Earl thinks that we should be putting our horticultural knowledge to better use and we should be grafting these plants ourselves? Who would know what goes on in Earl’s mind, and more to the point…who would want to! We had noticed the wandering blackberries, banana passionfruit and honeysuckle (our regular plant pest species of choice) had started to invade our potted plants. They are regularly sampled, overturned and actively eaten on a regular basis by the native wildlife and our own shameful hens and ducks who would like to point the finger at the native wildlife but who have been heard actively invading the area. We decided to put pay to the encroaching mass and give it all a good haircut until we can get into this area. It seems like we spend most of our time defending our tiny fort against the encroaching plant hoards around here. If we could get the time and energy together (at the same time mind you…) to launch into these areas, we might be able to make a decent dent in the problem. At the moment it is 2 steps forwards and 1 step back most of the time and we are simply keeping the green wolves at bay.

This is the pile of debris that Steve had managed to hack out before we remembered to get the camera.

We hacked into the undergrowth and then hacked into a few enormously overgrown specimens of Buddleia globosa (a Buddleia with yellow ball shaped flowers) that when we removed their supporting crown of vines started to droop to the floor. I know that Buddleia’s are hardy specimens and that you can prune them very hard. These specimens need a decent prune as they have been allowed to grow straggly and in most alarming directions for the last 20 years. We have a problem that occurs when we start working in our garden that sometimes stops us from working in the garden at all. The obvious “lazy bollocks” isn’t actually it (THANKYOU FOR THINKING THAT STRAIGHT AWAY! :o) it is actually the massive great pile of debris that we end up with even after a very short period of time in the garden. I must add that we then have to find out how to get rid of these massive great piles. That usually involves leaving enormous ugly piles of semi decomposing debris all over Serendipity Farm until it dries out and we can harvest any sizeable bits for using on the fire and burning the rest on a massive great 3 metre burnt crispy bit of lawn out the back. We have every intention of turning this ugly burnt bit of ground into a permanent fire pit so that we can at least show people the area without wincing. Another thing that stops us from getting into the garden as much as we could is that whenever we get out there, get stuck in and make a difference, what happens is that what was overgrown green jungle turns into something that looks like the allied troops used agent orange to defoliate…from overgrown green to ugly sparse and mangled stalks on bare earth. This brings me to another thought…I am not incredibly versed in putting my horticultural knowledge into practice. In my year of living honestly, I know a shitload about how to garden but haven’t done a whole lot of it. I would like to think that was because we had only lived in rental properties up until now but that is a load of bollocks. It’s simply because my normal state of active affairs tends to be inside my noggin rather than translating into physical activity. Steve’s normal state of affairs is physical activity and he actively tries to resist using his brain for anything other than immediate needs so we make a great team. I also have this terrible problem with not wanting to start anything until I have everything that I need to do the job. This frustrated my mum no end as she would just start making gardens with anything that came to hand. She had spent her life doing this as if she had waited till she had everything, she would simply have never had what she needed to complete the task and nothing would have ever been accomplished. Her way of cobbling together bits and pieces worked. My mental block is my stumbling block also. I have to learn to make a start. Once I “start” I am hard to stop. I am starting to sound like a Rolling Stones song there, but it’s true. My biggest hurdle is “starting”. We “started” yesterday and poor Steve was left bewildered. I launched into the blackberries, honeysuckle and banana passionfruit with a vengeance. He kept trying to say “but…I only wanted to free up the pots…” but once I start, it is hard to get me to stop so I hacked away at the garden bed until we had freed a considerable portion of the side garden. I have plans for this bit. Steve could care less about it and I have a lot of cold climate shrubs predominately of the Ericaceae family including Zenobia pulverulenta; Enkianthus campanulatus; Chimonanthus praecox; Daphne odora and many others that I can’t remember as it’s early for me and my brain hasn’t quite settled into actively remembering plant names (and I am NOT donning my gumboots and heading out the side of the house just to hunt them down for you…you might be my constant readers but before my second cup of tea for the day you are highly unlikely to find me heading outdoors to do anything, let alone hunt out Earl chewed plant tags…) Most of them are highly fragrant and make lovely additions to your garden so I have many of them in pots waiting to be rehoused. I can’t think of a better place to plant them out than right next to the house where their delicious scent and beautiful flowers will be most appreciated. Most of our dwarf conifers are going to be rehoused in front of the deck. We will be strenuously researching their achievable heights before we plant them out because we don’t want to be “those sorts of people” who plant things out only to be hacking away at them for years to come. Conifers don’t take kindly to being hacked and need to be put where they can reach their ultimate height and width potential with ease. No crowding, not crown pruning no anything you lot! Conifers are sacred and need to be treated with the respect that they deserve.

You can get an idea of what we are up against whenever we decide to “head out into the garden” and do a bit of work. You can forgive us for hiding under the bed sometimes as this is what the entire front acre of Serendipity Farm consists of. Dense overgrown climbing “things” and poor long suffering half dead overgrown shrubs underneath. You will also forgive us if we don’t invite you around to Serendipity Farm in the near future as we fully intend on taking advantage of this nice cool spell of weather after the torrential downpour we have had for the last day to get stuck in and make a difference around here. We are starting in this area above, next to the house and out to the side of our bedroom and the lounge room. We are going to carve our way (using correct pruning techniques of COURSE Nat! :o) down through these invaders (that are fat and ready to reap and that don’t suspect that their days are numbered at all! Why would they? They have been allowed to grow unhindered for just on 20 years!) through these mangled jungle heaps like a hot knife through butter!

There is something very satisfying about hacking the heck out of weeds. Even if you do end up with a massive great pile of debris…

This is after I got “started”. You can see the buddleia’s and how overgrown they got. I love buddleia’s and want to keep them in the garden. They have a most delightful scent and the butterflies and bees just love them. They do need to be kept on top of, however, and we are just the people to dominate them! :o)

Our potted babies are starting to look less scared and the dense undergrowth is starting to wonder what hit it!

There’s a Cordyline australis there?!

Cleared out and decidedly denuded of weeds but looking like a hurricane went through. That’s what I mean when I talk about being dejected after working so hard because the results look like we are untrained plant mangler numpties rather than people who should at least know a little bit about what they are doing…

Do you get the idea that we love conifers? We are their indentured slaves and will remain so forever. They are some of the most neglected of all choices when people form their gardens in their minds but conifers have an amazing array of incarnations. Most of them are hardy and water wise and those that aren’t can be planted as understory plants. They come in a range that is most impressive, groundcovers, dwarf shrubs, many heights of shrub and small to gigantic trees. They are represented in just about every height and shape and you can find some most interesting colour variations and a conifer for almost every situation that you could possibly want. They add form, texture, structure and often a degree of formality to a garden that is hard to rival. Steve and I both fell in love with them after a brief dalliance with grafted maples. We still have our maples and they will be planted out along with their conifer buddies, but where we have about 20 grafted maples, we have more than 300 different kinds of conifers and many small specimens that we grew ourselves. We fully intend on planting the larger conifers out in one of the bush blocks further up the hill from the house. Once we plan and implement our conifer planting under and in front of the deck this area will become beautiful, structured and majestic. We intend on using bark, river stones and perhaps even a small Japanese style water feature to enhance their simple beauty. I have never been a great admirer of fussy or overly flowery things. I don’t mind shrubs but gaudy flowers are not something that I strive to collect. I love the simple beauty of conifers and their striking array of textures and various shades of green. They will be the foundations of Serendipity Farms newly incarnated gardens and will form the structure that we need to achieve and from where we will give this garden its new soul.

We often find little reminders that we are not the only ones living our lives here on Serendipity Farm

I think that poor date palm might need repotting? (and a bit of a feed wouldn’t go astray…)

Here is a picture of some of those pikelets that I made yesterday. I forgot to show you but the boys are most grateful that I know how to make pikelets (and know where the butter is kept) as they love them. The hens don’t mind them either on a cold morning when they are nice and warm and the cats/kittens also enjoyed their fair share

The 3 girls that Harvey chose waiting to be put into the 3 cat carrier boxes that Harvey and his 2 young boys brought to pick them up in. The brown one is the odd one out in this small group. The speckled black and brown one is one of our original girls and is just on a year old now. She went broody and hatched out that small black hen standing at the back. We called that little black hen “Gremlin” as her mum deserted her when she was a bit young and we put her in with Pingu for a while and she taught Pingu some bad manners. We let her back out to her fate and she is obviously a clever little girl as she has survived practically on her own despite her mothers total lack of concern. It is only fitting that she will most probably grow a lot larger than her mum and might even give her the odd peck on the head when she takes over being queen of the roost. I hope that Harvey and his family get many years of happiness out of them and that Harveys cats soon learn that these girls are cat savvy and will give the cats what for should they even THINK about stalking them…(and poor Harveys little dog won’t know what pecked it! :o)

Stewart arrives in Tasmania at 10pm tomorrow. He is taking a taxi from the airport as the girls don’t drive and it’s quite a trip from here to the airport and back at that time of night. Hopefully the girls cleaned up the unit like they said that they would. If they didn’t, they can suffer the wrath of their older brother. I dare say the three of them will have some fun in Launceston over the next few days. We are picking Stewart up on Saturday and bringing him back here for a brief visit before he heads over to Melbourne to hunt for a unit and start his new life there. How exciting! Hopefully he finds what he is looking for in Melbourne and is able to find his place in that big teeming metropolis. He is much closer to us now. It’s only an hour trip from Melbourne to Launceston (like travelling from the capital city Perth in W.A. down to Albany where he currently resides) and considerably cheaper than the same trip in W.A. There is a monopoly with the airway that services the Perth to Albany trip meaning that while you can easily get tickets from Melbourne to Launceston for $80, from Perth to Albany costs $280+ that’s what a monopoly will do for you! It’s the same as flying across from Launceston to W.A. That flight cost double the price of the flight back. Is there any reason for this? It’s the same trip…the same amount of fuel and yet it cost us half the price? It’s like the post office as well. No idea why, but we can send something from here to W.A. in 8 days. The same trip back over takes 5 days. Any reason why? We can get something from the U.K. in less time than it will take us to get it posted from Tasmania to Western Australia. I guess these are the mysteries of life, but I have a sneaking suspicion that there are some nefarious dealings going on! I hope Stewart has a few good days of stress free chuckles with his sisters. There is something about catching up with your family when you haven’t seen them for a while and apart from my earlier visit this year to W.A. for mum’s funeral, Stewart hasn’t seen us all since the Christmas before last. We had 2 cars then and he was able to take one of them and head off for a look at this beautiful state but this time he is at the mercy of the pathetic public transport system (better get used to public transport Stewart, buses, trams and trains will be your new mode of transport in Melbourne, but unlike here you can catch one every minute!).

The sun is coming out. There is something about a garden that has had an extended period of water stress and then a day of solid rain that makes you feel happy. I guess the plants are all turning their leaves to the sun and thanking God in their own way for their good fortune. The dust has settled, the hen scratched parched earth has been well lubricated and now the hens have to confine their dust baths to the immediate area under the deck where the rain can’t reach. The kittens are frolicking around in the sun and the hens are invading the entire front acre of garden. They have been becoming braver since they got big enough to stop themselves from being cat fodder. I think we lost 2 of our babies (both Effel’s…) to cats when they were very small, but now, the cats are scared of the hens and it isn’t uncommon to see them all laying down on the driveway together, predator and once prey all sunning themselves at once in relative peace. The hens wait around till we feed the cats in a vain attempt to steal some cat food while Steve tosses stones in their direction to dissuade them. The cats hiss at them and run for it when they head in determined to scoff some dog log (we feed the cats dog polony as it keeps better and they like it). Nothing is as it should be here on Serendipity Farm. The ducks boss the hens around, the hen’s boss the cats around. Earl is king of all he surveys, but he is impotent in his reign of terror as he is confined to the deck and house surrounds by high turrets…well the high fence that Steve built. Pingu has recovered from her broken leg that Earl snapped like a twig when he caught her on his venture into the chook heaven beyond the fence on the day before I headed over to W.A. she is walking around just fine and was actively running about scoffing pikelets from under her larger and slower siblings beaks the other day. I could hear the most indignant protestations of the 3 hens caged and now gone to live with Harvey and his family as they missed out on the feast and their recriminations about my obviously less than stellar parentage. I have taken to putting Bezials collar on him and taking him out with me to let the hens out in the morning. He isn’t a killer, he is an observer. He loves the chooks and just sits there sniffing trees while I let them all out. The ducks are very suspicious of him, but the hens seem to be able to tell that he isn’t like his kennel-mate “King Earl” who is NEVER going to be allowed out with me to let the hens out… “Fool me once shame on you…fool me twice shame on me!” (You have bucklies and none chance Earl). I have no doubt that Steve and I will head off into the garden today. It’s a perfect day for gardening. The recent rain has softened up the soil and we can get stuck in to removing some more debris from the garden and making another enormous pile of refuse that we will have to deal with later on in the year as we can’t burn off yet. Once we can get stuck in to burning off, we have enough material here to give us a week’s solid burning. We are starting to collect our winter wood for the wood burning stove. We have been using the gas hot water system and our little (well planned) gas stove top as well as the bbq outside whenever we want to cook something more substantial. We learned to use the covered gas bbq when we first moved here as that was the only oven that we had. It is amazing what necessity does towards you learning to use new skills. We actually like using the bbq to cook. It gives a bit of a smoky flavour and is a good high heat. It makes cooking potato wedges an easy event and the resulting wedges are crispy and delicious. We cooked Christmas dinner on the covered bbq with duck fat potatoes included with a highly satisfactory result 2 Christmases ago. Once the weather starts to cool down (its Tasmania…and the thermometer has nowhere to go but down…) we will start tentatively using our wood stove again. Bezial and Earl love the wood stove. They don’t give a stuff about how much we paid for it, if it has an enamel coating, if it heats water or if we can make the highest fluffiest sponge cakes in it…they just lay in front of it basking in the warmth. Bezial is a creature of comfort and in the middle of winter when the wind is howling around the house, the rain is pelting down and we can feel (if not actually see) the snow on the mountains “his” wood stove is the place to be. Bezial will be found at all times of the day lying in front of the stove. He will be in the way…but good luck getting him away from his lauded position. He will spend his nights laying in comfort on one of the arm chairs next to the wood stove. At least we will know where 1 dog is at all times….

I had best finish this post off here. I want to make a start on tomorrows post. I like to have a bit of post up my sleeve to be added to by the varying situations of the new day as I see fit. It’s my quintessential need to plan you see. I need that little bit of a start to give me some place to begin. At the moment I have no problems typing out posts and the words just flow like water from the tap. I hope that mental global warming never occurs and I have to mete out my words and count my mental tap drops, but until that day all of my thoughts just tumble out here for you to sift through and digest anything that you find interesting. Hopefully some of it will be interesting to most of you! See you tomorrow when who knows what is happening on Serendipity Farm, but you can only guess that it isn’t a normal state of affairs in Kansas!