Adapting, endurance and a healthy dose of optimism

Hi All,

It’s only somewhat late in the human cycle of natural selection that we have turned into creatures removed from our own survival. As I wade through my rss feed reader and read many of the sustainable blogs that have been placed there for posterity I realise that many of them have resorted to doom saying to get their point across. I have to say that whenever I start reading something where the first line tells me that I may as well stay in bed today because the world is stuffed I tend to stop reading. I am not sticking my head in the sand. I am a very pragmatic person and tend to deal up front with anything that negatively rears its ugly head up on Serendipity Farm BUT when you read these fear filled posts full of doom and gloom the natural response is to stay in bed, pull up the covers and hope that it all just goes away. What the heck can WE do about anything these days? I have stopped worrying about global warming, peak oil and various other horrifying inevitabilities and have started living a proactive life centred on living sustainably and simply. I stopped thinking about things and started doing things. I decided to give up worrying about doomsday and follow Bon Jovie’s creed and Live while I am alive and sleep when I am dead. It’s our right to vote in the change makers. It’s our right, privilege and requirement to give a damn about our world and our communities and it’s our damned well right to be able to live with a degree of positive optimism rather than entrenched depressing negativity! I WON’T be staying in bed today because I read a blog that made me think that nothing that I do makes any difference…I WON’T be taking medication today because the whole world thing just made me feel so impotent that my limbs feel like I am working my way through pea soup just to get off my chair…nope…no-one is going to tell THIS little black duck that she can’t make a difference at least to her own little back yard. If more little black ducks stopped looking at the big picture and started to work on their own back yards there wouldn’t BE a problem. Humanity started this debacle and humanity can halt it. We might be going down the drain but at least we can sink swimming! No-one is EVER going to be able to say that I didn’t try.

This is the view 100metres down the road from the front gate on Serendipity Farm. If you look REALLY carefully (or are clever enough to click on this photo and make it bigger…) you might just be able to see the cheeky seaplane that skated underneath the Batman bridge (yes… it’s called “Batman” 😉 ). Steve LOVES the cheeky seaplane and envies his loopy ducking and diving ways. Steve has a bit of phobia about going out onto the river in the aluminium dinghy that dad left him. He worries that the outboard motor might not start and he will be left to fend for himself against the monster tides that occur twice a day and that come out of no-where forming large whirlpools out in the river. He envies the seaplane its ability to rise, like the phoenix, out of dangers way. No Steve…you are NOT getting a seaplane! 😉

Again…another gorgeous morning at Devils Elbow on the Tamar River and Steve still has seaplane envy as that cheeky seaplan pilot just skated under the bridge AND has started his ascent in this photo…click on it if you want to have even a vague chance of seeing the seaplane but if you are like most of us and are pretending not to need glasses…just look at the pretty view 🙂

This blog is never going to panic the masses (not that many of the masses come here often 😉 ) with doom saying. I want both my life and this blog to read like a positive series of self-help posts designed to get you all to think about your life, your place where you are at and how you can make your life happier, healthier and wiser. Not much to ask really…just think about things and see where you fit in the world and do what you can to make it a better place. Give someone a smile. It costs you nothing and even if it isn’t returned, it sent out a beacon of hope for a fleeting moment. You never know where your kindness will go. Communities are not born, they are forged. Hardship and endurance bring out the best in us. When the chips are down and all that…we have to stop focussing on fear and start acting like we CAN do something. The world is more resilient than humanity is. Long after we are gone it will be slowly moving ahead and striving to achieve equilibrium. It’s up to us to be reasonable human beings. I won’t say “good” because I know that I am not “good”. I try…but my natural questing mind, sense of outrageous indignation, bad temper and natural cynicism won’t let me be mindlessly “good”. It pays to ask questions folks…that’s how you keep your worldly goods ;). What I mean is that we all have a duty to each other. Without community, we humans can’t function. We need each other and the peculiar talents that each one of us was born with to forge these amazing relationships that can change the world. So we have screwed it over a bit too much of late…that doesn’t mean that we can’t reverse some of the damage and limit the fall out. Let’s all be positive here! Nothing much ever came out of being negative aside from massive profits to the pharmaceutical companies. We all have a place in this. No matter how big or small we are we are here for a reason and whatever that reason we should take delight in our part. Sure society might be heading for a meltdown…sure we might have to rely on smaller communities more than our enormous overblown infrastructures that have us so far removed from our base needs that our kids think that milk comes from cartons and that money grows on trees. One day we might need to discuss that credit also grows on trees…at least it does here in Tasmania! 😉

Last year I belittled the council workers who “ruined” a series of mop top robinias only to see them bounce back splendidly over the summer to form enormous lollypop canopies much to my chagrin. I muttered appologies under my breath all summer long but not THIS year…don’t say this little black duck doesn’t learn her lessons 😉

WOOT! We are rich!

One of the discarded iris rhizomes that one of the volunteers at the National Rose Gardens didn’t want any more and gave to us. Cheers mate! This one is lovely 🙂

This lovely Yucca was once dead…well obviously not completely dead…just mostly dead. It was languishing inside in a pot and had given up the ghost. Steve had killed a Yucca once before when he was living in the U.K. and so he refused to give up on it. Giving it the garden equivalent of mouth to mouth he planted it out into the garden to at least let it die free and it suddenly decided that it had something to live for and took off. We overwinter it in the glasshouse and its time for it to move back outside. We are thinking that we might plant it out somewhere sheltered this year. Might plant that Monstera out as well. What the heck…lets pretend Serendipity Farm is tropical! 😉

On Serendipity Farm we have a chance to do our bit for the world. We are trying to affect our own little biosphere of hope. Both Steve and I are happier, healthier and hippier than we have ever been. Living simply and close to the ground has opened up a world of possibilities for us. Far from feeling poor (although we are so far below minimum wage that it is laughable…) we feel positively rich in our abilities to do so many things for ourselves that we have a buffer zone of hope. Spring time operates on a different timeframe to the rest of the seasons. Everything goes faster. Steve and I have just spent a few days working on our Sustainable Landscape final designs to hand in next week to our lecturer and suddenly it’s time to post this post…it’s time to cook the Chinese feast that I have been promising Steve since the beansprouts I tossed in with our planting beans in the automatic sprouter went viral and I still have a whole lot of work to do tonight in my job specification. I wonder if the rest of the world thinks that we Aussies are so laid back because while the northern hemisphere is all ramped up on Spring fever we are actually settling in for hibernation. When you are all toasty and warm and rugged up in holiday mode for Christmas we have to hack a chunk out of our most productive time to make way for Christmas in the heat. We will be up to our armpits in food and dishes this Christmas. We talked to the lady who is organising the local free Christmas meal event and she said that they are expecting a lot more people than usual thanks to the state of the economy in Tasmania. They are predicting over 100 people for this tiny little backwater town and so every extra set of hands are going to be welcome. The boys will have to stay here and defend the fortress (and the Christmas grub) from marauding onslaught’s…good luck marauders…the only thing that the boys like less than burglars is burglars trying to make off with their special Christmas grub!

This rose reminds me of mum. It’s what she called a Bourbon rose and it has the most delectable scent. Whatever it is, it’s a survivor and every year it gets hammered by the possums and wallabies and springs back to life to flower on in spring. I love your tenacity little rose… just like mum 🙂

Minty stick legs all covered in roots! Soon to make their way outside into the garden to render me speechless at how exponential they go viral on my unsuspecting garden 😉

A tiny sprinkle of mung beans becomes this monstrous pile of sprouts if you give them the right conditions folks!

A little fig that we grew from cuttings taken from a tree that no longer exists. At least it lives on in this little hardy fellow who will soon be planted out with his brethren on Serendipity Farm

I am trotting back and forth between the keyboard and the chopping board…the keyboard now smells of garlic and celery and I am hoping that nothing nefarious has travelled to the chopping board. I am making Steve some steamed dumplings to go with his fried rice and stir-fried vege’s tonight. He also gets Chinese style omelette sliced up with his meal and I decided to try some of the black wood-ear fungus that we bought a while back. I love cloud-ear fungus but as the black fungus takes so long to soak and I tend to lose track of the day at the best of times…tea time arrives and the fungus is still in its packet…not today it isn’t! Today I got it out early, I soaked it for AGES and its waving at me like seaweed in the Baltic sea…sorry…I just waved back…Steve has a glass of his experimental skeeter pee that he added extra sugar to before he bottled it. It has completely changed and has a character like champagne! No lemon flavour at all…no sourness…just a myriad of bubbles and a definite champagne taste. I think we just invented Serendipity Farm Dom Perignon. I have been mincing chicken and mushrooms and adding various sauces for Steve’s steamed dumplings. I have yet to form them but that’s the quick part. I then pop them into the steamer for a bit to accompany the rest of his meal. We used to make “feasts” on a regular basis but since we moved out here and became a much smaller unit of humanity, we tend not to cook so much. I think it’s time to bring back feast day.

This has got to be the worlds most dwarf Ballerina apple in history! It stands at about 20cm tall and was grafted onto a low root stock as an experiment. As you can see it has flowered copiously this year! Should even 1 fruit set, we are going to have to put some ballast on the bottom of this sturdy little trouper or it will tip over with the slightest breeze!

As you can see…our tomatoes might be in prison but they are thriving!

Some of the 22 walnut futures that we grew from seed that we collected earlier this year. I LOVE food futures! 🙂

You don’t have to look very hard at all to see the adventitious oak tree that grew from oak leaf mulch under this Rhododendron. They seem to be quite happily living together at the moment so we are letting them share this space

Steve has been sent out to take photos to save me some time. We discovered that one of the feral cats got a bit clever today and decided to take a sniff at the boy’s meat that was defrosting. The bag was torn open and a large chunk of meat was missing! The dogs are NOT happy and Earl headed out to give the remaining ferals who were not taking advantage of the free grub fest a good barking to. As the weather warms up the mornings are lighter and brighter when we walk the dogs. It’s lovely to get out there and smell the fresh salty air and hear the crisp crunch of the gravel underfoot as we perambulate with purpose. Pretty soon when our studies are finished for the year we will have plenty of time to do whatever we want and take nice leisurely strolls but at the moment we are like field mice, scurrying back to our holes and trying to accomplish everything that we need to do to satisfy our lecturer. Sometimes AutoCAD decides that it doesn’t want to do what we want it to do and gives us little heart attacks in a box with statements like “Fatal error”…when you have been working on a design for 2 days solid and AutoCAD refuses to process your simple request and gives you a fatal error it tends to make you twitch a bit. We got over the hurdles and should be able to deliver what we said that we could deliver to Nick when we next see him. It’s Earl’s birthday on November 26th. He will be 2 years old. Bezial still doesn’t adore him to the max but he is learning to put up with him and Earl, to his credit, is starting to behave a lot better and actually think before he acts. It’s hard to believe that we have had Earl almost 2 years! I remember him as a gangly pup with enormous eyes and now we have a large heifer with Chinese eyes. I get the feeling that one of the people that we used to regularly meet up with on our dog walking forays out into the real world has decided that her pup was too much for her. No-one has seen her walking Tilly and we think that she may have found her a new home. I was thinking about this as I walked Earl myself the other day. Steve was working on his AutoCAD drawings and I couldn’t use the computer so I volunteered to walk Earl and headed up the hill towards Tilly’s home. If I had bought Earl and lived alone, I don’t think that I could have kept him either. He is a handful of a dog and despite being the most loving little man; he is like a tank on steroids when he gets hyped up. Steve was the only one that could manage him when he was younger and he only did that through sheer brute force. Earl is a different dog now. He walks well, he looks to us for cues and he can be walked past other dogs by simply using a treat to distract him. It makes me wonder how much we miss out on because we give up because it’s too hard. Earl WAS too hard folks! He was the kind of dog that your mother warns you about…a bandit…a thief…a soccer hooligan and a bully to boot BUT he changed into a wonderfully loyal dog who adores us. I am trying to say that we shouldn’t give up on things/people/dogs because they are hard. Often the most precious things come from a hard slog or a period of persistence against the odds. I love Earl. I wouldn’t have the life I have now without him. He is my boofy little mate and he snuggles up to me at night and gives me seal eyes if I try to stay on the computer when it’s time to head in to watch television. He takes
treats gently, he trots like a thoroughbred and he loves us unconditionally. It certainly makes me think about taking the road less travelled.

This is a native Tasmanian Richea dracophylla commonly known as a Dragon leaf Richea. It grows into a most impressive looking tall shrub and as you can see, it pushes its last years leaves out to form a flower spike underneath. We planted this little fellow out rather than see him hit summer for another time and he loves it where we planted him and is massed with flowers

This little baby is a Fagus sylvatica pendula “Aureum”. We paid an INCREDIBLE amount of money for this tiny little yellow leaved small tree but we love him and he got planted out underneath the deck steps where he has leafed up and is enjoying his nice shady position. Anything with yellow or white leaves tends to get sunburn very easily and if we learned nothing more from our horticultural studies, it was to take note of where you are going to plant things that you had to hock your children for!

Some of our bean futures (in this case Borlotti’s) taking up space on Steve’s Triton workstation. He is too busy studying to have fun messing about with anything in his shed so he doesn’t mind too much. When they get big enough to transplant they will be moved to the bean bed that we made last week

One of the very few remaining cacti on Serendipity Farm. Ducky seems to be giving this one a wide berth…cant for the life of me work out why? 😉

Ok, you get a slightly smaller post today because I am skating on thin ice regarding the Chinese feast…Steve is hungry and my stomach is protesting and I figure you won’t mind a smaller post thanks to springtime savings. Have a wonderful rest of your weekend and if something difficult presents itself…don’t take the easy way out…just try it for once and see if you don’t gain something precious in the process :o)

Sunny side up please we are Rebels with a distinct cause!

Hi All

We rumbled you Yin! We have gotten tired of waiting for the hens to come to their senses and start laying in the nesting boxes again although after finding a couple of suspicious eggs in the corner under the hay yesterday (and disposing of them somewhat gingerly…) one of the first golden laced Wyandotte girls that we initially bought decided that after she laid her egg today that she would take advantage of the nice new scented hay and go clucky! After picking her up…liberating the egg and releasing her into the main body of the coop she trotted over to the communal food bowl and spent about 5 minutes eating and THEN came out and lamented the loss of her egg much to Yin’s chagrin. Yin is incredibly suspicious of Steve and I now. We spent the morning cutting back and removing the old tendrils of the clematis that covers the side of the deck in spring and summer and then dies back to look tatty in winter. Earl and Bezial love their new view from the deck and can keep an eye on the feral cats and the chickens. After we dumped the pile of dead tendrils over the deck and swept it, I headed out with a trusty wheelbarrow and secateurs to snip up the tendrils to throw back under the clematis as mulch. I dare say Pingu will spread it all over the place but at least I am trying to do the right thing for the garden. While we were outside, me with the clematis and Steve cleaning out his shed and evicting its new chicken residents, Big Yin was strutting around watching us. We discovered 2 nests today loaded with eggs that he had made away from the coop and will be keeping our ears open for that tell-tale “I laid an egg” song that all of the girls sing once they have deposited their egg in Yin’s latest camouflaged nest. Once we hear them we can at least isolate where on Serendipity Farm they are in from the deck and we can head out to find them. They stop clucking as soon as they see us but by then it’s too late! We know where they are so we know in what proximity the nest is and Big Yin is WELL aware of this. No doubt today’s nests will be abandoned tomorrow and we will have to listen very carefully for the new egg laying calls. Yin was trying to stop his girls clucking today and it was quite amazing to see the lengths that he was going to, to distract us from heading over and checking the nests for eggs. Steve had eggs on toast for breakfast today and Bezial and Earl had a large omelette of some of the older eggs.

This is to show you all what our soil is comprised of…clay and rocks. As you can see this eroded bit on the side of the road is being held together by a most tenacious tree and you can see why it’s hanging on so tightly…if YOU had to dig through all of that you would demand the right to stay put too!

Just off to the right of this dirt road (a.k.a. Auld Kirk Road, just up the way from our home…) there is a massive drop down to the Tamar River. Steve would like it to be known that he has called this area “Dead mans gulch”…why? NO idea.

True love is sharing your pair of fingerless gloves when its 0C and there’s a wind chill factor. The only hand that needs a glove is the one holding the lead 😉

I just made a “Date luncheon” from an old Australian staple cookbook The C.W.A. Cookbook.  It was a tossup between the “luncheon” and a “meltaway”. I am unsure what either of those descriptions brings to the party but a date slice is the end result. The C.W.A. is a group of women who get together to form community in their small Australian towns and give each other support and solidarity. It stands for “Country Women’s Association” and thanks to our small population and the massive distances between some of these tiny little outback towns, this group of women may have been the backbone of many a “do” in Australia and are still doing their bit (albeit sometimes from a backseat position nowadays) to help their towns and communities. A “do” is when most of the town get together for some sort of communal event that involves “bringing a plate” (each family brings some form of food on a plate to share…I think the American word for it is Potluck?) and there is usually music, dancing, eating, drinking and hangovers the next day). It was an Australian woman’s right of passage to get one of these cookbooks given to her by her mother or close woman family member back when I was younger. If you couldn’t find a recipe in the C.W.A. cookbook there was something wrong! The book that I have was my dad’s partner Val’s with no daughters to pass it onto I would like to think that at least it is being used again and not languishing in a tip shop somewhere. By obvious deduction because of the inscription it was given to her by her mother, as was my copy that I have since given to my daughters. This one is actually from back when ladies (women were actually called “ladies” back then…) used to submit recipes to be added to the book and it comes from Western Australia where I hail from. It’s somewhat nostalgic to open its well-thumbed pages and see a recipe from “Barbara of Merredin” and feel an instant camaraderie with her. I know where she was (as no doubt Barbara may no longer be with us due to the age of the cookbook and the average age of C.W.A. members) and I know how hot her summers were and how dry it was. I know that the blowflies were almost as bit as the sheep in summer and that they clung to the screen doors in droves waiting for you to head off running to get the washing off the line before it crisped like overdone toast in the heat. I know how precious that tiny little patch of grass and usually mint growing underneath the tap near the tank stand was to Barbara’s psyche. Nothing like a Western Australian summer to teach mint where to grow and where NOT to grow. I KNOW that place. I have been there and I have had its dust on my feet and I have wondered way down in my heart just what makes people want to stay in places like this…but stay they do and I have had to live in places like this on more than one occasion in a past life. The modern copies are more generic and give you less of a sense of place than these old ones but there are still all sorts of useful hints and tips and it gave me my recipe for mum’s “Date sloice” and for that I will be eternally grateful.

When we were in Launceston on monday Steve spotted these old appliances in an electrical retail shop and ran across 4 lanes of traffic for your entertainment so please at least pretend that you are interested in them…

Imagine how excited someone once was to get this amazing contraption to help them do one of the most mundane tasks that would have taken most of the day to accomplish pre-washing machine.

This was the deluxe version and who wouldn’t want this amazing piece of last century technology gracing their laundry!

Last but certainly not least, this fridge would have probably cost a small fortune back in the day. I bet it still goes though! No built in obsolescence at the turn of last century.

The sun is coming up on another Tuesday on Serendipity Farm. I see most mornings settle in these days but the sun is starting to come up earlier. It’s now peeking over the windowsill at 6.30 rather than the respectable hour of 7 which is causing me some consternation. Sometime soon it’s going to get up before me and I will miss that magical time sitting here with the light on peering myopically at the enormous computer screen in front of me (“I DON’T need glasses!” 😉 ) and pondering the meaning of life, the universe and everything on my own while I slowly wake up with my first bucket cup of tea. It will slither under the door jamb before I wake up and the chickens will be restless in their coop at 4.30am in the middle of summer. Good luck to them getting me out of bed at that time of the morning to let them out! Crow away Yin, I AIN’T coming! I have been contemplating giving Big Yin lessons in how to open the coop door himself to make life easier around here but I can’t help picturing in my mind (and you won’t believe how pictorial my mind can be at times!) a midnight out breaking of chickens who then head off with kerchiefs full of grain tied to sticks (no shortage of them around here) to greener pastures. Or in layman’s terms…they will all head over to Glad’s place and move in! We haven’t had the heart to head down to Glad’s place to tell her that our chickens find her place more attractive than ours at the moment. It’s a bit of a sore point as we give them the best grain, the freshest bedding hay and constantly toss goodies over the deck rail for them. I am trying to reconcile it in my head and have come valiantly up with the fact that they have most probably eaten every insect on our property and hers is humming with them, but it’s more a matter of “the grass is greener for ingrate chickens” if the truth be known and we have to wrangle their protesting fluffed up feathery bodies back over a sagging fence with numerous holes underneath that the wallabies keep making despite us shoving rocks into each hole as soon as we find them. The wallabies want in which facilitates our chickens breaking out! Perhaps they are laying eggs at Glads place? If so she is welcome to the eggs and I can negotiate that around my guilt at being bad chicken herders as payment for the odd deposit left in a tell-tale place on her side of the fence.

The sun is coming up on another Tuesday on Serendipity Farm. I see most mornings settle in these days but the sun is starting to come up earlier. It’s now peeking over the windowsill at 6.30 rather than the respectable hour of 7 which is causing me some consternation. Sometime soon it’s going to get up before me and I will miss that magical time sitting here with the light on peering myopically at the enormous computer screen in front of me (“I DON’T need glasses!” 😉 ) and pondering the meaning of life, the universe and everything on my own while I slowly wake up with my first bucket cup of tea. It will slither under the door jamb before I wake up and the chickens will be restless in their coop at 4.30am in the middle of summer. Good luck to them getting me out of bed at that time of the morning to let them out! Crow away Yin, I AIN’T coming! I have been contemplating giving Big Yin lessons in how to open the coop door himself to make life easier around here but I can’t help picturing in my mind (and you won’t believe how pictorial my mind can be at times!) a midnight out breaking of chickens who then head off with kerchiefs full of grain tied to sticks (no shortage of them around here) to greener pastures. Or in layman’s terms…they will all head over to Glad’s place and move in! We haven’t had the heart to head down to Glad’s place to tell her that our chickens find her place more attractive than ours at the moment. It’s a bit of a sore point as we give them the best grain, the freshest bedding hay and constantly toss goodies over the deck rail for them. I am trying to reconcile it in my head and have come valiantly up with the fact that they have most probably eaten every insect on our property and hers is humming with them, but it’s more a matter of “the grass is greener for ingrate chickens” if the truth be known and we have to wrangle their protesting fluffed up feathery bodies back over a sagging fence with numerous holes underneath that the wallabies keep making despite us shoving rocks into each hole as soon as we find them. The wallabies want in which facilitates our chickens breaking out! Perhaps they are laying eggs at Glads place? If so she is welcome to the eggs and I can negotiate that around my guilt at being bad chicken herders as payment for the odd deposit left in a tell-tale place on her side of the fence.

One of the pretty little streets that we walked down the other day with our overexcited dogs in Launceston

When life hands you lemons…head off to the internet to find out what the heck to do with them all! I now know how to make lemon furniture polish…lemon curd… lemon syrup…lemon barley water and something called “Skeeter Pee” that I will share with you all in a future post…

Aren’t these 2 little pony’s cute? No doubt the next time we walk around Kayena, Steve will have hidden a couple of apples cut up for them. People must think that Steve has some sort of allure with animals as they tend to come running whenever they see him…I know why 🙂

Well another post comes to a close and I still haven’t explained the “Rebel” in the title. Well, today is Tuesday. Most people work on Tuesday. Today Steve and I are NOT going to work. We are being rebels. We are going to head out and enjoy our day doing whatever we please as yesterday we had to put our plans on hold and head into town to get another car battery as ours was threatening to boycott Serendipity Farm completely and we need a reliable car out here in the sticks. We spent the day pounding the pavement, drinking white mocha’s (Steve) and soy chai lattes (me) with the boys and doing our bit to educate the public about how loving they can be. We didn’t get back till late and we decided that we wanted a day off today and as such we are rebelling against our indentured study slavetude. Sorry Nick…we usually work like Trojans but today is OURS! See you all on Saturday when I will be able to share a day spent in town submerged in a series of Tamar NRMA sustainable living lectures (the first of a series of them this month that I will be attending and sharing with you all) and hopefully some photos to boot. Wish me luck battling the felt hatted brigade who will be out in force and hope beyond hope that the valve that keeps my trap firmly shut whenever I am confronted by people speaking bollocks is able to withstand the welling tide of retribution that floods up demanding to be heard! 😉

We invented this pie last night when Steve decided that he wanted a “Cheese, potato and spinach pie with fetta and ricotta made with home made butter shortcrust”…doesn’t look bad if we say so ourselves 🙂

Nothing puts fear into Bezial faster than the removal of furniture from a hitherto fully furnished house and today we emptied the kitchen living area due to an impromptu bout of wooden floor mopping…

Bezial forgave us for removing the table and chairs (that’s Earls recliner in the shot) because he could bask in sunbeams.