Pasta sauce and preserving the harvest on Serendipity Farm

Hi All,

Another shopping day has arrived and Steve will be up at 6am for a quick cup of coffee and to grab the veggies and herbs that I have parcelled up for our daughters, the pile of seeds and a single eggplant (she is suspicious to the last! 😉 ) for our Friend in the witness protection and my library cards to pick up my holds at the library. I have been getting quite adventurous with some of my holds and am sure that one of the librarians is living vicariously through my choices ;). Steve loves the processes and the speed of shopping. He loves the mad dash to get to the shops just as they open and the natives are conspicuous by their absence. He gets the supermarkets to himself and now that we don’t have a massive shopping trolley full of groceries he can race to the finish line without having to feel guilty that they only put 1 poor girl on in the early mornings and that someone is muttering behind him because they only dropped in to grab a carton of milk on the way to the office. Steve has his little shopping processes and sticks to them religiously…starting with Woolworth’s and ending with picking up our chook grain from a local producer he drives like Sebastian vettel from shop to shop, out to Bunning’s (a large hardware chain store) to pick up our gas bottles and then back to town to see our friend in the witness protection at work and to pick up some tender baby leeks and black corn that she wants us to grow here to protect them from the heavy blankets of frost that she gets on her inland property (sharing means a more resilient seed bank). She bought some red flowering heritage broad beans and although I wasn’t in a position to grow them last year (before we built our raised beds) I handed them to Roxy, another friend of ours in the neighbourhood who grew them, kept half and passed the rest of the seed back to me and now I have some to share with our friend in the witness protection (I am going to have to start saying that as OFITWP 😉 ). We recently divvied up a stack of organic soil amendments that she had purchased and that we traded a stack of conifers for half of. Steve Solomon had recommended that we use these wonderful natural soil amendments and gave us soil prescriptions to remedy our soil nutrient problems (after we had a soil analysis) and all we have to do is mix up our amendments in the correct ratio’s to make our own C.O.F. (Complete Organic Fertiliser). If you would like to read a bit more about Steve Solomon who lived somewhere closer to Christi in Olalla Washington State (http://farmlet.wordpress.com/ ) than he did to us and then moved to Tasmania and is now a whole LOT closer to us than he is Christi check out this article in Mother Earth News. Steve started Territorial Seed Company in Washington State and now runs a small farm box business and develops new seed for our local conditions here in Northern Tasmania…

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/2006-06-01/A-Better-Way-to-Fertilize-Your-Garden.aspx#axzz2NowQKomN

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A basin of ripe tomatoes just about to be turned into unctuous Italian style pasta sauce

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Veggies and herbs

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Found spirulina! Once disgusting, now still disgusting but useful in my morning breakfast smoothies

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How much is in each tub?!!! I have 3 of them…should keep me going forever “I have an inheritance for my kids!” 😉

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Just be thankful…VERY thankful that you don’t have smellivision on your monitors 😉

I will be making pasta sauce with another large basin of ripe tomatoes that we harvested the other day. It’s the best way for us to make good use of our gorgeous ripe tomatoes and aside from a few damaged ones that are mouldering away in Steve’s shed to give us seed for next year’s tomato growing activities, the rest are being put to good use. We use a lot of “tomato sauce” in our house. Not the ketchup variety, but home made with onions, garlic, herbs and love. We used to use tinned tomatoes but now we won’t have to because I am freezing this homemade gorgeousness in small batches, enough for a recipe. There isn’t anything that you can buy from a supermarket that compares with the flavour of homemade. It might be an old cliché, but it’s true. The processes that need to be involved to churn out an endless supply of a specific product and have it turn out the same batch after batch render that product generic to say the least. So many additives are needed and the product ends up being beside the by compared to the process that gets it from its raw state to the can/jar on the shelf. If you can do it yourself, do it. It makes a lot of difference to your intestines, your self-esteem, your wallet and to your tastebuds. Rabid (Jessie from Rabid Little Hippy blog fame… http://rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com/ ) recently made something out of the wild hawthorns on her property. Aside from skewering herself on hawthorn thorns (kudos girl 😉 ) she got 3 jars of “something” out of a whole lot of nothing and made the most of the wild harvest that was sitting outside her door. I have to take a whip to myself mentally and flagellate myself because of my inability to organise and get out and harvest more blackberries this year. They were everywhere and my only excuse is that it was so hot out there I didn’t want to stand there picking them. A pathetic and most lame excuse indeed and one that doesn’t even wash with me! Lazy… sigh. I can make it up now with the bumper crop of ruby red haws that are presenting themselves like strumpets in the hedgerows and on the sides of the road at the moment. We also have glorious and fluorescent orange wild rose hips festooning the drab little shrubs in huge quantities this year. The long hot dry conditions have at least favoured some shrubs and we may as well take advantage of this. I am thinking “Membrillo” or the Froggy equivalent “Pate de fruits” or perhaps rendering them down into a thick paste and then dehydrating them into roll ups so that I can pull a bit off the edge to use to add flavour and texture to recipes. The hips will be made into syrup to be boiled slowly down or perhaps a type of rosehip molasses like pomegranate molasses to add a major hit of vitamin C to whatever I choose to use them in.

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Although the zucchini plants are sucumbing to powdery mildew at an alarming rate, the eggplants are soldiering on regardless no matter the weather

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I really love these long thin Japanese eggplants and will grow them again next season. Much quicker to fruit and ripen and they just keep on going…and going…and going!

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I thought this was a daikon radish when I saw it the other day…nope, an albino eggplant! I am going to attempt to keep some seed from one of these to see if it will reproduce true to type 🙂

As the pasta sauce simmers (and the dogs sulk on their respective couches by Brunhilda who isn’t even on to give them a reason to lay there) I will potter around sweeping the floor (a.k.a. moving the dust from one area of the house to another) and cleaning off the computer area. It’s really my area. Steve isn’t really interested in this workstation much. He would prefer to be “Off doing something” or watching television and playing one of his guitars at the same time (acoustically folks, he isn’t superman 😉 ). He practices scales while he watches TV. I spend my free time here researching. I have recently discovered several crafting blogs through Rabid and one of them belongs to Linne who is one of my new dear constant readers. Linne is a human dynamo! The things that this lady has done with her life proves her to be a true survivor and innovator of note and if you would like to check out her blog please head here… http://arandomharvest.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/giveaway/ her most recent post is about a very novel giveaway idea that she has come up with for her 100th post. I wouldn’t have expected anything less from this feisty and most wonderful lady than to donate money to a worthy cause in the name of the winner of her 100th post giveaway. The winner will get a chance to win a most gorgeous handmade quilt and know that the money donated in their name will be used to give secure safe water to a community. What better giveaway could you want? I love people like Linne…they don’t let life get them down; they just get stuck in and go lateral and find the answers. That’s my kind of peeps and whether you are from Canada (as Linne is) or Australia or Uzbekistan or anywhere else in the world your life can’t help but be more beautiful and poignant and meaningful if you actually apply yourself to living it wholeheartedly.  Linne puts me to shame on the craft fronts. I bow to her abilities and the crafty endeavours that she is involved with are endless. I dabble (rarely) in crocheting and will usually manage a row or two of knitting before either tension problems or Earl come to rescue me but Linne soldiers on and creates beautiful things from raw materials and is truly a wonderful ambassador for her ilk.

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What do you do with 2 litres of mature kefir?

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You drain it till it is quarter of its original bulk

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and you end up with the tangiest ricotta substitute you ever tasted 🙂

Linne and I were recently talking about how we need to preserve our traditions for future generations. The crafts that we do today for pleasure are the result of the necessities of the past and we need to be learning these crafts and pass them on. Linne mentioned a wonderful teacher who took their student charges out to learn from elders in the community. Aside from being a wonderful opportunity to forge community, imagine the skills that these children were able to learn? I think it is a wonderful idea. Apparently the teacher and children documented these forays into the community and what a wonderful learning exercise that would have been. Today’s political correctness would have that sort of community venture fraught with legal requirements and prohibitive insurance coverage rendering it near on impossible to do something as simple as share anymore and we are lesser people for our need to clog up any process with so many rules that we can’t actually do ANYTHING  anymore. Our parents and their parents seemed to manage alright playing on swing sets without a metre of soft fall underneath…sure they broke a few arms but they called it “experience” and were done with it. No-one expected “someone else” to pay for their own personal choices but now everyone seems to want to pass the buck. There are always consequences folks and even if we do manage to get someone else to pay for them, what goes around comes around and society is worse for our efforts.

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Freshly harvested walnuts “NO MORE FOR YOU RATS!”

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My work station to remove the husks from the nuts and toss them straight into the compost heap where they can leach to their hearts content. Note the chickens behind bars…a most satisfying situation 😉

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How disgusting do my hands look?!! I have to tell you that it was only 3/4 of the way through my shelling event when I rememebered that walnut husks are used to dye wood…and apparently fingers 😦

http://mysite.verizon.net/ELLshipmodeler/walnut.htm

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Some of the husked nuts showing you that we had a good walnut year this year

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They look like little brains…which is coincedentally what eating walnuts is very good for…your brain. (Note to self EAT WALNUTS! 😉 )

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Now I just have to let them dry out to store them in their shells

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This nut split while I was roughhousing it and the fresh nutmeat is very different to the dry nut we know well.

My new rss feed reader has me a bit flummoxed. It’s not that it is worse than Google read; it is just “different”. I am not a creature that likes change. I like my morning processes to be regular so that I can yawn and get out of bed, stumble to the kitchen (I am starting to sound like some song lyrics here 😉 ) in the dark and put on my clothes where I won’t wake Steve up. I then put the kettle on (still half asleep and half clothed because I have tried to put my shirt onto my leg 😉 ) and I turn on the P.C. and monitor to get them going ready for when my eyes have decided to focus on the same thing at the same time (Steve Buscemi doesn’t know that I borrow his eyes for a short period of time while he sleeps on the other side of the world 😉 )…my processes are my slow ascent into my days and each one primes me for my 3 or so hours of research, blog posting and eventual readiness to tackle my days head on (and at full speed once Steve and the dogs wake up at 7am) with a positive attitude and a readiness for what is ahead. I used to be a real grouch in the mornings and now I am practically Pollyanna ;). This new Rss feed reader is completely independent from a browser although I have to be connected if I want to update my feeds.  I can read to my heart’s content but at the moment it still feels foreign to me and hasn’t quite got me excited about my mornings. Google will be stopping their reader on July 1st. I am hoping that my feed reader (that currently syncs with Google Reader) won’t suddenly do a Millennium bug and “stop” when Google disappears. I have taken a backup of all of my information just in case it does (fool me once!) and will just have to head off (sighing heavily) with my tech savvy husband to find another feed reader that will support my 501 blogs that I follow (3 up from my last post 😉 ). Who would have thought that a Luddite would come to be so dependent on something technical eh? Certainly not this little black duck, but as a ducky style magpie my need to learn has overridden my bolshie need to stay put when it comes to technology and I keep forging ahead because it suits me to do so.

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Herman’s old sourdough pot being recycled to house flour and starter overnight for early morning cinnamon muffins

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After taking off the lid the sourdough is ready to be used in my muffins. I add kefir to my mix to ensure I get a really good rise and great flavour and digestibility with anything grainy

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The finished muffins. Poor Steve keeps getting more and more treats to eat and there is only 1 of him. Might have to start taking treats to the neighbours 😉

I should be reading my rss feed reader as I tap away here. It’s 5.42am and I will be putting the kettle on in a minute to make Steve his first and only cup of coffee till he gets home at around 11am. If I went with him (and God forbid…the dogs!) we would probably be still shopping at 3pm. Steve is a human one man dynamo who is able to negotiate the supermarket aisles with both speed and purpose, stopping only to help short elderly ladies to reach things on top shelves. Curiously babies and elderly ladies know with an inerrant instinct that Steve is harmless. He might appear to be a crazed trolley wielding maniac to most people but animals, babies and the elderly just “know” :o). Where other people tend to steer clear of us/him when we are on a mission (he is hardly “mainstream” material!) he is constantly being approached and asked for help by elderly ladies who he always helps. He is, despite his appearance, a most wonderful soul and always finds time to help someone who needs it. He is a crazy mix of incredible impatience that will have him twitching at a moment’s notice but an equally momentous stubborn streak that will have him labouring long into the night to ensure he is able to solve a problem or find a way to do something. We have to head out soon to attend our graduation for our Diploma of Landscape Design that we completed last year. We will wear gowns and will be presented with a bit of paper for posterity’s sake and will be applauded by an audience of our peers and who would care about it if we didn’t want to send Steve’s mum a photo of the event. Hopefully we will return to a home that hasn’t been desiccated by Earl and Bezial will be still mentally able to function and won’t be a dog perpetually mentally in the foetal position for the rest of his life. Earl has a way of making people twitch ;). We might even be able to meet our current lecturer at this event. Any lecturer worth their salt turns up to give their graduating students a bit of well-deserved kudos, after all, its these graduating students that keep lecturers in jobs. We will get Nat to take a photo of us in our silly gowns and if I don’t hate the results too much, you might even get to see them here…if you don’t…don’t ask! 😉

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I decided to use my mature kefir “ricotta” to make Steve a wonderful homemade lasagna. I had some of the aforementioned unctuous Italian style pasta sauce and decided to make lasagna sheets (after looking in the pantry and discovering that we didn’t have any…)

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Earl has developed a distinct love for raw eggs and anything containing a large proportion of eggs (think omelette, French toast and now egg rich pasta dough!)…don’t panic, he didn’t get that questing beak into the pasta, Steve removed him and all traces of his presence from the table quick smart! 😉

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A close-up of lasagne heaven

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Another case of “Not enough Steve’s” to eat what I make him…anyone want to be adopted (but only for mealtimes and coffee breaks!) 😉

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I would like to call this post “Windswept and interesting” and be done with it! (Note, Steve insisted on wearing those Cons to maintain his hippy dignity in the award ceremony…they worked…the M.C. (after delivering the correct Diploma spiel for me) announced Steve as “Steve Pimblett”… nothing else! Obviously he was so cool he didn’t need to pass anything to be given an award 😉

Another post is starting to draw to an end and I am constantly amazed at how avidly my muses direct me around the dance floor of my mind. I used to wonder at Stephen Kings ability to write book after book and now I know how he does it. He is harnessed to a flotilla of muses who are all forging ahead regardless and all he has to do is listen intently to their avid mutterings and he has his “words”. Mine flow out like overflow water from a rainwater tank and for now, they show no signs of halting. Whether that’s to your benefit or not I am sure you will work out for yourselves ;). I officially have 133 blog followers but I have more than a sneaking suspicion that most of them don’t actually read the blog any more. I have a close core of dear constant readers who grace me with wonderful comments and suggestions and I couldn’t hope for better. I am, indeed, a very lucky blogger. I get delightful regular spam that sometimes makes me “SQUEE” with delight because it is so hilarious…something along the lines of “I loved your blog and share with kids mine happy days you mate!” from someone called “BIG_willyforu”… how could you not love that eh? ;). Blogging has certainly made my life richer. It channelled my need to write and allowed me to quantify my own little world to share with the rest of you and sharing is what this is all about. I get the feeling that some people don’t really realise that. You can tell bloggers who are blogging in an attempt to elevate themselves up the social hierarchal structure…the “Look at ME” blogs and the “Aren’t I FANTASTIC” blogs…and I don’t follow blogs like that. I prefer real people who are open and honest about their lives and who like to share. Why would you want to follow someone who spends their posts telling you how great they are? Surely you should be able to work that out for yourself if, indeed the blogger is worth reading about? Every one of my 500+ blogs is worth it for some or other reason. They range from the blogging equivalent of rock stars to humble small blogs with very few followers and every single one of them is precious to me. If I follow your blog, you are one of the select groups of blogs that has made it through my rigorous selection criteria to get to where you are and I am a HARSH task mistress…a positive sadist when it comes to blogs so you can only begin to imagine how many blogs I reject ;). Ok, enough of this! We all have things to do this morning/today/tonight and we can’t be spending hours with narf7 on a quest to goodness only knows where…time to mentally disengage and head off into the real world and get “doing”… thank you all for sharing the time with me to read what I tap out here in my early mornings when my brain is fresh and raring to go…most of you won’t see much of 3.30am so I am glad to translate it for you. See you all on Saturday when goodness only knows what we have been up to but at least we are living it to the fullest :o)

When the end of the world is a better option than real life…

Hi All,

Remember when the queen of England said that it had been an “annus horribilis”? Well we just had one of those condensed down into a single day. It started out fine…Steve was off to do the shopping and we were waiting for the end of the world. He said that he figured that I would be washed off the planet before him as he was 50km inland from me and I was on the coast so he was going to phone me every 30 minutes to see if I was still there and to make sure that I answered the phone because he was going to look a right idiot running around the supermarket screaming “THE END IS NIGH!” to the bemused and jaded Christmas shoppers who were still milling around doing their last minute shopping in their hoards if nothing happened… by the way…the end of the world WASN’T nigh…it was another case of us giving some wide eyed loony the publicity that wide eyed loonies should NEVER be given because they tend to run with it and excite hosts of loonies that come flocking out of the woodwork (like zombies) to join en masse and start hallucinating together and causing murmurings in the fringes of the general community. If enough of them get together the mutterings can be registered all over the world and like any good rumour mill…enough muttering starts to give weight to the story, no matter how crazy it seems. We let the loonies take the stage and we actually gave them a microphone…while they were all fighting for the microphone and talking about their latest greatest doomsday prophesies the real world was carrying on regardless and our day started off innocently enough with me having to call our local income support centre “Centrelink” to try and sort out why they hadn’t paid us our student payment AGAIN…sigh…they are a groaning behemoth of a government department that is massively understaffed (how ironic that the workers keep finding themselves on the other side of the desk as the government keeps nibbling away at their population…) and as all good bureaucracies go, they do have to deal with an enormous workload and in the process of trying to keep us all honest, they make a lot of “interesting” decisions.

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A peek over the netting of the new chook pen with some incredibly contented chooks. Big Yin is VERY happy because he can see all of his remaining girls in one hit and everyone seems happy with their new situation…the pen extends to the left and right of this view and to the left there are large clumps of agapanthus that the hens are nesting and laying in…all’s well on the Western Front!

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I thought you might like to see how the little hazelnuts and walnuts we grew are going…

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The closest we are going to get to “snow” on Serendipity Farm 😉

As students we rarely have to deal with them. We receive a payment from the government to re-educate ourselves and ironically our payment is a lot less than that of people who are job seeking. We are not complaining though…we are just very VERY grateful that we live in a country where you CAN get income support to pursue an education to give yourself a better chance to find a job in a market place where the strings are stretched tight enough to give a Stradivarius a run for its money. Every time we get to the end of the year we have to inform Centrelink of our intentions to continue our studies next year…whenever we move on in our studies we inevitably hit the coal face of Centrelink and end up with a few problems…it is expected and this year was no different. We had a few teething problems trying to use the departments website and after informing them of our intentions to study and our course of choice we had our payments cut because they were too busy to update our details even though they were completely aware of them…a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing but again…we just saw it as an inevitable case of bureaucratic fumbling and kept wading through the mire till we informed the right people and everything got sorted out…this happened a few more times and we found ourselves phoning them up last Wednesday to see why they had cut our payments and after talking to a customer service officer we were under the impression that everything was sorted out and that it wasn’t our fault…she apologised profusely in fact, and our payment would be put into the bank on Friday…doomsday… we should have known that it was on the cards to be an “interesting” day…

I got the recipe for this wonderful stollen from a fantastic food blog called “The Vicar Died Laughing…” Tobi is an amazing baker and bakes scrumptious looking breads, cakes and all sorts of other wonderful recipes. I have kept his blog hidden deep in my rss feed reader but I think that as you have all been VERY good…I might just share one of the best baking blogs on the internet with my dear constant readers…

http://thevicardiedlaughing.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/stollen.html

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Prior to making your Stollen, you need to make your almond paste. I chose to keep with the frugal theme and skin my own whole almonds and process all of my ingredients together in my vitamix

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And here it is ready to store in the fridge until I need it…

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This pavlova is NOTHING to do with Stollen but who needs continuity eh? It’s a very overrated thing 😉

Our payment wasn’t put into the bank on Friday and as Steve headed out the door to do his doomsday/Christmas shop I was left with the unenviable task of phoning up Centrelink when they opened the phone lines at 8am. It isn’t uncommon to sit on the phone for hours waiting to talk to a service operator and with the entire department closing for a week over Christmas I phoned up at 8am on the dot! I was reading my rss feed reader and commenting on blogs while I waited on the phone listening to the solitary classical song that they play over…and over…and over…and over again after speaking as clearly as I could to the voice recognition software that they employ to infuriate you and ignore what you are saying and put you through to the wrong department…I finally got through to someone after going through an epiphany before phoning. I had been annoyed that they hadn’t paid us…I had the outrageous indignation of the slighted righteous unpaid student and had girded my loins for battle with the first service operator that I got to speak to (there is a reason why Steve deals with all phone calls to government and service departments! 😉 )…when I stopped in my tracks and really thought about what I was doing…we are so LUCKY to be in the position that we are in! We might have had our payments cut due to bureaucratic bungling BUT we at least “got” a payment and had the security of this payment as a backup unlike most of the rest of the world where social support is only seen as a luxury and a waste of taxpayers’ money. I immediately stopped feeling outrageously indignant…I didn’t have any right to feel that way. I was suddenly infused with gratefulness and thankfulness and rather than getting angry and indignant at the customer service operator I was going to be a beaming ray of pure sunshiny happiness and forgive them their extended ineptitude and scare the living daylights out of them with my shiny shininess…

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Mixing the fruit into the Stollen dough

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Spot the integral ingredient in my Stollen…

I eventually got through after several false starts…”No thank you”…I didn’t want to set up a phone account…”No” I didn’t have a pin number and “No thank you” I didn’t want to set one of those up either…I just wanted to speak to someone…(which meant, apparently, that I had to wait longer as people with phone accounts and pin numbers get served first…) and eventually after a reasonably short period of time I got through…I shone my shininess at the customer service officer…I beamed at her using my smiley voice over the phone…I commiserated with her over how busy and stressful it must be to be working at the coalface where most of your “customers” were stressed out individuals who were a taught string ready to snap at any given moment and after shining like a beacon of light I asked her why we hadn’t been paid…she then proceeded to pull the rug completely out from under me and say “because you have too many assets and your payment has been cancelled”… that answer came straight from side left and hit me right out of the ballpark…”too many assets?”… “EH?!”… we have been straight down the line with Centrelink from the very beginning and had told them at the start everything that we inherited when my late father died and had been assured that we were under the limit for the assets test that we needed to meet to continue to be paid our payment…according to this doyen of darkness…this purveyor of rug pullers…not only were we not entitled to our payment…they didn’t know why we had been allowed the payment 2 years ago in the first place! Forget doomsday cults…when your world and your security comes crumbling down around your ears the roar of the crazies immediately fades into the background and the “End of the world” fades into the background along with them…I now had the roar of terrifying possibilities to replace them!

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The dough ready to proof for 1 hour

Like all good terrified, rug pulled penniless student hippies who see their lifeline being surgically cut in front of their eyes I stopped shining and started to ask incredibly pertinent questions in an effort to go into damage control…the service operator told me that we would have to go to our local office to see what this meant and hinted that we may even have to pay back the payments that we had been paid for the last 2 years…Steve and I worry for a living…we can make a meal of stress and suddenly I was plunged into a 10 course degustatory feast of stress! I put down the phone dazed and confused and wondering “WHY?!” because the service operator (who didn’t deserve my “shiny happy” demeanour at ALL) had completely side skipped telling me anything or answering any of my questions with a bog standard “I don’t know…you will have to go to your local office…” all I could hear was “no payments” resounding in my ears and I did what every good panic merchant does at a time like that…I panicked! I phoned up Steve who was busy doing battle with the nana’s fighting over the last Christmas puddings and shared the load. Steve can worry for the queen and we both went into overdrive. Steve stopped spending and headed immediately to the local office to find out what was going on and a very nice lady in the office told him to bring back our rates notice for the property and a bank statement and as they don’t book interviews any more we would have to sit and wait to see someone. Steve came home laden with Christmas shopping and radiating stress…after a quick hug we both decided that a weekend of stressing and waiting for Monday to arrive to deal with it WASN’T an option…we like to deal with things immediately and so we threw the long suffering dogs into the car…we phoned up our daughters in town and gave them two options…”look after the dogs for us for a few hours or move”…they chose the former 😉 (Thanks girls, it was a good choice 😉 ) And we dumped the dogs unceremoniously and headed off with loins so girded that we could almost taste our underpants at the back of our throats…

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Stollen shaped and ready to proof again for 1 hour. You are going to have to wait to see them finished as they are just baking in the oven now :). Thank you SO much for this amazing recipe Tobi and for allowing me to share your wonderful blog with my readers 🙂

Steve dropped me off at the traffic lights and I waited in line while he headed off to find a park in a consumer stuffed city full of Christmas shoppers…I talked to people behind me in line…one very interesting man called Andrew had also had his payments cut because the lady that was supposed to phone him had gotten sick and not informed anyone that she hadn’t phoned up her customers and all 800 of them had their payments cut…I had read about a man who had gone to the Centrelink Ombudsmen (Yes…I had done my homework folks! I had done EVERYTHING possible to understand our “enemy”…it’s what I do best…would you expect any less of me? 😉 ) And had read about a man who was standing in line waiting for his appointment with Centrelink who had a grand mal epileptic fit. It must have been bad because the paramedics were called and while they were dealing with the hapless man, his name was called out and as he was comatose at the time, he didn’t respond. The paramedics told the front desk that they would have to take the man off for observation but apparently that wasn’t good enough and he had his payments cut! He had to go to the Ombudsmen to have them reinstated…that scared me…the power that this bureaucracy had to not only ruin someone’s life…but keep the process going for a long…long time and force this man who was obviously in the right, to go to an Ombudsman to get what he was rightfully owed had me worried. Like all good behemoths, Centrelink has an incredible degree of power over people’s lives and like all good bureaucracies, they regularly run roughshod over the top of their “clients” in an effort to keep the wheels greased and the machinery running…collateral damage is inevitable but due to our most careful and honest dealings with them and our incessant need to shove all correspondence and paperwork into our filing cabinet and our inherent lack of trust regarding past dealings with this bureaucratic giant we were armed with the right kind and the right amount of ammunition to pierce their armour plated tanks and get to the crux of our problem.

After waiting we were seen by the very same lady that Steve had talked to earlier and at this point I would like to say that this lady did EVERYTHING that she could to help us. I want to give this lady my shiny happy voice from earlier in the day but by the time we got to see her I couldn’t find it any more…it was girded inside my underpants too tight to extract and so she got my worried middle aged penniless hippy countenance to have to deal with and she gave us back our hope. She said “This is weird!”… She asked us some pertinent questions and she said “what did you two do to have this happen?”…after that she looked at our papers, she took them off to her boss and she returned after having made a decision with her boss to use our paperwork to substantiate our claim and reinstated our payments immediately. I don’t know if this lady has any idea how her kindness helped us yesterday. Her female boss, although unseen, pulled strings to give us back our lives. This pair of kind women gave me back my Christmas spirit yesterday and my belief in human kindness…Lord knows I would turn into a machine working for this massive department where human desperation was the norm rather than an aberration and where the coalface regularly exploded against the pitted side of “the machine” but this woman genuinely cared. I wanted to reach over her desk and hug her but I settled for thanking her from the bottom of my heart and giving her my special shiny smile because SHE deserved it :o)… the rug has been reinstated and aside from having the value of our “asset” in town (the home that our daughters live in) revalued by the self-same government department that set the rateable value last year at our request (so presumably we shouldn’t see too much of an increase on what they set back then…) we have better than average odds of being able to manage this situation. What was our own private annus horribilus yesterday has been salved… for now…

And this brings me to the end of my post for today…Its walnut day and I have spent the whole post crying poverty and the end of the world and haven’t even mentioned Earl’s walnutty abilities! I wanted to save it till last. I wanted to inject you all with the hope and the smiley happiness that you deserve for surviving not only this mammoth post, but also the apocalypse! We are all true survivors folks…just getting out of bed alive in the morning and waking up is a miracle but we don’t think about that…we just take it for granted that we are going to breath…that we are going to make it to the end of the road in one piece and that we are going to live to old age unscathed…its moments like these that we NEED minties! Sorry…commercial jingles have incredible power over you!…It’s moments like these that you really see what is important and like Sting crooned “how fragile we are”… we really have something to give thanks for this Christmas…our lives have been reinstated…we didn’t have to live off the “kindness of strangers” and Effel Dookark didn’t have to give up her life to become Steve’s weekly ration of meat and we didn’t have to suffer the indignity and dehumanisation of going cap in hand to various community agencies to ask for help to pay our bills…and in the newfound honest and true spirit of gratefulness and thankfulness that a period of dangling over the edge of a precipice can deliver to a person I offer you Earls little walnut of great happiness…

And the winner is…

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Here is the video of Earl choosing Christi from the walnut selection 🙂

http://s1101.beta.photobucket.com/user/bezial27/media/earls_zpsa783bf6e.mp4.html

As our last post before Christmas Steve and I would both like to wish everyone out there the most wonderful Christmas…no matter how big or small it is…no matter how many relatives you have to contend with…no matter what your situation or your story we are all united by a common bond here and the bottom line is that we are all incredibly lucky to be sharing whatever celebrations we are sharing with each other and NOONE knows that more than we do today :o)… see you the day after boxing day where life should have returned to a degree of something approximating “normalcy” on Serendipity Farm and the poignancy of girded loins and walnut draws have melted into the past… gone but NOT forgotten :o)

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The winning walnut with Christi’s new wooden spoon 🙂

Steve has just told me that he really enjoyed making the spoon for this prize draw and has promised to make more lovely custom wooden spoons for future Serendipity Farm draws so everyone that missed out on the spoon this time will have more chances in the future to own a little piece of Serendipity Farm 🙂

The New Costa and the U.K. Beet

Hi All,

Isn’t Christmas getting close?! I must admit we are a bit up in the air at the moment because my brother is supposed to be coming over Christmas with a friend but hasn’t told us when and as quintessential planners it is driving us nuts! We are in the process of relocating our chooks into their new enclosure and tomorrow they will all be inside the fence rather than outside looking in. It isn’t going to be easy for them and no doubt we will have some escapees that are going to have one of their wings clipped but today I took advantage of knowing that one of the feral chooks that remains (we gave 4 away recently) was clucky and her exact location so after putting up with a serious hen talking to I picked her up and deposited her in the new enclosure. I figure if anyone can find a chink in its armour it’s a clucky feral chook with a nest that she wants to return to. We are tidying up our woodshed and getting it ready for next year’s wood futures. After tomorrow I can start mulching the garden with the certainty that it isn’t going to be dug up directly behind me as I work. I have a love/hate relationship with the chooks and they are the most stubborn creatures under the sun! If they want to dig a hole halfway to China and spread dust halfway to Oklahoma they will! They only stopped digging the other day when they hit a buried dog bone and decided that it was time to start a new hole. After a year of learning to quash my frustration as they chooks defoliated, ate, dug up, scratched around and generally defiled my poor long suffering plants I find it hard to believe that pretty soon I may just be able to plant something will stay in the ground! Steve is whipper snipping the honeysuckle out the back that keeps trying to take over the world. So many dictators on Serendipity Farm! I wish that one of them would take the front running Napoleonic seat so that we could at least focus our efforts on a single enemy.

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Some gratuitous “flower” shots to remind everyone in the North that it IS summer somewhere in the world 😉

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A lovely Callistemon at our back gate in full  bloom relishing its newly cleared out status

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One of millions of Erigeron karvinskianus (Seaside Daisies) that call Serendipity Farm home

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A Stylidium gramminifolium (Trigger plant) in full flower taken on one of our early morning walks with the dogs

We have noticed a bird flying around that looked like a swallow and it landed on the deck the other day and Steve got a good look at it. He raced inside to tell me that it had a blue beak…time to Google that little sucker! In the process of identifying our new feathered friend which turned out to be a Dusky Woodswallow (Artamus cyanopterus) I found a fantastic Tasmanian blog about Tasmanian birds compiled by Alan Fletcher, a local man with a penchant for taking breathtaking photos of our endemic birdlife. It was very simple to identify our new friend using Alan’s wonderful site and after sending him an email to ask him for permission to use a photo from his site he graciously allowed us to do so and in return I urge you to head to Alan’s beautiful site to see just how special our native birds are. You can find a link to Alans blog and from there to his photo gallery above his photo. I loved his blog so much I subscribed to it :o)

http://tassiebirds.blogspot.com.au/

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Dusky Woodswallow (Artamus cyanopterus)

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Physalis peruviana (Ground Cherry or Chinese Gooseberry) with the lesser spotted “Earl” underneath

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Aeonium arboreum Zwartkop recovering from duck attack nicely

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A little cactus enjoying it’s sunny spot

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And this explains why Melaleuca linariifolia is commonly known as “Snow in Summer”…not sure what these little beetles are but they also love roses and banging themselves senseless on our windows at night

I am slowly working my way through my rss blog reader and have been finding some incredible posts. People are so generous with their information! I was looking for a way to make home-made banners of substance and style and found this shining beacon of a site that I now subscribe to…

http://katescreativespace.com/2012/12/16/in-praise-of-simple-pleasures/

Disclaimer: Do NOT go to this blog if you are likely to collapse into a sobbing wreck of a human being when faced with gorgeousness beyond belief, creative majesty to only wonder at and a severe dearth of anything…ANYTHING resembling we mere mortals normal lives. I go to this blog to see how the other half lives…it’s beautiful, it’s incredibly organised, its Pinterest ready and it’s my secret lusting station but don’t say that I didn’t warn you! Halfway down into this perfect post and I find that this lady reads! She is planning on tackling some novels for the second time and says…”They sit full of promise on my bedside table, and the anticipation of losing myself in them again is half the pleasure” Oh what a lucky woman! I have to hide my books in the spare room out of sight, out of mind where Earl can’t render them “snow” along with the rest of the couch cushions that live (quaking in fear) in our bedroom wardrobe and the overwhelming luxury of a stack of amazingly anticipated literature right at my fingertips let alone on my bedside table will remain a wistful fantasy until Earl loses his desire to chew, or his teeth…if I am being honest (and it’s STILL my year of living honestly…) even if I WAS able to run my hands over a stack of soul food…I would leap into the realms of my imagination and would manage a paragraph or two before I woke up with a crick in my neck and a most carefully and gently shredded copy of my latest paramour laid reverently and soggily in my outstretch hands an undetermined amount of time later…no more than I deserve!

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A Psaltoda moerens (Red Eye Cicada) newly emerged from it’s juvenile skin sitting on a large buddleia leaf outside our bedroom window

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You can see why they are commonly known as Red Eyes. After a few days their exoskeletons turn a very dark greeny black and they head off to join the clicking throng of their brethren in the trees

In another blog post I found this…

“The philosopher Diogenes was eating bread and lentils for supper. He was seen by the philosopher Aristippus, who lived comfortably by flattering the king. Said Aristippus, “If you would learn to be subservient to the king you would not have to live on lentils.” Said Diogenes, “Learn to live on lentils and you will not have to be subservient to the king.”

― Anthony de Mello

I really like this reflection on an interaction from a bygone era…it fits with my ethos of learning to live frugally, simply and in so doing, empowering our lives and allowing others to do the same. It delivers a fundamental message about which ferryman you want to pay and how you want to live in the process. I choose the lentils even though I am not overly fond of them because in choosing lentils I choose a degree of freedom and internal satisfaction that feeds my soul. I can align myself with the rest of the world and I don’t have to feel guilty about my choices in life but most importantly, I am able to learn how to effect a positive change in my own lifetime and feel like I am really living my life. That is something to aim for folks!

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We are still harvesting mushrooms from our veggie gardens courtesy of the mushroom compost mulch

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Check out the beets we grew! Steve made these into some pickled beetroot U.K. style (all vinegar and spice and no sugar) to grace our Christmas table next week

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Bezial giving our home grown spinach his own special “seal of approval”! (I hope you washed that before we made gnocci with it last night Steve!)

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My own personal vegetable gnome I found in the veggie patch :o) He thinks that he has a chance at beating Costa Georgiadis to the top spot on Gardening Australia…good luck babe…you might be cute but that beard needs a bit more “OOMPH!” before you become a serious contender 😉

Well today is walnut day folks! We will identify your possible ownership of Steve’s handmade Blackwood spoon and associate your hopes and dreams with a numbered walnut. We are going to attempt to video Earl selecting his chosen nut and one of us (the bravest…) removing it from Earl’s gaping maw in an effort to identify the number that he has chosen (he can have it back then!). This is your last chance to enter the draw to anyone out there who would like to enter. There are no conditions, anyone from any country can apply and the winner will receive a lovely handmade spoon in the mail some-time after Christmas. Today’s post is going to be a shorter post again because I have spinach gnocchi to make for Steve’s tea tonight. We are combining our desire to use leftovers (homemade bolognaise sauce) with vegetables from our garden (spinach) and make the most of our food dollars. Steve is enjoying all sorts of different food and hasn’t complained about anything that he has been served so the vegetable garden must be delivering quality veg. I noticed a plethora of little snow peas on their vines when I was watering today and will pick some when I am up collecting the spinach for the gnocchi today and I might just redirect the cucumbers from their determined efforts to scale the zucchini’s to the poles that we installed specifically for them to grow up. The tomatoes are covered in flowers but will definitely not be on our Christmas table but on the bright side, we will be able to grace our table with our very own home grown lettuce and salad leaves which makes it all the more special this year. It is a very interesting experiment and very rewarding to grow veggies. I recommend it to anyone. We have even started a new compost heap up near the veggie gardens in anticipation of needing a whole lot more compost in the future. I have plans for making strawberry beds and broad bean beds and have been contemplating sourcing some Jerusalem artichokes to set loose on Serendipity Farm behind the new chook pen. Before anyone tells me how exponential they go, I already know and I love it! :o). Who wouldn’t love sunflowers in spring followed by delicious knobbly roots in the summer…and who cares about the resulting sunchoke gas…we are descending into feral heaven on Serendipity Farm and we love it! :o). Another post down on Serendipity Farm in the middle of summer in the pouring rain. We just keep on saying “it’s good for the garden”…and you know what? It is! :0)…See you Saturday and good luck to everyone who has entered the spoon draw…

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Here are your walnuts folks! Check your nut against your number below and note there are still more walnuts…sad…lonely…unmarked walnuts that could be graced with your own personal number…

Spoon Draw
1. Rabid little hippy http://rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com
2. Spencer http://www.anthropogen.com
3. Little sundog http://littlesundog.wordpress.com
4. Kym http://brymnsons.wordpress.com/
5. Christi http://farmlet.wordpress.com/
6. http://www.bitesizedthoughts.com/
7. Bev from Foodnstuff http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/
8. Pinkus
9. Jean http://allotmentadventureswithjean.wordpress.com
10.Hannah http://bittersweetblog.wordpress.com/
11.8 acre farm http://eight-acres.blogspot.com.au/
12.Chica Andaluza http://chicaandaluza.wordpress.com/
13.Wendi http://scarsandallyoga.com
14. Thinking Cowgirl http://thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

In the (highly likely) event that Earl picks more than one walnut his actions  will immediately force a redraw…lets just hope that Earl doesn’t think that this is enormous fun or this draw might go down as the longest prize giveaway draw in history! 😉 and are you feeling lonely there Pinkus? That’s because you don’t have a blog! 😉