A.W.O.L. duck and the Lazarus chickens

Hi All,

It’s been an interesting couple of days on Serendipity Farm. Not because of any amazing projects that we have started or anything particular that we have done but more our day to day happenings are more interesting than usual. I received my copy of Sandor Elix Katz small handbook “Wild Fermentation: A do-it-yourself guide to cultural manipulation” on Tuesday and got excited all over again about fermentation. Today in the mail I got a package from Rhianna of the wonderfully informative sustainable blog http://rhithinkingfood.com containing some headily scented sourdough starter! I can’t begin to thank you enough for my wonderful gift Rhianna, as there are so many of us labouring under cold pretences here in Tasmania who have been attempting to get a sourdough starter going but who have failed. We would like to think that it was down to it being so cold. That’s our story and we are sticking to it! But this tiny beacon of sourdough light in our otherwise sourdough free lives is going to do some amazing trips around Tasmania once it has gotten over its shock of travelling from the Queensland side of N.S.W. down to the Antarctica side of Tasmania. I have named the starter “Herman”. Firstly, because it’s a running joke in our house that I call EVERYTHING Herman initially and secondly because most sourdough starters end up with a woman’s name and I think that my sourdough feels decidedly male. You might ask why I think an inanimate mass of fungal and bacterial symbiosis would give off testosterone and I will humour you with my reasoning.

  1. The Starter did NOT want to be contained within its travel container and as soon as it was handed over to its initial point of travel it promptly escaped and spent 2 days trying to find a way out of its bubble wrap enclosure (obviously has a fear of commitment…a most definite male trait…)
  2. It had the lady in our small postal depot (the local Sidmouth shop) sniffing every time that she headed out the back due to its heady alcoholic scent (most DEFINITELY male…)
  3. I hastened to feed it as soon as I managed to scrape most of it off its packaging and it settled down while I fussed over it and put it gently into a warm container and has now gone to sleep on the proving rack…I rest my case!

Herman it is 😉

My new little book that is teaching me how to look after my new sourdough starter

Herman all tucked up in my 2 litre pyrex jug with 200ml water and 100ml each of organic unbleached white flour and organic stoneground rye just before I covered him loosely with a clean piece of cotton material and placed him reverantly in his new growing spot on my bread prover above Brunhilda

The part of Herman that got away…

About two month ago we found a large pile of brown feathers suspiciously “Wyandotty” in colour and when we saw 2 wing tips attached to the feathers we automatically thought “feral cats!” Effel Doocark has passed on her stupidity genes to her offspring and her 2 sons (soon to be named “Soup” and “Stock”…) spend their days head-butting each other and the girls haven’t got a brain cell to rub together and hang out underneath the deck with the feral cats, coincidentally where we found the feathery debris of chicken demise. I did a bit of a head count and discovered that Effels babies had gone from 7 to 6 and knew where the feathers belonged. It makes it easier to think about dealing with the feral cat population on Serendipity Farm if they are abusing their privileges. We actually feed the cats to prevent them killing native birds for food and we thought we had an “understanding” with them about the chooks and up until now, the only chooks that the cats had dispatched were teeny little fluff ball chicks. We were understandably unhappy with the ferals and have been watching them carefully ever since. On Tuesday Steve found MORE feathers with tell-tale wing tips and that meant WAR! We seethed around for the rest of the day and the feral cats were very conspicuous by their absence however they have moved further away from the house now and we don’t see them as much through the day so it wasn’t really an admission of guilt. The next morning I asked Steve to count the chooks to verify what we knew…that Effel had lost another baby and curiously there were still 6 babies…hmmmm! If it wasn’t one of Effels smaller and stupider offspring…who did the feathers belong to? Later in the day we were outside collecting wood and chopping some wood for the fire that night and I noticed a pod of Effels babies laying around in the dusty soil underneath the huge conifer that the feral hens sleep in. I headed over to do a quick head count and couldn’t believe my eyes to find 7 chooks in a pod. I counted them again, I eliminated Bob, who was hanging about in the area who is a particularly small hen and who I tend to mistake for one of Effel’s babies…I counted again…still 7. I thought that the additional chook MUST be the smallest dark feral chook until I turned around and saw all three dark feral chooks grazing on the lawn behind me…Not only didn’t the feral cats eat the initial chook about 2 months ago…they didn’t eat one the other day! So who’s were the feathers?!!! Now we have a case of Lazarus chooks all over Serendipity Farm…perhaps even Zombie chooks! Who would know? All I know is that all 7 of Effels babies are present and accounted for and we still have all of our other chooks intact. Maybe the feral cats are extracting their revenge on the “honey + dressed ducks WITH a smattering of assorted chooks” man up behind us and are bringing their prey back to devour it here? I can’t think of any other explanation! We just thought of an explanation! When we were talking to the water meter installers we noticed that there were several small Wyandotte like bantams hanging around him as he ate his lunch. The property behind our 2 neighbours (Frank and Noel beside us) has free range bantam Wyandottes and the feral cats may just be poaching their hens and bringing them back here!  Pink, one of Felix’s initial kittens has been making fleeting visits back to eat at night time and may be the culprit. At least the status quo is still intact on Serendipity Farm! I guess there is a long standing poaching history related to Serendipity Farm. My dad’s curly haired retriever Milo was known on occasion to “retrieve” himself the odd chicken on one of his unsupervised walks. I dare say that if we allowed Earl to take unsupervised walks…aside from never seeing him again…if he DID return; it would be a case of the prodigal son dragging a fatted cow behind him with the ranger giving chase!

An earlier experiment using my Excalibar Dehydrator using pureed fresh fruit (strawberries in this case) drizzled over plain yoghurt spread on a piece of baking paper.

The pureed ripe mango version of the above…

Then I did the strawberry negative of the first variety…

Lastly I decided to make “the lot” in one fruit leather parcel of extra tasty delight. Every single one of these experimental fruit leathers were delicious! I will be making vegan versions in the coming months

We went to our friend in the witness protection’s property today to collect wood for our dwindling wood heap. We swapped wood for unwanted steel left on the property for a win-win situation for all as her partner is a welder and loves amassing piles of steel (much to our friend’s consternation). After we collected a really good pile of wood and our friend volunteered her land cruiser to tow the full trailer back, thus allowing our little Daihatsu Feroza to live for a few years more than it would have should it have had to drag that large load up our driveway, we headed back to her house from the bush to deal with her soil sample. We don’t usually collect soil for collecting’s sake, we did enough soil samples to last us a lifetime when we were all studying Horticulture together, but today was different. Today we collected soil for Steve Solomon. We are all getting our respected soil tested for a nutrient and chemical breakdown in a soil laboratory in Seattle which is pretty close to Christi of the wonderfully written and illustrated blog http://farmlet.wordpress.com/ fame and I am going to quiz Steve (Solomon) to find out just where this lab is so that should Christi want to have her own soil analysed, she can. It only costs $12 in the U.S.A. to get a full soil sample test but here in Tasmania, for exactly the same test it costs $149. I have NO idea why there is such a variance in price but can only imagine that someone somewhere is paying for their new Mercedes from hapless farmers and land owners. The soil was collected from various areas of interest around our property, mixed together, dried in Brunhilda’s coolest warming oven overnight and sieved to remove stones, roots and debris. The resulting soil looked more like burnt breadcrumbs than regular soil but I measured out the 60g sample required, taped our name, address and phone number written in indelible ink (so that the sample doesn’t get contaminated by ink) to the ziplock bag and passed our $20 fee across to our friend in the witness protection who dropped it off to Steve on her way home from delivering our wood futures to Serendipity Farm. On the drive back we talked about how people cover up their emotions and pretend that their lives are “Peachy Keen Perfect” when in reality EVERYONE has at least 1 thing that they would rather wasn’t happening in their lives. My somewhat new found zeal for honesty has at times made other people squirm. I have lost a considerable amount of weight and when I was attending polytechnic I was quite a lot heavier than I am today and whenever I would honestly admit to being “fat” people would fall over themselves to correct me and save me from my honesty! My friend from the witness protection and I are able to be very honest with each other thanks to her being a very open and honest person herself. I can’t understand people paper-machѐing their lives over to appear perfect to the world when the reality is that if they spent as much time sorting out their respective problems as they do window dressing for the Jones’s, they wouldn’t HAVE many problems. That’s my ethos and I am sticking to it!

This is what Serendipity Farm soil looks like when it has been dried and pulverised and sifted beyond the boundaries of soils endurance. It is a broken version of the remaining soils feisty self and hopefully it will yield its nutritional and chemical secrets more readily now

The double daffodils are starting to emerge now and now that they have the freedom to express their happiness at another year on Serendipity Farm they are doing it with style.

A batch of Eccles cakes that I made for a food-homesick old ex-pat who shall remain anonymous 😉

A large container (and extra paper bags) of various seeds that we have collected over the last year on our travels around Tasmania. I spread the contents all over Serendipity Farm the other day and was most bemused to note that the chooks were following me eagerly eating as many seeds as they could catch…I am the chicken pied piper of Serendipity Farm…sigh…

Glad, next door, is turning 90 on Saturday the 25th. We saw her daughter today when we were bedraggledly dripping our way around Beaconsfield after we walked the boys today after our wood collecting visit to our friend who is in the witness protection’s property. We figured that the rain had finished but the skies opened up and dumped their damp scorn on us for doubting the weather man and thinking that we knew best. Wendy told us that Glad was turning 90 and so we are going to make her a fresh loaf of bread (maybe even sourdough…), a small specially decorated cake and a dozen eggs to celebrate. It’s not every day that you hit 90 and still walk every day and are vital, alive and wonderfully vibrant with it. I dare say when I get to 90 (should I be lucky enough to make it…) I will have to be perambulated around complaining all the way like a female Victor Meldrew of televisions “One Foot in the Grave” fame. Glad is a fantastic example of how country living can do you good and aside from spending most of her days burning heaps of leaves and debris on the property with Wendy, she is as sharp as a tack. I often “feel” like I am approaching 90 after a particularly hard day in the garden and have nothing but admiration for Glad and her persistence. I think I might finish up this post here for the day. It’s getting dark and the boys still haven’t been fed. I need to cut up cat food to stop them predating the bird population overnight and Steve’s stomach is rumbling so for now, my dear constant readers, I bid you adieu!

“Chook eggs or blue duck eggs Glad?”