A nod is as good as a wink to a blind bat

Hi All,

What the hell is she talking about now? At least I don’t bore you dear constant readers ;). What today’s post is about is communication. That vital synaptic leap between the brain of one to the brain of another… a mutual process of understanding we know as “communication”. You might have the best most amazing idea in the world…you turn it around in your head, you feed it with possibilities, you craft it carefully and lovingly…you sample it and it tastes sweet and you want to share it with your friends but unless you are able to take that kernel of an idea and plant it firmly in the damp earth of someone else’s mind you are lost. I spend my mornings reading blogs through my rss feed reader. I keep evolving with what I do and don’t like and regularly throw blogs into the ether to make way for amazing new blogs. My new blogs are all about possibilities…fermentation, making things yourself, xeriscape gardening (and one combines xeriscape gardening with vegan cooking… what’s not to love!)And what I love about these blogs is their ability to communicate their ideas and processes with a wider audience. I am a processes girl. I learn through following processes and getting familiar with those processes. When my guitar teacher (who ran away from his wife leaving her available to become my dad’s partner and who inevitably left us Serendipity Farm but that, my dears, is another story! 😉 ) told me that practice makes perfect…aside from lying, he was outlining the perfect way for me to learn. Not everyone learns like this. There are many ways that people learn. Some people (take Steve for example) learn on the fly. They like to hurl themselves into the “experience” and pick it up as they go along. That way of learning scares the hell out of me! I need to start at a point where I understand “something” about the process and work in incremental stages from there till I arrive at the other end. To see Steve jumping in at the deep end and swimming with the fishes of his creativity is like being probed by aliens…frankly terrifying. Are you starting to get a bit of a picture of how difficult it is to sometimes translate what is going on inside “my” head to that of my wildly arm waving Don Quixote of a husband? 😉

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“Well what do we have here then eh? A lovely little Aussie Christmas beetle (Anoplognathus montanus) still hanging about after Christmas Day…”

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“RUN!”…

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The fixin’s for a batch of Steve’s favourite calzones. He has gone from being very suspicious about the idea of a calzone to demanding them on a constant basis 🙂

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This is a Boozy Oatwell Slice…the hybrid result of a man who just couldn’t make his mind up “I would like an oat slice…but then that bakewell slice you made the other day was delicious…and I could go a batch of eccles cakes…” rather than bake 3 separate things, I combined them all and a new classic is made…AND Steve loves it! 🙂

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“Quick Steve…get the chilli and garlic spray…there is something in the vegetables!”

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“Beetroots conquered and divided SIR!” Not only do we get the root but we get the delicious leaves to use like silverbeet in whatever we want. Tonight I am having some in my soup 🙂

Serendipity Farm is all go at the moment. Not the sort of “go” that eventuates in enormous swathes of things being done, but lots of little patches of “done”. I am spending a lot of time in the veggie garden much to Steve’s surprise. He expected that he would have to be the brawn where the veggie garden was concerned but Dame Elizabeth and mum are spurring me on and won’t let me rest if something needs doing out there. Yesterday I was mulching everything with some of the tinder dry lawn clippings and dead oak leaves that we got from Glad’s place. They were perfect to grab handfuls of and shuffle between the plants. The veggie garden is looking suitably smug now in its new blanket of deceased vegetative matter and I know that once it rots down it can only add to the fecundity of the soil. I am already learning the distinct benefits of being a “Doer”. This is my year of “Doing” and instead of thinking about projects I am actively hurling myself into them. When I say “hurl” I mean Fran’s planning type hurl rather than Steve’s jump in with both feet hurl. When mum used to be in her garden for most of her days I simply couldn’t understand the attraction…what is out there?! Now I know. Mum’s final communication with me (aside from her stint as chief muse that is…) was received, planted and has grown to fruition. I finally “Get it” mum :o). The sum of the process is worth so much more than the little bits that make it all up. We almost had an Hitchcockian case of extreme vertigo when faced with the garden when we first got here. Nothing would have changed unless we stepped out in the faith that we could, indeed, make a difference. We are slowly introducing cycles to the property…compost heaps to take care of green waste, food scraps and anything that will rot down to minimise landfill and to maximise our soil; vegetable gardens to feed ourselves; chickens for eggs, meat (roosters), nitrogenous manure and spent hay bedding that can be used for mulch and composting and many more. Today I took another wheelbarrow of oak leaves and dry lawn clippings to mulch the strawberries that are in containers by the side of Steve’s shed. I can feel the information that I have been collecting flowing out of me as I work…”make sure to cover all of the bare earth so that you minimise soil evaporation…don’t use the green leaves, make sure you only use the dead ones to minimise nitrogen draw-down…Don’t plant those chives with those snowpeas! They release substances that limit the growth of the peas…” It takes knowledge AND action to effect change. Incidentally, if you would like to see a good companion planting guide check this one out via Sustainable Gardening Australia…

http://www.sgaonline.org.au/?p=6986

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One extremely squished ex-golden nugget tomato courtesy of “The possums”…

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How much more fortification do we need?!!! Aside from buying a long metal chain and situating Earl in the wood shed to the right of this photo, we are not too sure what to do next…barbed wire perchance?

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Lets just call these pears “Romeo and Juliet” because they are together and still alive only because the possums haven’t found them yet…say goodbye to Romeo and Juliet 😦

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The butterfly Romeo and Juliet…for some reason butterflies love to hide under this tarpaulin where I keep the grass clippings and spent oak leaves that we got from Glad and every time I open it up, I find a few dead butterflies…

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The potato futures that we tossed into the compost heap the other day are all starting to grow!

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Some of the recent items harvested from Serendipity Farm including the rare golden nugget tomatoes (well NOW they are 😦 ) and a bouncy ball that was found in the bushy area next to the Auld Kirk church…”throw it over to the filthy heathens children…we shall save them YET!”

I have been singing the praises of the Tamar NRM for a long time now. They are an amazing source of information and practical application for how to manage your land using natural resources. Amanda, the powerhouse behind all communications and the lady that keeps everything running smoothly and efficiently recently asked me if I would like to write an article about my attendance at many of their workshops last year and how it has affected what we are going on our property for their next newsletter and I accepted. I just sent her 2 pages of words which was very difficult to do because my muses would have liked me to write a small novella, but for the sake of those reading (most probably mainly farmers who could care less to be honest) I reined them in this time. You can only imagine how difficult that was! ;). I sent a few photos to accompany the article but it will be interesting to see what Amanda does with my words and photos and how it looks in the next Tamar NRM newsletter. I might even link it so that you can all see it. Well the possums did it this time! I was out walking Earl this morning because Bezial is having one of his sporadic limping episodes. It curiously coincides with Bezial running maniacally around Serendipity Farm like a mad dog but he insists it is NOTHING to do with that. Earl and I arrived back home to Steve twitching more than normal. Apparently, while we slept, the possums decided that waving their hairy little arms through the bird netting to grab the occasional snack wasn’t enough…they decided to chew their way through to our tomatoes! We had a beautiful golden nugget tomato loaded with almost ripe perfect golden little orbs that were completely trampled flat and all of the gold stolen. I WOULD phone the police, but after heavily fortifying the entire “fruiting” bed (containing anything that a possum would be vaguely interested in…) and throwing some ex-fish farm netting over the top for good measure (they might chew their way in from the top!) we realised that what we had just made looked suspiciously like we were trying to hide “something” amongst our tomatoes…the spotter plane, most fortuitously flew over right at that time and we are waiting for the cops to bust down our door and demand to be taken up to see our illicit grown products. Best not trouble them while they are plotting the downfall of the Sidmouth 2 😉

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This is the “Queen of Hearts” jam making spoon with it’s own little heart for Valentine’s Day. It was a very clever idea but Steve isn’t happy with the watermark in the wood on the spoon bowl so away he went to make you another spoon…nothing is too good for our dear constant readers!

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Enter the gorgeous Ms. Myrtle…a stunning example of a local Tasmanian wood and something that I want to enter the draw for, let alone you lot! You get to choose which spoon you would like should you happen to win the spoon draw…be sure to let us know in time for this Saturday’s draw!

Well it’s spoon day again! Steve spent a few hours making what he called “The Queen of Hearts” on Thursday. He made it out of a lovely piece of Ash but in his haste he didn’t notice a little watermark in the wood that made the spoon look a little discoloured. Ash is pure white wood and this little watermark is very distinctive. He went to the trouble to make The Queen of Hearts spoon a true jam tart spoon with a little heart and a smaller tsp measure at the end for tasting the jam…you have to hand it to him, aside from being a great ideas man (re- booze bus…) he tried to make this spoon for multitasker’s…”make the jam, feed the baby…make the jam, put sugar in your tea…make the chutney, add some spices and salt…” but that little watermark made him twitch…he rubbed the spoon down and now it feels like smooth bone…light as a feather. Ash is hard wood…it broke 3 of his blades but this spoon is delicate looking. I can see this spoon lasting through the tough times, much like the Ash tree that it was made from, it is a stayer. Not happy with the watermark, Steve headed off and came back out of the shed today with a gorgeous Tasmanian Myrtle spoon. It is the most gorgeous colour and is just as light and smooth as the Ash but now he isn’t sure what to do with the Ash spoon. He has asked me to ask you to see which spoon you would like for the draw. Anyone who reads this blog, who wants to enter the draw for a spoon, please let me know in the comments and I will put you into the draw. This spoon draw will be drawn on Saturday so you really don’t have much time to get yourself into the draw. Steve wanted it to be drawn and sent so it has a chance to get to the recipient for Valentine’s Day and as mentioned, the choice of spoon is yours. Earl is twitching with happiness to be drawing another walnut draw. Little does Earl know that I have added a few ex-Christmas nuts to the bowl and there will be a choice of walnut, Brazil nut, Almond and Hazelnut. Again, if you would like to enter the draw please get back to us ASAP to get your name in the draw…we already have 7 people on the list so don’t wait or you might miss out :o). I will leave you with this Facebook reply that my little brother made when I was ranting about our recent tomato loss to the possums…

”I feed my possums to stop them running amok, and it works but the possums here aren’t as invasive nor as big as over in Tassie…brush tails ringtails and pygmies are full after a piece of bread some apple and a dried apricot. And because I’ve been bribing them with food, the nectarine tree near my back door has tripled in size and is well loaded with good fruit…in saying that, when the fruit has a week to go from being ripe and pickable, I’ll be camping out there with a metal colander /strainer on my head and a fly swat chanting subliminal messages to them under my breath.!”…

Oh NO dear constant readers…it runs in the family 😉

The return of the prodigal hen’s daughter

Hi All,

Effel Doocark died last week 😦 . She hadn’t been well for a few days and just suddenly passed away on what had been the hottest day so far this year. We buried her under mum’s memory tree so that in some way, she will keep going on in the cycle of things on Serendipity Farm. We had been trying to work out how to get one of Effel’s remaining two daughters and her 7 baby chicks safely past the hordes of feral cats and over to the new chook run where they would be safe. The hen was most determined in wanting to come up to the house, after all, it had been her home when she was chick free and she was darned well going to come back here come hell or high water! Unlike Effel, she is an excellent mum, as is her sister that we also kept. Her sister hatched out 14 babies in a shrub near the old chook coop before we added the new enclosure and was easily herded into the small enclosed area that we already had for the chooks and her chicks are 8 weeks old now and we recently gave 6 of them away to someone starting out again with chooks. We see them as we drive past their new home and they are happily scratching around in their new enclosure. Effels other daughter went further afield to hatch out her brood…for further afield read at the furthest corner of the property! She hatched her babies out under the massive big oak tree that borders Glad’s and our boundary line and stayed down there for 2 weeks till they got too big to live from the insects scratched from underneath the teatree area and that was when she marched on Jericho and decided to tear down the ferals walls of expectation. She did lose 2 babies in the process but when you see how many ferals are seething around you can only begin to imagine how determined this hen was to protect her babies. This morning when Steve was opening up the coop door for the hens to come out into the enclosure he noticed that she was standing over next to the door of the enclosure and called out for me to come and help him and we managed to coral them all through the door and into the relative safety of the enclosure! Now we have 2 roosters and a single young hen that roam free on Serendipity Farm. We just have to isolate where those early morning exploratory crows are coming from and we can catch them in the act and rehouse them. Simple things make you incredibly happy :o).

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This little Penstemon was grown by our friend in the witness protection from cuttings from some well established shrubs in her garden. If you want something that will keep on keeping on no matter how harsh and dry your conditions are enter the penstemon 🙂

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Buddleia globosa, just one of the buddleia’s that are thriving on Serendipity Farm after a good haircut. They are wonderful shrubs that will grow in extremely arid conditions, they attract butterflies and bees and have a lovely scent…what’s not to love?

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A white Buddleia davidii

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Anyone for puce?

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A different kind of cicada to the redeyes that have all but been eaten out of existance now. This one was lucky he was rescued from a very interested Earl who has been known to eat cicadas en masse…the only thing that saved him was he clicked and increased his “play factor” exponentially

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It’s a toss-up between Earl and these little guys as to who eats the most cicada’s. This little fellow has decided that this part of the deck is his and he can be regularly seen out sunning himself

Steve has just headed back out fishing for the afternoon. He is armed with several fishing rods, a new boat rod that he picked up for $30 from Tamar Marine (free plug because you are such great blokes! 😉 ) and all sorts of stinky lurey baity things that should dump a load of fish into his little tinny should he actually feel like fishing. Steve has fallen prey to pootling about in his metal coracle…he loves nothing more than perambulating his little marine craft gently over the river surface and going exploring. I, for one, am extremely happy :o). It’s good for people to get out on their own and do something that delights them. I have all sorts of things that make me happy…simple things like reading, writing blog posts, researching, reading my rss feed, learning things, gardening…are you getting the picture? Steve is a little more superficially manly than me. Aside from his newfound love of wood and it’s possibilities he has suddenly taken interest in repurposing things and is currently repurposing an old fridge that was in the unit out the back of the home where our daughters live that had died into a wonderful cupboard and recently made a very hand gadget for storing sauce bottles so that you can get the last dregs. We are even making our very first Instructable of it! Fishing has given Steve something to do with those questing hands and that ever twitching mind…the man needs to be constantly on the go and fishing is all the
“GO” that he needs. I love that he has found something that makes him incredibly happy and this afternoon he is sailing the high seas with his sandwiches and his sense of adventure. Whether he catches a fish or not is irrelevant. He found a portal to simple happiness and is exploring his world :o)

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A birds eye view of some home grown spinach and a gravity defying frozen banana in my vitamix blender

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A close up of a tbs of chia seed to be added to my green smoothie after it is blended

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The end result…”purest green!”

I am incredibly happy today. It might have something to do with my green smoothie cleanse that I have been undertaking since Wednesday. I feel great! I am also marvelling at how the garden is coping with “summer” and it even rained this morning. The dogs are lying on the deck in various degrees of slumber…once the sun heats them up enough they stagger, semi-comatose, inside where they flop down using the least amount of muscles into almost instant, albeit cooler, slumber. I have been out broadcasting chia seed as my last broadcasting event resulted in Nigella damascena (love-in-the-mist) growing all over the place! I am going to have to pick up some black cumin seed (Nigella sativa) to broadcast around if it grows that easily! The chia seed (Salvia hispanica) is apparently very easy to grow according to Spencer from Anthropogen

http://anthropogen.com/2012/05/26/lamiaceae-salvia-hispanica-chia/

Who gave me this reply to my query as to whether or not it might grow here in Tasmania…

“I think they’d do great in your climate. It originated in the western USA, all along the California coast to Mexico. It was a major staple food of indigenous groups in the area. Extremely nutritious. I tossed a few handfuls around on the hillside around my house in California on my last visit and they’re all growing now. Very drought tolerant when established….”

And that’s enough for me to hurl seed with gay abandon! I didn’t have a little basket to skip along with but I did broadcast the seed all over the place and it had just rained so you never know…some of the seed might make it. I love the serendipity of a garden and I love how if you let them, they evolve despite your best intentions. I have changed (some might say “devolved”…) from my initial desires to have “magnificent European style cottage gardens…a tangle of gorgeousness darling…” to “bloody hell those aggies (Agapanthus africanus) are great down the driveway Steve!”…I once HATED agapanthus; to my shame…I have changed from a plant snob through necessity. I consider myself chastened and flagellated. If it will grow luxuriously and it flowers beautifully year after year and it needs minimal ANYTHING and it doesn’t grow crazily so one minute you have space and the next it is full to the brim with said species…it is welcome on Serendipity Farm! My eyes have been opened to “real gardening”…no more pretty vs. productive…if it doesn’t have 2 uses and if it can’t survive on its own and it refuses to do what it is supposed to do without all kinds of cosseting and primping it is OUT. Enter the new chance to research annuals, perennials, ground covers, shrubs, climbers and trees that are water wise, drought tolerant and that will survive a bomb blast…my new best friends are slowly starting to amass around me…chia is in, because it is drought tolerant, has lovely flowers AND it gives you amazingly nutritious seeds…vegetable amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus), ditto…could even be considered a weed should I ever get stupid enough to not harvest it but what a weed! You can eat the leaves and the seed and it can be used medicinally as well. Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) has beetroot, spinach, the weed fat hen and tumbleweeds as its relatives and that qualifies it as a hardy specimen if ever I heard of one. Again I am consummately in love with gardening and the possibilities it has given us. Sometimes all it takes is a good result, a little bit of success to keep you in love with a process. I just planted some elderberries that I had dried a while ago after finding some on a shrub when we last went to the Evandale markets. I found a lot more seed that I had collected at the time and headed out to throw it to the 4 winds to allow nature to do what she will with the seed. If it grows, good on it, if it doesn’t, it wasn’t meant to. I got a new Milkwood permaculture post this morning giving a link to a wonderful free PDF about growing the right plants for our Aussie conditions to attract bees…the site is affiliated with the federal government and is called Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation. The website where you can download your own copy (remember to click “PDF Download”, the free option on the right hand side unless you want a $60 hard copy) is as follows…

https://rirdc.infoservices.com.au/items/12-014

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Lots of previously “lost seed” now found, distributed or planted (depending on its relevance to what we are doing) and the envelopes have been shredded in my little hand turned shredder and thrown into the compost…I wonder if any of these seeds grow? It is always an adventure when you plant seeds to see just what might grow. All of these seeds are very hardy so at least some of them should germinate

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A lump of oak branch that had blown down in winter 2012 that must be 100+ years old. Steve has lots of plans for this piece of wood from Bonnie Beach

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The good ship “Tubby Piggins” out on the high seas in rough conditions…it is VERY lucky that I wasn’t there because I suffer from motion sickness…and would be “feeding the fishes” 😉

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Steve’s clever idea to stop the frustration of trying to get the last bit of sauce out of the bottle…hang them upside down! Great idea… we just need to remember to close the lids…don’t we Steve! 😉

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Steve made this lovely spoon today out of golden sassafrass (Atherosperma moschatum) a wonderful endemic timber. He is currently working out what he is going to make for the next Serendipity Farm spoon draw. It cost almost nothing to send Christi her spoons and I can’t imagine it would cost much more to send them anywhere else in the world so we are going to carry on with our spoon, spatuloon, spork…whatever floats Steve’s boat on the day giveaways…keep your eye open for your next chance to win a one of a kind Serendipity Wooden accoutrement

While I was out broadcasting chia (might head out with some quinoa and amaranth as well in a bit…) I noticed something interesting. When we hacked back the overgrowth in the side garden next to our bedroom I decided not to waste this green haul. I finely cut everything that I could up and returned it to the soil as a very meagre coating of mulch. Some of this mulch consisted of small chunks of Buddleia davidii that have taken root and grown into small shrubs! I realise that Buddleia davidii could be considered a bit weedy but again, if it lives in our conditions, indeed THRIVES in our conditions and can survive what this property can hurl at it, it is welcome to stay. We have butterflies all over the place thanks to the Buddleia’s and that can NEVER be a bad thing :o). Our friend in the witness protection gave us some cuttings that she struck from her Pentstemon’s. She gave them to us because these perennials put on a glorious show year after year no matter what Mother Nature throws at them. Now THAT is the sort of plant that we want on Serendipity Farm! Tough as old boots, drought tolerant, showy, pretty flowers and bee and butterfly attractant. I think I might ask her for some more cuttings so that I can grow some more and dot them all over the place. A Wikipedia search curiously omits to mention that it will be cockroaches and pentstemons left to repopulate the earth after the next great ice-age but I guess the writer was only interested in the “pretty” value and not the hardiness. I am going to have the best time hunting around finding all sorts of gorgeous hardy perennials, shrubs etc. to be planted here that will give Serendipity Farm its own personality. I can feel the love :o)

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We headed up the hill today for our daily walk with the boys and after checking this little plant stall for anything desirable, I decided to take a photo and share it with you all. I have purchased lots of plants for Serendipity Farm from this little wooden stand

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I was attempting to take photos of the flowers of this Coastal Tea-tree (Leptospermum laevigatum) and noticed this little fellow trying, vainly, to blend in with the background. Coastal Tea-trees are incredibly hardy and are endemic to our local area. When the seed sets I am going collecting and will be attempting to grow some of these hardy bee attracters for Serendipity Farm

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Its no WONDER that little shiny insect was laying low! This rather more alarming insect is on the hunt for fodder for its young…

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Not too sure what this leptospermum is but its on the property and it is incredibly happy that we liberated it from forget-me-nots last year. It is also well past “shrub” and is almost a small tree

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Our driveway on the way back up to Serendipity Farm from our walk…nothing like having to walk up a 30 degree slope after a long walk!

The veggie garden is still going great guns and I picked 3 delightful small Lebanese cucumbers whilst looking for snow peas…I think finding produce that you weren’t even looking for makes you doubly happy as there is that serendipitous element when you are cutting back zucchini leaves and you suddenly find cucumbers sheltering en masse under the canopy…they are tasty little creatures too! Steve and I just ate 2 of them. He has a curiously U.K. desire to put them on his cheese sandwiches and to slice them up and pickle them…I love them straight with hummus which is how I had them for my lunch today. I recently read something very interesting “In a crisis situation, it isn’t the strongest or the most intelligent that survive…it is those that are the most able to adapt”…how interesting! The problem solvers survive eh? I have been trying to release my natural need to be in total control of everything this year. Last year saw us with a potential cataclysmic problem thanks to nothing that we could have prevented and I learned that “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. You need to be that person who takes it on the chin, who gets up and who finds a way through to the other side and I am in the process of learning how to weather storms. You have to be that problem solver, the one that they don’t eat because they are so incredibly valuable! I think that I am past “good eatin’” and am somewhat safe in that department but the reality is we are living in a rapidly changing world. Those of us who work to effect positive change on all levels in their lives are going to be more resilient than those who put their heads in the sand. I guess that is Serendipity Farm in a nutshell…an oasis of possibility and a plank/tightrope to walk for our own personal change. And there, my dear constant readers, I am going to leave this post for today. A bright summers weekend of possibilities lies ahead of us and we have all sorts of things to choose to do. Have a great one folks and see you on Wednesday where we may, or may not, have done something worth blogging about 😉

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One of the little figs that we appropriated from under an overgrown unkempt fig in Beaconsfield whose branches had layered. We got 3 large fig cuttings and every single one of them survived the winter in the glasshouse and are loving living on Serendipity Farm…Fig futures!

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Potato futures in one of our compost heaps

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The first of our corn futures

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I guess you would call these cucumber presents?

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And last, but by no means the least (because they keep on growing…more and more of them…they NEVER STOP!)…Golden zucchini futures 🙂

Bolshie broads and the lessons in a spoon

Hi All,

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

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

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

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

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

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Christmas dinner well underway…

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A mustard glazed ham covered in fruity goodness

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

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

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

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

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Almost finished aside from the handle and the final sandpapering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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