When more isn’t the answer

Hi All,

Writing is a struggle against silence.

Carlos Fuentes

Isn’t that lovely? I hasten to add that I hardly need to worry about the silence because whenever I get 2 minutes to myself the silence suddenly disappears into a frolicking dog, a husband who needs a hand with something or I fall asleep…hardly time to worry myself about silence but let’s just start tapping away to make sure that it doesn’t invade our psyche and do some sort of Freudian damage. I wasn’t sure what I was going to type today. We have been pretty full on with our studies this week and it is somewhat difficult to get back into the study habit when you have been luxuriating in all the free time in the world and being able to do whatever you want with said time. The course isn’t difficult but it is making us think a lot and is pulling us into a more creative frame of mind which suits both of us just fine. We learn something every day and Steve is picking up a copy of the student version of Adobe C.S.6 on Monday when he heads in to do the shopping so that we can launch ourselves into Photoshop 6. My wonderful kind younger brother bought himself a new camera not so long ago and gave us the perfectly good camera that he already had. This works out wonderfully because we really need a camera each for this course and now we are able to head off in different directions and take lots of photos for the course requirement. Steve is really interested in using Photoshop etc. and there are some very interesting programs in this package for writers as well. At least we are gaining a lot of information that is helping me, especially, to learn more about technology.

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The camera that my brother gave us. If you are reading “Cheers Jim! :)”

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On wednesday Serendipity Farm was dripping wet…today it’s sunny again

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The vacancy rate might not be anything to write home about but at least 1 wasp lived here over the summer season 🙂

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Serendipity Farms view of the Tamar River this afternoon

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A panorama taken with the new camera…not bad! 🙂

I pulled up the older corn and stripped the few cobs of corn from it. It wasn’t a huge success but at least we got some corn. The tomatoes, on the other hand, are going great guns. I just picked another large basin full of them and there are plenty still on the bushes. I picked lots of eggplants and I am tossing up what to do with them. I will give some of the tomatoes and eggplants to my daughters along with some zucchini and their creative minds can come up with something that they would like to do with them. No doubt it will be something Korean and delicious. Our chickens are still on strike and I am getting tired of “no eggs” as their mantra. I know that they are moulting but surely someone could lay an egg?! We are giving 6 away on Monday to minimise the flock a bit and we are also giving away some of Kid Creole’s coconuts (excess kefir grains) and I am feeding up Audrey to donate some of her to our local health food shop. David and Lee are lovely people who are very knowledgeable about health and when I asked them if they would like some excess kefir spotted an opportunity. I dare say they will be able to share it with customers who would like some. I love the way that generosity flows around. You pass something on to someone else, and they share with someone else and pretty soon everyone is sharing. I saw a really great idea on one of the blogs that I follow the other day. It was about a new system at the library where if you hold a library card you can take a packet of saved seeds to grow in your garden. Once you grow your seed and bring back seed to swap you can swap it for another packet of seed. I love the idea of using a library for more than just books. Libraries are hubs of knowledge for the common man. You don’t need the internet to take out a book and as your library card is free, the knowledge is also free…how precious is that? :o). I have been formulating my seed swap network along with designing a web page for the course we are doing. Steve is working on his spoon website to sell wooden spoons and I figured I may as well start where I meant to finish up and so will be working on designing and planning how to go about swapping seed in Tasmania. Firstly I need to get a network of people who are interested in saving and swapping seed and I might have to pick the lady who blogs at http://ediblethings.net/ mind regarding her seedy pen pal swaps and see what kind of swaps can be made. It’s an entirely exciting proposition and one that would develop a network of like-minded people and a virtual seed bank of possibilities for many others.

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Apparently my kitchen is part of the arch nemisis of Batman confraturnity  but even though I was on a considerable lean, you can see some of the harvest from this morning along with Kid Creole and his erstwhile coconuts awaiting their morning bath in fresh milk

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We seem to have a decidedly orange theme going on in the last 2 photos. I keep throwing found road things into that brass hanging pot and the blue thing on the top is my latest find. We discovered it on one of our daily walks and it’s the brass nozzle of a spray painting unit.

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I was testing out the new camera…Bernard and Manny our Java finches say “Hi” 🙂

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Still a bit orange but that’s mostly to do with the Western Red Cedar cladding. This photo was to show you how happy the yellow banksia rose is now that I have tipped a heady mass of mulch over its previously parched roots…it wants to repay me by taking over the house. Join the queue rose, Earl is first in line…

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I have just snuck this shot in as Steve found it and said “This is genius food!” He is going to buy some frankfurters and spaghetti on Monday in the shopping and is going to reproduce this amazing food. He also said “No kid would be able to resist these!”…obviously not… 😉

It’s the second day of autumn but you wouldn’t know it here in Tasmania. We have the promise of 27C today, 27C tomorrow and 30C on Monday. I am starting to wonder if summer is going to be the new black! I still have a big heap of mulch that I might start wheelbarrowing around to the side garden to try to give it a bit of relief from the long dry season that we have just had. I heard on the weather report that we have broken all of the records for temperature and for dryness in Australia this year and that’s not something to be proud of. They were saying that if you are 27 years or younger, you have no idea of what Australia’s “average” temperature for summer is because for the last 27 years we have exceeded it. I am not a fear monger and I am not in the business of trying to scare people but this long extended dry season is starting to make me twitch. I know that we aren’t the only people sick of summer. I read blogs about the flip side and how people can’t wait for summer. If I could bag it up and send it off to you I would folks! Most Australians would love to deliver a big bag of summer right to your doorstep for a bit of rain and a few days indoors near the fire. I am trying to work out what we are going to plant for winter crops this year. I haven’t ever grown a winter crop before and it’s a complete unknown quantity to me. I have been shamelessly pilfering information from wonderful gardeners like Sarah from the wonderful blog http://gardeningkiwi.wordpress.com/ because New Zealand is just a hop-step and jump from us here in Tassie and so what she is doing, I can surreptitiously pinch and do here. Sorry Sarah, remember that they DO say that copying is the sincerest form of flattery ;). There are some amazing gardening blogs out there and one of my favourites is http://www.sgaonline.org.au/ and I certainly get heaps of ideas from this blog but I like the personal touch of checking out what other people are doing just like me. I can learn so much from these more experienced gardeners and even though they might be on the other side of the world I also follow Margaret at http://awaytogarden.com/ that has a fantastic blog with amazing information. Her back posts are the stuff that this penniless hippies dreams are made of and she shares her knowledge so readily. Her friend Gayla is also amazing and has a fantastic blog called http://www.yougrowgirl.com/about/ all of these gardeners are our kind of gardeners…real people with real problems and solutions for what happens from day to day in their gardens. We might not have some of the pests and diseases that they have and they might not have some of the imported weeds that we suffer with but the online gardening community is an incredibly vibrant place to be and in sharing what we learn, we are giving someone else the chance to get down and dirty and fall totally and utterly in love with this big wide beautiful world. Getting your hands dirty is tantamount to a serious sensual awakening folks…you can’t help but gain something from the experience :o)

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Flower number 1. I found this nice little geranium, that has the added benefit of being scented, on one of our walks and took a piece to grow. Geraniums are incredibly hardy, waterwise and very easy to grow for those of you who aren’t gardeners and I plan on sourcing lots of lovely specimens for Serendipity Farm

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This pretty Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed Susan) is thriving in Steve’s shed. It is too hot to plant it out yet and once it cools down a bit and we get some rain I will be planting it somewhere in the side garden

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The Mondarda that I bought when I went to Wychwood has finally flowered. It too lives in the shed for now, but will be planted out in the side garden as well.

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I had just watered our potted plants and noticed this most interesting effect on a small Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ears) in a pot. I liked how the hairy leaves had held onto the water droplets

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My small potted fig tree has produced tiny figlets for the last 2 years but they dropped and nothing eventuated. This year it has 2 large figs… maybe I will get to try one? It all depends on whether the possums learn to fly… 😉

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One of the Nerine bowdenii that are flowering like crazy in the front garden and are making a lovely splash of autumn promise

It is getting hard to find nice pictures to share with you all. The garden has had enough of summer and we don’t have to worry about pulling weeds or mowing lawns in 2013 because they are all officially deceased. Brown is the new green in our neck of the woods and Tasmania is wet compared to most of the rest of Australia. Where I come from in Western Australia the vegetation is brown for most of the year as millennia of low rainfall has taught it not to trust dark clouds. You would be surprised just what grows in arid areas though and Western Australia has some of the most beautiful plants and wildflowers in all of Australia. I have one little bit of hope that at least nature thinks that it is autumn. The nerines are all flowering. It’s hard to believe that anything would have the will to flower when the soil it is growing in is little more than transient dust but flower they are and most beautifully as well. I have a cunning plan. I am going to formulate a list of very hardy arid waterwise plants (preferably perennials and shrubs) that I am going to source next spring to plant on Serendipity Farm. I am tired of planting things that need extra care when what we need are hardy plants that are just happy to be in the ground. No more mollycoddling plants and anything that doesn’t like living here won’t be getting any preferential treatment any more. We have been amazed at being able to grow plants like cardamom and turmeric and even if we have to resort to doing something like this…

http://permaculturenews.org/2010/01/11/free-hot-water-from-compost-wheelie-bin/

to keep our glasshouse warmer in winter and grow happy tropical rhizomes we will. Isn’t that a good idea by the way? The West Tamar council are trialling giving ratepayers a compost bin each to see if it doesn’t cut down green waste. At the moment the scheme is only available to the residents of Gravelly Beach but hopefully it will expand and we will all get one. Ratepayers can choose to use it as a compost bin or to put all of their green waste into it and wheel it out once a month to the curb to be collected by a council truck that will haul it off to be composted en masse.  I think it’s a great idea and if we do get one, I will make a hot water glasshouse heater with ours :o)

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We went to Deviot to walk the boys today and Steve liked the look of this shot…I like the look of it as well 🙂

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An Echinacea angustifolia growing inside the heritage apple and pear covered garden at Deviot. I am waiting for the seed to dry and will shake a few into a paper bag for Serendipity Farm

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The toilet block at the back of the Deviot Hall. I like these donated white tiles that were painted by the local children and their parents and that now grace the loo.

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Just to show you how dry our soil is here at the moment. This large crack was spotted on our walk this morning

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A ricketty jetty leading out into the river.

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Looks like Italy doesn’t it?

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Its been a really good blackberry season this year so far. I am doing my best to collect as many as I can to use my alchemy and turn into blackberry wine

It certainly took me a long time to get around to talking about the title of the post today didn’t it? Anyone who has been reading my blog for more than a few posts knows that I have been attempting to get healthier since my mum died last year in January. I took a long hard look at my relationship with food and decided that my 40 year love/hate relationship with food was officially OVER. I stopped dieting because you would think that if something was going to work it would have done so in the previous 40 years so I figured that dieting wasn’t working for me (or anyone for that matter) and started to eat healthy food, to exercise daily and to start coming to grips with severing the link between my emotions and my mouth. I weighed in at 90kg when I headed over for mum’s funeral. Not lightweight by anyone’s ideals and I had a lot of problems with my knees and was starting to think that I might actually need surgery on them in the near future. Since mum died I have lost 23kg. I now weigh 67kg, which might not be light by some people’s reckoning but that, is the lightest that I have been since I was 12 years old. I no longer have pain in my knees and although my left knee is stiff, it isn’t sore. When I gave up dieting I gave up so much more than an unhealthy relationship with food. I gave up the need to legitimise myself through food and my excuses for why I wasn’t a capable person. After just over a year, food is just that…”Food”. I no longer think about it every waking hour and that is possibly one of the most liberating things that has ever happened to me. I love to walk now and actually volunteer to walk Earl when Bezial has a sore leg. I have heaps of energy and have discovered that getting up early gives me some precious “Me” time every single day. I think there comes a time when we all have to question our bad habits and see if they are worth our support. My emotional need to overeat was holding me back from living. I can do what I need to do now. The only problem that I have is when Steve wants me to hold both dogs’ leads when he wants to take a photograph because now, their combined weight exceeds mine :o). The best thing of all is that I haven’t felt like I have been deprived of anything whilst I have been steadily losing weight. I plateaued at 76kg for about 4 months but then started having green smoothies for breakfast and suddenly I started to lose weight all over again. I don’t eat any less, I just eat what my body needs me to eat and I make sure to include healthy fats because despite what modern society might preach, we NEED fat folks. Fat is incredibly important for metabolism and for our ability to absorb certain vitamins. If you want nice skin, you need to eat the right kind of fats. I no longer have to starve myself, I no longer have to count calories, I no longer have to weigh myself morning and night and I certainly don’t have to strip down to my undies to try to eke out the best result. I am left lighter in body but more importantly, in mind, spirit and soul. I have been given a second chance while I still have time to enjoy it and I will make sure not to abuse this privilege

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This poor Stewartia pseudocamellia was on its last legs in the ground but we dug it up, repotted it and left it to soak in this container of water and look at it now! Plants are very resiliant things 🙂

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Some of the grape vine cuttings that struck…all of them will be planted out around the circumference of our large fully enclosed veggie patch

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These potted plants don’t get hit so hard by the direct sun because they are on the South side of Steve’s shed but they are still showing signs of being completely OVER summer

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The sole artichoke plant that survived. I think its simply because it is right near the deck in a semi enclosed area and the wallabies are too scared to get too close to the deck because the silent marauder lives on the deck (One of Earl’s pseudonyms…)

I am going to head off now and spend the rest of today hunting for recipes for ways to use up kefir. Kid Creole and all of his coconutty babies have been going nuts and producing a steady stream of yoghurt like kefir that I don’t consume and that Steve is wary of. I include it in Steve’s favourite sourdough chocolate cake now but 1 cup once a week isn’t going to empty my fridge of kefir and as self-appointed “house researcher” it is my duty to find useful and tasty ways to use it up. Wish me luck folks or we might drown in the stuff! See you all on Wednesday and make sure to take a moment out of your day to be grateful for everything in your life, It is a most rewarding practice and apparently, according to scientific research, it makes you a happier person and who wouldn’t love to be a little bit happier for free? :o)

Don’t sweat the processes

Hi All

We have been so very clever at sidelining life’s “Processes” as time wasters, energy robbers and too menial for our consideration that we have failed to notice that life is IN the processes. We have fallen victim to the hype and the advertising blurb and we have handed over huge chunks of experience and understanding and knowledge for something with an electrical plug and food prepared beyond its nutritional capabilities on a dyspeptic plastic wrapper and we actually believed that it would give us back something that we were missing…the ironic thing is that what is missing in all of our lives is the process that takes us from A to B to C and back again…the cycles that make up our birth, our life and our death are all interconnected and designed to teach us vital lessons so that we can live each precious moment of whatever time we have here on earth. I realised this when I was walking from my daughter’s home to where the Food Sustainability day was being held. I had an umbrella clutched in my hand to shore myself against the rain and soon fell into a regular gait that matched my thoughts. Where do we think we are going in such an almighty rush and what are we expecting to find at the end of it? Are we all losing our happiness in simple moments thanks to an exponential expectation of needs that we are assured are not (are NEVER) being met? I backed out like a hermit crab on steroids of mainstream treadmill hell quite a few years ago. I gave away my right to be a supermodel (an obvious choice), a superlative career on the stage (my 2 years of Speech and Drama assured me of something akin to acting Nirvana…) and any claim to being the most popular person in the world, a lesson learned way back at the age of 4 when Chad Johnson assured me of my position in the pack by telling me I was fat. I pushed Chad Johnson in the pond and was severely chastised for my efforts (but MAN it felt good to show him that assholes don’t always win and set me up for a lifetime of truth, justice and the Aussie way! 😉 ). I gave it all up folks for a chance to live a “real” life. To be able to take the time to bumble my way through my own personal experiences in my own good time and find out just what this life actually means to “me”.

Steve’s clever idea for how to achieve extra space on our countertops

Bags of mushroom compost waiting to be unloaded and stored for future use and for garnering a crop or two of mushrooms before that.

Glad (ys) next door is turning 90 on Saturday. We bought her a card with an elderly (no doubt younger than her but you wouldn’t know it!) lady with her bloomers in the air on the ascent of a ride on a swing. I dare say she will get her fill of flowery, sentimental cards. From her reprobate neighbours she will get her card with “Happy 22nd” written inside it, she will get a spongecake with some precious elixir jam from Olalla so that she can taste Olalla heaven at least once in her life and she will get a dozen Serendipity Farm eggs. I would give her 4 dozen but she doesn’t eat many eggs and my gift would end up a hindrance. Glad has taught me about resilience, about how living out in the bush all by yourself is not something to be feared. This 90 year old lady (and I use the word “lady” without hesitation!) heads out into her garden and walks around the block every day. She is as quick as a whippet and twice as fast in a verbal relay and if I wasn’t worried that she was thinking that I was “in her pocket” I would visit her more often. She grows vegetables every year, she laughs like a stevedore (I haven’t heard her swear but I dare say if she did, it would be with gusto) and she gives me the hope that old age isn’t all it’s made out to be. On the pointy end of 49 I am putting out my mental tendrils and am tentatively touching “aging” as one of my new parameters. Glad has shown me that it’s nothing to fear. That is something special and precious Glad, thank you for being our neighbour :o).

Spring comes to Serendipity Farm along with some purest green

I am relishing my penniless student hippy requirement to be thrust right back into the dreaded “Life Processes”. I am apparently a loser…someone who doesn’t consume much and thus a burden on society. The last sentence is not my personal view but that of any advertising agency in the world. I won’t be buying a new car any day soon…I don’t want to buy the latest shoes, makeup or haute couture…I am trying to minimise my spending and my carbon footprint down as far as I can and in the process I am automatically negated entirely in their eyes and I couldn’t be happier! I am really enjoying learning how to make sourdough and am bucking the trend for needing “more time for ME” in my life. I am starting to discover that “ME” is in the processes as well…I am finding my own personal rhythm, my own personal pace and mental alacrity as I tend the chickens, feed the sourdough starter every two days, fetch wood for the fire and I am finding a sense of peace, happiness and direction that only appeared when I gave up trying to keep up on that societal treadmill to nowhere. I like “wasting my time” for 3 days to bake a loaf of sourdough bread that is going to feed more than my body. I like pulling time out of my day to read…to research…to learn…to take my mind where it hasn’t been before. I might not be able to ever set foot on the moon (if, indeed ANYONE ever has…) BUT I am able to land my own personal mindspace craft on a new planet of information each and every day. What’s not to love about that? “Swings and roundabouts”…we make trades every day of our lives and how many of us actually think about the consequences of those trades that we make mindlessly and assisted only by someone with profit margins and not our own interests at heart?

Herman safely in his fruit pot. Note the bent lid…he has been forcing his way out!

Herman doing his best baby bird impression to get me to feed him

I am slowly (and admittedly fearfully) making my way through my rss feed reader that becomes packed to the back gills if I leave it for a single day, let alone a week. I love all of the blogs that I have crammed into my overworked reader and always greedy for something, I have stuffed my mind full of their delicious contents…can your mind get obese? I think mine is approaching Jabber the Hutt status as I type this. Hopefully I don’t have a mental coronary and end up sitting halfway through a post with far-away eyes (cheers for that one Mr Jagger 😉 ) and drool running down my chin but that’s the risk I take…”someone has to do it!” I absorbed so much information when I went to the Food Sustainability day run by the Tamar NRM that my brain got tired. Even with a few beige speakers who were intent on elevating themselves to some personal Nirvana by educating we lesser human beings (yeh like we NEED to know about pressure cookers or how little we know about soils actual chemical composition and how f@#*ing fantastic your own soil is!) that I could tune out and allow my overly excited brain a bit of a rest in-between the quality stuff, this little black duck wanted it all! I got all sorts of websites (curiously, the link to the techy beige persons amazing you beaut PDF for we mere mortals to gain his quality information from didn’t work 😉 ) to eke out my need to find out more. Some might call it nosey; I choose to think of myself as “pro knowledge”. I have been researching pyrolysis, biochar, permaculture and all things to do with food sustainability in our local environment and have discovered hectares of precious information for the taking. I feel like a rat let loose in a cereal factory and I can feel my brain swelling with each and every delicious morsel.

Herman and “the others” on the proving rack over Brunhilda

A quick hunt online and we suddenly had a solution for what to do with “The Others”

In the dehydrator soon to be joined by 8 more trays that after a day are just about dehydrated and tomorrow will be nice and crispy and dry and ready to crumble up and store away “just in case” or for any friends wanting a starter

I don’t think that I could ever be a “real” writer. I love words too much. I couldn’t cull them and cut them and my natural verbosity comes from a desire to cloth myself in description. I wouldn’t be able to keep an editor long because of my passionate desire to pad out life with descriptions. I don’t work well with others, ask poor Steve  ;).  It’s a glorious day outside! Who would have thought that the weather man could be so heinously wrong? I could have washed my blankets today…I could have planned a day out in the garden…I could have stood on my head in the sunshine and performed some complicated yoga move (I am sure I could find one online) but NO…I believed the weather man again and made plans for a wet day holed up inside. “Fool me once, shame on you…fool me twice, shame on ME!” No more Mr Weatherman! You have fooled me once too often and it will be a cold day in purgatory before I believe your silver tongue again! I am just waiting for Steve to make one of his new signature Serendipity 4Q hangers. He got the idea from a photo on Facebook and he has been ruminating about them ever since. He is sending one of them down the road to our friend’s house where I am just about to deliver 1 dozen eggs and a banksia that we grew from seed. At least ONE of our potted plants will find a happy forever home out in the soil. Our friend asked us if we would like any old rope net because he has been getting heaps of it from the local fish farm. Yes PLEASE! I can see vegetable gardens free of possum invasion in our collective near future! Generosity breeds generosity and I fully believe that if you are a generous spirit, when you need something, the universe will find a way to give it to you. That’s always been my creed and I am not going to stop thinking like that any day soon. It helps when you don’t have a whole lot of anything to be free with though ;). I love the bartering process. I love slicing the middle man neatly from the entire transaction and going straight to the source. I used to like watching Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall barter for what he wanted by working or cooking or doing other strange things to enable him to gain what he needed. I think he has underlings bartering for him now but more credit to him; he certainly puts his money where his ethics are so he is still my numero uno sustainability television hero of choice. I am a frivolous creature though, fickle to the core so don’t get too comfortable in your esteemed position sunshine…I am likely to dump you like a hotcake should you ever turn tail and head down the mass consumerist road like several of my past heroes have done!

I think I am going to enter Steve in the local Agricultural Show this year in the “Spongecake” class…I think he has a chance don’t you?

Herman after his measuring out and feeding this morning. Hopefully he doesn’t mind his new glass container (kids can be so tempermental!)

I have inherited a monster! I should have known when my new sourdough turned up smelling like booze and he had escaped his container that he was going to be a handful. I have the sourdough starter equivalent of Earl running amok on Serendipity Farm. 1 became 2 that became 4 that became 8 that went back to 5 because I gave 3 of them to new homes. Then we turned 2 into the 3 day project known as “sourdough bread manufacture”. Today we fed them and they took so much flour that I ended up with 2 large casserole dishes full of dough and a very large ceramic bowl overflowing with manic frothing vinegar hell bent on taking over the kitchen. I just threw every last skerrick of flour that we have left in the house into the bubbling cauldron and hopefully the inclusion of the remains of a forgotten packet of wholemeal flour might just suck up some of its enthusiasm. I feel like we are living on borrowed time and tomorrow…we bake! I am off for our first meeting of the Tamar Permaculture Permablitz Society. I just made that up. Really, we are just a motley crew of passionate misfits with a desire to change the world, one property at a time. I think I just created our advertising blurb! I have no idea who is going to turn up to this first meeting aside from me and Frances. Me because I need this and Frances because it’s her house so she doesn’t get a say in it. Again I find myself tapping away late at night after realising that I will be away most of the day tomorrow and when I get back I will be held in slavetude by at least 4 sourdough loaves that will be barking at their container rims and demanding that they be baked. I baked off some roasted veggies today including some lovely small parsnips, some carrots, sweet potatoes (both orange and white) and the remains of a pumpkin just about to turn various mouldy shades of the rainbow before I halted it in its descent into madness. I used some garlic oil that I found in the fridge that had a curious scent of cinnamon until I realised that I had omitted to wash the cinnamon out of the jar before I grabbed it to store the oil so I decided to balance the flavour/scent with cumin and coriander. I used some of the roasted veggies to line some miniature vegan tartlets that I made for tomorrows “do” and I made a batch of borlotti bean hummus to spread under the veggies. I made another batch of small tarts with some home-made roasted cashew cheese and asparagus, artichoke, grilled capsicum and mushroom and black olive. The remainder of the roasted veggies are going to be tossed into tomorrow night’s barley risotto, a nice easy meal after what promises to be a long and exciting day. I will take as many photos as my shutterbug fingers will let me as I want to share this process with you all. As we progress through our understanding of Permaculture and how to apply it to our requirements. In the meantime, I will be shackled to the kitchen counter feeding and baking sourdough bread. I half expected my sourdough experience to be a brief and sad affair resulting in something akin to a brick on a plate that I would put aside and rarely speak of again in anything but a derisory manner, however I was wrong! This sourdough starter doesn’t want to die; indeed it appears to have a very Napoleonic view of Serendipity Farm. Bring it on you sour froggie… the offspring of Attila the Hun is waiting for you! (Well…I DO have Germanic heritage 😉 ).

Steve picked me this bunch of free range daffies and in our recycled cut blue wine bottle who could ask for a prettier kitchen window? 🙂

Another manic week comes to a close. What is it about spring that seems to turbo-charge the environment and makes everything go so much faster? “I” don’t go any faster! I have a degree of internal excitement that would like me to go faster but I am doing my best to quash it before it erupts and causes me to do something that I may regret at a later date like order some kefir milk grains or start making sauerkraut. I think I will trundle my way into spring this time and remain aware, lucid and able to make credible judgement calls. The blackbirds, wattle birds, sparrows, wrens, Cuckoo Shrikes and every single hen on Serendipity Farm are on a fast track to crazy land but this little black duck is marching to the beat of her own drum this time! See you all on Wednesday and stand steadfast and take the change of seasons in your own good time :o).

Teeny tiny pertinent post

Hi All,

 

Cheers for humouring me when I occasionally need to share a thought…I had just posted the last post (er…not “The Last Post” with a cornet… but my last post in the blog…) and on the side of the post (where you can’t see…only me…the genius that posts the post…) they had this little quote.

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. Gustave Flaubert

Every time I post they give me a little quote from some famous writer to inspire me to greatness. Gustave Flaubert may well have been a great French author…but the book “Flaubert’s Parrot” was an abject self indulgent tug! I couldn’t even finish it folks…as a representitive of Mary Anne Schaffer’s Bucket List of books I had to at least give it the old college try but it was so pretentious and hard going I had to give it the old heave ho and just got another war book from the list to take its place. I will let you know how it goes…See you on Saturday and lets just hope most of you get this post as WordPress seems intent on making me invisible!

Chicken whispering with an axe

Hi All,

It suddenly turned into Saturday afternoon and this is the first time I have sat down to post since Wednesday so let’s just see how verbose I can be in a couple of hours…my guess is my inner manic muse won’t let me down and before you know it I will be teetering on the edge of 3000 words trying to think of bits to leave out. This week the weather has finally decided to reflect the fact that we are now most of the way through autumn and I am only just thinking about putting on jumpers. It’s not because I have become accustomed to colder weather, it’s because we have had unseasonably warm weather…some might call it an Indian Summer which leads me to believe that this winter is going to be VERY cold. I don’t mind. We have been gathering acorns while the sun shines…translated (from manic inner muse to “normal” human terms) that means we have been collecting wood like crazy in an effort to have enough for winter. I love cold weather especially when you don’t have to be cold and you get to sit next to a lovely warm fire crackling away, cooking your meals and heating your water. I need to keep feeling grateful about all of this because it will be several years before I am able to feel guilt free for spending the better part of the price of a cheap small car on a static heat source.

“Would you like fries with that? Please drive through…”

I was hunting for fungi the other day (it’s best not to ask…) and found this pretty specimen that had grown over a clover leaf.

Yin has been hollowing out dead trunk bases again to try to lure his girls away from the nests that I know about…one day Yin…ONE DAY!.. sigh…

We had a meeting with our lecturer this week and spent the day learning how to measure elevations with a theodolite. A theodolite for those of you not in the know…and let’s face it…before I did this course I would have been right up there with you… is a piece of equipment that takes horizontal and vertical readings (after you spend most of the day setting it up accurately that is…) so that you can get someone to pay you for this information translated into some form of plans involving the great outdoors. Architects and draftsmen use them…builder’s use them…landscape designers and contractors use them and now, so do we! Apart from looking suspiciously like Cybermen (Dr Who people…get with the programme!) they are most useful things that allow the person using them to find out all sorts of information that then allows them to fill out sheets using trigonometry to arrive at angles, minutes and seconds. If you are confused, don’t worry, you are not the only one! Mathematics and I are NOT friends. I realised the other day when I was banging my head on the table over Cos, Sin and Tan, that something must have happened to me at some time in the past for me to have completely bypassed understanding maths at all. I decided to head back into the ether… back… WAY back to where I would have been learning my 6 times table (because that is about where maths and I parted company). I discovered that year 5 at school is approximately where you learn you’re 6 times table and you start to get familiar with simple fractions (the beginning of my mathematical mental breakdowns). I played around in my mind with what was going on when I was in year 5. In Western Australia, you are about 10 when you get to year 5…

I always thought that it would be nice to have a dress the colour of the sky when it was just about to drop a massive deluge of rain on the earth. Even when I was a child I was a mental hippy ;o)

Here is a midden of oyster shells. The good folk of Paper Beach have decided to eradicate these oysters (apparently “introduced pests”…not sure most people would think of oysters as pests but it takes all kinds to make up a world…) from their pristine chunk of riverbank and have erected a sign asking everyone who takes a stroll up the beach to take one of the buckets (conveniently located on nails sticking out of a pole in the ground) and fill it up with oysters. I get the sneaking suspicion that most of the locals like the odd free oyster or 2 (on months with or without “ber” on the end of them…or is it the other way around?) and that this enterprising idea will meet with a lukewarm welcome. I think I might start bringing buckets of these oyster shells home to crush up and use as  slug/snail/duck deterants around my succulents…

3 little sage plants and a healthy little chive plant picked up last week on the progressive garage sale

I thought more about any events that may have affected me and had one of those “Epiphany” moments. My parents split up when I was in year 5! We then proceeded to go through a pretty traumatic time being bundled from relative to relative until mum could find a place to live and despite me not having any bad memories about that time it obviously affected me more than I was aware. I didn’t think that I was too traumatised by this event and had a bit more of a think about my past and realised that year 5 was the year that I was taught by Mr Pages-Oliver…a thin dour man who spent his life frowning and sneaking up on unsuspecting students and slamming a metre ruler down on the desk to startle them. Mr Pages-Oliver who terrified the living daylights out of me, coupled with my parents’ marriage dissolving when no-one else’s parents were separated let alone divorced, must have had an educationally disastrous effect on my 10 year old virginal maths (and spelling) mind. You really don’t realise how important it is to have teachers who want to teach. I can count on one hand the teachers that I know who are passionate about teaching students the subject that they are employed to teach. Most of them see it as a job…you do it, you get paid, and you have more holidays than the average person. I can’t blame them. I was going to be a teacher and circumstances saved me from becoming the jaded, world weary English teacher that I could have become. As much as I love sharing knowledge with people, the school system is not set up to enable teachers to teach. It’s not only students that fall through the cracks…it’s a rare teacher who survives to long service still in possession of their early passion to teach. Mr Pages-Oliver couldn’t even lay claim to that long term loss of hope because he was a first year out Teacher! What possessed this young man who obviously hated doing what he did to take up teaching is beyond me. Perhaps the saying “those who can…do…those who can’t…teach” was true of Mr Pages-Oliver…all I know is that the rest of my school life was spent unable to comprehend all sorts of very important concepts because of the interruption to that most formative of years. I thought I hated maths when I am actually well suited to it! Now that I am grasping concepts that should have been taught to me more years than I would like to admit here ago, I am actually enjoying the mental processes that trigonometry and working through mathematical formulas is giving me. You owe me Mr Pages-Oliver!! (You also owe my year 12 Maths and Economics teachers who probably had nervous breakdowns after trying to get me to understand what they were telling me!)

The spent hay that I am just about to remove from the chicken coop.

Mucking out the chicken shed might not be my favourite way to spend a morning but the resulting nitrogen rich hay makes amazing compost and fills up 3 lasagne beds so it tempers the job and makes it a lot easier to get stuck in when you are getting fertiliser for free!

The rear of the chicken coop along with what we used to use to feed them (before the great population explosion of 2012). Steve found plans online for how to make a gravity fed chook feeder and it worked really well until we ended up with too many chickens to use it. Now it just sits there doing nothing but act as a night time perch for one of the fatter less agile chickens at night

Tonight we decided to allow Effel to go into the main roost with her fellow adult chickens. She has been perching in here every night for the last week and Steve has been having to grab her and toss her into the outside area where we erected a covered area for Effel and her babies to ensure at least some of them grew to adulthood (remembering she had 12 when we first put her in there and the reputation of being a TERRIBLE mother…). We put this lower perch up for the babies as Effel leaves them huddled on the floor. Steve just reported that Effel and her favourite baby are up on one of the high perches and the remaining babies are on the ground…oh well…back to the drawing board :o)

On the way home from our lecture we dropping in to pick up a jar of sourdough starter that a lady I met in the library in Exeter gave me. She wasn’t home and left us a message to pick up the starter and a bucket of globe artichokes which we dutifully did. We had a little look around her garden and it inspired me to get going with lasagne gardening in earnest. I have been putting off starting the process of growing vegetables for ages, mainly because there are so many factors up against us doing so it is frankly logistically terrifying to contemplate. We need to find some way to stop the hens, possums and wallabies from scoffing our efforts. We need to create irrigation systems for the garden beds because vegetables are very water intensive. We need to do all of this on less than a shoestring budget and using our ability to think laterally and problem solve and use what we have available to us here on site. The more I delve into permaculture online, the more excited I get because apart from lauding recycling and reusing, these sites actually share with you how to effect these changes cheaply, because penniless hippies are highly proportional in the permaculture community. Thank goodness that penniless hippies like to share because otherwise Serendipity Farm would be a barren wasteland forever! The lady that gave me the sourdough starter had made an amazing difference to her small property using hay bales, lasagne gardening techniques, no digging, and all a work in progress that looked fantastic. My kind of garden! Quirky, plants everywhere, veggies in the flower garden, a pond in the middle, a small pen of suspicious chickens and rocket and other herbs growing in every crack in the home laid paving. It all melded together to give a truly homespun and thoroughly delightful garden that I now realise is totally feasible for Serendipity Farm. This lady, who lives on her own, has just “started” and keeps going. Steve and I are rank amateurs when it comes to vegetable gardens and living in the country and I could procrastinate for the queen (Gold medal procrastination 101). Monica showed us that gardening is more about getting started and finding your feet from there than it is about creating an instant oasis of beauty. Again, the process is where you learn the most so I guess we are just going to have to get started with solving the problem of how to keep everything out of our veggie gardens and how to afford to fill our raised veggie garden beds and somewhere along the way we will discover that we have actually accomplished what we set out to do! We walked the dogs this morning in Beaconsfield in the misty crisp part of the day where walking is actually enjoyable. It warms you up and makes you feel glad to be alive. The past few weeks of rain have allowed the grass to turn green again and gardens to start looking like they might contain something other than hay. I needed to pick up some organic spelt flour to feed the sourdough starter that I had been given and so we dropped in to the café that doubles as a tiny health food shop to see if we couldn’t pick some up. I was very surprised to be able to buy spelt flour in Beaconsfield but the population is starting to change from mine workers to younger families moving away from the city because housing is much more affordable in Beaconsfield and surrounding districts. I remember my dad once saying to me that he and his partner could have bought just about every house in Beaconsfield when they first moved to the district. The Beaconsfield mine was silent and had been for many years. The town was limping along wearily and house prices were ridiculous. The company that took a chance on using modern technology to allow them to extract more gold from the mine were able to make it last for 20 years but in June this year the Beaconsfield mine is going to close again and the main source of income for the locals will be gone. It’s easy for corrupt state government officials to hold up the bell bay pulp mill as being the answer to Tasmania’s unemployment problems but this is simply a fabrication. The truth of the matter is that this mill will employ skilled workers that will be imported from elsewhere. Tasmanians are not known for their educational prowess and most Tasmanian’s work in blue collar jobs. Rather than retrain these people and have to face up to years of woeful educational outcomes, our state government would rather lie to them about the future of forestry, pulp production and mining in this state. We can’t afford to keep going the way that we have been in this state for the past 100 years. We need to be able to find employment in sustainable opportunities rather than exploiting our dwindling natural resources to our own detriment. In Tasmania we are just treading water but selling us down the river to the highest bidder (or most corrupt business) isn’t going to solve anything. It is just going to relieve the ‘heat’ from our state politicians and allow them a bit of breathing space to weasel out of the problems that bad governance has tumbled them into over years of negligent and nepotism in this state.

Steve has just spent the afternoon removing and disabling programs to make our laptop work faster. We had the misfortune of buying it loaded with Vista (sigh) and we are just about to take it to have XP installed because Vista righteously SUCKS! It is now running heaps faster and until we can remove Vista from the face of Serendipity Farm, we can live with it…

In keeping with our “work with what you have” ethos accompanying our “recycle/reuse” ethos here are some of our avocado plants overwintering in the glasshouse. I have NO idea what the possums and wallabies will make of avocados but fully intend on kitting them out for jousting on the joyous day that we plant them out in their “Full metal jackets” (Bring it on possums!)

Heres a lovely little Banksia serrata that Steve was going to turn into a bonsai after seeing a particularly magnificent specimen at the Launceston Bonsai Centre. I think it would look lovely growing in the garden but need to argue the point with Steve who is still tossing up whether or not to give it a good hair (and root) cut

Bollocks to food miles…we will just grow our own! This is a coffee plant…yes…we know that Tasmania is not known for its tropical clime but we are ever optimistic and one day we might be hotter and wetter than we are now and our little coffee plant will be given pride of place where it can grow and give us coffee berries to be roasted (hopefully not after being passed through Earl…) and ground on site making Steve’s morning brew carbon neutral!

I picked this little Camellia sinensis (or tea plant) up from a little nursery up north for $3. I will be heading back to see if I can’t buy some more as I drink a whole lot more tea than Steve drinks coffee ;o)

I had to laugh this morning when I checked my Facebook page and noticed one of the pages that I like had listed “Joe Walsh” as against alternative thinking people. I had a think about that and couldn’t for the life of me work out how someone who had imbibed more than his fair share of nefarious substances and who was right up there with Ozzie Osborne in the shambling mumbling living dead stakes could string together a coherent sentence about alternative lifestylers let alone use so many large words!  To show you what I mean, check out this evidence that Joe Walsh is on another planet to the rest of us (please forgive the bad quality but it’s the only video I could find of this to share with you)… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1mG0feiEc0 I rest my case! I went hunting to see what had riled this ex Eagles guitarist/singer up so much that he would start spouting politics as his new mantra and discovered that he isn’t the only famous “Joe Walsh” and that there is an American congressman called Joe Walsh as well. It shows how small our world has become now and how social media, especially Facebook, has allowed us to become privy to all sorts of worldly events that a few short years ago we would have had no knowledge about at all. I can only imagine how entertaining Joe Walsh and Ozzie Osborne would be should the American public ever get desperate enough to elect them to congress. I think that a jaded American public could do much worse than have to watch backbiting self-serving congressmen stabbing their way up the political landscape replaced by the amusing antics of the Joe and Ozzie show. I might start a campaign on Facebook for them :o)

I just spent the better part of ¾ of an hour maniacally wielding a block splitter alternating with a small sharp hatchet. I wasn’t re-enacting Jack Nicholson’s part in “The Shining”, I was doing something much more philanthropic. First…does the word “philanthropic” pertain only to selfless acts for humans? I hope not because I don’t know the equivalent word for selfless acts for chickens. We collected some wood from a dead tree that Steve felled the other day to use on the fire tonight. It was a little damp and the centre was rotten and Steve chopped the larger rings into smaller wedges while the chickens raced around in between his legs catching the various grubs and termites that flew from the wood. I had cleaned out the chicken coop bedding (hay) and thrown all of the hay into the compost heap and the 3 unused veggie beds that we are in the process of making and forgot to collect my jumper from the shovel that I had left it on. I decided that I would head to collect the jumper and ever the entrepreneur, collect a barrow load of wood at the same time. The wood was still a bit damp and after I loaded it into the barrow I noticed a particularly damp bit of wood and proceeded to chop it with the block splitter. Effel and her babies were hanging about. Ever since our adventures in removing the dead tree from the boundary fenceline Effel has suddenly materialised every time I set foot outside the gate and today was no different. Shadowed by her 7 babies she watched me cut the chunk of wood and as I cut it, it released a spray of termites onto the ground. Effel and the babies were delighted. I then rendered most of the firewood into kindling to enable Effel and her babies (and any other chicken brave enough to take Effel on for termite rights) to consume their weight in apparently delicious termites. The babies got less and less scared of me as they settled into their feeding frenzy and I had small chickens sitting on my feet, my hands as I was trying to chop the wood and Effel kept putting her head on the block of wood as I was attempting to chop it! I am NOT the best axeman in the world and so it is only sheer flukish good luck that Effel is still pecking around Serendipity Farm as I type this.  Night is falling; all of the animals have been fed and are heading off to wherever it is that they spend the night and I am set for a night of typing out recipes and hunting the internet for recipes to use up my future cups of left over starter. We will be burning off debris tomorrow and clearing out the side garden so that we can plant out more of our potted babies before the wallabies eliminate them all. Have a great weekend and see you all on Wednesday rested, relaxed and hopefully ready for another instalment of Life on Serendipity Farm.

Anti Pulp, please don’t sue me Jarvis Cocker

Hi All,

Despite my vehement desire to stop the proposed bell bay pulp mill the title of this post has NOTHING to do with this issue. On our walk this morning (time machine people…remember the time machine…) we ran into our long suffering neighbours Frank and Adrian who asked us if we had noticed a whopping great tree falling down right on the boundary fence between our place and theirs…our tree obviously…sigh…no, we hadn’t noticed and when we just went up to take a look at the tree it was completely rotten to the core, had a mangled and long dead possum skeleton in one of the knot holes (habitat?!) and someone out there is looking after us because it caused the bare minimum of damage to anything at all. Remember…the possum is skeletal and so departed the earth a long time ago so it can’t be counted as collateral damage. We figure the tree must have fallen down on Saturday when it was incredibly windy and we were out for 4 hours at the progressive garage sale because something that big falling down would have made a rather loud “CRASH!!!”… We can’t use much of it for firewood because it is rotten but we can heap up the logs in the corner of the property to rot down and improve the soils cation exchange (organic matter + topsoil = happy days…) and provide a little pile of habitat on Serendipity Farm although I don’t think that many of our invading hoards feel the need for natural habitat to be honest…they just move on into anything that will fit them. We are starting to feel lucky to have a few feral cats about as they are catching rats and mice that are attracted to the chicken food and this time last year we had to use baits…no such problem now! As I said…there are good points and bad points about everything.

This is the long dead tree that fell on the dividing fence between our property and our long (and still) suffering neighbours property

Here is the same tree after a bit of time and some hard yards with a chainsaw and returned to the property from whence it fell

As you can see, the centre of the tree was effectively mush and despite not getting much in the way of usable firewood from this decomposing beauty, this delightful “mush” will rot down quickly when the wrens and hens have finished picking at it and will improve the soil in this area

I decided to shield your eyes from the skeletal possum that was well past its mumification date and will just let you use your imagination should you wish to pursue that train of thought. Here is Effel and some of her lovely blue laced Wyandotte babies. As you can see…following me everywhere I go because “Human = food” appears to have paid off this time

We found several of these large borer grubs and Effel and her 7 babies had a feast that will ensure that I have 8 little shadows whenever I venture out into the wide outdoors

We headed off to Beaconsfield to delight our dogs this morning (Sunday TIME MACHINE REMEMBER!). We decided to park in the local school car park and as we headed off with the dogs I noticed that the fig tree that I normally predate had some figs on it. I have no problems eating fruit overhanging fences in Tasmania because the locals don’t seem to eat much fruit. I know…why would you have fruit/nut trees if you don’t actually use the fruit/nuts? No idea people, but their loss is my gain! I picked a couple of last figs to nibble on our walk that the birds hadn’t nibbled before me and noticed a spindly fig branch sticking out of the weeds underneath the tree. I tugged it to pull it up out of the weeds because it might not be “my” plant, but I still care about it and when I tugged it I noticed roots on the stem…layering… interesting folks! We walked the boys around Beaconsfield and I collected some more walnuts from underneath the tree that I got the last lot that are sprouting from. Again, the householder wasn’t interested in harvesting these nuts as they were lying on the ground and most of them had been eaten by rats. I collected what I could and they are now stratifying in the shed along with their second batch of friends (the first 5 that have sprouted are now overwintering in the glasshouse) and a bag of hazelnuts. We got back to the car and I headed back to where the fig tree was located and managed to find 3 long branches with roots on that I could remove from amongst the weeds. I used one of our faithful and always useful doggie doo bags to put the rooted cuttings into and filled it up with leaf mould from around the base of the tree. I can’t tell you how many times we have walked down the road with a large bag of something other than nefarious dog poo! We got back home and put the cuttings and roots into a bucket of water with seasol and Auxinone in it and then potted them up and staked them using the water that they had been soaking in to water them in. They will also overwinter in the glasshouse and hopefully will develop a good set of roots. Taking root or aerial layered cuttings allows you to jump a few years on with fruit and nut production when a nut tree usually takes 10 years to produce nuts from plants grown from seed or cuttings. A good substitute for Auxinone, if you can’t find it, is to use Berocca tablets dissolved in water. When accompanied by a good splosh of seasol, the Auxinone/Berocca’s give the rooted cuttings a better chance of survival and we get very few die on us so hopefully these tall cuttings will like their new home. At least they are vertical now rather than horizontal!

Here are those 3 figs in their new home where they will overwinter until spring later on in the year. Behind them we have our 2 bananas and their “humidity generator” a.k.a. a Monstera deliciosa that allows them to have their own little humid microclimate. They lived through last winter without their new friend so hopefully they will arrive in spring as happy little customers. We tidied out the glasshouse to prepare it for winter and its inhabitants for receival of the maximum light that they can get over the next few months

We are opportunistic whenever we see cutting material that we can use to grow plants for Serendipity Farm or for swapping with nursery owner friends for plants. The same deal goes for seed. There is something really primal about collecting your own seed and growing plants from cuttings. I dare say it harkens back to the days when our survival revolved around our ability to hunt and grow our own food.  I love waking up when it is still dark and quiet in the house and slipping quietly out of bed and heading into the kitchen where I can settle down to see what the world delivers me right into my inbox. I subscribe to some very interesting blogs and am usually not let down by the content of my early morning mental breakfast. I like to learn things. I was born to learn more than my fair share for some reason and where some might crave that first cigarette or that last piece of chocolate, I crave knowledge. I must add here that I crave knowledge for things that interest me! Should anyone want to indulge my quest for knowledge by sending me their old university mathematical physics or chemistry  textbooks they will be returned with “Not at this address” scrawled in bright red crayon (after I eat the first red crayon that is…). There are elements of all of those most noble of mind breaking concepts that not only pique my interest but actively make me swoon but too few to list here and so we will forget about them for the moment. I choose to learn what my mind needs to take in new concepts and sometimes that is maths…so I learn the bare basics to get me through and wing it as I go along.

Now I don’t know if you are in agreement with me here, but I get the feeling that there is something that smells VERY interesting on this bit of driftwood…

Steve took a few arty photos when we were at the beach the other day. I quite liked this one

And I REALLY liked this one

I am typing while I wait for my “dog pikelets” to cook. They aren’t actually my dog pikelets…I am home alone dog sitting while Steve does the fortnightly shopping 50km away and have 2 sulking dogs who haven’t had a walk yet. Much like children, dogs can be somewhat distracted from actively sulking by waving food under their noses and so after heading out to let the chooks out of their coop and having feral cats follow me the whole way looking pitiful and having seen them catch rats the other day thus earning at least something in return I decided to give the chooks, cats and dogs a bit of a cold morning treat. I headed in to the cupboards and discovered that there wasn’t all that much there that would interest a cat, dog or even a chook. We have reached that time of the fortnight where shopping becomes less of a chore and more of a necessity. I had to get creative with what was available…1 large container of out of date thickened cream (still smelling fine…)…3 free range eggs that our hens have decided to spring on us of late…1 tin of tuna found at the back of the cupboard…2 semi floppy carrots found in the crisper (note to self “CLEAN THE CRISPER”!…sigh…) add a bit of Self-Raising flour and a bit of left over lard from making pork pie pastry to fry it all in. An instant human heart attack but bliss for animal-kind. They don’t look all that bad and 4 of them have disappeared into the dogs so I think I am on to a winner. Consider that my recipe for hump day. Technically these would be fritters rather than pikelets but I have the ump with New Zealand (home of the fritter) at the moment for selling themselves to the highest bidder (in this case China) and for allowing themselves to be the food laundering capital of the world. Your reputation is plummeting New Zealand and if I check a label and see “New Zealand” on it, I won’t buy it because it is a veneer for “Chinese Import”. Almost all of our frozen vegetables are routed through New Zealand from China to give them a fake façade of clean and green and New Zealand is allowing this to their own detriment. That’s why these are pikelets (still semi-New Zealand but like Pavlovas and Anzac biscuits… WE MADE THEM FIRST! ;o).  There you go…I couldn’t let a Monday go past without having a bit of a rant albeit a small one (I will say this for the last time this post… Time machine people…that is how I can jump around from the past to the present so easily…)

I decided to use the 4 teracotta froggy pot stands that I bought for 20c each at the progressive garage sale on Saturday to good use in the kitchen. This little setup reminds me of  the  Discworld which consists of a large disc resting on the backs of four huge elephants which are in turn standing on the back of an enormous turtle named Great A’Tuin as it slowly swims through space. In this case… it is a disc of Huon pine resting on 4 small teracotta frogs who are in turn resting on my butchers block as it slowly wheels around my kitchen. If you don’t know what I am talking about here… you really REALLY need to get yourselves a complete Discworld series of books by Terry Pratchett and settle down for one of the most entertaining, humorous and enlightening journeys of your life

This is Steve’s $5 backpack from the progressive garage sale. We have been filling it with water and allowing it to soak to ensure that we won’t be killing off any of our precious babies with any prior contents. We will be using this backpack sprayer to apply seasol, powerfeed and worm tea along with compost tea…weed tea…liquid manure…anything natural that we can manufacture on site to give our garden an edge

I found this fossil on the beach the other day. No idea what it is but Steve swears it is an octopus… hmmm…does anyone have the heart to tell him that octopi do not have anything to fossilise? No… I thought not…lets just keep it as our little secret 😉

I am trying to be more proactive than reactive. It’s quite difficult because I think I was born to be somewhat reactive (as my posted rants about all things that push my buttons would tend to allude to…) and so this is new territory. When you wake up and the very first song that you hear on the clock radio is “Born to be alive” by Patrick Hernandez and it gets stuck in your head and you spend the morning singing an ancient disco song to a most ungrateful of audiences (if dogs could put their paws over their ears these 2 would…) you soon realise which side of the proactive/reactive fence you tend to reside. I would love to be one of those “Doers”. One of those people who jump out of bed fresh and ready for the new day. They have all of their ideas condensed down into perfect little dot points of action and after a healthy pre-planned vegan super food breakfast they race off to tick off their lives in sequence arriving at the end of their day satisfied, satiated and successful. I have been delving a little bit deeper into these sort of people and have made a startling discovery… they simply don’t exist! Behind every good man is a good woman and behind every “proactive” go getter/doer there are a team of hidden supplicants facilitating their every move. As much as I love Richard Branson, I dare say he just has to postulate an idea and it eventuates with a click of his fingers. Who wouldn’t be happy and always with a smile on their face if they merely had to suggest to make something happen with only the idea as “work” for the day? I know that there are people out there who are able to strategically work through their day arriving at the end satisfied and happy with their lot and they tend to live in the sustainable community living a hard life with all natural hippy rewards but perhaps somewhere along the way they learned to be a whole lot happier with a whole lot less? What I am trying to say is it’s all a matter of how you choose to see things. If you take a good hard look at what you actually have (not what you owe a stack of credit on folks…that doesn’t belong to you!) and make your peace with what you can and can’t immediately afford and learn to live within your means life can take on a whole different slant. Do you really need that investment home? Do you need all of that pre-made food that minimises your time spent in the kitchen to microwave…ding…eat…? What are we actually racing about attaining all this wealth for anyway? I read once, (I have actually read more than once but this is leading into a story and not a literal quantification of how much reading I have accomplished in my life ;o) that if someone gets an increased amount of money to live on…even one significant enough to allow them to save a lot of extra money…most people will simply adapt (more quickly than they would like to admit) to increasing their spending to absorb this amount rather than saving it. It’s natural human nature to want more and we are buying in to an ever increasingly powerful media and advertising sector that seem to be dictating trends rather than trying to get us to follow. We are eager to jump into buying a new car even though we only bought our old one 3 years ago…we need a new bed…a new toaster a new partner! Everything is geared at trying to get us to hand over our readies (whether cash or credit) to pay for something that if we really thought about it, we most probably wouldn’t buy. It’s a lot easier to be sanctimonious about people spending money when you don’t actually have any to spend yourself I will admit. There are entire multinational corporations of people selling “futures”… things that haven’t even happened yet! It is so very difficult to hear yourself think these days because everything has advertising in it including our emails (is anyone else heartily SICK TO DEATH of that bloody grey monkey on the incredimail advertisement’s?) and so the further you can take yourself away from the madding crowd and the more you are able to learn to hear that little inner voice telling us what we REALLY need rather than what society is telling us that we “need” the more likely we are to arriving at some point where we can be grateful, thankful and happy with what we have in our lives right here, right now. Our own private nirvana in our lifetime :o). GO AWAY PATRICK HERNANDEZ!…sigh…it seems that whatever song I wake up to on the radio in the mornings tends to stick in my brain for the rest of the day. I can be sweeping the floor and suddenly find myself whistling that song…throwing bread out to the chooks and I am humming it…I will be collecting the wood up in the paddock and loudly singing it sorry Frank (our neighbour) and today’s menu item is “Born to be alive”…a song that I didn’t even like when it first came out last century and am cursed to vocalise for the rest of the day.

Earl looking a bit the worse for wear after a particularly vigorous race full pelt around the house

If you look REALLY hard you can see Fatty, Felix’s sole remaining kitten peeking out of the conifer

The sight that greets me when I take Steve in his cup of coffee at 7am most mornings

I have mentioned before that I learn more about the real world by wandering around paying attention to what is going on around this 4 acre property than I have up until now in my life. I was throwing out my tuna/carrot/lardy goodness cakes (to keep me getting spammed by the Chinese-New Zealanders about just who invented pikelets/fritters…) to the waiting throng of chooks, sparrows and feral cats below whilst passing morsels sideways to the waiting dogs, when I started to notice interesting societal things about our little ecosystem we call Serendipity Farm. The cats have had to learn to get along with the chooks because it became pretty obvious that if you stalk a chook you get a piece of wood thrown at you. Not only do the cats not attack the chooks (apart from the odd fluff ball that doesn’t stay close to mum and who disappears “somewhere” in the ether) but they are actively afraid of them! This is NOT normal. Chooks are supposed to be afraid of cats but on Serendipity Farm where nature gazes from below up at a benefactor with attitude they learned pretty soon that the cats were not going to mess with them and have turned from terrified cat snacks into bullies who will steal food from the cats mouths. How out of whack are we?!  From the very first group of 8 point of lay chooks that we bought last year and that chased a terrified Felix down the pathway in blatant avian angst our chooks have attained a level of induced fear that would rival a biker gang in human terminology. They strut…they peck…even Pingu runs into the throng of cats and delivers savage blows to the top of their hissing heads should they dare to even LOOK at her. Our chooks are more dangerous than our dogs! Forget Bezial and Earl any burglars out there… you would be sneaking into the danger zone the moment you stepped onto the property. Be afraid… be VERY afraid!

All of this society 101 has sprung from several people over the last week telling us that they envy our lifestyle. Steve and I just turn to each other in wonderment whenever anyone would even think of wanting to do what we do every day. I guess it’s the grass is greener meets the photos that we post on the blog. No-one likes to portray the bad things about their lives and so we tend not to post anything depressing or sordid that might perhaps make someone think differently about us. My dad died on July 7th 2010 leaving us more aware of our mortality and suddenly able to call a few acres of land “mine”. “You lucky bastard!” (Said in Michael Palin’s voice from “The Life of Brian”…) and here it is if you are the poorer for never having discovered Monty Python so far… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EI7p2p1QJI Yes…we ARE lucky and we will always be grateful to my dad for giving us something that we would never have had otherwise but right there is where the scene of happiness and joy starts to fade into reality and hard work. Nothing that is worth having is easy people! We tend to look to the future to deliver us from our lives today and some of us spend our lives waiting for “the kids to leave home”, “retirement”, “that winning lotto coupon” rather than taking stock of what life has actually dealt us and learning to not only accept and live with it but find real happiness in our own personal circumstances. How many of you have watched documentaries about native tribes out in the middle of the South American jungle who despite their lack of anything that we would be able to identify as “wealth” are all smiling, curious and most happy members of the human race with the strongest whitest teeth I have ever seen. I wonder how people living a subsistence life can be so very happy? Is it because they are living close to the earth that feeds clothes and sustains them and they have discovered their niche within this endless ancient balance of cycles. They are living how we all should live. Simply, with few needs and it’s only when you start introducing societies “wealth” that problems start to occur. I dare say I am glossing over the squabbles, the human vices and the general need that we humans have to stuff up whatever we are given that would be present wherever 2 or more people group together to coexist, but in general they would deal with it themselves and they would be very aware of the consequences of their actions. I find it laughable that we in 1st world societies have so much and are always hungry for more when these simple people are very content with their lot. Serendipity Farm is our chance to make a difference to our own little plot of earth and see if we can’t leave it better than when we arrived on it just under 2 years ago. The process of change that we are taking and where we found out how to go about changing for the better is what this blog is all about. I am trying to be as honest as I can about our lives but am as guilty of the next person in omitting some of the more nefarious things or glossing over them with humour. Life is tough enough without being constantly faced by negativity and so I try to temper reality with humour as often as I can.

3048 words! How did I get to 3048 words! I only just sat down! Sigh…surely that word check on the bottom of Word is fibbing…I often wonder if there will ever be an end to the need to splash what’s inside my head onto a page. I don’t think that my muse (who is a combination of Billy Connelly and Leonardo De Vinci with a little smattering of Albert Einstein (probably the dyslexic bit…) thrown in) wants to give up any day soon so other than writing a “Dear Abbey” column, I guess you guys get it all :o). Thanks for listening to my outpourings. I sometimes think I should be paying you all for taking the place of a psychiatrist but to be honest, that should be something that our state government does for the safety of our state so you lose out this time. See you all on Saturday night/Sunday morning (depending on which side of the Equator you are) where we can take up this session where we left off…till then…”Domo arigato Mr Roboto” (because I can’t spell Sayonara)

Hello Hump Day!

Hi All,

I just finished off my mammoth post for last week. I dare say it will take most of you a few days to read it but as I am now only posting once a week, I have to cram it all into a single post. We seem to be very busy here at the moment. Partly of our own choice and partly because that is what life is throwing at us at the moment. I would LOVE to be a totally proactive person. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to instantly come up with solutions for everything that life hurls at you on the run while you are formulating a plan to get the best possible outcome from said situation? I tend to be the quivering wreck in the corner not coping very well at all thanks to my tendency towards reactivity rather than proactivity. I didn’t think you had a choice…I thought people were born proactive, or reactive but I am starting to see that it’s all choice. I am choosing to expose myself to all sorts of interesting premises at the moment. I am checking out world issues that are pertinent to who we are and how we choose to live. It’s very interesting to realise that the world doesn’t revolve around you and that you are only one tiny ant in the massive great nest we call Earth. It’s not only humbling but somewhat terrifying as well when you realise what a very small voice each individual has. That’s where we need community and like-minded groups of people. One person has a small voice that can usually be ignored. An entire community all chanting the same chant are quite a lot harder to ignore and social media allow us to be more aware of events and situations as they occur and allow us to lend our personal voice to our chosen causes. It’s no longer that easy to pull the wool over people’s eyes. If anything, it certainly allows you to open your eyes to all sorts of situations that you may never have been aware of. As a quintessential magpie I like to learn things and social causes are something that appeal to me.

Here is the back block of our property. As you can see, its dry, arid bushland and it’s only saving grace is that it is a direct shortcut to the road at the back of the property and Steve was able to hightail it up there at short notice when he heard the Targa cars racing by and get some photos for you all to see on Saturday. At some time in the future, this area will be planted with olive trees, figs and further down, grape vines.

This used to contain seasol. Now it contains seasol, worm pee (yes…apparently they pee…), powerfeed and various secret natural ingredients that if I told you what they were, I would have to kill you. We are using this potent mix to give our planted out potted babies the best chance at adapting happily to their new surroundings

This is what is hiding behind the reed screening that we put up to shelter the hens when they are foraging in the colder months. We stacked some hay bales that we use for bedding in their coop (and for compost fodder when it is spent and full of nitrogenous delights) and you can see the hens are enjoying their new secret space

“HA! I found you!”. This nest must be the new communal nesting place because I liberated 9 eggs prior to these 2 appearing. I dare say they will find somewhere new tomorrow to stop me from pinching their eggs but for now I am feeling smug! It’s not often I manage to find where these wily girls are nesting

Ok, now that was how I “used to” post… I am going to have to find a happy medium between 11 000+ words and Dot point with photos…

Here is an “honest” photo. Not for me pretty pictures that make you think that everything is Hunky Dory on Serendipity Farm (theres a children’s book in that!). This is the true state of affairs. This area is under the deck, just around the corner from the last pictures and when we get a spare day we are going to make a walkway through here up to where we have the remainder of our potted babies to be planted out. Why haven’t we done this before today? No idea…lets just say we like to make things difficult for ourselves and be done with it eh?

Here’s a prime example of what we want to have growing all over the place. Not necessarily  bergenia x schmidtii (Elephant’s ears), Tulbaghia violacea (Society garlic) and Helleborus foetidus (the delightfully named “Stinking Hellebore”) but carefully chosen water wise and suitable edible food plants for our edible food forest. These plants are forming a mass of green mulch that keeps moisture in the soil. I am not interested in clean lines in my garden, I am more interested in being able to keep the moisture in the soil and constantly increasing the nutrient quotient of our denuded dirt. We are using permaculture principals and weaving in any and everything that makes sense and that will assist us in what we want to eventuate here from all sorts of integrated natural systems. This is my nest and this little black and white bird is going to feather it however she sees fit. Some things will work, some wont. Swales would be a nightmare here as we can’t dig our soil thanks to masses of volcanic rock. Thinking outside the box is our newfound strength and we are using our horticultural knowledge and scavenged information from the 4 corners of the globe to effect change

Here is a small sample of what we are just about to launch ourselves into clearing out in the garden on the side of the house. Blackberries, banana passionfruit (this one even has a fruit!) and osteospermum daisies, which to some people are their idea of “pretty flowers” but to me are right up there with boneseed and ragwort as invasive weeds. Once we liberate this side garden I can plant out my cold climate shrubs and we can start reducing our potted plants and our need to waste heaps of water on them in the summer time.

This information was taken straight from The Australian Native Plants Society to explain what this pot of salvaged plants are. We retrieved 5 pots of them from one of the garden areas that we weeded out and rather than discard them, we are going to plant them along the fenceline in our veggie garden as natural food sources and habitat for native birds and wildlife.

http://www.anpsa.org.au

“The drought tolerant, thorny, straggling native raspberry (Rubus parvifolius) and the more compact mountain raspberry (Rubus gunnianus), with its distinctive red blackberry-like fruit, are the only two Tasmanian examples of the twelve native raspberries in Eastern Australia. For optimum development of their tangy sweet fruit, they prefer the moister sections of your bush tucker patch. A quenching and therapeutic tea can also be derived from drying their young leaves or ‘tiny tips’.”

And here is another example of finding something on site that we can incorporate into our edible food garden/forest

This little baby is a coprosma quadrifida or native prickly currant bush. The jewel red fruit are prize bird food and the thorny nature of this shrub creates habitat conditions for nesting birds. If you would like to see a bit more about this plant you can go to the Australian National Botanic Gardens site…

http://www.anbg.gov.au/apu/plants/coprquad.html

First check this out! I found this when I was hunting through the amazing Green Shopping U.K. store where I downloaded some free e-books on permaculture. I don’t know about you, but I feel very guilty throwing batteries out. We have rechargeable batteries but this is a whole new ball park!  I couldn’t believe that batteries would run on water…

http://www.green-shopping.co.uk/clearance/h2o-replacement-batteries-pack-of-two.html

But here is the blurb and you can see for yourself…water batteries! Now I just need to get me some…

http://waterbattery.com/

We are surrounded by chickens…seas of them. We let Effel out with her 9 babies and she promptly got one of them dispatched to the next world. At the moment she has 8 with her still and we figure that it’s survival of the fittest out there. The silver Wyandotte still has 3 babies in the side garden and as long as she stays there I dare say she will keep them. I think one of the second batch of feral chicks that Houdini raised outside the normal hen societal model (the mainstream hens that head to the coop each night…) has gone the same way as Effel’s baby. It’s a pity because it was the only Wyandotte of the lot and most probably a hen. We have 4 roosters that are going to have to be dealt with at some day in the future in that bunch. Steve is in Launceston today doing the fortnightly shopping. When you live 50km away from the nearest shops you tend to really think about your shopping requirements and make sure that you have enough to last you through. I find it interesting to see how our shopping habits have changed incredibly since we moved from Riverside 4km away from the City centre. We are spending a lot more time at home and a lot more time away from “normal” people. I can’t say I miss wading through the masses at the supermarket checkout or my heightened stress levels whenever I ventured out in the car. Tasmanians are NOT known for their ability to drive well or use their indicators and I am not known for my saintly patience and ability to acquiesce to other drivers especially when they are obviously idiots…I rest my case!

“What have we here eh?…that wouldn’t be a glass of Earl’s favourite drink now would it?”

“Pa must be off the wagon…”

I made a spiced pear cake last night, partly to use some of the windfall pears from our tree in town that have suddenly approached magnificence and have attained that fragrant sensual perfume and taste that only a pear can get…loaded with ethanol and ready to turn any banana in their sight… I still have quite a few left and don’t want them to head over to the dark side and as Steve had a pot of cream wearing a hole in his desert pocket, I decided to make this cake to kill 2 birds with one stone. Here is the recipe I used if you would like to try it. I didn’t use the raisins…not because I am raisonally prejudiced, but because I didn’t have any. I also used only regular S/R flour rather than the ½ cup wholemeal and I totally forgot to add the baking soda at all but despite my messing about the cake was a success and Steve had a large portion smothered in thick cream and proclaimed “There’s nothing wrong with that!” which is high praise indeed from a man who is not totally enamoured of food like I am and who eats his meals without savouring each bite. I guess there are people like that out there who eat food because that’s what humans do. I am NOT one of them. I am one of the rounded, passionate, savouring people who like to smell, taste, feel and experience their food and can’t be dealing with bad food on any level. I guess Steve is just lucky that he is married to me and the food that he takes for granted when he is shovelling it in whilst watching television is prepared with flavour at its very core. There are lots of interesting recipes on this New Zealand site. New Zealanders are very similar to Tasmanians…isn’t it lucky that I don’t have to drive on their roads?

http://www.nzwomansweekly.co.nz/food/recipes/spiced-pear-cake/

Never one to do anything by halves, I decided to make good use of the heated wood stove ovens and the 4 litre ice-cream container full of poached quinces that I had left over from my quince poaching event last week. Steve was born in the year of the Dragon and has the luck of a Dragon to boot. Whenever I go hunting for recipes I inevitably find what I am looking for through sheer hard slog…wading through acres of mediocre sites to find one gem in the pile. Steve heads off to find a recipe and “BAM” he not only finds amazing recipes first go, but he finds a truly wonderful site along with it. After making the recipe for “A poached quince cake” I did what I usually do and went for a bit of a look-see at the rest of the site. I felt an instant alignment with the woman who owns this blog. I have more than a sneaking suspicion that what happens to us is meant to happen to us. I know that everything happens for a reason and just because it looks and feels like the most devastating thing that we are never going to get over, doesn’t mean that something incredible isn’t born from the ashes…indeed the pain of said event gives birth to the conditions for newfound happiness. We both lost a parent in January this year and I urge you to read this persons tribute to her father. Her honesty and her rich sense of the English vernacular are translated into the fabric of her posts and if I can only work out how to follow this blog I will!

http://elegantsufficiency.typepad.com/the_elegant_sufficiency/2007/08/a-poached-quinc.html

I made the cakes and I must admit here that I also omitted the walnuts and raisins from the poached quince cake and added a cup of chopped dates instead. Again, work with what is on your pantry shelf and the walnuts are out stratifying in the dirt for next year’s trees and the raisins simply didn’t exist so dates is it quince cake! The recipe hints and tips mentioned that this cake was somewhat dry and I HATE dry cakes. I upped the quinces to about 2 ½ cups and liberally doused the cake with the fragrantly perfumed quince liquor that I had saved and sieved from my batch of oven poached quinces. The poaching recipe that I used was just a nondescript recipe from the prolific recipe author “anon” that is responsible for many interesting recipes that I find online. I must admit…anon appears to have produced the very same recipe for poaching quinces as Dame (surely she is going to get a gong in the next Queens Honours list…) Stephanie Alexander…curious that eh? I wonder if they were both working on the same recipe at the very same time! What are the odds for that? 😉 Steve also sampled a decent sized segment of quince cake and decided that he really couldn’t describe the flavour of quinces if asked. I dare say some elderly lady in the supermarket is going to one day approach him and say “Hello dear…can you please describe the flavour of poached quinces to me… I can’t quite remember?” and he will be able to give her the description that he gave to me last night “something like tarty Turkish Delight”…hmmmm not too sure if that would make me want to eat them or dip them into chocolate and set about selling them to the general public? Either way Steve was not only satisfied, but actually happy about the cakes and the chance to serve himself chunks of both of them in the near future, warmed through and drizzled with cream, custard or ice-cream. Who wouldn’t think “There’s nothing wrong with that” under these circumstances…

Phase 1…”first make your quince cake”…

Phase 2 “reduce your quince poaching liquid”…

After this phase you have to pour your poaching liquid/syrup over the cake and wrestle it off your husband who has cut himself a massive wedge to “sample” before you can take a good picture…sigh…

The dogs are restless…this happens every second Monday when Steve heads off into town to do the fortnightly shopping. By now, even Earl the reactor (I sometimes think we should add the word “nuclear” in front of reactor…) should be able to work out that today is different to other days. The day that they have to lay inside bored out of their gourds staring up at their most boring female owner and waiting for the interesting one to come home also coincides with a sudden increase in doggy treats, nice fresh steak for their dinner and a whole lot of interesting bags and smells to accompany the bags. There might be little brown bags of cumin seed, coriander seed or even Italian mixed herbs to sniff…grabbing the toilet paper bag is always fun…if you can actually rip it and all of those little cylinders fall out its extra credit on the fun quotient watching the owners running about trying to retrieve them and you might even find a forgotten one under a chair later on that you can digest at your leisure. The best part of today is that it heralds a doggy walk somewhere other than usual. There’s a bit of extra petrol in the car and ma has gone a bit stir crazy so we are most probably going to head off to Beauty Point for a nice splash in the sea and a run up the beach. Hopefully the local dogs are all out on the road verge like they usually are and we can strain at our leads and bark furiously as our owners jump around on one leg trying to stop the local dogs from “having a go”… we strain forwards on our leads for half of the walk till we realise that we have turned around and are heading back to the car when it becomes incredibly necessary to pull back on our leads and make our owners drag us. Who wants to go home to lie on the deck in the sunshine, above the chickens and cats lying below being fed choice titbits and having our bellies scratched? We want more! We are thinking about forming a union and going on strike…no more barking at the cats on cue… no more random jumping on our owners in the night… no more pillow ripping until our demands are met! We will lay together, eyes baleful and tails pathetically down (STOP WAGGING YOUR TAIL EARL!) and will force them to give us our demands…

  1. The fridge will be left open at all times
  2. The gate will also be left open at all times
  3. Earl will be allowed to eat the new leads
  4. The chickens and cats will become “on” limits rather than off limits
  5. Food will be served at 30 minute intervals 24/7
  6. The car door will remain open so that we can hop in and go for a drive whenever we want
  7. Walking will be mandatory and compulsory and will be undertaken as soon as the 30 minute feeds have been eaten

If our humans refuse to give in to our demands we will be working to rule. We will only bark when they are watching something good on television and any burglars are welcome to help themselves unhindered by doggy alerts. We will play and jump all over them in the middle of the night and we will sit near the door and stare at them for hours on end to be let out, only to sit on the other side staring to be let back in as soon as we are out. We will also beg pathetically at every single meal no matter how disgusting (read “vegetables”…ECH!) it is just to remind them what good dogs we are and how very VERY bad we could actually be…

Interesting paper bags…

Here’s another good food blog that I found late one night and can’t for the life of me remember hitting the “follow” button for. It’s one of those lucky finds that I am actually glad I clicked because this blog makes eating vegan food feel like a sinful indulgence. Check this recipe out and you tell me that you wouldn’t like to take a slice of this…

http://tasty-yummies.com/2012/04/13/kalamata-olive-and-herb-socca-with-roasted-vegetables-gluten-free-vegan/

Beth looks like a quintessential vegan in her photo and she uses wholesome organic free range things. She is not a vegan but her vegetarian and vegan choices are all something that I would love to have placed in front of me on a regular basis. I checked out her website for her graphic art and was most impressed. Funky, Retro and very Vegan in flavour and by the look of it, an up and coming force in the graphic art world. Good luck Beth and cheers for the delicious recipes. Here’s the graphic art design website if you want to check out Beth and her hubby’s art work

http://heroandsound.com/

I just hit 2465 words. That’s about a fifth of my big post on the weekend and so I might just stop posting now. It’s going to take me a while to learn how to condense and compress my posts. Some of you might just say “Zip it!” (Physically and metaphorically) but that is most difficult for me because I am verbally and post verbose and it’s hard for me to change. I hope this little taste of Serendipity Farm mid-week has found you all hard at work doing whatever you do. I hope you haven’t succumbed to the Hump Day blues and that you are all focussing on your weekend ahead. Here on Serendipity Farm we do what we choose every day. We don’t have weekends because every day is our weekend. Before you all start to get irate and jump up and down at the injustice of “some people” having all the luck…there has to be SOME good points to being a penniless hippy student living on the bread line and that is our solace. See you all on the weekend and remember “Don’t do anything that I wouldn’t do” (so you are pretty much free to do whatever you like so long as you don’t take anyone else out with you when you crash ok? ;))

Holy Crap Batman…they’re effecting change on Serendipity Farm!

Hi All,

We all have them and April is one of our birthday months on Serendipity Farm. My oldest child turns 30 and my youngest turns 22. Don’t feel left out Madeline, you already had your birthday (24). Since we moved to Serendipity Farm we no longer spend a large amount of money on people for birthdays. This came about due to us considering how much money we had, and how much money they had and working out that we were the lowest common denominator in the money chain so we now give gifts rather than moola. No doubt my son is racing out to take up bungie jumping, sky diving and anything else that he can to deny his descent into 30 and my daughters will spend the day together celebrating with an amazing feast revolving around gourmet products. Since we moved out, the girls have become gourmands. I talked to them yesterday and was informed that they had just been shopping and purchased goat shanks…GOAT SHANKS! What on earth does one do with the shanks of a goat? No idea, but the girls saw merit in them and purchased them along with a dozen oysters, a kilo of mussels and various weird and wonderful varieties of sausage that they bought from a tiny local smallgoods firm directly opposite where Bethany attends Polytechnic as an art student. Their fridge is like Aladdin’s cave and always contains something new and most interesting. Their shelves are full of weird and wonderful Korean concoctions along with various weird grains, strange brands of noodle and couscous and all sorts of unusual sweets and biscuits. I now have to think of what to get someone who lives in the “Paris” sector of Melbourne for his birthday and what to get my gourmet daughter for her birthday 7 days after my son’s. I have a week or so to think about it but the clock is ticking…

Steve was determined to not miss getting a home grown tomato this year. We started late…VERY late and this is the sum of our most delicious tomatoes that have been raised in the glasshouse.

Stretch was complaining about how cold it is moving from Western Australia (hot) to Tasmania (cold) when you are a stretchy bean filled naked rubber chicken. Apparently Stretch is working on it…

Figs and Juglans regia (English walnuts…even though they come from Persia…go figure!) collected in Beaconsfield and subsequently eaten (figs) and stratified (walnuts…apart from 1 that Earl decided to crack and sample and find wanting…)

Hi guys! It’s Monday and Steve is racing around town having a wonderful time on his own. Steve likes to establish, maintain and keep up an alarming pace whenever confronted with shopping and town and despite my best efforts I am totally unable to keep up with him. Aside from my 2 steps to his 1, I have a “curious mind” and need to pick things up…turn them over…sniff them (which has gotten me into trouble more than once I can tell you!) and generally savour this new and unfamiliar product where Steve grabs it, bungs it into the trolley on the run, pausing only to pay the checkout chick before they arrest him for motorised shoplifting. He will be munching his way through a couple of Macca’s sausage Mcmuffins (both held in one hand) and slurping noisily on a boiling hot beverage (most probably Gloria Jeans…) with the other hand…driving with his knees in the expert way that only someone who has lived most of his life in enormous cities knows how to do. I panic at the first sign of a brake light, but he lives vicariously enjoying every thrilling heart stopping minute (of our 100 000 odd population teeny tiny city) of the chase. He phoned me about 30 minutes ago (I have been commenting on some great blog posts that I got in my inbox today) at 7.30am to tell me that he had done all of the shopping and was just waiting (Mcmuffins in hand) to get the dogs meat, my stuff (can you hear the impatient sigh?) at the health food shop and then he is off to get a brand spanking new razzmatazz phone from the Telstra shop. Our 24 month contract is up and he has the desire for a smart phone burning a hole in his psyche at the moment. After doing some research we found the perfect phone for regional use (most important) to get coverage out here and that will allow him to play “Need for Speed” whenever he wants (no doubt with Mcmuffins in the other hand and driving with one foot…). I could care less about mobile phones…so long as they are able to be used for the purpose of “Phone” (obviously hidden under all of the aps, games, music etc.) and have nice easy steps to get there I am happy. Steve is a techno geek and loves new things and will be messing about with whatever he ends up getting for hours muttering under his breath at regular intervals about GPS…MP4 etc. and speaking that foreign language that people who love technology attempt to pass off as normal conversation. Have fun babe…just make sure that I can press something to phone a friend should the need ever arise!

I would like to call this photo “What you lookin at Willis!” for all of you who are older than 10 and remember the sitcom Different Strokes. Pingu could have gone one of two ways after her last attempt at scaling the Pearly Gates. The first time Earl broke her leg and left her for dead (although she was very much alive and only playing possum…) the second time she was standing at the gate waiting to be let back in to her rightful home or be fed a piece of bread, whichever came first when she made the mistake of getting a teensy bit too close. Earl seized the day/moment and pulled her under the gate and Steve came out to find feathers all over the deck…Pingu coloured feathers! We thought for sure that she was dead and were not at all surprised as she liked to stare through the gate at a slavering Earl on a regular basis. She was, in fact, relatively unharmed after her plucking as Earl had stupidly taken his mouth off her and she ran and then flew straight off the 3 metre drop from the deck to the ground. She was waiting for her bit of bread at the bottom of the steps! Now, as previously mentioned, this would leave you one of two ways…scared witless and terrified of EVERYTHING or…in no mood whatsoever to tolerate any sort of aggressive behaviour and with a massive chip on your shoulder…Pingu chose the latter. She can now be found terrorising the feral cats and stealing food out of their mouths. She runs at them full pelt with her wings out and pecks any part of animal that she can. Bezial is now allowed out to wander around with impunity as he totally ignores the cats and the hens (with age comes wisdom…) but Pingu ran up to him and decided to check him out tempting fate severely. She has decided that he might be alright and didn’t actually attack him but she follows Earl (on the lead) at a safe distance now… watching and waiting for her chance to pounce! That’s one ANGRY little bird!

I love finding like-minded souls on the other side of the world. Back in the olden days (20 years ago) when I was actually alive (shock HORROR!) I didn’t even think about the “other side of the world”. It was like thinking about the moon and anything “American” or “English” was consigned to history, newspapers or social studies in school. Now, with technology (specifically the internet) making the world a much smaller and more immediate environment, I am able to wake up, settle down in front of my PC in the wee small dark hours of the morning and slowly wake up with a cup of tea nestled lovingly in one hand and the other one caressing the mouse. Do I love my newfound “overseas” friends? Damned right I do! I don’t know these people who share their passion, humour and essence across the miles but I consider them soul buddies (as wanky and hippy as that sounds) because whenever I get one of their carefully considered (although some of you might want to consider using the spellcheck every now and then!) content rich posts I am getting a little glimpse of their lives way over there in the U.S.A. or the U.K. or Canada or any of the other places that I regularly poke my nose into to have a careful sniff around. I found a really great blog when I was nosing around at The Soulsby Farm. A fantastic blog in its own right and a great source of information and cheap makes for we homesteading pioneers (read poor sad fools who have fallen prey to weed infestation and under the spell of animals en masse) and right there on the blogroll (some people actually do look at them you know…) I discovered Hanna and her wonderfully honest blog “This Garden is Illegal”. I will give you a little soupçon of Hanna’s fantastic way of looking at things and her great writing skills here in her latest post…

http://www.thisgardenisillegal.com/

Not only is she informative, money wise and clever (all A+ features of a blog that I want to read) but she is funny, wry and honest and this elevates her right up there with the best. Go check out her blog and you tell me that she hasn’t got an edge on writing about gardening and its foibles. I could most probably write all of this post today if I wanted to but we are planning on being bums up in the garden for the rest of the week and so I would no doubt miss out on telling you about how one of our new roosters has turned into a rapist and is just about to say hello to God, I will no doubt be covered in leech bites and will resemble something out of a John Carpenter movie by the end of the week (bring on the Jehovah’s Witnesses then!) and we will hopefully have had many opportunities to take interesting photos for you to ooo and ahhh over. Welcome to everyone who has recently subscribed to the blog by the way. Cheers for your faith that I will be able to amuse you and inform you whilst performing acts of super human strength out there in the jungle of a garden that we call Serendipity Farm. Someone on the road to Beaconsfield got pigs. Now I know that it isn’t like “got nits” or “got worms” but for me it is almost as contagious because I WANT PIGS. I love them. They are most probably the closest animal to my own personal state. Pigs are smart (tick) they are funny (tick) they tend to run to seed (tick…tick…tick…) they spend their lives looking for somewhere to wallow and cool down (oh MAN that’s a tick!) and love nothing better than standing next to a tree rubbing their large expanse and grunting in extreme satisfaction. I figure I must have been a pig in my past life. Steve wants goats and in particular miniature goats. My daughters ate goat shanks the other day and have been lauding the delights of said goaty meat ever since so you might want to think about those goats VERY carefully Stevey boy… Harvey (The Tassie Farmer) thrust pigs into my semi-awake mind this morning and coupled them with Eliza Wood who is a country livestock morning presenter on our local ABC who has rare Essex saddleback’s on a property up in Penguin (YES we have a town named penguin…sigh…) and who recently had an open day on her and her partners farm. Lots of rare breeds of things and all no doubt VERY exciting but you lost me at pigs Harvey. I sat there daydreaming about how Brian up the back (the tree felling neighbour with the sanctimonious wife) would LOVE to have pigs living in the bush block adjacent to his property (who wouldn’t?) and how they would fit in most incredibly well with the rest of us here on Serendipity Farm. Indeed…should I ever want to head off into town on secret nefarious business I could just put a pair of my jeans and a sun hat on one of the larger ones, plonk it down into the middle garden and let it do what it did best and Steve would never know the difference! It is with regret that I stop typing here and leave some space for future “events” to occur. When I get on a roll it is like a wellspring opening and the words just want to keep tumbling out. See you later on in the week 🙂

I allow my mind to be gloriously and most vicariously innovative and exciting. I try to learn all sorts of new and interesting things and tend to slide right off the Richter scale when it comes to weird and wonderful “stuff” to cram in the few spaces left in my mental capacity but as chaotic and exciting as my mind is, the rest of me is the exact antithesis of chaos and I love nothing more than to be soothed by routine and a dearth of change going on at any given time. I mentioned this only because I have just gotten hungry and have ventured into the previously foreign territory known to others as “Breakfast” recently. Working hard in the garden needs a degree of staying power and last night’s tea simply doesn’t cut the mustard when you need to lift, heft and hack on a massive scale especially if you intend on carrying on the process rather than making one fell swoop at glory. Staying power aka “energy” has been an elusive dream of mine for quite some time. Since I started eating something in the morning I have had energy for the first time in many years. Coupled with eating nutritious food and totally knocking out sugar and white refined products I have suddenly developed a new spring in my step and have lost 6kg without even trying. I think I have discovered a precious secret here about “weight loss” but at the moment I am still in familiar territory and when I have lost 10kg I will let you know about the true nature of my new eating regime. My breakfast this morning (and every morning if the truth be known) is “some minute oats”, “some dates cut up with a pair of scissors” with boiling water poured over them and set aside to absorb said boiling water all topped off with a finely chopped apple. Might sound boring but it tastes lovely and keeps me going till mid-afternoon when I have my main meal. I used to eat 1 enormous meal in the evening but now I eat 2 meals and something nutritious if I get hungry in between. I use olive oil in my cooking and I eat however much I want to. I am a big eater and so if anything is going to make me fall off the wagon it is portion control. I can live on broccoli and carrots (and have done so before) but if you make me weigh them out I am outta there! Gone are the days where I would get “funny” and start minimising my portion sizes, cutting out entire food groups and trying to scrape every last skerrick of fat out of my diet. It’s there because we need it folks to metabolise some of our most important vitamins and minerals and without it we look like deflated balloons (skin etc.) and apart from working hard in the garden we are walking the dogs 5km a day. Easy ways to lose weight and get healthy without even trying. I added some ground cloves and a pinch of ground cinnamon to my breakfast today and it tastes lovely. I know that at some day in the future even I, with my endless need to categorise and follow a nice sensible routine, am going to get a tad bored with this meal and so I am already looking out for interesting nutritious alternatives. In my travels I found a recipe for fermented muesli (An Instructable) which really caught my eye. I love the idea of using my dehydrator (second in cost and lack of use only to the “you-beaut” $1200 blender) to make this amazing healthy looking muesli containing equally amazing probiotics. I am a sucker for a bacterium, and even found an instructable for harnessing your own little greeblies to work for you (isolated from buttermilk should I ever find a live source in Australia that is…). This brings me back to my life’s work. I have a fever… A FEVER I TELLS YA for hunting out how to make basic things and compiling them. Recipes for healthy home-made margarine, baking powder, sourdough starter, potato yeast as well as how to make just about everything that you could possibly need/want yourself. Bugger the middle man (my arch nemesis…) bring on “do it yourself” in a way that it actually relates to our inner need to feel competent rather than societies need to foist all kinds of consumerist goods that we don’t need and can’t afford in the name of D.I.Y. Does anyone else get “Better Homes and Gardens” magazine? Has anyone else noticed how it is just an enormous advertisement from cover to cover? D.I.Y. sells BIGTIME people and don’t think it took the middle man long to work that one out and harness themselves to all of our grindstones as we did the work and they flogged the products. I have dabbled in all sorts of weird and wonderful food rituals over the past few decades and was originally one of those poor lost souls that bought each and every new super food and gadget that popped up promising eternal life. With age comes wisdom and I would like to think, a healthy degree of cynicism for these sorts of claims and products. I would even join a sceptics society for new food fads should they ever develop one. I do, however, make sure to check out as many informative food blogs as I can and use bits and pieces, recipes, hints, tips and anything of worth. A good magpie never wastes information and I would classify myself as a “Top Bird” in the magpie confraternity :). Here is a link to a PDF template of home-made seed packets. Only a “Top Bird” would find and share this sort of thing (can you see me preening my feathers?). I plan on using this template a lot and working out how to print some pretty (also pilfered) images on the front of my packets to enable me to both use collected seed and be delighted by the process. Take your own delight and get printing! (And when you do…could you let me know how you did it…sigh…). The link below also gives you a few predesigned templates to get you started (guess I had best only save tomato, sunflower and pea seeds eh?)

http://www.finegardening.com/how-to/articles/make-your-own-seed-packets.aspx

Here’s another great blog just waiting for you all to trundle over there, find a few minutes peace and quiet to have a little look-see over a nice beverage of your choice (chocolate biscuit optional but preferable). All sorts of lovely crafts and fun things to do all revolving around “Gardens”. Love it, just subscribed to it and will be going there often.

http://gardentherapy.ca/diy-rock-spiders/comment-page-1/

Veggie burgers waiting to go into the oven and Copycat (I will take the secret to the grave!) Hobnob (U.K.) biscuits fresh out of the oven. Even when we couldn’t climb the stairs we still managed to eat…

In one of the videos about permaculture that I found online (somewhere in the ether) I was made aware of (discovery was “mine” they already knew about it…) a most interesting premise about soil. Topsoil is precious. I already knew that…I had it drummed into my head by my poor long suffering lecturer James when I was completing certificates 2 & 3 in horticulture. I dare say he was quite glad to see the back of me because I was one of those students who always wanted to know “why?” and “how?” thus making him have to come up with answers. Usually I had found my own answer by the time he gave them to me so I stopped asking after a while but the value of topsoil was one thing that we learned very early on in the piece. Australia is known for being an inhospitable arid place populated by a highly poisonous population of just about everything and what isn’t poisonous wants to kill you anyway. We get hot dry conditions and our soils are ancient and can’t afford the extreme weather events that we are starting to see as a result of our continued pillaging of natural resources at our own detriment (anyone outside looking down might just be wondering why the human race has suicidal tendencies…I know I am!) and as such we all need to be building our topsoil for future generations. Preventing it from drying up and blowing away is a good start so incorporating organic matter and mulching and getting decent soil holding root systems (preferably arboreal) into place are not a bad start. I watched a most intense, passionate thin man telling me about how the most amazing soil is produced underwater every day. Leaves, twigs, insects, anything organic falling into water and becoming subject to anaerobic bacterial activity forms amazing soil much more quickly. I must admit to being a little bit sceptical about this. Scepticism is a very healthy thing. It allows you to exercise your right to choose what you believe in and gives you the impetus to go searching for proof and information to back up said claims. I promptly forgodaboudit as is my usual way when confronted with information for more than 10 minutes…too much knowledge…such a little brain… something’s gotta give!  I was reminded of this interesting piece of information when Steve was fixing the guttering and drain system on the side of our new wood shed. We had removed a massive ancient blackberry shrub that was reclining all over the surrounding area and that had a really REALLY bad attitude. Deprivation had made it hard and lean and it really didn’t want to give up its position of power. Once we had put paid to its sequel by grubbing it out of the ground Steve headed up the ladder to clean out the slurry in the guttering. He called me over to take a look at the “amazing soil” that was coming out of the guttering. I have no idea how long the leaves and twigs had been falling onto the wood shed roof and into the guttering but they had rotted down in a puddle of stored water to a rich, dark wonderful smelling soil. I wonder if we can “make” our own soil by using water to facilitate a speedier process (waiting several millennia is a little out of my ability to wait…) and if that sludge in the bottom of the duck pond/boat could be put to good use somewhere in the garden? Having little money to spend on luxuries like additional soil I am starting to turn to more adventurous ways to get what we want around here and thanks to the internet, there is no shortage of wild eyed, hirsute, dreadlocked thin people lining up to tell me how to effect change on a shoestring budget.

Ok…time to bite the bullet! The weed species that have been allowed to run rampant for 20 years need to be taught that they have a new master and his name is pain! Here we go…

 Take that Elisha’s Tears! (Leycesteria formosa, follow suit blackberries, osteospermum daisies and twitch grass and you can just about forgedaboudit Rosa canina your asses are MINE!…

The first person to comment on how that “crown lifted” conifer looks now is going to have said comment inserted where the sun don’t shine… just a warning folks! Apart from the Truffula Tree, this area can now be considered cleansed brethren! Do I hear an AMEN?!

While I was wading through the blackberries, Steve was pruning, raking and generally clearing out the first garden “grassed” (HA) area. It now doubles as a lovely sandbath for the hens

What do you think? Not too bad for a water stressed garden at the end of summer

The view now from the stair end of our deck

If you haven’t yet gone to check out the blogs on my new blogroll more fool you! I am not going to force you to go there but it’s you that are missing out. I am anything but magnanimous in my desire to spread the word about sustainability and one of my favourite sites “Permaculture Power” had a most interesting full length documentary called “Garbage Warrior” about “The epic story of radical Earthship eco architect Michael Reynolds, and his fight to build off-the-grid self-sufficient communities.” I watched most of this video tongue in cheek because this man is a typical 60’s hippy with accompanying utopian dreams and some of his “Earthships” were bizarre to say the least. In saying that, I was totally engrossed with what he and his friends were and are trying to do. Using garbage like old tyres, beer cans and rock hard New Mexican soil baked under the sun for 9/10’s of the year and frozen solid for the remainder removed from the ground with brute force and inserted unceremoniously into the tyre walls to create thermal mass. They used different coloured bottles to give jewel coloured stained glass effect to their buildings and despite taking years to build, they were very cheaply constructed and totally off the grid. Wouldn’t you like to be totally off the grid? So would I! Now I just have to learn how to make my own composting toilet (I have actual plans…), plumb that sucker in (might have to take a plumbing course at Polytechnic in my gap year 😉 and get Steve drinking again except using cans rather than bottles…”it’s for the sake of the earth Steve…GET DRINKING!” If you would like to check out this bit of hippy environmental history and you can turn a blind eye to the architects annoying accent and outbursts of manic enlightenment, Harley Davidson and enormous F200 SUV while he is spouting all about how the earth is going to hell in a hand basket because of humanities actions (apparently it is “do what I say…not what I do” in this man’s case or perhaps he has bought some trees in Guatemala and is therefore allowed to produce as much carbon dioxide as he wants…hmm) this is a really informative documentary and no doubt it will spur you on (like me) to continue saving your bottles (I have 2 wheelbarrows full already), aluminium cans (NOT aluminum…) and heck…after watching the poor sods try to remove some of that hard baked New Mexican soil to fill their tyres I feel positively decadent about our rock filled clay bollocks soil! I feel a garden shed constructed out of tyres (on the property…dad was too tight to pay the $5 each to throw them out so we got them left to us along with Serendipity Farm), beer cans and Serendipity Clay. Who knows where this will end? Most probably with Steve in the mental asylum, but at least we will have lots of “Thermal Mass” in all sorts of unexpected places on Serendipity Farm… Might have to rename it “Earthship Farm”! Here’s that link…

http://permaculturepower.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/garbage-warrior-full-length-documentary/

I think this post is going to be gargantuan. I have SO much to share! I went hunting on some of my friends Facebook pages to see if they were all doing well (as none of them post regularly and I just wanted to see if they were doing alright) and on Florida’s page I found a link to a “Britain’s got talent” entrant called Jonathan Antoine. This 17 year old boy was wearing a Jimi Hendrix tee-shirt, a pair of track pants and had long curly hair and was very large. The girl that accompanied him was very pretty and well dressed. As they came out onto the stage you could see Simon Cowell (the chief judge) mouth to the judge sitting next to him “and you didn’t think it could get worse”…You could feel the lack of interest and disdain dripping from every word that Simon uttered and it was almost as if he wanted the act over and done with before it started. “Do you think that you can win?” he asked them somewhat incredulously and only the girl answered. The boy fumbled a little bit at the beginning of the song and started a teeny bit early but after glancing at the girl they started to sing and it was the most amazing sensation to be listening to someone who at 17 rivalled Pavarotti. This kid, shy, grossly overweight and bullied who had suffered a nervous breakdown and was no longer able to go to school thanks to “normal society” and its need to be perfect, wiped the floor (and Simon Cowells gaping maw) and had everyone giving him a standing ovation. Simon had to eat his words (once he found them again) and admitted that they were listening to a future star. Thank you so much Florida for sharing that with me. Now we just have to hope that “normal society” don’t stuff this amazingly talented kid up by “grooming” him to within an inch of his life and turning him into a money making machine to his detriment. If you haven’t watched this amazing performance I urge you to check it out here.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kt3Utn4mjeg

Awesome eh? Good luck Jonathan, although with that incredible natural talent I doubt that you are going to need it!

Look at this lovely little Cercis canadensis (Judas Tree) that we discovered hiding underneath a mountain of blackberries alongside the driveway. We also found a lovely weeping camellia, lots and LOTS of weird and wonderful bulbs all in the first flushes of growing and all sorts of foundation plants just waiting to be given a helping hand after we weeded all of the invasive species from over the top of them.

Can you see that nice camellia to the right of this picture? Can you see the Clivea miniata? Nope?…neither could we till we liberated them from underneath this mass of blackberries  and (I am guessing) Brachycome Iberidifolia or Swan river daisies that have taken over every available bit of space that the Erigeron karvinskianus (seaside daisies) have left vacant. We also discovered under this mass a Daphne odora, a dead specimen of Cistus ladaniferus and an almost alive one that I don’t know why I am mentioning because in my frenzied secateur offensive I clipped off the only piece of shrub that remained alive…sigh…

Here we have a wider shot of this area. It’s cram packed full of blackberries and Vinca major (Periwinkle) and any other invasive species that could take advantage of 20 years of freedom to explore their natural surrounds.

This shot was taken just around the corner from the last shot and shows that this area is indeed somewhat overgrown and in serious need of attention by two penniless horticultural student hippies who have been avoiding this mess like the plague! Can you see 2 specimens of Brachychiton populneus in this shot? Neither can I and I know they are in there!

There one is! These poor sorry suffering specimens of Brachychiton populneus have done their level best to survive in less than sterling conditions for a very long time. One of them is stunted and on its last legs and the other is weeping sap at an alarming rate. Even though we have cleared out under them and have given them back their sunlight we severely doubt that they will make it. We have been growing Brachychiton populneus from some locally sourced seed for a few years now and we can replace them should they die, but I feel an incredible camaraderie with all of the long suffering plants that survived their 20 years in the wilderness with my horticulturally challenged dad and to arrive where they are now and die is incredibly sad to me

We are always accompanied by our feathered friends whenever we venture out into the garden in any capacity. Here, we have Big Yin and his girls clearing an area of newly exposed insect life and injecting their own special brand of highly nitrogenous fertiliser onto this poor denuded soil.

Remember what this area looked like only a few hours prior to Steve and I launching our offensive? Go back a few photos and check again… After a bums up, secateurs flying, whipper snipping marathon that ended with us sitting on the deck being slobbered on with impunity by happy pooches because we were too tired to defend ourselves. The sense of accomplishment is what is keeping this old hippy chick going and it would seem that hard work and great results are somewhat addictive…you are going to be seeing some interesting things happening on Serendipity Farm, fueled by some newly invigorated hope filled land carers :o)

We have been laying low like Brer Rabbit around here for a while. It’s lucky we have only just started on the briar patches in that case isn’t it? Steve and I spent Wednesday and Thursday of this week totally changing our aspect. We have been collecting wood, removing blackberries from the poor long suffering plants along the driveway and generally skirting all around the outside of having to deal with the massive problem of the overtaking blackberries. We have been working really hard and over the last 2 days we most certainly effected change! We started in the enormous conifer on the driveway and removed a massive clump of wild briar roses that had been growing there for as long as I had known this place (2004) and got stuck into removing the weedy species from the garden next to the conifer. We fully intended on “bumbling around” which is our way of saying “taking it easy” for the day as we had really done a lot of work the week before and were just going to work to rule for a few days to recover. In the end we did a solid days work and totally changed this area. We had to remodel a tall thin conifer that now looks somewhat like a weird helter skelter lollypop but we can plant things underneath it and make it look less like something out of Dr Seuss. We then decided to tackle an area of the garden that I doubt dad had ever bothered to deal with. It was absolutely cram packed full of blackberries, Periwinkle, dead shrubs and trees and a massive tangle of dodder (a native mistletoe species) that was threatening to take over the entire area. In the process we found a nest with 4 eggs in it. Speckled Bob (one of our original hens) had been felled out of her last nest by Steve dropping a tree right where she used to lay her eggs and had only just made this nest and it was plundered. We know it was Bob because she headed straight to the nest and looked into it to check her eggs were still there thus allowing us to spot the culprit! Steve pruned the trees in the area and crown lifted as we proceeded and I waded in with my trusty secateurs and dealt with the blackberry invasion. They were none too happy with my efforts and despite vanquishing my arch nemesis (for now…) I am covered in blackberry bites…so much so that the mosquitoes left me alone last night as they couldn’t find a bit of me that hadn’t already been punctured.

It’s Good Friday today as I type out this bit of my post and last night, after working hard in the garden and being almost incapable of moving due to extreme fatigue, I set myself the task of making hot cross buns for the occasion. We don’t like shop bought hot cross buns. They always let you down by being stale and tasteless and so last year we made our own. Mum was here at the time and we set about making what ended up being stodgy and heavy buns that although Steve and mum ate them stoically, I just knew that they were being polite when they muttered encouraging words about them. As someone who earned her living from cooking before we moved here I figured I could do better and so last night, scratched, knackered and resilient I set about melding 2 recipes that I had found to make 1 successful recipe and hopefully at least a few buns that would be edible and in fact, tasty, today. I made the dough and set it to prove and then noticed that the buns took 12 hours to rise! It was 6pm at the time and so I decided to form the buns into their bunescent shape, put them onto a buttered baking tray and after buttering the tops of the buns, slid the entire kit and caboodle into a massive big black garbage bag (sans garbage) and shoved them into the fridge till today. I got up early this morning and removed the bag of buns from the fridge and put it up on the bread warmer to sit while we walked the dogs. When we got back I made up the cross mix and did my best to put the crosses on and we then cooked them on the bbq (our old work-horse oven that we used for a year when we first moved here and the stove was broken). Steve, and the dogs, pronounced them delicious and light and fruity and full of flavour which made me very happy. Sorry I couldn’t give you light fluffy hot cross buns when you were here mum but I dare say you are smiling wherever you are that I at least got to make 1 batch well :o)

Here we have our newly crossed buns after they emerged from their enormous black garbage bag to be baked in the outside bbq because it was early and we couldn’t be bothered lighting the fire…

Here they are, fresh out of the bbq (oven?) and glazed with a tasty mix of brown sugar and jam melted in a saucepan (Simon Rimmer style)

The proof is in the eating and these babies were delicious! Full of cinnamon, ground ginger, cardamom and ground cloves (who would remember to buy mixed spice when it was coming up to Easter?) they were a very interesting mix of whatever “sweet spice” I had in the cupboard. Steve had some toasted today and apart from me forgetting a batch and setting off the fire alarm they were, apparently, delicious!

We walked the dogs in Beaconsfield the other day and I collected a lot of fallen walnuts from a Juglans regia tree. My motto is “Waste not want not” and as no-one was collecting these fallen nuts I decided to take avail of their tasty neglect and they are now stratifying in peat in the shed ready to spring to life (hopefully) in spring. I also collected some lovely ripe figs that I had for my lunch later on. Nothing like figs picked perfectly ripe from the tree to make you know the full meaning of happiness. I had to wonder if the pairing for figs and walnuts was merely a culinary thing as they are both ripe at the same time so that would make them seasonally available at the same time as well. I managed to collect some more walnuts (also regia) from another tree on our walk around Bonnie Beach yesterday so we have a decent representation of local specimens of walnut so hopefully choosing nuts from trees growing well in the local area I will get a good germination rate and they will be adapted to the local growing conditions. We also collected some Washington Hawthorn berries to stratify and grow as well. They have really beautiful autumn colouration and edible berries and massive thorns making them a really good choice for using for hedging around Serendipity Farm. The native birds will love them for habitat and for food. The specimen that we got the seed grew from seed spread by birds so it shouldn’t be all that hard to get ours to grow. We can also take cuttings (hard and semi-ripe) in winter and summer respectively. With our hard work in the garden, Steve and I are both starting to get a bit of hope that we can make this garden ours.

I celebrate Easter in my own way. Steve was looking up why Easter is at different times every year. This came about because Easter fell on April 24th last year and this year it is April 8th…that is quite a variance! It turns out it is to do with the Vernal (lunar) equinox and that it is all about plastering religious ceremonies over the top of pagan ceremonies. Easter, Eostre, oestrus Esther and symbolic fertility all linked to the moon and tangled into each other in a melding of religious beliefs. I actually believe that Jesus died for humanity. I also believe that he rose from the dead. That is about where my actual beliefs veer massively from those of most common religious teachings. My dad was an atheist and mum was “Church of England” whatever that meant to mum I don’t know as we were never privy to her understanding of “church” in any way other than a vague need to adhere to it’s guidelines. My aunty used to drop by and pick my sister and I up to take us to Sunday school and we both fell into attending church. We had some interesting times and far from falling away from God, he has always been part of my life. I look back on my earlier understanding and cringe. Church isn’t where God is, he is everywhere and in everything. I once explained my concept of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit to my daughters. I need to explain here that none of my children are mindless vacuous shallow creatures and every single one of them has an excellent brain that they occasionally use when promoted. They all have some very interesting ideas about “things” in general and after I explained my concept my 2 girls both told me that I was mad and most probably would be stoned by the members of the Auld Kirk church for my beliefs. I guess my children are not the only unconventional thinkers in our family! I don’t think it’s all that hard to digest, but it has taken me a fair while to arrive at this point and I have had to sift through a fair amount of life and literature to get to where I am happy to be. Whatever you believe let Easter be a time of contemplation, gratefulness and thankfulness for your life and everything that you have and are.

We left Earl and Bezial on the deck watching us as we worked in the garden. Earl likes to keep us guessing and has a most chaotic way of acting so that he just lures us into thinking that he is a “good dog” and suddenly he strikes like a canine viper. Earl mastered table jumping at an Olympic level not so long ago and so we really should have been more sensible leaving things on the table when we headed out to work in the garden for hours on end. Steve headed up to the house yesterday to get us a cold drink and noticed Earl eating something on the floor. Earl was halfway through chewing and digesting his large leather collar that we had bought from a man at the markets especially for him. He had eaten past the tightest hole on his “Shackles of oppression” and there was no point in attempting to remove the collar from him as he had done his worst with it and rendered it useless. Earl is going to have to wear a large black heavily studded collar that we used to have for Bezial until we realised the effect that it had on passers-by when we walked him. Earl had not only eaten his Shackles of oppression, but he had sampled a walnut (only 1) and found it lacking. He had selected a walnut, cracked it and had a taste of the nut and the remains were left on the rug under the table which is where Earl strews his spoils of war (and their remains). I guess we were very lucky that he didn’t decide to eat Steve’s new mobile phone, but perhaps he was warming up to tackling it. Luckily we will never know because Steve arrived to stop him from sampling anything else on the table.

I have been doing online surveys for a few years now. I started off with 1 group in answer to a referral from my son (for which he got 200 points) and just kept going. I am now doing surveys for 4 survey groups and have received $170 up until now for my efforts. I just got $140 of gift cards in the mail from one of my survey groups and have $130 to be claimed in another group. It’s actually good to be able to have a say in consumer goods manufacture and make my opinion heard whilst gaining some kind of reward for my efforts. I am going to stop dealing with one group because they make it incredibly hard to claim rewards whereas the other groups are much easier to deal with. Here’s a shot of my latest haul and also of what I am going to spend $100 (the Bunning’s vouchers) on.

Here’s my “winnings” from my reward surveys

And we are going to buy one of these D.I.Y. 3 spotlights for the lounge room with the Bunnings cards. Gotta love the barter system eh? I give them every tiny little bit of information about myself including my underpants size and they give me a loungeroom light a win-win situation!

I had to pay the library $1 for an overdue book on Wednesday. I hate forgetting to take library books back to the library and incurring fees and most begrudgingly paid the library the money in 5c pieces. It’s MY protest and I can be as petty as I like thank you very much! I picked up my next book from Mary Anne Schaffer’s list and it is going to be a doozie of a book to read by the look of it. It is called “Covenant with Death” by John Harris and is “the tremendous story that traces the fate of one battalion of men from the time they obeyed Kitchener’s pointing finger until the morning they ‘climbed over the top’ to meet their baptism of fire – and death”. Ok, so that is pretty intense isn’t it! I am a sooky la-la (thanks for that Kym, it suits me down to the ground :o) when it comes to things like that and couldn’t bring myself to watch the final episode of Black Adder thanks to it being about just this topic. I took back my copy of “Under the Tuscan Sun” due to its boring, shallow and most uninspiring of content even though I had been waiting for it for months and ended up coercing the librarian into ordering the large print copy for me. Nothing is worse than anticipating a great read and being sorely let down. I am still waiting on Flaubert’s parrot to arrive. I was assured by T.A.L.I.S. (online library site) that it was “in transit” on Tuesday which meant that it should have been there on Wednesday to pick up but it wasn’t so I guess I am meant to read “Covenant with Death” at this point in time. How coincidental that I am to read this just before ANZAC Day eh? I am obviously meant to be digesting this book while I remember the lives that were senselessly lost to humanities need to elevate themselves to a position of power above the masses. What a total waste of life that we most certainly didn’t learn enough from. I am really starting to get a feeling for what made Mary Anne Schaffer tick and what moved her and filled her with compassion and the desire to put pen to paper. Each one of these “favourite books” that I read gives me a little taste of what she felt when she read them. Apart from 1 shameless romance novel and one that I can’t get because it isn’t in the library thanks to being banned because it explained how to make a bomb, the majority of books on her list are soul feeding comfort food that are leaving an indelible mark on me as much as they apparently did on her. My favourite to date has been Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. I loved this book and I loved how it was written and can’t wait to get stuck into my secondary list (other books by the authors that I enjoyed from the initial list…I LOVE my lists ;o) when I can read the rest of Louis de Bernieres no doubt wonderful books. If you like to read,  this man is a true story teller.

We have been “Flat out like a lizard drinking” (a little tip of my hat to our Forefathers colloquialisms… in fact forget forefathers, my father was a great one for colloquialisms “stone the crows!”…”Stiffen the bandicoots!”) This week and I have had to really drag myself tiredly to the computer to tap out these faint pathetic utterings this week. So tired…so little sleep thanks to Earl shoving us off the bed most nights and acting as a thermo-nuclear heat device. We have done so much this week that I can’t even begin to fathom it all and I love it! I haven’t had time to miss sitting about doing nothing because we have been busy cleaning out forgotten corners of Serendipity Farm and tackling the big issues rather than sliding them under the mat for another year. We have actually effected change this week and I am so very proud of we two penniless hippies for our dedication in crawling out of bed each morning to walk the dogs and iron out our spines as we walk from the day befores hard slog. Hard work is addictive. We had a day off and I wanted to get back outside and into changing our vista. We did heaps today as well but I am going to use what we did today to start next week’s blog. I don’t think I have room for any more photos do you? Have a fantastic week this week and remember not to sweat the small stuff that’s what we are doing so you may as well put your feet up and enjoy the sweat free ride!

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