Hermits with soil samples unite!

Hi All,

It’s Tuesday and another blog post deadline is looming. Stewart and Kelsey made a short stop on Serendipity Farm and it was lovely seeing them. They spent a lot of time wandering around in the dark looking at the stars and watching possums, bandicoots and wallabies scooting around in the undergrowth no doubt on their way to eating one or other of our tender shooting deciduous plants. We spent yesterday recovering and realising that we are indeed the hermits that our friends prophesied that we would become living out in the sticks and only venturing into town for “supplies”. A week of tidying and a whirlwind but wonderful visit later and Steve and I are feeling shell shocked. We had to head off to our friend in the witness protections place today to get another load of wood and to head over to Steve Solomon’s house to get the results of our soil tests and his customised prescription to remedy our obviously denuded soil. When we arrived at our friends place we noted that she was striding with purpose from her boundary fence with a large metal mallet. Living in the country can sometimes do strange things to a person and we approached her with caution but we didn’t have to be alarmed, she arrived muttering about how shooters hunt on her property and don’t shut the gate. They had broken the fence to get through (must be fat hunters) and she had been banging a metal star picket into the ground to hold the gate closed and stop her donkeys from raiding her vegetable garden. The things that people living in the country have to contend with!

Stewart and Kelsey relaxing on Sernendipity Farm

A group cuddle

Kelsey and the infamous American style Pumpkin Ale that is languishing at the back of our fridge for when I next feel like baking a beer chocolate cake

And what do we have here?

That would be a white forest cherry cake!

The travellers heading off to warmer climes 🙂

She heard on the grapevine somewhere that possums and wallabies won’t eat your plants if you situate stuffed toys all around them. Her garden now looks like some sort of demented landscaper has designed it with stuffed toys hanging by their necks from all sorts of odd places. Her little granddaughter had helped her to hang them by the neck. Life in the country is about as real as you can get. We left Steve with a massive log to be cut up and we headed out of the gate to Mr Solomon’s place for our results. We arrived and found Steve minus his bottom teeth thanks to some sort of denture accident but despite the loss of his lower mandibles speech mode we cobbled together the gist of what he wanted us to do. We purchased a sack of Soft Rock Phosphate from him and a large sack of dried wakame in lieu of kelp at a significant discount ($8 a sack for the wakame and $40 a sack for the kelp) with essentially the same nutritional rundown and the wakame has the added bonus of being extremely tasty! We got a printout of our initial results from the American soil analysis company and Steve then took those results and reworked them to be pertinent to a 10 square metre garden plot. My witness protection friend’s soil is quite denuded but nowhere near as much as he had expected. Because of the clay in her subsoil her summer hydrophobic soil is able to hold onto a reasonable amount of nutrients and our soil profile was even better. We both got Steve’s prescription for what to add to our soil and in what quantities. We had a bit of a laugh with him and he said that he was glad that he had met us and that we were “his type of people”. Always glad to make a new friend especially when he wants to assist us both with our gardening ventures in the future.

Meet Tilly. She used to be Nat’s dog and now she lives with our friend in the witness protection. If you lean on Nat, you might discover our friends identity but you have to get past Tilly first 😉

Our friend in the witness protection’s long suffering possum and wallaby scoffed back yard. Note the close proximity to native bushland and the strange collection of stuffed animals in grotesque poses

This is the first time that the rose situated directly underneath Mr Ted-E-Bear (complete with bow tie thank you VERY much…) has managed to keep its tender little new leaves since our friend in the witness protection planted it.

A teddy in a waistcoat taking one for the Gipper

Our friend in the witness protection just so happens to work in a gardening centre and can use her staff discount to avail herself of the necessary nutrients required for our soils. We have decided to buy in bulk and split the cost. I am going to buy 2 more sacks of wakame from Steve, myself, so that we can top dress the soil with pulverised dried wakame and he also said that we should use spent mushroom compost to add organic matter to the soil to increase the soil carbon. No problems with that Mr Solomon and your prescription fits in nicely with our own thoughts on what we want to use to improve fertility and vitality in both of our soils. We can also harvest mushrooms from our spent mushroom compost value adding at the same time. I love it when a plan comes together! We then bid Steve and his denture free lower mandible arividerchiand adieu and drove back to our friend in the witness protection’s property where she dropped me off at the gate where Steve was sitting in the car waiting for me to return with a trailer loaded down with wood, a most satisfactory situation! We drove home just in front of a massive black cloud that was hell bent on raining on our parade (and our load of wood!). We just made it home and the cloud decided to take a left at Albuquerque (no fun in us beating it home…off to find more mischief somewhere else) and leave us alone for a bit and so we quickly toted our wheelbarrows off to the woodshed to get ourselves some nice dry wood and on the way we decided to plant out the lovely claret ash that our good friend and lecturer in horticulture at our Polytechnic had bought for us when my mum died earlier this year. My mum had a massive big claret ash at her loved home in Denmark and couldn’t take it with her when she moved to her new little flat and she always talked about how much she loved it. We were going to buy one and plant it in her honour but Nat beat us to it when she read about our ideas. We hadn’t gotten around to planting it yet (slack…I know Nat!) but in honour of mums birthday today we decided to get stuck into our stone ridden soil and put the effort in to honour mum and give her a belated birthday gift. The place that we chose was near a regular green ash tree and overlooking Glad’s property with a nice view of the river. We can see it from the deck and when the ash starts to change colour in the future we will think of mum.

On a whirlwind visit to town after visiting Steve Solomon and our friend in the witness protection I noticed this lovely pattern painted by nature in Princes Square

Lacy tree shadows are a much better picture to share with you than what Bezial and Earl were doing ON said lovely deciduous trees…sigh…

A pretty display of Polyanthus in the park

I hate the gaudiness of Petunia’s but can’t resist Polyanthus

I can’t think of a better way to herald in Spring in earnest

Steve is wailing away to Jimi Hendrix who died on mum’s birthday (September 18th) 42 years ago. The dogs are tucked up on their respective chairs next to Brunhilda and I have our evening meal on the go. We were going to dispatch “Chicken” and “Stock” today but as it’s about to rain cats AND dogs we decided to give The Dalton Boys another day on this earth. We will be putting in a sterling effort tomorrow to work out where we are going to build our series of polytunnels behind the house. We dropped in on another friend who has been away this morning when we noticed them home on our walk with the dogs and they are going to get us some thick netting from the local salmon farm so that we can build our gravity assisted chook run. We will use terracing to ensure that our furious digging poultry can’t redistribute the hay that we put into it down to the bottom of the run in a day. Over the course of spring and summer we will be dealing with all of the debris constructively and we will be getting creative with our resources. I envy people who have water tanks and that is going to be our next big spend but we need to save up for them first. I have some ideas about market stalls and things that we have been tinkering with but that is going to have to wait a little bit as we have a pretty full few months ahead of us working out how to enclose our restless unsuspecting chooks and regain Serendipity Farms gardens and the ability to mulch and have the mulch stay put! After we planted mum’s claret ash “Chicken” was hovering around scratching the soil and pecking up slaters that had spilled out of the bottom of the bag and the remaining duck was feasting on a few foolhardy snails who thought that they were safe under the lip of the tree bag. I am under no misapprehensions that “Chicken” is going to do his level best to uproot the ash and will put some stones around the base tomorrow to ensure that they don’t tunnel mine down to its emerging spring roots.

Isn’t this a beautiful colour?

Either “Chicken” or “Stock” (not sure which) rootling around in the newly turned earth that contains the lovely claret ash that Nat bought for us when mum died earlier this year. We decided to plant it in honour of mum’s birthday. Thank you so much for your amazing kindness Nat and a huge hug to you for losing your dad last week

You know its really spring and not just a freak weather event when your grafted Japanese maples start to leaf up

This is how real men buy their spuds…by the 10kg bag and I applaud Steve’s cleverness as 10kg of King Edwards for $6.95 is a bargain in anyone’s neck of the woods

What have we here?

Is it catching?

Sigh…it would appear that “Clucky” is the new black on Serendipity Farm

Today was spent dealing in futures…it rained and thundered so any work was to be considered “future” and put on hold. We walked the dogs and swapped some plants and eggs for some netting to make our gravity fed chook run. We measured out the area that we are going to build our polytunnels in and decided to use the space in between the polytunnels as a covered area where we can harden off small plants out of the curiosity sphere of our native woodland scamp’s hell bent on scarfing their tender little shoots. It rained all afternoon and aside from trying to work out why my Facebook page seemed to not want to load when Steve’s was fine (sorted out now) we didn’t do much else.. We worked out the logistics of our polytunnels involving arcs, diameters and radii and gave ourselves headaches but at least we know that the materials available to us are going to be suitable for making polytunnels. I consider that a good day! It felt like a decidedly strange day all-round and after I post this post I am going to head off to ether land and do a bit of online distressing. I might even play a bit of Zelda as I had a nice early tea and am still awake which is always a bonus for me. I note that my posts are starting to creep up in the word count again but I am trying to keep a lid on their size. I will head off and post this one now as I know that there will be lengthy and wordy captions for my photos and it feels like cheating on my newfound desire to keep these posts lean and pertinent. See you all on the cusp of Saturday :o)

Before we go, here are a few of the projects that we took on in the week before Stewart and Kelsey arrived on our doorstep. Firstly this sad old rusted out mailbox might be only hanging on by the skin of its rust but you certainly wouldn’t know it from it’s schmick new look!

Our Hakea elk got attacked by some possum marauders and sustained an antler malfunction but he is still greeting visitors on Serendipity Farm

A close relative of the rusted out mailbox was the daggy old metre box but who could miss it now?

Last but by no means least the old dishevelled gas hot water system that hasn’t been used all winter now has a nice new paint job to match the metre box

An ounce of sustainablity is worth a pound of prevention…

Hi All,

It’s almost Wednesday again and I find myself scrabbling for time to post. I must admit, most of my free time is currently being monopolised by the Wii game Zelda Skyward Sword. It’s been a fair while since I found a game like this that I can actually play! Technology and gaming seem to have decided to bypass my motor neurons in every stage of game development increasing flipping between screens, weapons, items etc. and decreasing the amount of time spent hunting for bright shiny things which, if I am pressed, is pretty much the only reason that I like to play games. I get tired of them very easily and would rather spend time reading than gaming. In saying that I haven’t finished “Tuesdays with Morrie” yet, or “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café” which I took out on a whim. Reading is such a romantic retreat from real life that I love to take every opportunity that I can to explore my imagination. With the cold weather around here it is very tempting to put everything on hold and call an immediate hiatus to all things “gardening” and “outdoors” but ironically this is the best time to garden. Steve and I have a few days of fine weather this week with no studies that we have to do and so we have set aside the next few days to plant out all of my beautiful cold climate shrubs so that they will survive the summer with less water and so that they will be able to stretch out their roots and be “real plants” in the soil. No more potting mix (and subsequently, no more annual potting up…) and I have started tuning my radar to isolating cutting material, plants and seeds for our Edible food forest.

“GET OFF THOSE!”…damned rabbits are EVERYWHERE…

The reminder of roosters past…lest we forget

After a year off from propagation I can feel my horticultural bones starting to emerge from their enforced sleep and shaking me gently to remind me that penniless hippies NEED to produce most of their own plants and so I took advantage of some of my time in town to prune back the large Muscat (Vitus Vinifera ‘Poloske Muscat’) grape vine that we planted when we first moved to Tasmania and lived in town. It has done its level best to take over the fence between our place and Margaret’s home next door. I removed the honeysuckle and jasmine from the fence as they are invasive garden destroyers here and had started taking over not only the small side garden but the jasmine had migrated, via runners, across a length of concrete to another garden further on. There is no stopping jasmine! I decided that since I was pruning the grape vine to facilitate us digging it up soon and bringing it back to Serendipity Farm, that I would take some cuttings from the canes and not waste this chance to grow more Muscat grapes. While we were attending Polytechnic on a daily basis in Launceston, we learned as much as we could from anyone who would talk to us about all things horticulture and we spread ourselves around with learning as much as we could about all forms of propagation. We used to talk to the head of the viticulture department as wine is one of the major exports of Tasmania (especially Pinot) and after each course, the students would prune the small vineyard and Mark would use the pruning’s to teach the next group of students how to grow grapes from canes. He gave us some good pinot grape canes and some American table grape canes (not sure which variety) that we got going in our garden. I gave the table grapes away at the time but kept the pinot and we still have a pinot grape vine struggling along in the front garden. He taught us how to take the cuttings, how many nodes to look for, how to cut the top of the cane at an angle and leave the bottom straight so that once the canes have overwintered, had formed callous and were ready to plant out that it would be easy to identify top from bottom. With all of this acquired knowledge I took 30 cane cuttings from the material that I had to work with and stored them in damp newspaper till I could get them into some damp sand to overwinter. Hopefully we get some callous (precursor to root formation) starting and I can plant a selection of Muscat grapes along the fenceline between the church and the veggie garden giving everyone the best of both worlds. At a later date Steve and I are going to plant out a few rows of various grape vines in the top area of the property. It gets full sun and has been cleared of trees by past owners and is on a steep slope so it is perfect for growing a few grapes with the eventuality of us being able to make our own wine.

So you want to grow some grapes from canes eh?

First source some canes…Grape preferably…

Find a recepticle to contain the canes (we used a large plant pot…) make sure it has holes in the bottom and you have a compliant and willing (compliant is more important that willing in this case…) helper to hold the canes while you pour in the sand…

Did I mention the coarse river sand? No? Well perhaps I should have…you need some at this point…

Pour enough sand from your bucket into the recepticle holding the canes so that they are well covered

Shake your pot a bit to settle the sand, water them in well and set to one side with the rest of your potted plants out in the open until you feel like checking to see if any of the canes have produced callous. If you want to know more you can sign up for one of the short wine courses at your local TAFE/Polytechnic…you just exhausted my experience in growing grapes.

That brings me back to my slowly awakening desire to propagate again. My tip find strawberries are behaving like ferals and are going crazy in the shed. I potted them up expecting a large rate of attrition thanks to their languishing in the tip for goodness only knows how long and then spending a frozen night in our trailer and another 2 days lying neglected on the floor of the shed. Nothing kills them! When you take something that has been neglected and show it a bit of tender loving care it rewards you exponentially and my tip strawberries are no exception. Even the teeny tiny little “buddling’s” are greening up and taking off. We have a steep rock wall around the side of Steve’s shed that was previously covered with weeds and African daisies (Osteospermum) that we pulled out and discovered the precarious nature of this area whilst at the same time working out where the cut and fill was taken for the house plot. Our soil is a sad mix of reactive clay laying on bedrock of volcanic stone and covered with silty shallow topsoil due to our proximity to the river. We can ameliorate the soil and make it a whole lot better, but silt has the next finest particles to clay soil (that’s what causes it to be so densely packed) and tends to wash away at the first sign of water and strangely become very hydrophobic (water runs off the top of it) when it becomes dry…which it does VERY easily and so you can see that combining this sort of topsoil with a steep slope is going to lead to problems with soil migration. We were going to plant alpine species in between the rocks to hold the soil in place but Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum) is considerably harder to source here in Tasmania than strawberries from the tip and segue right back to the strawberries. They are extremely hardy…they love full sun…they produce runners and make their own new plants (the lazy food gardeners heaven) and the produce an edible crop and love to grow in crevices. The ducks think twice before heading down steep slopes and so the strawberries should require only minimal protection but we will ensure that they are covered with some mulch and protected from possums until we have enough strawberries to form a dense mat. I love finding edible free solutions to our gardening problems that arrive at a win-win situation for both us and the wildlife around here.

One of the pots of strawberries that show no sign of shuffling off this mortal coil any day soon

The sign posted between the Exeter Thrift/Op shop and the golf course next door…I guess it’s one way to stop people wandering onto the greens!

A mans dog needs a mans drink! (Any representitives of the Guinness corporation reading this post can feel free to contact me about sponsorship money 😉 )

I spent Monday checking out the height and width parameters for my cold climate shrubby babies that have been living in pots for about 3 years now. When we first got bitten bad by the horticultural bug we went on a mad propagation and collection run that encompassed all kinds of plants. I started out with cacti and succulents that the ducks recently took great glee in eating almost to extinction and branched to other exotics (living in the glasshouse) and finally settled on cold climate shrubs before moving to Serendipity Farm and getting serious. Having both Steve and I fall victim to horticulture meant that there was no-one to put the brakes on when it came to propagation and collecting and we spent a lot of time and initially money on increasing our potted plants to the vicinity of 900 (300+ conifers alone) and whilst it was quite easy to keep these babies happy in town, out here on Serendipity Farm it’s a nightmare! We have to fight off the possums, wallabies, rabbits and anything else that feels like a snack (including Earl) whilst trying to minimise our potable water usage and our precious babies have slowly been falling by the wayside as the real world interjects itself and teaches us some life lessons. No more precious babies that can’t take a period of water stress…no more cossetting plants and no more wasting water on them. If our potted plants can’t take the lean times then they can’t live on Serendipity Farm. We have been giving away plants to our city dwelling friends to save them from the possums and everything that is left in our collection is hardy, water wise and able to survive out there in the garden because it’s been sitting there and surviving all of the unprotected night time raids for over a year now so we can be confident that it should survive planting out in the garden.

Some of my thrift shop bargains sourced in Exeter

My $3 glow in the dark strip designed to stop cars from squishing me in the dark…now I just need to source something that will get me out of bed and actually “walking” in the dark…

“Bargain…”

An attempt to justify paying $3 for something that I know I am most probably (still not giving up on it…) never going to wear

This hand made non tip pottery mug was my idea of a way to stop the dogs from tipping over Steve’s coffee in the loungeroom…Steve has a London mug that he is choosing to use at the moment in patriotic fervour (that won’t last long…) and so it’s not being used. I wonder if it works?

I sadly also discovered that in our horticultural zeal to isolate and collect many species of conifer, that many of them grow HUGE and that 4 acres isn’t enough to do them justice. We will be (sadly) giving away a fair few of our conifers to ensure that our collection is able to be integrated with our food forest ideals. We have several conifers that yield edible seeds and indeed spruce needles can be used to make a vitamin C rich tea (no scurvy for us!) and there is room on Serendipity Farm for our Bunya nut (Araucaria bidwillii) trees that we grew from seed collected in Carlton Garden’s in Melbourne where we attended our very first International Garden Show. Most of our other conifers are water sucking atmospheric generators that future generations (you know who you are…) will stand at the bottom of looking up into the stratosphere wondering at the mind that thought it possible to plant Giant Sequoia’s at the entrance of their property when said Sequoia has now taken over the entire driveway and is threatening to uproot the house. The reason why people (who shall remain anonymous as is their constitutional right according to the law…) would want to plant a Giant Sequoia next to the entrance of the driveway is because said anonymous person grew that Giant Sequoia from a teeny little seed. That teeny little seed was the ONLY BLOODY SEED out of the entire packet of “Bonsai Mix” that grew and by HECK it is going to be planted next to the gate so help me them!  We shall speak no more about the subject…I said NO MORE!

Sequoia gigantea grown from seed in his first horticultural certificate course and soon to be planted with pride and joy at the front gate…take note Stewart…we are putting a caveat on this tree so you have bollocks all chance of removing it! 😉

I cleaned out the freezers on Monday because I like to torture myself. There was no room left in either of them and “stuff” needed to be frozen so I was forced into it. The main problem was that since we had killed and subsequently gotten the most out of 11 roosters over the last 3 months or so there was an inordinate percentage of freezer space being taken up by chicken stock. I have discovered, since waxing lyrical about the benefits of chicken stock, that we tend not to use it much. This has resulted in a glut of chicken stock in every orifice of the house that is somewhat cooler than room temperature and it was breeding exponentially. Having completed with a “PASS” certificates 2 and 3 in commercial cookery I am MORE than aware of the dangers of chicken stock when not kept at a specific temperature over extended periods and after adding up the dangers and needing more than my 2 hands and both my feet to count them I decided that desperate times called for desperate measures…something had to be done about that chicken stock! At this point of time the super hero usually appears and “BIFF KAPOW’s” something and everything is sorted out and Gotham City is saved. The superhero wasn’t available on Monday for some reason so a tired addled sleep deprived Zelda addict had to work out a solution all by herself…not a pretty sight especially on a Monday morning. I came up with a brilliant solution if I say so myself. First you analyse the problem…”no space thanks to tonnes of chicken stock”. Next you remember that your life mantra is “Think smarter NOT harder” (that’s the one that I share with the public…my REAL life mantra is “Shit! Maybe no-one will notice?” but that is another story…) and so I slowly formulated an excellent plan. I had only recently been reading my rss feed reader. Yes, I am THAT clever 😉 and realised that the solution was right in front of my eyes…

http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/homemade-bouillon-recipe.html

No…I am sorry. I have spoon fed you enough! If you actually want to see what it was that I did, you are just about going to have to go to that website and take a look you lazy bollocks!…I will wait here while you do… (Insert elevator music and wonder if they play “The girl from Ipanema” in Korean elevators…)…ok so I KNOW that you didn’t go there…look maybe this will help…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJkxFhFRFDA

Can ANYONE tell me why elevators chose to use this song?!!! Just watching Astrud makes my eyelids start to droop! I guess it was last century and who can guess at what olden day’s people were thinking about when they wrote music like that…

Ok I made concentrated stock! Easy peasy. I turned a kitchen sink overflowing with bags of stock into an eighth of a stockpot of gelatinised rubber that the dogs will do tricks for. I am going to bounce it all off the deck down to the waiting chickens and feral cats and see if I can’t skim some down to the Tamar River. Again…we shall speak no more of this!

I found this website online and you can get this fantastic catalogue on recycled paper sent to you once a year. I doubt I could source the seeds through this guide but its full of hints, tips and other fantastic “stuff” to help people who want to live sustainably and thats us!

What I am reading at the moment…(I LOVE you library!)

The latest copy of Feast magazine (FAR better than Delicious magazine you ABC snobs and MUCH more interesting) accompanied by my bucket cup  of tea that enhances my reading pleasure (durex for the mind)…by the way dearest daughter Bethany…if you are reading this post, I really REALLY would like you to renew my subscription for my birthday for another year 🙂

Ok we are getting close to me having to wind up this post and I haven’t told you everything that happened since Saturday. Here is a quick rundown…

  1. Fatty ate one of Effels babies and is skating on thin ice even though it was a rooster (it’s the principal of the thing!)
  2. We went to Exeter and I got bargains from the thrift shop that I will share pictorially and kill 2 birds with one stone
  3. Steve is very tired of his shed being liberally coated in nitrogenous chickeny deposits and is about to integrate Pingu into the main herd post haste…
  4. I can’t bring myself to clear out any of my hard sourced blogs from my rss feed reader even though I can’t hope to read all of the posts that I get a day in a 24 hour period let alone fit anything else into my day. Sorry to anyone that I usually comment on regularly… you now know just what it takes to get me to shut up…DON’T tell Steve!

There you go. A couple of manic days in the life of “Us”. I hope you liked it…I can honestly say that it’s kind of too bad if you didn’t…it’s in the public domain now and I guess you are stuck with it. My daughters “Madeline and Bethany” now have to read this post because their names have been mentioned and my son is having a ball dressing up as an ancient Sumerian Godlike creature and getting in the Roswell times whilst wearing a pair of “Butterfinger” underpants given to him by the purveyors of this diabetes inducingly sweet American treat. I am totally engaged by Stewart’s American holiday and it certainly appears that he has been packing it to the rafters with non-stop memory inducing episodes. He does appear to have inherited his grandmothers ability to take photographs of nondescript road scenes and blurry road signs (they say that it skips a generation…) but his whirlwind tour of the USA is just about over and he is heading across the Atlantic ocean and then a hop-step-and a jump across the Irish sea to Ireland (Not much of a quiz question that one is it?). I hope he has an amazing time and his memories are burned into his mind so that he never forgets. Ok, so photos might be a good alternative…I was being metaphorical there! (Sheesh you guys are a tough audience!). You got off lightly today because I now have to go and tackle that behemoth also known as “RSS Feed Reader”. I am going to have to tear out my ongoing desire to hoard each and every blog that touches a nerve and keep a core group of blogs that feed my soul. Please don’t take offence if you never hear from me again. I didn’t dump your blog…I just couldn’t find a way to separate myself from ANY of my 729 (and growing every day) blogs that I am currently following and decided that hoarding blogs is NOTHING like hoarding rubbish or cats. See you Saturday when I might just have collected enough colourful gems to save Spain, Greece AND Ireland (I owe it to Stewart and Kelsey) in Zelda. Whatever you choose to do in the meantime…do it well people and don’t skip bits…you only get to pass this way once…you may as well enjoy the ride :o)

Pass the post please and don’t scrimp on the content…

Hi All,

I have just spent almost a week staying at my daughter’s home in town while they are away inMelbourne. I haven’t had much time to sit around “thinking” which was going to be something that I had fully intended to take advantage of, but I am feeling very happy with myself and the world all the same. I hurled myself into the garden today and wheeled Taylor (the grey Indian Ring neck parrot) out the back to enjoy a bit of outside sunny time with the 3 doves that have moved in. Qi has been wonderful and has been tailing me like a shadow and making sure that none of the poor pedestrians that stop to pass the time of day get close enough to me to do any damage to her food provider. She is a very clever little girl and instinctively knows who is a possible threat and who isn’t. We used to watch an elderly woman walking past each day as we set off walking with our dogs when we lived here 2 years ago. We named her the “Stick Witch” because she had a sharp pointed stick and a very sour face and would stride with purpose up and down the road looking for something to complain about. I dare say she has hit more dogs that just came out to say hello with that pointy stick and today she must have been giving out her “Stick Witch Vibes” on a large scale because Qi was sitting out on the front footpath with me while I pruned the roses. Qi growled at her and she looked like she was thinking about coming over to read me the riot act about allowing dogs out onto the footpath but thought twice and headed off striding maniacally and spearing bits of random rubbish with her vicious pointed stick. What makes people get like that? It’s just a real sad indictment of the human race. I was making sure that my little dog didn’t go near her or even bark at her. I sometimes wonder what someone has had to go through to arrive out the other end as bitter, twisted and angry as the Stick Witch who has never smiled or even waved at us the whole time that we lived here and tried to be friendly. Oh well…Qi is never allowed out on her own so should never have to suffer the Stick Witch’s pointy revenge. When I said earlier that I was “pruning” the roses, I have to be honest…I was actually hacking them down and cutting them off at the bases and painting them with glyphosate! I know…what a terrible thing to do! The roses had been very badly “pruned” by someone in the past and they had cut them back below the scion and they had all returned to the rootstock which was particularly thorny, vigorous and constantly needing to be cut back from the footpath that they had been planted close to. I have finally come to the conclusion that my daughters are highly unlikely to follow in my footsteps and ever become interested in tending the garden so I am in the process of minimising the plants that are high maintenance and adding plants that are easy to grow, water wise and that pretty much do their own thing. When we first moved here I knew sweet nothing about gardening apart from remembering that mum used to take cuttings and just shove them into the ground. This works well with things like lavenders, geraniums, pelargoniums and certain other hardy plants but most plants need a bit more coaxing. I started “Jamming bits in” to turn the barren wasteland of exposed topsoil into something resembling a garden and to my surprise, most of the “bits” grew! The front garden is situated underneath a massive Liquidambar styracaflua. It makes planting anything under its canopy a bit difficult to say the least and so there are lots of perennials and ground covers underneath it that are doing quite well.

This is the incredibly sanitised pile of strawberry plants and runners that I found at the tip…I have already potted up half of them and suddenly remembered to “GET THE CAMERA!”…photo opportunity supreme!

Yeh those ASICS are bright but at least my feet won’t be run over by a speeding milk, wine or salmon truck (yes…we have all 3 of these speeding around the narrow dirt roads around Serendipity Farm at any given time…)…the white cherry box contains strawberry plants that I am working on

My squintillion strawberry plants that have suffered an amazing lack of attrition in the days since I planted them

I learned a bit more about plants and putting the right plant in the right place and have realised that some of my early, most enthusiastic, plantings might not have been strictly thought about much before I “bunged them in the ground”…I planted an Arbutus unedo right next to the porch. These grow to quite large specimens…trees to be exact! I also planted a nice merlot coloured leptospermum right underneath the lounge room window. Again…this particular leptospermum tends to “tree” rather than “small shrub” so my judgment (or lack therein) at the time may have set me up for a bit of hard work in the future. I am trying to make this an easy care water wise garden and am constantly amused at some of the comments that people make to me who walk by when I am gardening and who live nearby. “That tree is a bloody nuisance”…I get a lot of that…for the sparing bit of water that it gets through the summer, “That Tree” gives shade and cool to this house and provides an enormous amount of habitat for birdlife. When the autumn comes and the “bloody leaves” start to drop it provides a free source of large leaves that readily break down to smaller dry particles that form the most delightful soil amelioration and mulch that I know. I wonder if gardening can come to you instinctively. I knew that the denuded soil here that is predominately reactive clay needed to be covered so that it would hold in the moisture and prevent it from drying out and cracking. Once this reactive clay is dry it’s like trying to dig ceramic. Not an easy task! Something in my head said “why waste those leaves?”…I started to rake the “bloody bollocky nuisance leaves” and put them onto the garden in thick droves. This made the roses sad but you know what…I don’t like hybrid tea roses! There you go…I admitted it! I love climbing roses, I love old fashioned roses but I can’t stand those spiky sticks that seem to need so much care and return the odd flower that smells of nothing and that succumb to EVERYTHING. Black spot is our problem here thanks to my endless piling up of leaves. I leave room around the stem but the leaves are somewhat uncooperative and with the first wind, clump around the nearest rigid thing which tends to be “trunks and stems”. Oh well… no more black spot garden!

A very sad and most depressed Bezial laying directly on top of my hot water bottle in bed at my daughters house

You can see the size of the large Liquidambar styracaflua in the front garden in town. This was my very first garden in my life where I could do what I wanted and that belonged completely to me. It contained the tree, the camellia and the yellow daisy that you can just see to the left of this picture and a tiny mostly dead hydrangea. I “bunged cuttings into the ground” (like mum had taught me) and most of them grew! Now the garden needs to be pared back to be managed by my daughters and it’s now a challenge to fill it with waterwise plants and allow it to thrive all over again…a good garden never dies…it evolves

This is where East meets West…We are West, Margaret next door is East and her gate (despite looking like it is unhinged) just shows how steep her driveway is. Nothing grew in this corner of the garden thanks to rock hard ceramic clay soil and after 4 years of me maniacally collecting the leaves in autumn and throwing them back onto the garden (much to the consternation of the rest of the gardeners on our tiny street who thought that I was some mad crazed hippy…) this soil can now be easily dug and the bare patch (that only recently contained a plethora of black spotted spindly hybrid tea roses…) will be planted out with Aeoniums. No ducks here to scoff them!

It’s a jungle out there! Prior to us moving here this was totally denuded of vegetation and completely exposed rock hard clay soil. A few leaves and a bit of time later and its rich friable soil. Nature rules!

Dealing with a small front garden that contains a massive tree has it’s problems. I dealt with the problems of invasive water stealing roots by using water wise shrubs and lots of ground covers to fill the garden and unlike most of the carefully manicured gardens in the street, this unkempt mass of vegetation survived 3 months of no rainfall last summer with no water at all…I rest my case folks!

I have noticed that the years of putting the leaves back onto the garden have paid off and in the summer the garden keeps going despite the girls never watering at all and we have an extended period of dry weather that tends to run from January through to March. We get very little rain in that period and everything starts to suffer. This garden seems to be going from strength to strength and it makes me smile inside to know that all of those people who thought that I was nuts to be snipping all of my green waste back into the garden and piling up those leaves high are shaking their heads mid-summer at their dead and dying gardens. We can’t afford to have gardens like “the old days”. We can’t afford not to take advantage of the moisture retentive properties of mulching, the use of water wise plants, which there are many of to be honest and some of them are surprisingly resilient, and thinking smarter (i.e. lots of ground covers or green mulch as they are commonly called when clumped so they all join up together). Again, something told me that ground covers were the way to go and I set about planting anything that I could that would spread out under the Liquidambar and take up as much space and minimise the topsoil exposure as it could. There are strawberries still producing fruit in this garden. Every time I would find a thriving ground cover growing close to the footpath on our walks I would take a small innocuous piece and get it growing so that I could plant it in our garden. We have violets everywhere, strawberries, pyrethrum daisies and various other low growing ground covers that are all starting to choke out the weeds and cover the surface of the leaf mulch keeping it from blowing away. Instinctive gardening…it’s a pity that our desire to keep up with the Jones’s makes us plant and do some incredibly stupid things in the name of garden fashion isn’t it? I am just about to make Margaret, our neighbour to the left’s day. I am going to kill the jasmine and honeysuckle that I planted there in my horticultural wisdom just after we arrived. I now know that jasmine and honeysuckle have the propensity to grow like invasive aliens and am removing them before I have a real problem on my hands in the future. I used to keep everything pruned and under control when I lived here and took a lot of pride in my very first ever garden of my own. It sometimes depresses me to see what has happened to it, but it’s all still alive, and it’s all growing so that tells me that it’s pretty self-sufficient (in the main part). One thing that died a terrible death was a large Vietnamese mint shrub that I grew from a cutting. You can grow them easily by putting a handful of the mint into a jar of water and they sprout like mint. The problem is that they are very water hungry and would grow IN water if they could. I just pulled up the dead plant and chopped it into small pieces back into the garden…the new rule in this garden is “if you need lots of water you are going to die!” Life is tough plants…I spoiled you, and now you are going to have to grow on your own stems!

My faithful shadow Qi inspecting my raking of the front verge and proclaiming me somewhat remiss…”You missed a few…”

Small strip of front lawn covered in leaves…

Small strip of front lawn not covered in leaves

Here I am home again and enjoying feeling my place in my space with a degree of happiness that I wouldn’t have thought possible. A week away and I missed Serendipity Farm. I missed looking out of the kitchen window and watching the sunrise kiss the Tamar River and make it blush (rain tonight) and I missed the quiet, the space that Steve and I instilled when we renovated this place and I missed Steve and the boys so much that I didn’t mind where we walked on the day I got up, just that we “walked” together. The thing that I missed MOST about Serendipity Farm (and at the risk of sounding superficial) was my wood fired slow combustion stove. The girls have a really good big all gas oven in town that cooks really well but this stove heats our entire house and the ambiance that it brings to our riverside cottage is more than the sum of its components. Bezial came to town with me for a couple of days and missed this behemoth of a stove so badly that he lay next to the small wood burning fire in town constantly despite its sad inability to heat a very small space and when I sent him back home he didn’t move from in front of the fire for the entire day. Winter in Tasmania is a pretty cold experience for an Australian. We are not used to cold and when it drops down below 0C you can actually see the heat pumps being turned on at 4pm reflected in the electricity dimming. Brunhilda has allowed us to remain warm, content and all wrapped up in a degree of inner satisfaction that we are not affected by the power cuts that are as sure as eggs over the winter period thanks to our electricity needy neighbours and compatriots who desire heat at a massive cost to the power grid. The only thing that I miss when the power goes off here is the computer :o)

Beauty Point (10 minutes away from our place) and don’t let this picture fool you…it was FREEZING COLD.

You won’t get many pictures of me…this is effectively a picture of the dogs on the Beauty Point wharf that I just so happen to be in

The pretty little seaside town of Beauty Point where you can buy houses for sixpence (which isn’t much of a stretch of the truth at the moment in Tasmania…)

Well guess what? I forgot to post this post last night! Correct me if I am wrong but this may just be the very first post that I actually “forgot” to post since I started this blog. We spent yesterday creating blocks and polishing our AutoCAD drawing of our sustainable landscape design for Serendipity Farm. My ability to sit happily designing blocks without having a nervous breakdown is a sign that not only can you “teach an old dog new tricks” but that the dog might actually enjoy said trick once it passes its suspicion gland and manages to become something that might be useful. That’s the process that enables me to learn something. I love to learn but if I can’t see a use for it anywhere in my world it’s not something that I am going to embrace or remember any day soon! The past week and a blossoming cold and an impromptu visit from a friend laden with 2 wallabies (for the dogs) and a boot load of firewood (love you friend who remains anonymous in the witness protection program…) and a mad flurry of activity in creating a soul soothing batch of chicken soup for Steve with our very own Serendipity Farm rooster stock (apparently heavenly) and a last minute hastily constructed old fashioned date loaf and custard to cure Steve’s sweet tooth and finally (and most damning of all…) a bout of playing my new copy of Zelda Skyward Sword (Cheers girls :o) ) I completely and utterly forgot to post…I forgot you my dear constant readers and there is no denying it! I guess life got in the way of a good post and if I ever find that good post, I will immediately post it here to  make up for it! Here I am at 6.51am forgoing my early morning rss feed reading degustation menu for the day just for you so that I can make sure that Serendipity Farm is not missing from your online menu of “stuff to read”. The strawberries that I found at the tip (dump…green waste receptacle…whatever floats your boat for a place where people throw what they no longer care about…) when dumping a load of blackberries (forget no longer care about for blackberries…they are instantly thrown into the must obliterate at all costs basket!) and that I spent a few happy hours cleaning up and isolating all of the small plants forming at the end of masses of runners and used up almost all of our cubic metre of prime potting mix on are ALL GROWING. That’s right folks…after goodness knows how long languishing at the tip…a day in the back of the trailer languishing in the frost…2 days languishing in the shed on the floor and a degree of predation by the shed dweller (Pingu)…I suspected at least a not inconsiderable degree of attrition…but as far as I can see every single strawberry from the large well rooted plants to the teeny tiny little buddlings (not a technical term but whatchagonnado?) are all standing to attention in their newfound pots and are threatening to change Serendipity Farm into a mass strawberry producing property in one fell swoop. Don’t you just love seizing the day? I seized the strawberry opportunity and put up with a few hours delving amongst the tangled mass of vegetation to arrive at a point where I don’t have to buy strawberries for my garden and indeed will be able to supply friends and neighbours with strawberries for their gardens as well. Cheers universe!

Who would have thought that just around the corner in the background is the industrial centre of the North, Georgetown?

This Leucadendron goes to show that you don’t necessarily need to have flowers in winter…bracts will do! I am going to be taking cuttings from Leucadendrons as they have proved themselves (through observation) to be ideal plants for water wise gardens in Northern Tasmania. Check out what is thriving in local gardens when you are thinking about what to put in your own garden and learn from other people’s hard work…work smarter NOT harder is my motto 😉

How is this for clever and most organic advertising? The salon is now closed but some bright spark who decided to utilise the existing Boston Ivy to enhance their business advertising should be given at least some superficial kudos from us all

So that’s it for today folks. I would appologise emphatically for not posting last night if I didn’t enjoy the process of forgetting about you and so…in my year of living honestly… here I am making amends. I can feel a cold tickling at the back of my eyes at the moment and filling my head up with nefarious glue…but that’s not going to stop me doing everything that I can to enjoy the process of living in the stanza between this post and the next and hopefully every single one of you will find something in the next few days to be grateful and thankful for. See you on Saturday :o)

Blackbean veggies (made with home made blackbean sauce) with omelette and spicy Thai fish cakes with basmati rice…not a bad thrown together meal if I must say so myself…

This meal just got elevated to degustory heaven for an Englishman in absentia from his homeland…

Now your talking! All that would make this pure heaven on a stick is a dollop of vindaloo on that basmati rice and a side portion of chips in curry sauce…Don’t say that I don’t try to feed you well babe 🙂