Archive for August, 2013

This past Sunday we focused Flower Power. I grew up with some funky and neat clothes. We had some wonderful flowery sheets and I even have some of those and use them as top sheets to protect our bedding from mountains of cat fur.

winter (either 1975 or 76)

winter (either 1975 or 76)

Each year as I plant more drought tolerant plants and more herbs, I am amazed at the beautiful flowers that some of the plants come out with at times when we have had no rain at all for months. What is also even more wonderful is to see some of them covered with bees and the butterflies working their way from bloom to bloom each day.

My Aunt painted her kitchen cupboard doors.

My Aunt painted her kitchen cupboard doors.

Flowers are amazing. Beautiful. Colorful. Purposeful. Their many shapes and sizes are spectacular. The colors range from bright and showy to soft and subtle. The flowers also have purpose. They pull in the pollinators with scents of sweet nectar and pollen. With out the pollinators we would have no honey, not fruits and vegetables, no nuts.

Flower Power - Old sheet

Flower Power – Old sheet

To me, Flower Power, has a different meaning than it did in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The way I look at it is… flowers do have power.

Bee on my spicy Italian oregano

Bee on my spicy Italian oregano

Do you think flowers have power?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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At either end of the garden season in Chicago are two large trade shows– the Chicago Flower and Garden show in March, and the Independent Garden Center Show in August.

The Chicago Flower and Garden Show is a public exhibition. Constrained by the need to stand up to crowds numbering 40,000 or more, and a definite tendency to dumb itself down to the broadest possible constituency, it’s characterized by unimaginative plantings, miles and miles of brick walkways, and improbable water features that might conceivably surround some awful McMansion, assuming the types of people who live in McMansions have even the limited imagination (not to mention the cash) needed to install large water features.

The “marketplace,” where you might think to find interesting consumer goods for gardeners, will have the occasional display of airplants, bulbs, and garden gloves, but also, I kid you not, mattresses, wheelie carts, and boom boxes. Despite it being in and theoretically about gardening in Chicago, it has a definite suburban feel.

The Independent Garden Center show is a trade show, not open to the public, featuring goods and fixtures to sell at garden centers. While there are a good number of marvelous vendors of plants, seeds, gloves, tools and the like, there’s also a lot of what I call “landfill”– garden trinkets and tchotchkies that owe more to fad than to necessity.

Neither is really geared to gardeners like me.

Occasionally, the Flower and Garden Show will feature an exhibit like the one Peterson Garden Project did this past year, with a recognizably urban sensibility, and a scale that an actual human being with a normal sized yard and budget might have; or the mini-prairie restoration of a few years ago that showed a “timeline” of how to restore a landscape that has been taken over by exotic invasives.

Seldom will the needs of edible gardening be addressed; even outside the trade shows edible gardening remains the bastard child of the industry– not hip like urban farming, or school-tie respectable like roses or lilies, urban edible gardening doesn’t seem to have the clout or the profile to make it into the world of garden shows.

I like flowers a lot. I’ve devoted half my garden to them. I am proudly a “gardener;” I’m not a farmer, even though I grow food. The scale is a garden scale, a family scale.

Where is the trade show, the shop, the focus, for edible gardeners with a small urban yard, or a balcony? For gardeners like me?

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Hi All,

When Emily said that the theme for this week was “Flower Power” I must admit I was going to raid my old photo albums to find a few flowers to share with you. Here on Serendipity Farm we are being buffeted by the final throes of winter and after the torrential rain and strong winds accompanied by frigid temperatures that we have been getting lately I was sure that nothing would have been flowering in the garden to share with you. I headed down what was left of our driveway to share a few images of the small Grand Canyon’s that now make up a good proportion of where our car has to drive and managed to capture a surprising amount of floral survivors to share with you. I put them all together into a slideshow to share with you all and as we blow headlong into spring, I would imagine those of you in the North will be starting to batten down the hatches as autumn (fall) starts to approach

We had a particularly dry and long lasting summer this year and I am reminded of how resilient plants really are. A long hot summer followed by a freezing cold dry autumn and now a very wet ending to winter that has seen trees toppling over due to their roots being unable to hold onto the sodden clay underneath and STILL they flower. I feel a sense of elation whenever I see the daffodils, jonquils and snowflakes (Leucojum aestivum) along with our endemic wattles herald the approach of spring and the hope that our soil might just survive a bit better than our poor ex-driveway has. Life goes on and the early flowering bulbs are a reminder of this every year. Soon Serendipity Farm will be bursting with colour and scent and not everything that flowers on Serendipity Farm is welcome. We have our fair share of weeds and even if they are plants in the wrong place, some of them are especially difficult to remove. We also have a plethora of Dragon/snake/voodoo lilies (Dracunculus vulgaris) that litter the driveway in mid-summer. The flowers are striking in shape, colour and sheer unmitigated stench. They join the arum lilies, forget-me-nots and periwinkles that are attempting to take over the lower acre of Serendipity Farm.

We have some large pots of cymbidium orchids that I inherited from my father when he died. I doubt that even he knew how many he had lying around in broken pots amongst the undergrowth but after liberating them to the sunshine they are all just about to flower. I haven’t got any pictures for today’s post but you can believe me when I say that a liberated orchid is a very happy creature indeed :o). I can’t wait to see this week’s posts. Steve and I are both horticulturalists and love plants with a passion. I love seeing what other people have in their gardens and I know that most of the contributors here have lovely gardens. As the first cab off the rank, poor Serendipity Farm is about as “South” as you can get until you hit Antarctica so we will probably be wet and cold until October but like the flowers, I remain optimistic about the changing seasons. Unlike most of the rest of Australia, Tasmania has 4 definite seasons and I am really enjoying seeing what these seasons bring florally to Serendipity Farm. Here’s my slideshow of survivors…I hope you all enjoy winters last hurrah :o)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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Flower Power came onto the scene back in the late 1960’s and 70’s out in Berkley, California. It was a symbol of non-violence and passive resistance. Hippies embraced the idea and started colorful clothing with embroidered flowers and colors. Wearing flowers in their hair and handing out flowers, they became known as “flower children.”


Being a child of 1965, I (Sincerely, Emily) was old enough to remember some “Flower Power!” Right this moment, for me, Flower Power brings to mind pollination. (It also has me singing songs from the soundtrack from Forrest Gump) “To everything, turn… turn… turn. There is a season, turn… turn… turn” or “R E S P E C T. Find out what it means to me. R E S P E C T. Take care. TCB”  (TCB = Taking care of business)


Funny you should mention that Emily…only the other day I (Fran) reacquainted myself with “Flower Power” in the form of a fibreglass cow wearing gumboots! 😉

DSCF5899“YEAH Baby!” 😉


As Serendipity Farm is suffering the last throes of winter I had to hunt high and low for some flower material. These might be pretty to some folks but Forget-me-nots certainly live up to their name on Serendipity Farm…”WEEDS”! Just flowers in the wrong place 😉


This is a “Where’s Wally” flower


Who needs flowers when you have leaves like this?

I managed to take a few more flower images but I am saving them for Monday’s post…sorry guys, you will just have to take the bait and come see on Monday just what narf7 managed to find under all of the mud, flooded soil and windswept debris. Until then, I am officially envious beyond belief of all of you Northern Hemisphere full flowering summer folks…


Flower Power Central! Can you spot me (Alexandra) at the Independent Garden Center show in Chicago last week? (Thank you LaManda Joy for taking the photo!)


What does “Flower Power” mean to you?

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This past Sunday our Sunday Photo post focused on “Flour Power.” Well, flour has definitely taken on power, and new meaning for me in the past five years.

On my journey to rid our kitchen of processed and pre-packaged food, I have also taken some detours and now local food plays a very important part of this journey as well.  Granola Bars 1

Flour, also gives me freedom. The freedom and power to make things like bread and pizza dough. Crackers and muffins. Sour dough starter and white sauce. I know where my flour came from and I know what the ingredients are in the things I make. Not only do I know the ingredients, but making these things is also frugal. I know it costs a lot less then buying a loaf of bread at the market.bread dough

In Sunday’s post Alexandra talked about finding local flour in Wisconsin a few hours from where she lives. I finally found a source for wheat in Texas that is about 500 miles away. YIKES. Texas is fifth in the nation in wheat production, and it is hard to find wheat or flour locally. Hmmm. Fran talked about flour and its connection to communities.KPMF on toast with asaragusOn any given day, I usually eat something that I eat that has flour in it. Toast made from homemade bread to go with my morning eggs. Maybe a granola bar in the car on the go. Last week for dinner I made a mushrooms in a white sauce using flour, served if over toast and topped that off with steamed asparagus.

Flour is one of the staples that I would never want to be without in my cupboards because it plays an important part in our meals. I am grateful that I have the time to make these things at home.

What part does flour play in our kitchen and life?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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My mother died when I was 22.

Not an auspicious start to a post, is it. But I promise not to be depressing. I’m just back to the fallible parent theme.

My mother was a wonderful cook, and a much better baker than I’ll ever be. But there are standard family dishes that I make much better than she did.

She’ll never know of course, so no sheepish “sorry, Mom, your Shepherd’s Pie is dry.”

Now my mother-in-law, this is something different. She’s very much alive, and teaching me how to cook Chinese. Last fall she came over and showed me how to make Luo Bok Gao (turnip cakes– you may have had these if you’ve had dim sum). She brought three different kinds of rice flour (on this week’s theme) and we used daikons from the local grocery, but it just didn’t taste right, and they were very gluey.

Then, last year, I found seeds from Kitazawa seed company, which specializes in Asian vegetables, for actual luo bok, called Korean Turnip on the label. These are, essentially, 2 pound radishes, with a consistency somewhere between radish and turnip. So I pulled my mother-in-law’s recipe, and a recipe pulled off the internet, and landed somewhere in between.

Result? Restaurant quality luo bok gao, way better than mom’s


Homemade Luo Bok Gao

2 ½ lbs     (1 lb)     Chinese turnip
1 ½ cup     (¾ c)    gluten-free rice flour
3 Tsp     (1 ¼)     corn starch
2 tsp     (¾ tsp)    salt
2 tsp     (¾ tsp)    sugar
½ tsp     (¼ tsp)    white pepper
1 ½      (1)    Chinese sausage, chopped to small pieces and fried (if you don’t have this sweet, dense sausage available, a cheap, mild salami is a good substitute– the fattier the better)
2    (1)    small dried shitake mushroom, soaked in water for 1 hour, then cut off stem and diced
1    (1)    green onion sliced
¼ cup    (¼ cump)    shrimp, diced
1 ½ cup    (¾ cup)    water (approx.)

1. Peel and grate the turnips into a pot; add a small amount of water. Bring it to a boil and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes, add more water if needed.
2. Grate the mixture with an immersible blender and then add the Chinese sausage, green onion, shitake mushroom, shrimp, and carrot into the pot.
3. Add salt, sugar, pepper, turn to low heat, and continue to stir.
4. Gradually add the rice flour to the mixture. Do not add it all at once.
5. Add some water and the corn starch, continue to stir. Mixture should not be runny or solid. Add the meat and vegetables.
6. Grease a non stick cake pan (about 8 inches) or casserole dish, pour mixture into pan to a one-knuckle depth, and steam for 40 minutes. To steam: use a large steamer or a wok, add water to the bottom and support the pan with a small rack. After 40 minutes, insert a toothpick in the centre, if it comes out clean, the Turnip Cake is ready.
7. Let cool. To serve, slice and pan fry until golden brown. An 8″ cake yields about 9 small slices. Serve with any traditional sauce.

This recipe makes two 8″ cakes.

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Hi All from narf7 from Serendipity Farm

Today’s post was brought to you by the concept of flour through the ages. I have a very sketchy ability to recall my own history let alone the history of the rest of the world but somewhere in the back of my mind I remember a history lesson regarding how important the growing of cereal crops was to the history of mankind. It meant that we would no longer need to be nomadic and that there would be a degree of surety regarding our food supply that was previously reliant on the hunting of large and dangerous creatures to feed us. Maybe that’s where vegans started as well…who knows! All I know is that it meant that people tended fields of grain while others went out to catch the mammoths and that’s where humanity started to really appreciate the concept of community. Everyone had a job, and the cereal became the backbone of the community.


Sourdough rye starter after being fed, ready for use


A sourdough loaf

Very early on we humans learned that a loaf of bread (albeit unleavened and most probably somewhat tasteless) was a valuable thing when the mammoths went on their annual sabbatical to wherever they went (most probably the La Brea Tar Pits) and being able to harvest perennial grasses allowed communities to grow and prosper. The production of flour allowed a community to store food and once food was stored it could be bartered for other food and goods and services, and over a period of time commerce was born. Flour, and that tasteless loaf of unleavened bread was incredibly vital to how big a community could grow and how far it could travel to meet up with other small communities.


Homemade spinach pasta dough made with eggs and spinach produced on the property


A Roly Poly Tiger Stromboli created from a savoury Stromboli recipe after wondering if a sweet version might be nice…it was!

Fast forwards to today and flour is just as important to our economies as it was back then but we have refined (pun intended) our flour to within an inch of its life and it isn’t the life sustaining product that it once was. Fortunately for us there are healthy alternatives and we can all have a go at creating customised baked goods suitable for everyone in our family. There is a groundswell of interest in cooking and especially baking and a subsequent rise in food blogs enabling us all to customise our diets to suit our requirements. It also allows us to share what we learn with our friends and family and spread the food love around


Delicious and healthy, a cake baked using dates as an alternative to refined sugar


These muffins were baked using kefir and sourdough starter a great way to use up excesses in a most tasty way

Where our communities were once reliant on spreading the grain love for survival, we now share recipes to rebuild a sense of community…we have almost come full circle. I shared how to make a wonderful pizza, calzone and Stromboli dough with a wonderful friend who was staying with us recently. She can now take the recipe back home with her and share it with her friends and family to make their lives richer. Humble flour still enriches our lives even though our lives are a whole lot easier than they once were. Where would we be without bread, birthday cakes and pizza?

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No, not Flower Power from the 60’s and 70’s, we’ll save that for another post. I’m talking about Flour Power!


Flour takes on a whole new meaning for me (Sincerely, Emily) in the past 5 years.

mixing up granola bars

mixing up granola bars

foodsaver play 3


Flour just taught my high school best friend how to create her own pizzas, Stromboli’s and calzones (narf7 from theroadtoserendipity.wordpress.com )

Simple flour is what memories and prospective feasts are made of…


Flour, yeast, salt, oil and water


Kym learning how to manipulate the dough to make a Stromboli


“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime”


I never thought much about flour before trying to go all-local several years ago. It is really hard to find flour milled within a 4-hour drive, even when you live in a farm state. I finally found a Wisconsin farm called Great River which ironically mills flour just a couple of hours away, but sells it through a jobber in Arkansas, so it travels there, then back to me. So I buy $2.20 a pound flour, grown and milled in Southern Wisconsin, as opposed to 70c a pound flour, grown and milled god knows where– you can’t tell from the packaging. India for all I know. I worked out the cost– if I make all my own bread, the expensive flour makes each loaf about the same price as the store brand. If you count my time as having no monetary value.

Flour- counter Flour- hand***

Here at Tanglewood, flour has also taken on new meaning. After discovering that I am gluten intolerant (No, it’s not a fad I’m going through. Yes, it really does make me sick…) I had to switch from two main flours to… well… a gajillion.

I now keep more than twenty different flours in my kitchen, from teff to tapioca to millet – whatever it takes to add variety of texture and taste to the things I make. Early this spring I devised this shelving and storage system and I have to say – I’m intensely happy with it! Now I just have to get some snazzy labels to replace the dry erase marker on the jars.

(P.s. Can you tell I’m a huge Doctor Who geek from my shelves? My geekiness has gotten out of hand…)


What are you doing with flour these days??

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Family can mean many things. I have my mother and step-dad, and I have a brother and 2 nieces. I also have husband…. that leads to a father-in-law and many brother-in-laws and a sister-in-law. That also leads to many nieces and nephews. I know some of them very well and others not as much. Family is literally spread to each corner of the US and states in between.156

I have another family. The family that I lived with in Australia when I was an exchange student. They are family to me. In 1989/90 I traveled back to visit them and I am long overdue for another trip to visit.170

Then I have very close friends, and I consider them family. I know they will always be a part of my life no matter how many miles are between us.

On my recent trip up North, I took some photos of more old photos as mom and I were going through boxes of photos. What fun. We are are trying to work through them and sort and label.

fishing in Canada

fishing in Canada

I love the old photos. They are so much fun to look at and talk about. Lots of great memories.

Sincerely, Emily

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When I was growing up, in the 50s and 60s, middle class families always had a camera.

Just one.

In my later childhood, as the consumer revolution started kicking into gear, simple cheap cameras started being available to the kids as well. But most families had just one camera, and a designated photographer, in our case, my supremely unartistic father.

Why take pictures? To preserve a moment. To document an event. To record something important or amusing. To remember. To admire. To create beauty or art. Do you take them for yourself, or for the ones who come after so that they remember, admire and see the art or the moment that the photographer valued.

We put these pictures in massive albums; several years ago I created a private blog of our family album, using it to help me remember the childhood memories that were lost with my mother’s death when I was 22. People don’t make albums anymore, and there’s little need to edit. We had to choose, though; out of a film roll of 36 shots no more than 10 would ever be worth saving. There was no infinite Flickr with unlimited uploads. Just albums with 50 pages, 6 to 8 shots per page.

My father supposed that he was great photographer. I can’t remember my mother ever so much as holding a camera (this can’t be– there are pictures of me, my brother and my father in circumstances where the only possible photographer would have been my mother). He had a nice, but not a great camera– for one thing it was a viewfinder not an SLR, and he had only one lens. No zoom, no wide. And the worst indictment: that his photographs, even the ones that are interesting for other reasons, are just not very good. They have no focal point, or understanding of scale or composition.

There is a photo of my father as young man, perhaps 22, confronting the photographer– see me! I am important, and I know what I know, better than you ever will! And we all bought it. My father was the family photographer, ipso facto he was good at it. Yet it patently wasn’t true– he wasn’t very good at it. But the force of his belief in this was so strong that we all took it as gospel.

It is a terrible thing to grow up and learn how fallible your parents are.

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