(Nearly) everything has to be useful

Being a permaculture farm, we try only to plant things that will be productive.  If a bush or tree is purely decorative, and it’s in the way, we will pull it out.

There is one major exception to this.  Allison  requires that we have sweet pea flowers every year.  Sweet pea seeds are poisonous if eaten in quantity, so they are just there for their looks.  I guess the plants will make a good mulch at the end of the season.

We have a trellis about 2 metres long planted with sweet peas in many colours.  With our excellent compost, and all the rain this year, they have gone berserk.  We get so many flowers that we give big bunches away to our friends, and take them into work.  And still they come.


In other news, our Christmas season continued with the Fire Brigade party on Saturday.  This was a barbecue at the fire shed, with all our neighbours from Yarra and Parkesbourne.

As is customary, they played bingo.  Our wwoofer Alina won one of the major prizes, a basket of fruit.  (Which is amusing, as Alina steers well away from fruit and vegetables!)  I wasn’t there for that bit, but the bingo prizes are usually things like socks or dog treats.

We have a new wwoofer, Joan (let’s call him John) from Spain.  Within two hours of getting to our place, he was chatting to a neighbour who offered him some casual paid work, so he’s off already.  Hopefully he’ll be back, as he seems to be a good worker.  It will be raining all week, so his absence will be OK.  We still have far too much grass.

We continue to have problems with horses getting too chubby.  Unfortunately it’s raining every day that we have free to ride them, but Allison has been exercising some in the round yard.  She was terrified of horses two years ago — fortunately ours are really sweet.

My young horse Gawaine has been on holiday at our friend Jan’s house.  He’s getting some training with Jan’s young horses, and he loves it.  He has a lovely nature and enjoys trying out new things.  He likes jumping castles but is deeply worried about goats.


This Saturday is the Feast of Misrule  which we’re running in Goulburn (link here).  We’re hoping to attract some new Goulburnites along.

The First Day of Christmas

I have written before how Goulburn is somehow stuck in the 1970s, with its masses of Chinese restaurants and residents taking time to talk to each other.

Our nearest village, Parkesbourne, is lost in the 1940s.  The cumbersome christmas carols night, in their alcohol-free hall, is coming up shortly.  I have sworn never to attend again, but Allison feels that we should make the effort to sustain their traditions.  Apparently there will be an old-time dance for New Year’s Eve too — they finish up at 10pm!

We live in Yarra, which doesn’t have a hall or a church (it burnt down in 1984).  The main community facility at Yarra is the fire shed, and we locals are the firefighters.

The fire shed is on the grounds of an old school, which closed many years ago.  It is now a community reserve, with some tennis courts that were restored by the local landcare group.  There is a new covered picnic table too.

It was the Christmas lunch for the landcare group on Saturday: they like to be pro-active and get in ahead of everybody else.  So I went down with our wwoofers and we did some maintenance on the gardens there.

The landcare group has inherited an old brick building from the defunct Yarra Rural Youth club — all the youth in the area have grown up.  They brought in some furniture out of storage, and found some old plates and cutlery.  There’s an overwhelming sense of the 1950s.  Yarra is rather more modern than our Parkesbourne neighbours, but still tracking behind Goulburn.

It was a lovely day, and we fired up the old wood barbecue there.  Steak, sausages, rissoles.  Great salads, then fantastic desserts like my grandmothers used to make.  Allison sent along some red jelly yoghurt slice, from an inherited recipe where the original proponent has left the district.  My favourite!

The landcare group are the most gorgeous people, many elderly but all fun.  So we had a delicious day.

Disappearing under the grass

It has rained every day for weeks, and it has been pretty warm too.  The grass is exploding.

Last year we bought a ride-on mower, but someone drove it a bit fast and had some sort of accident.  One wheel was badly bent out of position.

Our ordinary push mower had broken down too.  Our whipper-snipper (trimmer) has also been behaving badly.

As a result, our house paddock has knee-high grass, sometimes chest-high.  The animals are disappearing in it.

We took the ride-on mower apart, and I bashed the bent piece of steel many times so that it came back into position.  With that and some other fiddling about, the ride-on is functioning again.

The push-mower, it turned out, had a problem with the throttle.  Our friend Jochen fixed it — yay.  I had words with the whipper-snipper too, and it’s doing better.

So we may get our house paddock back soon.  If it stops raining.


The Goulburn Medievalists had a heraldry workshop on the weekend.  I made up a series of sheets that I used to explain the arcane rules of medieval heraldry — see example below.

We had a pretty good session, and several people have new ideas for their heraldry.  Later, they will make up colourful banners and shields — which adds a lot of magic to medieval events.

example sheet from heraldry day

Food for the Joust

A month ago we collected seven goose eggs from a nest near the old cemetery, and placed them in our incubator.

Five of these seem to have been infertile, and showed no development after a week.  In the end, just one hatched, and the other died in the egg shortly before it was due to hatch — which happens.

This left us with just one new goose, plus the three which hatched earlier (now like fluffy grey basketballs).

Our brooder box is designed to use incandescent light bulbs as the heat source — this used to be a common arrangement when bulbs were cheap.  But now Australia has banned them as a greenhouse measure, though you can order special ceramic heating bulbs over the Net for $40 each.

Not being quite that organised, we’ve been making do with softdrink bottles filled with hot water.  Allison’s Dad Richard has come up with a design using a plastic milk bottle and an aquarium heater, so we’ll make one of those for our next batch (peacocks).

But at present our arrangements are labour intensive, and just for one gosling.  This is not a bad thing as baby animals need interactions to thrive, so I have encouraged our wwoofers and visitors to give gosling Rachel (as she has been named) plenty of cuddles.  Which she naturally enjoys.

This weekend we went to Sydney to help our jouster friend Sarah with her Luddenham Medieval Fair.  So Rachel the Gosling had to come with us, and was carried around for most of the weekend.

When we originally volunteered to help, we were expecting about 60 people for the feast.  In the event, it ended up as 180+ people, the largest event we have ever run after the Twelfth Night kingdom event in Goulburn.  Just a few SCA folk came along, all friends of ours, and rather surprised to see us pop up there.

It’s hard running a feast so far away, so we had to cut down our cooking and serving gear to the minimum.  Fortunately our friend Jan and her son Justin came along too, with a big ute which we stacked to the gunwales.  We basically brought all the food and gear with us.

The menu for the feast was:

  • Bread with herb butter or honey butter
  • Venison roast with corans (currant and red wine) sauce
  • Ember day (onion) tart
  • Rissoles shaped as hedgehogs, with almond spikes and currant eyes
  • Neeps in verjuice (carrots and parsnips cooked in unripe grape juice)
  • Salad of mixed greens, herbs and figs
  • Monchalet (lamb stew with mint)
  • Chicken and leek pies
  • Mushrooms grilled
  • Shrewsbury cakes (a caraway shortbread cake)
  • Berry foole (berries and whipped cream with meringue).

Needless to way, it was a lot of work.  We had Allison and myself, wwoofers Rachel and Alina, Jan and Justin, and two or three other helpers from the local club for short periods.

The event was held at the Luddenham showgrounds.  Instead of a hall, they used a verandah area which worked pretty well.  Alas they put up a new High Table at the last minute, right in our access way to the tables — so we had a long walk around to serve the food, through a flooded field.  Fortunately the rain mostly held off while we were serving.

We had been asked to cater for 13 tables of 14 people.  When we got there we found that there were 11 tables of 18 people.  Which required some last-minute changes to our serving arrangements.  For the most part we adjusted well. 

We got overwhelmingly positive feedback for our catering.  I gather there were a couple of people who were expecting something different.

The Sunday was open to the public, and we went along to see the jousting.  It was a lovely sunny day, and we had a pleasant time.  Rachel the Gosling especially enjoyed her day out, and the wwoofers found her a great conversation starter.

Now we’re back home, with a dozen crates of dirty serving gear to wash up and pack away…

Now with augmentation

(Bit slow this week: broken wireless broadband dongle…)

On Saturday a week ago we went to the Baronial Changeover Dinner in Canberra.

The Canberra medieval club is one of the largest in the country, and they are ruled by a Baron and Baroness.  These people are appointed by the King and Queen and are the ceremonial leaders for a number of years.  There’s no set period involved, but many people think that two years is too little and five years is too much.

In this case, our friends Alessandro and Isobel had the job for four years.  They did a great job, but it’s tiring and they were keen for a break.  Recently they went to the biggest SCA event in the world, the Pennsic Wars, and commanded the forces of Lochac (Australia and NZ).  So the theatre of the evening was that this had re-awakened their taste for battle, and Alessandro petitioned to be released from his vows as baron to wage war again.  Then Isobel declared that she too was ready for war, and had her long hair hacked off in the court.  Their Majesties granted them leave to stand down as B&B.

The SCA is not a democracy, but it approaches one in practice.  There were several sets of candidates to take up the jobs as Baron and Baroness.  The Crown asked the populace for advice on who should replace Alessandro and Isobel.  In the end a relatively low profile couple was selected, Aonghus and Gwen.  Allison knows them better than I do.

The feast had pretty good food.  For instance, there was roasted quail stuffed with chicken and currant forcemeat (fairly period) along with a pomegranate and molasses cream sauce (tasted good, but convince me it’s medieval!).  The food was still coming out after 10pm as many people were leaving; they are a bit prone to this in Politarchopolis.  I would give them eight out of ten for the food, which is better than most feasts I’ve been to recently.

The entertainment was a little disappointing.  There was not much room or time for dancing, which would have been nice.  Polit has great musicians and singers, but no evidence of either on Saturday.  There was a rather odd Fifteenth Century morality play; points for authenticity but not for entertainment.

I was called up in Court to hand back my office as Chancellor of the Exchequer.  The Queen was very generous in her praise for my work in that office over the last two and a half years.  They granted me an Augmentation to my Arms, an unusual honour.  So I’m entitled to show the kingdom badge on my device.

In medieval times, a typical augmentation for say, a victorious general, was to put the English leopard across the top of your shield, or the Scottish tressure border.  Later, things got a bit crazy and Admiral Nelson got a new augmentation for every battle won.  He had palm trees and rows of grenades everywhere, and the word “Trafalgar” across the middle.  I think he must have upset a herald badly.  Hmmm, so have I…

Anyway, here’s what my device could look like.  There’s a couple of places I could put the augmentation.

augmentation in canton

augmentation in chief

None of this is strictly true as I changed my heraldry about 15 years ago, and haven’t officially changed it with the heralds.  I did try, but my new device was similar to one held by a knight in America.  I got in touch with him, and he was happy for me to conflict, but I didn’t ever send the paperwork back in.

Okewaite (our medieval group in Goulburn) is having a heraldry workshop on 14 November.  I’ve been preparing some posters for teaching heraldry, and I might publish one here next week.  So perhaps I’ll get my new heraldry recognised, and some other locals might get their paperwork in too.  Unfortunately, the SCA College of Heralds is still stuck in the 1980s and they require photocopies coloured in with particular texta pens — why can’t they accept a jpeg graphics file?  Anyway, we’ll jump through their hoops and hopefully get some more heraldry approved soon.