Fran and Steve are finding imaginative ways to turn four acres of inherited, inhospitable land in Tasmania into a thriving garden of prosperity. Serendipity Farm is a work of love, community, and can-do spirit we can all learn from. Be sure to read the detailed photo captions; they’re full of fabulous eco / green tips!
Hi, my name is Fran, or ‘narf7,’ as I like to be known in my online excursions into understanding me and the world in which I live.
I Love Being a Penniless Hippie!
I just turned 50 and find myself echoing my parents:
”today’s music has NO soul…”
But when you had the 60’s and 70’s as your musical canvas, I think you’re entitled to a bit of musical snobbery. I’m going to wrestle out my story from the canyons of my memory. I might just have to listen to a bit of Bowie, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin to spur me on…
This is the story of how I realized that being a penniless hippy is the best thing in the world!
My Life has Never Been ‘Normal’
I’ve never had what you would call a “normal” life. My parents were working class battlers and we never had the benefit of a cushion of money or savings to keep the wolves at bay.
I can’t remember a lot about my childhood, which is probably good because by all accounts it wasn’t the most memorable of childhoods. But when I turned five, my parents moved to the family 100 acre farm to care for it (and live rent free).
Far be it from uniting them and giving them a common ethos! Instead, it heralded the end of their tenuous and unlikely union.
For the five years it took for my parents’ marriage to hit the rocks and sink, I was given the amazing chance to wander barefoot over 100 acres of land full of trees, plants, cows, aromas, dams and pastures.
As the property bordered onto an estuary that ebbed and flowed to the sea, I got the most amazing series of life lessons in my early formative years.
Life on 100 Acres
This 100 acres of barefoot freedom sheltered me from the worst of my parent’s stormy decline. Mum kept geese to sell for eggs and meat – and I learned some valuable life lessons from them.
We had three large water tanks to supply our domestic water and a well that my seven year old sister and I dangled our four year old brother into with the promise of all the frogs he could stuff into his t-shirt…
We had no phone and our toilet was a good distance from the house in the form of a modern composting toilet – without the benefit of composting. Life may have been tough, but it formed the inner narf7.
It fed my desire to learn, to discover everything that I could about the world. I learned from the trees, the plants, the animals, the sea, the tide, the moon – and nature took me under her wing and nurtured one of her feral children.
Lost in the World
When my parents finally called it quits, mum moved away from the farm and suddenly life was complicated. I didn’t have my 100 acres of nature’s filter to process my understanding through and I had to develop new life skills.
I wasn’t very good at it. I spent my youth and my teenage years trying to find a niche to fit into with my peers.
I just wasn’t very interested in what they were interested in. I wanted to be a naturalist (not a naturist; bare feet was as close as I got to that particular stream of consciousness). And I wanted to fill my life with trees and plants and leaves and soil:
‘The older I got, the more the world got in the way.’
Inheriting Four Neglected Acres
To cut a long and rambling story short, I ended up marrying, divorcing, having three children, and meeting my soulmate online half a world away.
Everything about us is opposite. I have no idea why we clicked or why we ‘work’ – but we do. Together we can move mountains, which is extremely lucky because in 2010 we inherited four acres of overgrown jungle when my father died.
We got our own rocky, mountainous slope along with soil that washed away when it wasn’t setting hard.
It was covered in every weed known to man and had been seriously neglected to within an inch of its life. The only thing that we didn’t inherit was the monetary means by which we could do what needed to be done to the property.
And that’s when we learned just how bolshie a pair of penniless student hippies can be when it comes to finding cheap – or preferably free – ways to give us what we want and to arrive at a place where we want to be!
Self-Sustainable on Almost Zero Budget
Thanks to my early childhood experiences with nature, I’m always looking for ways to ‘first do no harm’ to the world around us. I’m a vegan (Steve isn’t) and visualise a future where almost everything that we need will be able to be produced on site.
We’re using permaculture principles to give us what we want to achieve on Serendipity Farm. Even when it feels like we’re taking three steps forward and two steps back we’re able to find free solutions to most of our problems online and through the local (free) library.
Always be willing to extend yourself, to go hunting for what you need to know and to try to find alternatives and cheap or free ways to get what you need.
‘It’s amazing how resourceful you can be when you have no money!’
Serendipity Befriends Us
We realise that we are incredibly lucky to have inherited this property but we have also been handed a series of problems that we need to solve before we move from our visions for the property to the realisation of our visions.
The first is that we have had to completely readjust our desire to do everything immediately. We are time rich and money poor and so we need to find other ways to get what we want.
We are constantly amazed at how what we need seems to fall into place at exactly the right time. We are believers in giving freely and we believe that:
‘If you are generous with your time, your possessions and yourself, things tend to work out for you.’
Since 2010 we have managed to plant out many of the 900 potted plants that we brought with us and, despite having the worst summer – and now the worst winter – in decades, we are learning to adapt to the local conditions and are starting to acclimatize ourselves to the possibilities that owning our own piece of land has given us.
We are almost finished creating a huge fully enclosed vegetable garden after discovering that anything less results in the native possums and wallabies eating your hard work.
The garden has cost us almost nothing!
We got strong netting from the local salmon farm that was happy for us to take it away for nothing. We got strong poles from a friend whom Steve helped remove the poles from someplace that didn’t appreciate them. And we got six trailer loads of aged horse manure for free.
All it took was a bit of hard work on our part.
We keep coming up against prospective problems. But it’s all in the perspective. Life can either be seen as a series of problems or as a series of adventures that are just waiting for you to throw yourself into. It’s all in the way you look at them.
Our Advice to Others
Our vision is to grow four acres of food forest. We had to go back to school to study horticulture. You do what you have to do to accomplish what you want to accomplish.
If we can do it, anyone can. All it takes is determination and the will to keep progressing forward. And don’t listen to that little voice inside you that keeps telling you that you are ‘too old’ or ‘too poor’ or ‘not good enough.’
Take it as it comes and enjoy the ride. Remember it’s the only life you get, so live it to the fullest. We are.
- Written by: Fran and Steve Pimblett
- Compiled, formatted and edited by: Krista Beauvais
- Photos: all photos are courtesy of Fran and Steve Pimblett
- Serendipity Farm is located in Tasmania, Australia
- Blog detailing the jouney of Serendipity Farm: The Road to Serendipity
CONTACT FRAN AND STEVE
- Email: coniferus [at] hotmail [dot] com