A selection of our writings from 2009 to the present. If you'd like to keep up to date with our latest posts, please subscribe below.
With another family we planted out chestnuts and walnuts on common land for the next generations.
Each of us contributing in our own way.
We planted trees, and we grafted medlar scions onto hawthorns.
We attempted this several years ago in the little forest near home with no success.
With a little more understanding we are trying again, and are willing the sap to flow into these fruiting branches to make more fruit possible.
With food forest work the natural order of things to follow is bee work. The boys have been making new housing for native bees.
Now we’re awaiting the warmer weather for the occupation.
Community gardening has been an ongoing priority for several years now. This winter we hosted two pruning workshops with Ian Clarke, a knowledgeable tree elder.
before being made into biochar, to feed back the flowering earth.
Each day the boys are involved in what Gertrude Stein once called the processes of circularity.
It has been a great relief for Zeph to be outside the strictures and inflexibilities of institutional life. Removing fences at a community garden working bee is not just a metaphor.
He has begun work on a critical-creative research project of his choice — The history of street art. For two hours every day he reads, writes and explores this world. And we’ve been on excursions to help better understand this world.
For country kids the city offers colour and excitement, as well as an understanding of the context for how urbanisation makes ill the world’s worlds. Such illness, such an interruption to life, is the very medium for graffiti writers and street artists who are not well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
On another day the boys take old tip-discarded timber and build a new bridge over one of the swales in the garden. Zeph taught his younger brother to use tools and calibrate his eyes and arms to the task of making the home garden more functional and productive.
And we’ve been sharing our skills too. Here Meg teaches the art of fermenting grains: sourdough bread and rejuvelac making.
And for the first time we have been eating our own oranges throughout the winter. Drying the peel to grind up and use to flavour fruit bread or using them as fire lighters to start our wood oven.
Most of the world’s worlds are flowering places, and these places that flower nurture and keep well the communities of the living. That this understanding is absent from the teaching that occurs in schools is why our culture is involved in permanent forms of destruction. To be involved in the sacred realm of buds and bees, seasons and cycles is what we want to pass on to our kids. And to further grow our understanding of what keeps life flowering, fruiting and making more life possible.
We hadn’t developed a design at this stage, but the seed for a building apprenticeship was planted. Not only did we want more non-monetary living opportunities for SWAPs, we wanted to empower others by learning the art of shelter making. We were about to advertise the position for a non-monetary, non-institutional apprenticeship when two things occurred: James let us know that he was keen to be an apprentice, and Zephyr was crumpling at school, and his self-esteem was plummeting. This was a wonderful opportunity and we all seized the day. We drew up a plan and brought everyone together to start working on our tiny house that Meg called The Cumquat.
Before we began, we bought Zeph a little something. As parents we thought it important his first porn came from us. He jumped right in.
The book is a great survey of small dwellings from across the world, and Zeph was truly inspired. We bought the lads (James 28, Zephyr 14) a tool bag each and got to work, starting with the stumps and subfloor.
Each day Zeph kept a journal of what he learned.
After an active, full-bodied learning day he would read, and his beautiful, engaged self returned with every day away from school, screens and phones. He read six books over the six weeks, an activity he hadn’t done since his home-ed days.
The build progressed in the rain, snow and rare pockets of sun. Gifts flowed in from the community such as these wonderful windows from our permie friend Vasko, old floorboards from Sarah, structural timbers from Bee and Ra, bearers and cladding from Bob and Beth, sisalation from Koos, roof iron from Pete, and old decking boards from Nicko.
Some days were so wet we dropped our tools and headed into the bush. The learning that takes place out of school has no status in this age of fear and institutional incarceration, but we know it can be explosive and expansive. Seeing our boys thrive through their own will to learn is a joy to behold. All we need to do is provide the right environment, and they do the rest.
Over 95% of the materials we used were salvaged from the local tip and nearby building skips. We borrowed our neighbour’s ute and a friend’s car on a few occasions to collect them, but much was collected on our bicycle trailer. James and Zeph learned all the steps of building and soon became confident users of tools.
There were hard days, cold days and joy-filled days as they grew their knowledge, strength and resilience. After the winter solstice the days became longer, which also meant more eggs being laid in our chicken coup. Thanks chooks!
Chickweed, full of vitamin C and abundant at this time of year, was another local medicine food that fuelled the build, and helped us through our winter colds.
The entire build took 6 weeks (not including the time to collect the materials), and we were all fairly exhausted by the end of it. Zeph, at the ripe age of 14 years old, worked his first 10 hour day.
Give a young person a project in which all their regard and care and skills can shine and you’ll have a gem who has great self-esteem and the ability to transition from centre of the universe to participant of the universe. The Cumquat build was very much part of Zeph’s initiation into life.
The mentorship and maturity of James was a big part of Zeph’s learning and growth. The two worked so well together and as much as possible Patrick stepped back and allowed them both to go through the processes themselves. We all had things to learn from each other and despite the ordinary strains of such activity, the building of The Cumquat was a remarkable moment in our family’s trajectory, and we thank James and Zeph for making it such a special time, and we thank our local, online and permacultural communities for loving The Cumquat into being in so many diverse ways. And we thank the snow for reminding us of older, colder winters in this region, and the gifts of the sun and the earth that create the radiation and thermal mass that keeps us warm.
The last stage of the build was to insulate the walls with straw, which we bought direct from local farmer Ian Miller in Smeaton 22 kms away. We contemplated lining the walls with old floorboards or old sheets of tin, but when permie friend Dean Farago offered his expertise, materials and labour to finish the walls using a traditional rendering method, we knew we couldn’t refuse.
We have made a little video of the build that shows the entire process, and is accompanied by our talented singer-songwriter friend, Anthony Petrucci, who sings us intensely through the build with his old band Souls on Board.
Thank you, Dear Reader, for calling in to hear the song of The Cumquat being sung into life, to witness a boy’s initiation and to behold a young man’s apprenticeship. We hope it has inspired you and the young people in your worlds to keep performing life outside the banker’s realm and the institution’s cage.