For the past year we’ve been journalling every day with the intention of collecting stories for a book focussed on the relationships and processes of how we live, make culture and practice economy. Today we share with you a first excerpt as we slowly transform our two journals into one manuscript, which we’re calling Artist as Family’s Book of Neopeasantry.
This is not a how to or guide book on neopeasantry but rather, like our first collaborative effort The Art of Free Travel, it’s a memoir. In Artist as Family’s Book of Neopeasantry both we adults share our days, sometimes with overlapping stories and themes, sometimes not.
We hope you enjoy this forthcoming series of excerpts. We’d love to hear from you in the comments about how you are building the parallel society in your neck of the woods, step-by-step composting your household’s reliance on neoliberal corporatism while strengthening your local forms of economy. If you’re moved to and have the capacity, please consider supporting our work in one of four ways and help keep the gifts flowing.
Now, without further ado, a first insight into Artist as Family’s Book of Neopeasantry.
Nikki is a dear friend and elder of ours. She is one of those rare spirits who works to make the world sing. She with others in the community started the local Repair Café where people volunteer their time to fix things for others.
Fixers include those good with electrical devices, repairing bicycles, darning socks, mending jumpers, and sharpening knives. Blackwood takes his repair kit to fix loose soles on peoples shoes. Meg takes along her hand-fashioned sign, which announces she is MENDING BROKEN HEARTS, offering a listening and reflecting table for matters of the heart. For this month’s gathering, Nikki has asked me to run a chainsaw sharpening workshop. I also bring equipment to teach secateur maintenance.
A small cohort of people has gathered around my table at the club room at Victoria Park. I begin with demonstrating the filing of the teeth of a chain. How to maintain the correct angle and tension as you push the file through each tooth. I demonstrate the cleaning and sharpening of secateurs, first by disassembling all parts, then ragging away any remnant grease, sanding the crud or dried sap from the blades with wet and dry sandpaper, then reapplying a film of new grease and reassembling.
The grease I use is tallow from Bruce the bull. Veronika has often gifted us tallow and meat cuts from her family’s farm. We mostly cook with tallow, or ghee that Meg makes. Veronika used to come to Meg’s monthly free-to-learn fermentation workshops and she continues to shower us with gifts from her family’s subsistence productions.
All around us the gifts flow. We send them out into the world and others flow back. This is why we call our main economic form a flow of gifts economy. It grows with trust and love. It is not clunky like barter, and it’s not ruthless like money. As at the Repair Café, gifts aggregate and true eldership leads the way to start them flowing, leading by love and gentle encouragement.
I ride up to the Sunday market just with Zero as Blackwood is mowing our neighbour’s lawns and Patrick is working on a long blog post about the Free Julian Assange rally.
Jono from Brooklands gifts me a bag of bones for Zero, then Ruby from Two Fold gifts me a loaf of bread, and I pedal home to find Dallas dropping off an unwanted rooster at our door. Another gift. The apple and quince blossoms are out in full glory, and the garden is humming with life and activity, and I am feeling inside the rich current of the generosity of the season.
We put the rooster in the cellar then pedal up to the Repair Café at Victoria Park. Patrick is running a chainsaw and tool sharpening workshop, Blackwood has taken his shoe repair kit, and I sit at my regular table and listen to people’s heart breaking stories. Mending is not fixing, it’s just listening and sometimes reflecting. It is a big and bustling afternoon and everyone is in good spirits because the sun is shining after so many days of rain.
The last person to sit at my table is John, who’s been sharpening knives at the table next to mine all afternoon. He is there to chat, not have his heart mended, he tells me. When it’s nearly time to pack up, I tell him I am heading home to kill and cook for dinner the rooster Dallas has dropped over and he tells me about the time many years ago he was on a tram in Melbourne. A woman gets on and the conductor tells her she isn’t allowed on the tram with a live duck tucked under her arm. They have a brief conversation then the woman casually wrings the duck’s neck, then puts it back under her arm and sits down.