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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.

Artist as Family’s Book of Neopeasantry (fourth excerpt – the accident)

November 3
Meg

It’s Bloodthorn’s birthday and he doesn’t want to go to school. What he really wants to do is go fishing. His mum sends a text to ask if Blackwood is up for some lake time and a text in response is enthusiastically sent back.

It’s a work day for me, so while the boys spend the morning first making yabby spears and then catching their bait in the creek, I sit at the kitchen table with my laptop and a pot of nettle tea. At lunchtime I fang up the street on my bike to go to Himalaya Bakery where I buy two cinnamon fruit scrolls for Bloodthorn’s birthday. I’m imagining candles and singing and sharing the scrolls between the four of us. I put them in my pannier and head home. On my way down the hill, a car overtakes me and then suddenly turns into me and I fly over the back of the vehicle and end up on the bitumen. People come running towards me but the driver doesn’t get out of the car.

‘You nearly fucking killed me!’ I yell, banging on the side of the car, where I landed on the road. ‘You nearly fucking killed me!’

The driver gets out and our two lives adjoin. We are women together, no longer just car and bike rider, flesh meeting metal, but women. One howls on the ground, one tries to be helpful. Are you OK? Are you hurt? Do you need an ambulance? What do you need? Can you point to where it hurts? Can I get you anything? Do you need some water? Would you like to take your helmet off? Can I help you stand up and move off the road?

I ask her if she can please rub my back while I breathe, to just give me a minute so I can assess the extent of my injuries. My clarity and assertiveness surprise me. I keep crying while I try to gauge the damage to my body. One of the people who’s gathered around lifts up my bike and stands with the others as witness while we two women work through what happened and what needs to happen.

She says she didn’t even see me – not down the hill and certainly not when she pulled in front of me. Her name is Jo and she has just had a session with her chiropractor. She says she was feeling light headed after her appointment and about to faint so she pulled over.

One of the gathered men passes me my bag that had flung out of my front basket and I take some squirts of Rescue Remedy from the front pocket. I offer some to Jo. Zero goes with me everywhere in my bike basket. But today he opted to stay on his mat by the fire. I cry harder as I think about my little companion and what could have happened to him.

I need to go home. Jo keeps telling me how sorry she is and asking if she can do anything, but I can’t think of anything. I just want to be home with Patrick. Jo and I hug goodbye. I thank the people who came running and I cry all the way home, the whole left side of my body aching, my bike squeaking and rattling, my cries feeling ineffectual as I can’t breathe deeply enough because it feels like my ribs are sticking into my lungs.

Patrick hears my cries when I come home and comes straight out. He runs me a bath with Epsom salts and I lay on my side feeling smashed about but so grateful for the quiet and stillness. I can’t stop thinking about my mother. Later, after Patrick has helped me out of the water, I phone her to let her know I am OK.

 

November 3
Patrick

The day of the grateful living. Meg hobbles in from emptying the house wee bucket onto one of the citrus. “There might be a frost in the morning,” she says, holding herself gingerly as she steps through the front door. I go out and find the frost covers under the house and place them over the potatoes.

Potatoes can handle winter temperature soils, but not frost on their leaves. We plant them in August and cover them as they grow. I’m pleased they haven’t got sick with all the rain of spring. The tomatoes are already hothoused in their rows and doing well enough, considering the low temperatures. The bees have lost hundreds of workers. It happens every year. After a warm spring spell they convert their hive to a summer thermostat, then the following week the temperature plummets and we head back into winter. This is the time hives get a major set back or don’t make it at all because their winter honey stores are depleted and it’s too cold to go out and forage.

I dig up several comfrey roots in the garden. Wash them, discard the leaves in the poultry run, and pulverise the roots into a crude paste with a mortar and pestle. Meg is lying on the couch in considerable discomfort. I gently apply a large patch of paste to her left ribs and wrap a bandage around her torso to hold the poultice. I am so thankful this is the extent of the injury. A moving car, a driver not present, a bicycle rider. Aye yai yai.

Blackwood, off his own back, cooks frittata for dinner. In reading the situation he acts with resourcefulness and care. Using our duck and chicken eggs, gifted broccoli from one of the generous Forest & Free parents, Meg’s raw milk cheese and pepper berry from the garden. We eat the delicious creation our ten year old fashions upon the family hearth and we honour the food, its origin stories, and life herself with a thick flow of gratitude for all that sings and lives.

~

Wrong story, right story (in song form)

Yesterday we sketched out a new song, and we’re sharing it here for those who like our songs that are still bubbling away in the Pandorean brewing pot. It’s a peace song with a pinch of trickster energy. The first two lines of the chorus derive from one of our favourite quotes, ‘The majority is always wrong; the minority is rarely right’ by Hendrik Ibsen. We hope you enjoy our latest musical offering.

 

 

It’s the cult of
having to be right
It’s the game of
proving your might
But have you sought to
lay down your gloves
and walk that gentle road
home to your loves?

 

The majority is always wrong
the minority is rarely right
Can we sing a different song?
Can we give away this fight?

 

Strong positions on
global affairs
Stirs the guns of
ideological warfare
We may be right or
we may be wrong
Or perhaps we could be listening 
to someone else’s song

 

The majority is always wrong
the minority is rarely right
Can we sing a different song?
Can we give away this fight?
The majority is always wrong
the minority is rarely right
Can we sing a different song?

Can we give away this fight?

 

[Who bombs never wins
Right and wrong is the game that kills our friends
Each of us lose when we parrot the news –
The experts paid to spruik the establishment’s views]

Go ahead call us conspiracists and fringe
and feel free to take that GMO syringe
We won’t fight you to stop you doing harm

just don’t expect us to put it in our arms

 

The majority is always wrong
the minority is rarely right
Can we sing a different song?
Can we give away this fight?
The majority is always wrong
the minority is rarely right
Can we sing a different song?
Can we give away this fight?

 

It’s the cult of
having to be right
It’s the game of
proving your might
But have you sought to
lay down your gloves
and walk that gentle road
home to your loves?

 

Artist as Family’s Book of Neopeasantry (third excerpt)

 

October 25
Patrick

While weeding the food forest on the street with Victoria, a SWAP from Argentina, Meg yells out to us, ‘Swarm at Melliodora!’ I quickly load up the bike trailer with a Warré box, bee jacket and hood, a whitish bedsheet, a cardboard box and ride down to Hepburn. In my rush I can’t find my bee gloves so when I arrive I fossick around in Dave and Su’s workshop and find a solitary garden glove. It’ll have to do. I also spot a ladder in the workshop. I’m going to need that too.

Swarming bees are so laden with honey that it’s difficult for them to sting. Their main focus is on protecting their queen, transporting food stores, and awaiting the several hundred scout bees to return from seeking out a place to build a new hive.

The combination of bee-offending perspiration from my rapid 5 km bicycle ride, a humid spring day, lack of adequate gloves, and my general impatience to catch the swarm before it takes off is not ideal. Rushing bees is idiotic at any time, but especially rushing bees swarming high up on a tall, flexible oak sapling only reached by a ladder.

My plan is to make multiple trips up the sapling, gently sweep honey-laden bees into my cardboard box with my gloved hand, descend the ladder and tap the bees out of the cardboard into the timber Warré box, which I’ve set up on a flat knoll on the slopey ground with the whitish sheet used as an illuminating runway for the bees to navigate their way inside and join their sisters.

As I begin my labour, my uncovered hand is stung. It instantly becomes inflamed with stings, then my stomach, which is now exposed as I reach up to sweep the first thick pad of bees into the box. Stings then make their way to where the glove isn’t covering. I come down the ladder, angry bees following me. I tap the first lot into the Warré and take off to find Su or Dave to ask to borrow their bee gloves.

I return to the tree, suitably gloved up now and immediately bees start flying at me. I climb the ladder and reach up to sweep another pad of bees into the box. My exposed stomach is set upon again. What an absolute debacle this is. I have rushed my first swarm of the season. It’s obvious I haven’t as yet stepped into my bee care mind and I have come to do this work with all the stupidity a human can muster. All my knowledges about catching a swarm have eluded me. I’ve forgotten what I’ve learned in previous years. I am too cocky and too eager and these bees are aggressive, a trait I don’t ordinarily mind because it means the colony is generally robust to predators. It certainly is.

I pedal home with my tail between my legs, kicking myself for being such a fool. You cannot rush bees, and tonight I have a hundred swellings over my body as appropriate feedback for my foolishness.

 

 

October 27
Meg

I work from home today and sit near the fire with my laptop and a bottomless cup of tea: wild fennel, mugwort and stinging nettle.

It rains all day so Victoria, our lovely SWAP, is doing inside jobs. I am not sure how I’m going to go working from home while overseeing Victoria but it’s easy. I explain things once and she’s away.

Blackwood is supposed to have a friend over but his friend is unwell so he works with Victoria, telling her stories, asking her questions about her native home of Argentina, bringing her ingredients and utensils she needs.

They measure the seeds; sesame, linseed, chia, sunflower, then add almond meal, and the psyllium husks we collected from plantain seed heads, mix them with water, salt and herbs, roll them out, score them and bake them as crackers.

They harvest, peel and chop the last of our onions, blitz them with salt in the old food processor I inherited from my grandparents and make an onion kraut.

Next they make hummus, bland, the way Blackwood likes it. And then they scoop the yoghurt I strained last night into a jar and add greens from the pots on the deck to make a creamy herbed labne.

‘I like being a volunteer in my own house,’ Blackwood says, when we sit down for lunch.

~

Artist as Family’s Book of Neopeasantry (second excerpt)

 

October 18
Meg

I’ve been meaning to check on them for ages and after work today I finally do. I take the tea towel off the bucket that’s been sitting under the fermenting table and realise I’ve left it too late. A 20-litre bucket of Jerusalem artichokes with a plate on top to keep them submerged under the brine. There is a thick crust of mould, and all of the pickles have gone soft. I’m so disappointed, and I curse myself for not putting a reminder in the calendar to check it earlier, as I usually do.

I scoop the mould off the top and feel around with my hand all through the bucket and find one big one that may be salvageable. It smells fine, so I give it a quick rinse and take a bite but it’s not as firm as I hope. I put it back in the bucket and carry the soft gloopy mess down off the deck, through the muddy swales and into the chicken coop to the very back corner and dump the whole lot there among 15 years of rotten down mouldy ferments.

When I come back up to the house Patrick asks me where I tipped them and I tell him.

‘Onto my midden of failures.’

 

 

October 23
Patrick

A plunge in the cold water tank, nude tea drinking by the fire, loft steps lovemaking, followed by more tea, reading out to each other the missives from thoughtsmiths and journos we subscribe to on Substack.

Blackwood wakes around nine and we ride our bikes up to the Sunday market. A sign catches my eye as we pass through town, ‘Relaxation Massage – $40 for 30 minutes.’ I’d seen the sign before but never given it a thought. Our usual cohort of body healers are not currently available, and I don’t see Kris for a massage in exchange for gardening, until Friday.

We continue onto the market and I buy a banana passionfruit vine from Florian, one of the organic growers there. Banana passionfruit are the only fruit ripe at this time of year and I’m determined to keep this one frost protected until it grows hardy.

I chat with Florian and later with Edward, another grower who grows without chemicals. Meg and Blackwood wander around the market, yarning with people, looking for old tools and useful things like containers filled with an assortment of nails and screws.

On the way home riding in convoy I notice the massage sign again, and feeling the pain rising in my back I call out to Meg and Blackwood, ‘See you at home, I’ll see if I can get a treatment.’

I cross the road and roll my bike down a little lane and walk into the reception area. The lady says she is available and takes my card and charges me $49. I feel as though I missed something in the exchange. English isn’t her first language and Mandarin isn’t mine. She shows me into the room, and leaves me there to undress. She returns as I’m laying on my stomach with a towel across my body. She asks whether I want my legs and buttocks done. ‘My back is what’s really hurting me,’ I reply.

Before I know it she has removed my underpants. Well, that’s pretty weird. I have the feeling again as though I have missed something. She uses her hands, elbows and forearms to work my tight back muscles. I begin to relax and breathe deeply in and out through my nose.

After about twenty minutes she asks me to turn over and places the towel back over my body. She speaks again, something about a ‘special’ and taps me on my groin. Oh, I realise, it’s this kind of massage parlour. ‘No thanks,’ I say, ‘but thanks for asking.’

She works my legs and arms and I lay there thinking about how unattached and pragmatic she is. My thought drifts to all the lonely men in the district starved of intimacy, starved of touch, where this service would at least be some kind of connection. I feel pangs of grief for all people who don’t have intimacy in their lives, which leads on to a wave of gratitude for the diversity of love and touch I receive each day.

After 30 minutes she thanks me and leaves the room. I put my farming clothes back on my farming body. No one is in the reception. There’s a ghostly feeling as I leave. It’s not exactly what I went in for, but there’s a little relief in my back.

I gently ride home and share my adventure with Meg. ‘Wow,’ she says. ‘I didn’t know such a thing existed in Daylesford.’ We laugh at how naive we are. Blackwood is in the workshop cleaning up rusted steel blades from old hedge trimmers he bought at the market.

‘Were you tempted?’ Meg asks me, grinning.

~

Artist as Family’s Book of Neopeasantry (first excerpt)

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.

October 16
Patrick

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.

Meg

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.

~