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Subsistence permaculture’s feral abundance (the shootin’-fishin’, catch ‘n cook post)

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Neopeasantry is our way of describing permaculture subsistence, a reaching into a glorious poverty – an abundant, anarchical economy that enables rich culture to spring forth; an earth-first, bankers last economy-culture. That’s neopeasantry. Not capitalism, not communism, more akin to a fair-share distributism, only not a theory but lived.

Today’s post specifically focuses on the abundance that is feral carp and rabbit, here in Djaara Mother Country. You can switch these two species for any weedy or ferally plant, mushroom or animal that is abundant in your region. While the information is specific, the spirit of incorporating unwanted abundance (abundance that capitalism is blind to), can be translated across endless species, riches and relationships, that is if we change our attitudes to things we’ve been told aren’t very good. Here, we intend to explain our techniques of procurement and processing, and share a recipe or two, including Magpie Meg’s famous carp mousse (or feral fish paste).

In this post we will cover how we come by this food, honour it and every part, be the biological controls of these tenacious critters, and generally participate in the flow of gifts that is life inside the thrum and wild grace of Mother Country.

Mother Country herself – the giving-taking earth who enables so much life to be made and unmade – is a sophisticated ecologist. Not an ideological one who sits smugly in the neoliberal academy. Her wisdom goes beyond correct and incorrect species and industry imperatives, and although she is perennially wounded and polluted by the narcissism of a now globalised kidult economic force, this Mother is more interested in those who are ecological participants, those who see her, those who listen, and those who sing divine gratitude into her ground for everything she gives. This is when she ceases to be dead matter, ever ready to be exploited, and instead becomes the Mother of all things.

There is no fear nor favour, no moralising goddess beyond the little walled city of neoliberal materialism, Mother Country is endlessly more vast than this tragic reduction of life. While ferocious and terrifying at times, she doesn’t wreak skygod fear and war-like terror into souls that ignore or exploit her. The mining industry carries on apace unharmed by her, is materially enriched by her, but miners die in their souls independent of her will. It is their souls who become forever unsettled ghosts in Country. Her consciousness extends beyond a childish right and wrong story. She deserves no cult, no pagan worshipping, no church built. She is already church. If she requires anything from us it is just a returned animist culturering, to be in sync with her and thus be a people in participation, wide-eyed appreciators, embodied in her patterns and gifts, which she gives in exchange for language, culture, food, medicine, fuel and magic.

Ferals are some of these gifts. The way we honour all her gifts is directly related to the gratitude we feel for Mother Country, which in turn informs the culture and rituals we perform as community. There is no appropriation here, the culturing is direct, felt, inspired, microbial. It is an exchange of presence.

Our economy as subsistence permaculturists or neopeasants is not based on scarcity. We don’t have anxiety about not having enough money like we once did, although we are still dependent on the monetary economy for about 20% of our needs. This is mainly for foods and resources we cannot grow, husband, witch, procure, wild harvest, or hunt ourselves. As many of you already know, we do not call this self-sufficiency but rather ‘community sufficiency’ – a term we’ve been advancing for a decade now to give power to the relationships that help us transition from narcissism to accountability, from wage-slave consumerism to radical homemaking, from soul-dead materialism to singers in the church of Mother Country. Relationships in this new/old economy are key to the unshackling from the banker’s realm. Trust, acceptance, skills and resilience are our focus.

If we keep developing language to describe our actions as we deepen them, then we can perform new/old forms of economy and culture making. For the language we use either incarcerates or liberates us. If we talk about economy as one thing – a thing in which the bankers alone puppeteer – then we are already ensnared. But step-by-step, season by season, relationship by relationship, word by word we can transform our worlds of the world into economic cultures that are dynamic, giving, in-service-to and receiving. We do not have to be anybody’s slave, and we don’t have to rely on unseen slaves from far away to augment our economic and cultural reality. Believing that we must conform to the universal wanking bankers is swallowing the bourgeois propaganda we’ve been force fed since birth.

We say, Enough! to that. Let’s grow up!

No more Taylor Swift narcissism or gratuitous alcoholic romps that never did fill the great hole in our souls that never needed filling. Rather, here’s the uncle figure at the end of the street who teaches the teenager his drumming, the grandmother who hands down her Polish pickle recipe, the brother who demonstrates his method for field gutting rabbits, the neighbour who shows the child the art of catching carp with compost worms, the story telling adventures of elders. Expensive, bourgeois workshops are not necessary, going into debt to buy land to farm is not required, tooling up can be done in a sleeves-rolled-up spirit of salvaging and repairing. An open-heart, a passion for not being enslaved, and making space to learn and share new skills, is liberty.

Rabbit

Big thanks to Jordan Osmond for the next two pics.

Some of the loveliest moments Patrick has experienced as a dad these past years, is when he’s been out hunting with Blackwood. As day recedes into night, the nocturnal world transforms their psyches in a myriad of ways. Father and son have lain on their backs beholding the stars, waiting for rabbits to return to the fields from their burrows, after gunshots had spooked them. A few rabbits before dusk are always a gift,

but the underworlding of night brings many more treasures. Any opportunity for Patrick to pass on what he’s learnt is the action of the gift in flow. In this picture Patrick demonstrates the field gut, which is the removal of the intestines not long after shooting to save the meat from spoiling.

The rabbits, with pelts still on, go into the fridge overnight, making skinning easier the next day.

It’s not entirely true rabbit meat is devoid of goodly fats and therefore of little nutritional value. The older the rabbit, the more pockets of fat it will have stored. Countless blessings rabbits! We honour and praise you as appropriate food. No industrial inputs grew you up.

In such honouring, all parts have meaning: The intestines left in the field for scavenger animals and soil communities to process, the heart, liver and kidneys used to make pâté, the bodies wrapped and frozen for winter roasts and stews, and the skins stretched and salted,

then sun dried,

to be later tanned and turned into useful textiles.

Other ferals, such as European wasps, help clean off the excess meat from the pelts making the scraping process later on, less work. While we are not engaged in colonially-constructed perverse incentives, meaning that we don’t intentionally help to grow these ecologically domineering, albeit undervalued species, we also don’t hate on them, nor any other more-than-human ferals who have settled as feral kin in Djaara Mother Country. We also eat European wasps.

Blackwood and Patrick went wood collecting yesterday and were set upon by angry wasps for the inconceivable crime of splitting logs too close to their nest. Blackwood received a sting on his leg and Patrick had wasps attempting to sting his neck but fortunately they couldn’t penetrate his beard.

In the past week, Blackwood took the life of a rabbit. His first. He stretched the pelt using a frame on a stand we found on the metal pile at the local tip.

We people, our species, can both love and kill animals. The two expressions are not mutually exclusive. Supermarkets have fed us the hubris and estrangement that they are. On the day after his first rabbit kill, Blackwood accompanied his mum to a neighbour’s home to put away their chooks and pet rabbits. He cuddled so much love into those dopey rabbits. That same night we watched Watership Down for our weekly movie night, and a few days later Blackwood was out again on a hunt with his dad. We, of our species, can hold many paradoxes, stories, ways of relating in the world, and this is a beautiful craft.

After stretching his first rabbit pelt, Blackwood then followed his mum’s recipe to convert the raw wild rabbit meat into jerky – a light, preserved and portable food to take on walking or cycling adventures – a food which can easily be rehydrated in the billy.

Meg’s rabbit jerky recipe: Cut the lean meat into thin slices and place in a bowl. Add spices such as cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cumin, sumac and minced garlic. Splosh in a whole lot of tamari and mix it all together. Cover with a plate and place somewhere cool for 12 – 24 hours. A fridge or cellar is fine. Then place the strips on racks and dehydrate until the meat is fully dry. A low oven (50 degrees C) or dehydrator will do the trick. When dry, place the jerky pieces in a jar, label and store.

Carp

Between the storing of wood and preserving of summer’s abundance in the cellar, we have also found time to go fishing. Here is Patrick’s simple set up for catching carp with compost worms and a hand line. Notice, in the image below, the line between the two stakes is being held down by the weight of leaves still attached to a very light branch. When these leaves rise up it indicates a fish is on, or at least taking the bait.

Carp is often devalued in Australia. If carp isn’t put onto ice packs in an esky or cooked on coals straight away it releases histamines throughout the body which gives it an unappealing flavour. Dealing with this is the first hurdle for enjoying this bountiful critter.

The second is the cooking process. Carp, like barracuda, has many small ‘y’ bones that make it, again, unappealing to eat. So we have developed a strategy to process every part, including the scales, head, tail and bones, only excluding the guts. First up, we cut the fish into chunks, add tallow (or any goodly cooking fat; not harmful vegetable cooking oils which we examined in a recent post), garlic and onion, and bake for an hour in a warm to hot oven,

then we put the parts into a pressure cooker, add a few cups of water, and put on the stove for a number of hours, intermittently checking the water level

Over this time, all of the parts of the fish and alliums melt, and Meg then weaves her magic…

Meg’s carp mousse recipe: Place the pressure cooked fish and allium mix in a food processor and add herbs such as parsley or oregano (fresh is best, but dried is good too), then salt and pepper. Sometimes Meg adds some olive oil if the mix is a bit dry. Process until it forms a cake batter consistency. Best spread on bread or crackers, but also yummy straight from a spoon. Store in a jar in the fridge, or freeze for when abundance wanes.

~

So many skills of economic resilience inform others. When we learn to make chicken liver pâté, we know how to make bunny liver pâté. When we know how to make goat bone broth, we know how to make bunny bone broth. When we know how to make chick pea hummus, we are well on the way to making carp mousse.

What undervalued riches of life do you value, Dear Reader? How are they part of your transition away from economic incarceration? We need not pay for much, but we need skills and knowledges to live this way. What are those skills you value so highly? We’d love you to share your alternative economic lifeways with us, even if you’re only just beginning down this magical, defiant and liberating path.

With autumnal glow,
Artist as Family

18 comments

  1. Fran says:

    Such wonderful wisdom!! Thank you for sharing it. I love that your young fella is learning to hunt and also continues to feel care compassion and kindness. This was the old way and it’s being gobbled up fast

    1. Thanks Fran, lovely comment. Much love to you.

  2. Shane says:

    Deeply moving account of the father–son intimacy of hunting. While reliant due to my circumstances on store- & market-bought foods, I refuse to eat animals bred, kept & killed in extreme degradation (even the average free-range hen might as well be at a 24/7 rally or rave for all the space she gets). Yet I can’t relate to vegans who do likewise while judging all who hunt or fish. The virtuous urban vegan lifestyle entails insane waste: all that plastic packaging & withered greens selling for top dollar until they wind up in dumpsters, all the collateral damage to wildlife caused by industrial crop farming, all that unsustainable transportation… So much more integrity in not just taking only what you need but wasting nothing. To eat what you know & love fulfils a life-affirming cycle; to eat what you know zip about except what’s on the label is to feed a cycle of ignorance & dissociation of body from psyche. And so language loses coherence too. Thanks for your words of substance/sustenance.

    1. We’d love to cook you a meal one day, if you’re ever over this way, brother. We so appreciate your words.

  3. Erin says:

    After much research about where and how to harvest, yesterday I foraged stinging nettles for the first time, then cooked for myself a delicious and fortifying soup. This is in large part thanks to what you’ve shared of your beautiful lifeways. Thank you.

    1. Oh, thanks for sharing this with us, Erin. Nothing as body gifting as a fortifying soup of nettle. Have you come across the film The Nettle Dress? We highly recommend it, esp for connecting with this sage ancestor plant.

      1. Erin says:

        I have not, but now I’ll be sure to seek it out.

        1. If you’re communing with sister nettle, then we think you’ll love this film.

  4. For more nerdy readers, Patrick sent this email to the CSIRO this morning.

    Dear Ian Dewar, my name is Dr Patrick Jones and I both study and live economic-ecological alternative forms to the domination culture I was born into.

    I’m curious as to why the CSIRO isn’t developing programs to support subsistence hunting of edible ferals, especially when conventional agriculture and feral animals combined are so heavy-handed in Australian biomes.

    Put another way, why isn’t the Australian government encouraging the safe hunting and safe eating of rabbits as an example of ecological economy making, and why does the CSIRO persist ‘playing god’ with culturing viruses, especially as we’ve seen in recent years how this can go terribly wrong.

    When the CSIRO uses terms like ‘co-evolutionary arms race’ and ‘war against rabbits’ and ‘culling’ as you have in this article scientists are using polite terms to describe something that’s dehumanised and debased and in my opinion not fit for our species. Why does science play the role of creator and commit animals to ‘man-made mass death’ (to cite Deborah Bird Rose), to be systematically wasted based upon a non-holistic approach to ecology and economy?

    Rabbit pelts are a fine texile. Rabbit liver, heart, kidney pate makes a fine food, rabbit jerky seasoned with chilli is a healthy food that can be preserved for years. Rabbit heads, bones and other remains make a fine bone broth.

    In a time of food insecurity – albeit an insecurity largely constructed by an economic ideology of scarcity aimed at growing resource value for industry’s profits – and higher food prices, and an ever greater impact on biomes by the mining and agriculture sectors (much more impact than rabbits), why does the CSIRO commit mass death to such a valuable species?

    Surely the best holistic biological control for rabbits would be for humans to do what we’ve always done – eat abundance. Is there a mood in the CSIRO for change?

    1. Below is the response from the CSIRO ‘team’ (most likely a bot), outlining the cultural skisim between government (neoliberal ideology) and neopeasant pragmatism (or Mother Country-first ideology).

      Hi Patrick  

      Thank you for contacting CSIRO and for your interest in our work. We forwarded your enquiry to the relevant team and their response is as below:

      Hunting of rabbits happens across Australia, and government agencies support education and registration services, such as : https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/hunting

      However, hunting hasn’t been enough to control rabbit populations at a large scale over long periods. Rabbit numbers need to be reduced over long periods of time to all our biodiversity to recover and to reduce costs to agricultural industries.

      Relying on hunting as the sole or lead control method for rabbits and placing increased emphasis on utilising rabbits as a food source could lead to populations being considered as a resource to be encouraged or safeguarded for ongoing harvesting. This scenario could potentially lead to sustained or increased rabbit numbers, which could in turn lead to increased agricultural and environmental damage caused by rabbits.

      Biological control is the most effective large scale control option for rabbits. Biological control agents such as RHDV use naturally occurring host specific viruses. They do not infect other predators such as raptors feeding on dead rabbits.

      Rabbits are a major pest species that costs over $239 million to Agriculture and horticulture each year. Their activities cause soil erosion and their overgrazing of native vegetation contributes to a decline in biodiversity which is maintaining our landscapes in a suspended level of degradation. Additionally, rabbits are a keystone prey species supporting the populations of feral cats and foxes.

      Regards
      CSIRO Enquiries Team

      Here’s my rather terse, uncivil response.

      The “team” states that hunting hasn’t been “enough,” however governments do little to encourage the growth of subsistence hunting and often put barriers in place to make subsistence hunting appealing.

      The “team” claims that the CSIRO’s work [of culturing ever more powerful viruses to release on rabbit populations] “reduce costs to agricultural industries,” without any acceptance that conventional agriculture’s impact on biodivesity is one of the major causes of habitat and species loss in Australia. Excluding regenerative farming, and practices that the Mulloon Institute and others are modelling, the majority of agriculture in Australia in real terms is just another form of mining, which harms Country.

      Regarding the ‘team’s’ Cobra Effect or perverse incentive assertion, that “utilising rabbits as a food source could lead to populations being considered as a resource to be encouraged or safeguarded for ongoing harvesting,” is only true when governments maintain a society that precludes subsistence hunters having a stake/benefit in regenerating or stewarding the land. If governments are spending millions developing viruses in labs to mitigate ferals, then why not spend this money on incentivising/encouraging holistic relationships between land holders and subsistence hunters, so the repair of biodiversity takes place through a mutually beneficial project. When rabbit populations decline, kangaroo populations can be focussed on, not for growth industry hunting, but rather non-wasteful subsistence hunting that can feed populations when there are abundance. Killing animals to honour as food, and observing population fluctuations, rather than mass “cull” animals whose populations are overshooting the land base, is belonging to an ecologically wise culture.

      The “team” maintains that “Biological control [sequencing or culturing viruses that don’t exist in nature] is the most effective large scale control option for rabbits.” However, notwithstanding the risks of playing god in labs, the CSIRO doesn’t conclude here that if just 10% of the 27 million Australians ate rabbits as a sustainable meat, then this human population would become biological controls quite effortlessly. This lack of awareness around participatory ecology living is the civilisation arrogance so typical in an affluent neoliberal country like Australia, yet as eaters of ferals and weeds we can be effective biological controls and reduce our reliance on unsustainable agriculture, hence remodelling First Peoples’ hunting, gathering and gardening lifeways, and turning away from the harmful hubris of hypertechnocivility.

      What is clear by the “team’s” responses above, is the Australian government is not interested in transitioning to less harmful economic models, such as subsistence hunting. It wants to maintain control of how people relate to land, rather than encourage individuals and communities to transition to holisitic ecological economies that involve their participation and skilful understanding of how Country works, what she is capable of giving, and how we can live more aligned to her intelligent lifeways.

      Yes, if money opportunities are ascribed to rabbit control, then this can become a perverse incentive, however, if peoples’ own food depend upon a close relationship with their local land as stewards and as eaters, then this changes the cultural paradigm.

      I’m fairly sure ChatGTP created this “team” response. That is, some AI app sucked up all the CSIRO brochures relating to the subject of mass extermination of another species, civilly arguing why mass death systems are the only way to go forward. But it hasn’t convinced me of anything.

      Patrick

  5. Oliver says:

    So appreciate this post. Thank you for sharing.
    Roadkill has become a part of my food.
    One day it would be nice to hunt.

    1. Thanks for sharing a little of your transition with us to wild protein, Oliver. Beginning with fishing, then roadkill is what we did, too. Handling, butchering, processing wild meat is stepping into a certain materiality with life no longer common in the culture. We’re glad this post was helpful, on your path…

      1. Joel says:

        Fantastic works, what a sane and joyous way to deal with the rabbits, and the boney carp, genius. I feel like the young ones are naturally less squeamish and conflicted about eating and caring for the animals.
        Alice is working at the Remakery now, a community space in the underground car park of a council estate here in Brixton. We’re working on medium scaled pedal powered mechanisms for fibre production. The feeling is to bring people into the process of designing these machines and to understand our collective sense of how things are made, presently, how they can be made – and most importantly how this changes our value system. This is something you know well, and I’ve seen you map in various ways, and is clear in these amazing activities.
        Outside of that we’ve been out to a friends in Wiltshire, home of Stonehenge and military bases, a natural grass land plain. We’re learning the way of tanning deer hides out there – deer being with the grey squirrel – the enemy of sapplings and woodland.
        Venison is delicious but I haven’t got round to squirrel, which seem like they could be alot of work for not alot of meat, but apparently taste good!
        I’ve been charged with researching the Care Home. After a chat with a fellow volunteer at Henbant permaculture farm in North Wales who used to run one, they are an avalanche of plastic. It’s an exciting prospect to envision a neo peasant process of elderly and end of life care and I’ve come across a research paper out lining the case (in academic language) based in Australia!
        I’ll keep you posted.
        Again thank you for sharing your beautiful life and family and thoughts and writing. I’m with you, this is the site of our existence and resistance.

        1. Beautiful as always, Joel. Yes, there are some radical, community-based end of life groups popping up all around the country, and things afoot here too for community to reclaim death work and ceremony around the precious passage of life into death, so as more life can be lived. Another UK friend, Steve, just did a tanning workshop in Dartmoor, we think you mobs would hit it off. Also, we had a community screening of The Nettle Dress recently. We’re still is the poetics and reverie of that story. Love to you, brother, from this sacred country to yours.

  6. Eliot says:

    Thanks for this post and photos, Meg and Patrick. This is precious time for a father and son to spend together. I hunt deer in North East Victoria and look forward to when my sons are old enough to join me in the hunt and build right relationship with country so they too will be able to provide for their families one day and be at peace in their souls.

    I highly recommend reading, ‘The Island Within’ by Richard Nelson, which explores the authors relationship with an island where he hunts and visits regularly. It was very moving for me.

    PS: I recently had the pleasure of meeting Woody at the Off Grid Festival where he came up to my stall and asked lots of questions about the property maps I produce in my business.

    If you’re ever passing through Albury, feel free to stop in for a cuppa or use the bike workstand.

    Cheers,
    Eliot

    1. G’day Eliot! Thanks for dropping in on this post. That’s great you met Woody, he expressed to us an interested in the nature of your geo-mapping work. Thanks too for the book recommendation, we’ll see if our local library can order it in. And big thanks for your kind offer to connect in Wiradjuri country, we may well take you up on that someday.

  7. Tiago says:

    What a beautiful and solid post,
    Here in Portugal carp is devalued too. Only matters mostly for sport, people don´t like it because of the amount of spines and taste now i realise that is because of the release of histamines trow the body… Thank you for the advice! I have to give another chance to this beautiful fish! Patrick that´s an airgun or fire gun? Traps too? Good recipes tips! Thank you for another beautiful and wise post,
    See you

    1. Glad you found inspiration, Tiago. These days I use a .22 cal rifle, but I have taught Blackwood to hunt with a bow. Yes, snaring rabbits is also in our toolkit.

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