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Taking the green pill (Warrnambool to Portland) in Gunditjmara saltwater country

After two weeks of lockdown in Warrnambool we farewelled the lively Kelp Street mob and thanked Rod once again for hosting us above his boxing gym.

We rode out through the Gunditjmara city, ushered by Steve and Kathleen on their bikes, farewelled them at Dennington, and crossed over the Merri River on a beautiful sun-filled day. It was once again exhilarating to be on the road, not knowing where we would rest our heads that night or who and what we would meet next.

As you might imagine, one of our favourite things about cycling into the unknown is coming across a roadside organic food store, like this well stocked one, east of Tower Hill,

run by market gardeners, Volcano. We added oranges, carrots, eggs and a lemon to our panniers.

For a while we watched how their solar-powered weeding machine works, where the gardener lays prostrate hovering over the rows of vegetables carefully picking out weeds and moving along with the flick of a switch powered by the sun. The whole low-tech shebang came in toe with a pet lamb whose primary role, it seemed, was company.

The country around Tower Hill is the ancestral lands of the Koroit Gunditj, one of the Gunditjmara clans. The volcanic ‘maar’ (crater in Dhauwurd Wurrung) was formed from an eruption event and filled with water to become a lake oasis for diverse birds, fungi, reptiles, flora, insects and mammals, among others.

According to the Worn Gunditj at Tower Hill website, “The Gunditjmara used the land’s natural topography and features to establish permanent settlements and villages along the lava flow near creeks or lakes, with the community’s population believed to be in the thousands.” The local people witnessed the volcano’s eruption 32,000 years ago, an event which became rooted in their Dreaming.

Is it possible to even begin to fathom such deep culture, such long established connection with land and the living of the world, when those of us who are Second People have grown up in a flimsy, throw-away, narcissistic culture? After leaving Tower Hill, which eventually became a site of rehabilitation and renewal managed by Gunditjmara people, we came across sad relics of the colonial project, this one being our marker to turn left and head back to the coast.

Living well in country without Roman-style imperialism, British-led industrialism, or Western-scientific corporatism is one of the many significant stories Aboriginal people continue to gift us. The myth that humans are only ever narcissistic and self-serving is advanced by uninitiated peoples who have never been bonded to land and have not been given specific responsibilities for its wellbeing. To continue the lineage of First People’s reverence and responsibility for earth, sky and sea countries is our green pill. But swallowing this pill is not a passive thing, it is not a quick fix or a sedative. Taking the green pill is actively committing to generations of sensitive and nuanced labours, fiercely resisting the dominant paradigm of control and exploitation while quietly regrowing kinship ties with the living of the world. In effect putting the imperialist genie back in the bottle. Perhaps this is what Eugene von Guérard was hoping to capture and reflect back to Europe in his utopian 1855 painting of Tower Hill, painted as the frontier wars were beginning in Gunditjmara country. Wars which had already devastated Indigenous communities all around the world.


A number of Artist as Family’s ancestors are Irish. Trammelled Irish folk came in large numbers to the lands of the Koroit Gunditj, Moonwer Gunditj and Tarerer Gunditj seeking new opportunities after the forced starvations set upon them by the ruling classes. There was no real catastrophic potato famine, there was enough food around despite the blight-spoilt crops. However, a strategic funnelling of most of Ireland’s food stores to liberal elites took place. Elites who were acting from the economic ideology of the time, laissez-faire capitalism – which translates as ‘let the market decide where the food flows’. Liberal Political Economy was the driver of mass suffering as it is today. The elites, both in England and in Ireland, also controlled the distribution of the hegemonic story so the mass starvation was recorded and maintained as a famine caused by a fungus, not by a handful of people acting out of narrow self-interest.

Irish Potato Famine, 1846-7 Drawing by Granger

By the time hordes of desperate Irish (1 million dead, 1 million displaced) arrived at Killarney in the late 1840s, the Gunditj clans had already taken many hits – killings, enclosures, rapes, starvations, alcohol and biological warfare.

We performed a little grief ritual before we pitched our tent at Killarney Beach,

and got fishing for dinner.

Blackwood quickly caught a whiting, a salmon and a crab,

and Blue Wren speared two more whiting the next morning, so we feasted for lunch. Thank you Mother Gunditjmara Saltwater Country, we are so grateful for your continual abundance.

We lived for a few days at Killarney Beach, walking, fishing, sleeping, praising, feeling sadness and sitting with disturbing, unsettling dreams,

while keeping warm and in the spirit of children with all the possibilities they bestow.

It wasn’t very far on to Port Fairy, a town we’d fallen in love with years before. We pulled up alongside the wharves for lunch. Zero slept,

Blue Wren and Blackwood fished, and Magpie helped prepare David Holmgren’s latest essay, Pandemic Brooding: Can the Permaculture movement survive the first severe test of the energy descent future? for publication from her office on the road.

In Port Fairy we were invited to stay in the music studio of Peter, who we had met back in Warrnambool at the unpackaged food co-op some weeks earlier.

Peter and Natasha and their boys Dylan and Ruben provided a dry haven over a wet weekend. Connecting with people as we travel is a big part of the story of this pilgrimage. Hearing how they have survived or thrived over the past 18 months and sharing our experiences has been medicine. Story sharing is an essential service for the human spirit.

So, while our ‘new story’ (to call on Charles Eisenstein) is one of connection and community wellbeing through the sharing of abundance, the old one blazes around us cancelling, coercing, and fear-mongering. As another tiny step of many in our resistance to this old world imperialism we decided to leave Facebook. It’s been a long time coming. Facebook, it is more than evidently clear to us now, is just another form of colonisation, which uses the old tactics of colonial warfare to divide, manipulate and control the masses.

When we began to co-create this website with Lorne and Juanita we were taking the next steps in our exit strategy from Big Tech. For years now we have been unshackling from dependancy on Brown Tech’s trifecta – Big Ag, Big Pharma and Big Energy – so we had already accrued the skills, knowledges and behaviour changes to begin our transition from Big Tech. What we’ve come to observe is that although Silicon Valley’s utopian spirit was once steeped in an optimistic Green Tech future, Green Tech and Brown Tech have since merged into one titanic force of control and manipulation, mediated by the valley’s Big Tech platforms and engineered by the calibre of Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. For us it’s about conducting a cost-benefit analysis by staying on platforms like Facebook, or enabling Bill Gates’ GMO food expansion by buying our food from supermarkets who advance GMO foods, or entering into Gate’s brave new world of turning our immune systems into a subscription model with permanent vaccinations. As Aldous Huxley astutely wrote, “Medical science has made such tremendous progress that there is hardly a healthy human left”.

The sun returned to Port Fairy and we farewelled Natasha, Peter and the boys, rode through a large public reserve on the edge of town, and spotted a dead rabbit in the fresh cut grass. Each meal that comes from country and is not under lock and key is a further deepening into our new story. Back in Warrnambool Rod told us that his dad’s generation would use rabbit for fish bait. Before industrial trawlers began sucking up the ocean for prawns and pilchards, putting them into plastic, freezing and shipping them around the world, people used what they had on hand. We were keen to put this oldtimer tip into practice as finding ecological bait rather than using industrial supply line bait is an ongoing focus of Blackwood’s (and our) schooling on the road.

Zero was the main benefactor of this slightly fetid animal.

A little out of town Blackwood asked us to stop our pedal-powered caravan of four mammals on two bicycles and try out the pigface fruits Blue Wren had told him about.

He took time to explore this plant, a traditional food of many Indigenous people who belong to this continent.

He found the reddening fruits still too astringent to be useful as food and we later talked about how astringent fruits like oldtimer kangaroo apple, our ancestral medlar, and these salty fig-like pigface need to be bletted (near rotten) or dried on the plant before they offer their gifts. This one has a few months of maturing before it’s desirable tucker.

We were also travelling in many countries beyond the human realm. When we passed a stand of Blackwoods one of us would call out ‘we’re in blackwood country’. The same when blue wrens or magpies proliferated along the roadside. Just up the road we stopped again to take a look at this medicine newcomer plant endemic to South Africa. Poison apple, also called thorn apple and devils apple, treats toothache and other pain. Like many nightshades (including tomato and blackberry nightshade), the green fruits are more toxic than the ripe ones. The imperialist name of the plant is Solanum linnaeanum, and akin to all medicines their pain-relieving fruits need to be administered with care, nuance and measure by an experienced practitioner.

We love being slow moving pilgrims who stop to look, study, eat, rest and take a leak.

We have been reading Songlines: The Power and Promise by Margo Neale and Lynne Kelly and in it they reveal this First People wisdom:

Most significantly, this knowledge carried in the Songlines decrees that humans are equal with all things animate and inanimate. Together we form part of a web, in which each component sustains the land and keeps the archive alive. Every single thing has a place and a kinship with humans: the wind, the dirt, the rocks, and even shit: in Arnhem Land there is a Diarrhoea Dreaming. If it exists, it has a place. It is a fact of life, not a value judgement, so it does not need an explanation. But it does need a place to belong.

We arrived at The Crags, the ancestral land of the Peek Wurrung  – the kelp lip or kelp speech people. The clan local to this land (in Gunditjmara Country within the Maar Nation), is the Yambeet Gunditj,

who hold The Crags as a special place in their cultural heritage. We received a call from Zeph from this wild place and shared with him what we were experiencing.

Can we imagine what it would be like to grow up speaking in kelp lip and not raised with a language that has no tangible relationship to place? It seems to us this would change many things. Colonisers enforce the destruction of local languages to dispel the possibility of living in relationship.

If kelp lip were our language, a language derived from Mother Country herself, would we mine the land and enclose it for private profit?

We have witnessed sand bags being deployed all along the southern coastline of Victoria as sea levels rise, as is the case all around Australia.

Blackwood’s untrammelled curiosity is infectious. He constantly jumps off the bike to check things out and to make a connection. He is reading country without the layered politic his parents possess,

while they gently plant the seeds in him for a returned fencelessness – a project many generations in the making. We arrived at Yambuk, placed the Port Fairy rabbit meat in the bait trap, trapped some shrimp, fished for bream,

and pitched the tent. We caught a bunch of bream, though they were all undersize. There was no free camping to be found so we paid $30 for a small patch of unceded, non-powered lawn to call home and used the camp kitchen to cook our meals. When we asked Liz the friendly manager of the council-run park if we could put our food scraps in her worm farm she told us that council had stopped her allowing guests to do this because of a potential biosecurity risk. The old story of control is eating itself by projecting fear, and many more controls will be ordered before it all falls over. Dirt, fish guts, non-potable water, unwashed bodies, cold temperatures and rotting veggies all belong in our world and they’re part of our hardiness and our acceptance and embrace of life.

After Yambuk we pushed on west, stopping for a morning cuppa on the verge of the highway,

noticing when country was duly acknowledged.

We were grateful to find commons at Fitzroy River. When we rode to Cape York several years ago we found in Queensland many towns provided free camping, understanding that this brings economic prosperity to a place. In Victoria, affordable let alone free, places to stay are almost extinct and free camping areas are drying up.

Our daily routine when we’re travelling between towns is to ride the morning, find camp, get fishing,

pitch the tent,

and later get cooking dinner. Only this time we could gather sticks,

and get a fire going. Our preferred way to cook.

While cooking up some pasta, and while Blackwood continued to fish, we recorded footage for a new video describing our simple bread recipe on the road.

We harvested brackish water for the wash up.

We never tire of waking up to bird song and river light,

no matter how poor our night sleep might have been.

We found some rolling dirt roads back to the highway,

and some peasant produce to stock up on.

We found evidence of once hidden story coming home to country,

and old buildings that spoke of our ancestral heritages.

Our entry into Portland was via wallaby roadkill,

some of which we butchered and fed to Zero before finding a more respectful place for this fella to rest. Some of the meat we placed in our bait trap. If rabbit worked, would wallaby?

Yes! The wallaby in the trap attracted shrimp, which we put on our lines.

The shrimps lured grass whiting.

Blackwood foraged sea lettuce,

and we devoured this refreshing, salty kelp while waiting for the fish to bite.

During this trip so far we have learned many forms of fishing from more experienced folk. We are so grateful for the generosity of this abundant knowledge commons. But one form of fishing that we have discovered ourselves is recognising that many fishers fish for fun and not necessarily for nutritious wild food. Being in community with those around us, eagerly sharing what we’ve caught, what method or rig is working well, and sharing our respective stories means that when a fish is landed and is unwanted it is often offered our way. Blackwood was the recipient of this magnificent gummy shark in that manner. What a catch!

We were invited to stay in Karina and Daryl’s caravan while we were in Portland. Natasha and Peter back in Port Fairy had hooked us all up.

With more severe winds and wet weather forecasted we were glad we could offer fillets of flake and general skills to contribute to the household in return.

Like so many on this pilgrimage, Karina and Daryl have been so generous. We are filled up with gratitude. While crippling fear, xenophobia, polemical social media posts, outwardly expressed hatred, censorship and state-metered-out coercion have dominated the grand narrative of this pandemic, it is the little secreted stories of connection, love and renewal that have given our pilgrimage agency.

This last leg has been a cruisy 120 kms riding Gunditjmara Peoples’ Country, and while we have travelled very slowly we still remain naive of the deeper, longitudinal stories of this land. Akin to all travellers the world over we can only access a mere trace of the spirit of these lands, but like the archetypal travelling storyteller, we can leave behind story seeds either to be watered or neglected.

While we are reminded every day of the ongoing colonial project of Australia and its latest side project – enforcing experimental medicines into the masses – we mostly live present to the abundance of living and how we can become better participants and gift bringers into such abundance. We hope you, Dear Reader, have found the abundance you require right now. Thanks for stopping into Artist as Family’s virtual home on the road. We look forward to sharing more with you on our next leg.

Where are we now? Our lockdown in Warrnambool

Where are we now? Well that’s a complex question. Let’s begin with the tangible end of the answer. We’re in Gunditjmara People’s Country, living in retrosuburbia between beautiful Moyjil

and Merri Island.

When we first arrived in Warrnambool this man, Mark Dekker, spoke to us in Dhauwurd wurrung. He said, ‘Ngatanwarr wartee pa kakay Gunditjmara mirring-u,’ (Welcome brothers and sisters to Gunditjmara country). Mark’s daughter Violet (pictured) and son Beau are Gunditjmara kids, and they are growing up speaking their First People’s language.

We’ve been staying in a self-contained unit as guests of Rod and Hanna. Back home we are good friends with their son Connor, pictured below (some time ago) with his siblings Stella, Maya and Agina.

Rod and Hanna have been so generous to us, as has Hanna’s mum who lives across the laneway. Meet Mor Mor, a true elder who is heartily embedded in her community and, we were to discover, in service to many. She is currently reading Sand Talk, and like Rod and Hanna, Mor Mor has been leaving food packages on our doorstep.

We really landed in a most caring neighbourhood. Steve and Kathleen live next to Mor Mor. Here they are on a ride to the pier we have spent so much time on.

They too have been dropping off food bundles, and Steve bestowed on us a treasure chest of gifts he had collected over the years including panniers to replace our torn ones, a multitool knife for Blackwood and a tin whistle for Magpie. He made improvements to Merlin the tandem, repaired Blue Wren’s boots, and made a leather pouch for Blackwood’s new pruning saw,

which he received for his 9th birthday from his Nana and Papa.

Gifts also flowed to us from saltwater mother country. Patrick (who shares his birthday with Blackwood) caught a beautiful Australian salmon on his hand line with scrap chicken for bait (apparently rabbit works well too).

With all these gifts we couldn’t help but feel even more grateful for this life than we ordinarily do, and it was in this milieu we recorded and shared two new songs, Roadside fruit and Love real high.

So this is where we’ve been in tangible, relational and creative senses. But all the while our critical faculties have been working too, noticing things around us that don’t speak of love, of being in service, of being cultured in care and connection. On a street level, for instance, shops selling alcohol are deemed essential services and are well open for business while children’s playgrounds are closed and desolate.

Here, what is allowed to be open is lucrative and immunity harming, while what the state has closed ordinarily brings well-being, learning and social warming. Why then is there a refusal to apply cost-benefit analysis to COVID debates? We have so many questions. What if natural immunity is really superior to vaccines (as reported in Science)? How exactly has the Australian government’s ‘culture of secrecy’ threatened democratic journalism, and what does this mean for this time? Why has the Therapeutic Goods Administration taken offline (since August 31) its Database of Adverse Event Notifications (DAEN), including numbers of deaths caused by Covid vaccines?

The below TGA screen grab was sent to us on August 16. It shows 462 deaths reported after taking the two Covid vaccines – Pfizer’s mRNA Comirnaty and AstraZeneca’s viral vector. So are these figures accurate? We’ve been trying to find out for a week but the TGA page is consistently unavailable, “being investigated as a priority” (as above). If these (below) figures are accurate, would this data even be allowed into the corporatised media today? With the Australian government’s growing culture of secrecy, their attack on journalists and whistleblowers, and a general state of compliance or muzzling in a fully corporatised health care industry, how can any of us possibly know what is true?

Furthermore, considering Big Pharma’s track record and a Federal Government bringing in even more extreme anti-democratic bills (signed off by Labor; opposed by the Greens) should we not be seriously suspicious of what is going on? Should we take a novel vaccine produced by known corporate criminals or look for cheap, no longer patented well-studied treatments in times of need? Should we take a novel vaccine just so we can participate in a vaccine economy? What has happened to the Left? Is there a Left left? Do we just continue to cancel comedians while the world burns?

Arggh, so many notional questions. Time to get back to the real stuff.

Whales, rainbows,

rain clouds,

sacred country,

and community. While we couldn’t gather or labour with our neighbours directly in Warrnambool, we could still converse in chanced upon public outings, connect and consult digitally and help plant neighbourhood food for the future. Blackwood made useful mulch from a near silent shredder (something we’d never heard of),

Blue Wren and Magpie planted out deciduous and citrus fruit trees,

on common,

unceded land.

While in Warrnambool we were asked to speak on 3WAY community radio. This is our yarn with presenter Gillian Blair, which centred on child-led learning, fermentation, de-monetisation and going off the (corporate-industrial) grid.

So that’s where we’ve been, Dear Reader. That’s what’s been riling us and what’s been grounding us. Of course we can stay in the sickness of the news – the sadness, fear, grief, division, tears and silencing of alternative narratives – but we can also celebrate the utter gift of life we have been given.

Singing and dancing, gardening and playing, loving and connecting do not counter or cancel the sadness, grief and anger we are feeling, rather these former things bring balance and hope to the latter. Asking questions doesn’t mean we have worthy answers to share, rather it means we’re in a process of adding societal substance to the complexity of now, while refusing to seek out reductive political narratives – them/us; right/wrong; pro/anti.

We hope you too are finding balance, laughter and a little dose of Zappa each day.

Making home on the road (in Gadubanud, Eastern Maar and Gunditjmara Countries)

“There are dangers with using disconnected, abstract metaphors,” says Tyson Yunkaporta on his podcast The Other Others. Like Victor Steffensen, Beckett Carmody and other Indigenous thinker-maker-actors, Yunkaporta argues for a lived (and living) scientific methodology to return to Country.

We finished a magical stay in Apollo Bay in Gadubanud Country with a feast. With all the communing with local fishers on the jetties, with all the quiet adherences to the five mother countries we’ve travelled since leaving, with all the applying what we’ve learnt in a lived, everyday performance of making home on the road, we finally had our first feast of abundance.

With bellies full with the grace of the ancestors of the sea we said farewell to our main teacher. Seal languished, slept, growled and snarled, meditated, lolled about playfully in the saltwater and stole fish straight from our line. In every movement, gesture and action Seal revealed to us our exceptional inadequacies and the structural problems of the culture we were born into. What a gift to be shown our flaws without words or judgement.

Our little caravan of wheels and panniers, mammals, tools and instruments stopped for one last picture a stone’s throw from our secreted campsite, which had cradled us for five nights. We felt gratitude for the hospitality, ease and kindness that was expressed to us by this town.

Then we climbed. We hadn’t looked at a topographical map beforehand, and we were glad. We just headed west along the Great Ocean Road. About a century ago Alfred Korzybski remarked that “The map is not the territory” and “The word is not the thing.” Later Alan Watts added, “The menu is not the meal.” Should we have understood the immense labour required of our legs before leaving (over the next four days we were to climb 1269m and descend 1265m), we may have been less present to what we experienced.

As we climbed the land changed. Tree ferns began to appear lodged in the understorey. All the while magpies, blue wrens and blackwoods continued to accompany us.

We got hot climbing and stripped off, then the rain came in as the forest densified and we added layers. Blackwood asked many questions like why do trees make more rain and why does a steep hill look flat in a photograph? On a train some years ago we overheard two school kids taking about hills while looking out the window. One said to the other, “What are hills even for?”

Climbing a hill has many gifts – becoming aware of what we are biophysically capable of, exuding toxins through sweat, building fitness and immunity, and developing a muscle memory for resilience. Cresting a hill has many gifts too – a sense of palpable achievement, being present to the magic of water rehydrating your body, experiencing an elevated view of Country, and a chance to rest and praise each other. Descending a hill has more known gifts. For us it’s utterly psychedelic coming down a steep, serpentining beautiful hill road with the full weight of our packed bikes (Merlin the tandem 50kg and Cosmo 40kg) and us (Blue Wren 75kg, Magpie 52Kg, Blackwood 33kg and Zero 7kg) upon them. Then to find a campsite among the she-oaks with another flush of wood blewit mushrooms… oh, the utter exhausting, exhilarating joy of the ups and downs.

Making home for us on this winter’s pilgrimage is drying tents and making fire. Making home on the road is sleeping in a half dry tent so that the tent as home becomes a more tangible metaphor – a lived, felt metaphor. Same goes for scratching around for kindling to make a fire. ‘Leave no trace’ is a daily performance, a lived process that keeps the authorities off our back and dirt under our nails while honouring Mother Country.

Similarly, cooking with coals is a relationship with fire making and fire enquiry, because fire is many fires – a hot fire to warm coldness, a settled fire idling to conserve resources and labour, a burned-through fire to produce goodly coals for cooking. Fire is what we eat alongside that which we cook upon. All these stories come into relationship together – wood blewit, she-oak, store-bought flour, souring microbes, fermenting vessel, walked-for kindling, found ciggie lighter – in and of the fire, in and of the body. The morning sun that germinates the seed, the midday rain that grows it up, the mycelium that connects all the trees in the forest, the ordinary everyday processes of death and decay that brought the old wood into this common earthly moment of fire making story.

As Deborah Bird Rose came to learn as a student of Aboriginal elders in the the Victoria River District, NT, Indigenous knowledge centres on foregrounding relationships and backgrounding technologies. This of course doesn’t mean tools are unimportant, it just means they don’t dominate culture because of the deleterious effects this inevitably has on Country. Why create new tools when old ones suffice? Is progress really just an anxiety for innovation? A year ago Professor Thomas Borody from the Centre for Digestive Diseases in Sydney developed a “triple therapy” treatment using Ivermectin, Zinc and Doxycycline. All of these are old, established and well-studied medicines. Old, at least, in relative terms. “When Ivermectin and zinc combine,” he said back then, “it’s very important in killing the reproductive cycle where multiplication occurs…Virtually everybody gets cured – it’s so simple and in 10 days, side effects are virtually unheard of.”

Today, Borody’s triple treatment is being trialled alongside other treatments as Covid vaccines efficacy falls in the most vaccinated countries. In our video, The Pandemic Game, we featured many voices to try to diversify the Covid narrative. One of these was Dr Pierre Cory who has been another significant doctor championing the use of Ivermectin from early on. We shared this video on our local Hepburn Shire Coronavirus Support Group Facebook page back in June and it was immediately taken down. The consensus-driven agenda of this pandemic has been extremely dangerous to public health and to science itself. When we read the long list of corporate criminality committed by Pfizer we smell old fish bait left to rot in a public rubbish bin. We do not sense a scientific methodology that gives to the living of the world. Can we imagine what this pandemic would look like now had Ivermectin and Zinc combo treatments not been cancelled, blocked and ridiculed by the biggest media conglomerates in the world right down to small community Facebook pages? We are no longer surprised by the vested narratives of a corporatised media that has infiltrated the establishmentarian Left.

The costs of the absence of a democratic press aggregate every year. Speed and greed do not make for permanent cultures.

The day we climbed up Lavers Hill from Glenaire we heaved and grieved, hauled and bawled. It was hard going on top of already tired muscles from the day before. We were thankful for the lack of tourist buses and cars, which we were told by a local cyclist would have made our journey much more difficult. We crested at the quiet little town, made lunch outside the CFA headquarters and began our descent.

Halfway down Merlin snapped a brake cable and Blue Wren and Blackwood made an emergency landing. It took boot brakes to pull up a fast travelling Merlin that had only one operating brake with fairly worn pads.

On dusk that night we made home on Eastern Maar Peoples’ Country. When we find a place to lay our heads for the night Magpie usually makes up the beds,

Blue Wren gets with the billy to make dinner,

while Blackwood goes exploring or helps with the homemaking. On this night we fell asleep with the bleating of lambs and their mothers to the left and the crashing of waves to the right, too tired to properly acknowledge Country and thank the ancestors. The Great Ocean Road had spent much time over these past few days taking us inland, but now it ran right along the coast. This is ordinarily a tourist-intensive part of the road, though for us travelling with dog kin Zero, we were not permitted to venture off it to the designated National Park viewing platforms. The new morning was sunny, the road empty, and our perception of the coast was felt in our tiredness.


This coastline is shapeshifting, is being made and remade by many players – granule, water, wind, light, heat. The picture of it below is not us trying to rip off Impressionist painting stylistically, rather we’re pushing our rare-earth camera-phone to the max from our (National Park) exiled vantage point to help tell this story. But what does such an image try to reveal? The certainty that we were there? The certainty of life itself? The complexity of beauty? The preservation of impermanence? We’ve had many conversations on this trip about the role of technology, especially the technologies that data mine us, exploit rare-earth minerals and take us away from Country, mediating our travels. Most of our family arguments occur over this kind of technology. It takes a day to organise our photos for a blog post and another day to write and edit the post. Young Blackwood loathes this disruption to the magical and lived. We keep saying to him, ‘We are story tellers, and if independent-minded people don’t share their stories all we will be left with is a corporatised media.” Malcolm X once stated:

“The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses. The press is so powerful in its image-making role, it can make the criminal look like he’s the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal… If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

We hear you Blackwood, we feel the emptiness of our explanation because it ultimately relies on so much hyper-mediated time on screens, and we see the emptiness of pictures like this that is trying to hold memory.

Later in the day we rolled into Port Campbell, received a call from Zephyr, made some lunch and did the customary drying of the tent. While Blue Wren took a swim, Magpie wrote postcards, Blackwood refilled water containers and Zero mixed with the locals. Later in the afternoon the little scruffy fella made an exhibition of himself chasing a rabbit down the main drag.

Colonisation keeps rearing its head on this pilgrimage in both abstract and tangible ways. We wish we could listen to the dreaming of this old rock in language, rather than read its settler name, London Bridge. Since being on the Great Ocean road we’ve not come across a single sign indicating which Aboriginal country we’re in.

Our third night on this double humpback leg between Apollo Bay and Warrnambool we found home on the edge of the old netball court in Nirranda.

A left behind bench is always welcome technology. Every place has its special offerings and we need to observe what that place is happy to give and, as perpetual blow-ins, how we might leave traces of gratitude and little other noise.

These momentary home places are song places for dreaming. A south facing besser brick wall is welcome relief on a night of north blowing winds and it shields us from the road too.

The forth day of this short leg saw us absolutely exhausted. We were met by head winds, cross winds and rain. We quickly covered up to keep dry in the coldness of the day, then a few kms down the road the sun popped out and we stopped to strip off again. We danced like this for 35km.

Our leg muscles felt like jelly. We would have loved a jug of raw milk from one of the many dairies we were passing.

For the past few days we’d been travelling in cow and swan country. The temporary flooded paddocks of farms and other wilder waterways become the seasonal homes for nesting swan couples. We didn’t apply the term ‘heteronormative’ to them, it didn’t seem to translate in the lived, much more than human world. Instead we observed and praised the temporaneous nature of their home making. Their context of temporary dwelling sites – making little islands of safety as home – was also ours.

A very hard last haul into Warrnambool saw many tears as Magpie and Zero were almost sucked under a truck. The driver was doing nothing nefarious; Magpie was within the tiny shoulder the road provided. Rather it was the combination of escalated traffic into the little city and the headwind that created a vacuum that has taken down many a cyclist before. Tears of shock, anger and tiredness flowed and we hobbled into town in this most eastern part of Gunditjmara Mother Country to find the local Unpackaged Food Cooperative. It was time to restock our supplies. Thanks Brenda and Peter for volunteering on this day and thanks to all the other volunteers who have given their time to this food co-op over the past thirty years. We feel a special kindred connection to food co-ops, as we are so lucky to have such a special one back home.

As we generate our own power to ride this pilgrimage, what we eat is as essential as the stories our food comes wrapped in. Another Indigenous teacher of ours, Martín Prechtel, describes in his numerous books that the ascension of food and medicine that comes without story or without known origins is at the very root of a culture of separation. A food co-op is a first small step on the way back to living in connection and with care for Country.

Care, tenderness and generosity has flowed in abundance on this journey. We arrived in Warrnambool to be taken in by the family of our dear friend Connor. They offered us a self-contained granny flat for what was looking like the next impending lockdown. We are so grateful for the opportunity to rest, recuperate, and dry out the tent. Thanks Hanna, Rod, Maya, Stella and Max for providing a little pad to collapse into.

Before Victoria’s 8th lockdown (the third for our trip) a local Gunditjmara family met us on the pier with a bag of fresh produce, worms for bait, and warm hearts. Blue Wren hooked a shark while our families yarned. The shark thrashed furiously, snapped the hook and swam off looking for the next fisher’s bait. Mark and Blue Wren exchanged stories about being danced into Country by the old women of their respective Countries, and Mark brought the old language back to the pier. Rod fished the jetty too, shared his local knowledge with Blackwood, and spoke of his Gunditjmara relatives and how that story was shameful to mention in the culture just a generation ago.

The jetties and piers on this pilgrimage have provided endless sources of community and kinship. With seals, dogs, people, fish, winds, sharks, salt, whales and gulls. We have travelled over 500 kms now in six weeks, adding another 164 kms this leg, which has been the most physically challenging so far. Blackwood takes these challenges in his stride. He may have only been a baby and toddler when we rode to Cape York seven years ago, but the muscle memory of travelling within limits has deeply imprinted as he edges very close to being nine years old.

Not long after we arrived in Warrnambool we were contacted by Ros from Permaculture South West Victoria who welcomed us and asked if we needed anything. We asked her if she had some seeds to plant a garden while we’re here. She brought seeds and some homegrown fresh and dried produce. Thanks so much Ros!

Behind where we’re staying is a goodly neighbourhood compost heap and common, and with the go ahead to garden it that’s what we’ll do while we’re here.

That is, garden and fish.

We hope, Dear Reader, you too are planting seeds of renewal and interrelation or fishing for some magic. Back home an outside cold water plunge for five minutes a day was enough to reawaken us to raw, tangible life and to remind us what unmediated living is. It doesn’t take a year-long pilgrimage on bicycles to attempt to put back into the foreground relationships with the living of the world and background the technologies that domesticate and incarcerate us. It only takes our naked bodies plunging into brackish water to begin to enliven our senses and to remember what it is to be human.

Civil roads, underworld sharks, olympian neopeasants and crabmongers for China (Wadawurrung to Gadubanud Country)

There’s an ever present chill from saltwater wind that we’re becoming more hardy and alive to, so too the smell of old fish, which proliferates our hands and our clothes. We are in ever greater degree the great unwashed in an increasingly controlled human world, but life supports us in her abundance, provides shelter when it rains,

a wall to pitch a tent behind when ferocious winds rip through the night,

and calm, magical mornings to set out upon.

The roads have been endless providers too, of such things as road killed ringtail

and hare for Zero meat,

valuable rope to add to our kit as we neglected to bring a washing line,

and pretty good shoulders for cyclists.

We left St Leonards after two weeks of lockdown with a spring in our pedals, camped at Barwon Heads and rode on to Torquay, stopping for regular breaks.

At Torquay Magpie caught up with her office work in a sunny park,

while Blackwood cut some three-cornered garlic (Allium triquetrum) for the dinner pot.

and Blue Wren toasted some almonds on the municipal BBQ as Zero took a nap.

Each day we have been travelling in and out of Magpie, Blackwood and Blue Wren countries, and down here on the coast Willy Wagtail Country is ever present.

In the park in Torquay we happened across Monica, and after a far bit of yarning she invited us to mind her home (including her neighbourhood compost drop off) for the weekend while she was to be away tree planting.

In exchange we got to work repairing doors,

nurturing housemates,

and restoring her bike to roadworthy condition.

While in Torquay it felt good to help out at Monica’s while she was planting trees, but we also rested up, and explored the coastline.

While this town is the gateway to the Great Ocean Road we left Torquay in winter sunshine

and headed back inland. We wanted to volunteer at Common Ground Project, a ‘not-for-profit community farm that promotes food security by creating fair access to locally grown, healthy food.’

which is managed by these two bright sparks, Ivan and Greta.

We were offered beautiful food, shown a goodly camp spot, and had a chance to learn more about how their regenerative farming practices are feeding people in the community. The next day we rode towards Deans Marsh, in the traditional lands of the Gadubanud and Gulidjan peoples, thus leaving Wadawurrung Country for the first time since our first day’s ride back in early July.

The road offered up these wood blewits (Clitocybe nuda) before we arrived in Deans Marsh,

where some lovely locals Sian and Ads showed us a beautiful place to camp. Then in the rain we left to climb our biggest hill of the trip so far.

From Deans Marsh (elevation 155m above sea level) we pedalled for more or less 12km up hill, stopping for drink breaks,

encouragement cuddles,

and to take layers off.

Then we arrived at the top. Yippee!

The ten kilometres down hill was heaven. We soared and glided, laughed and whooooped out loud. Woody was learning what Zeph learnt on our first adventure – ‘a hill is just a hill.’ At the bottom was lovely Lorne, a place to pitch our tent and, as we discovered, another snap lockdown starting that night.

We headed for the nearby jetty, 2km from our home camp, and fished our way through the lockdown.

Zero had developed gunky eyes, which he nursed by staying quiet on the jetty, letting the sun treat him.

Blackwood pulled up an array of fish including this Australian salmon (Arripis trutta) which we enjoyed for dinner,

Blue Wren caught Port Jackson, Banjo and Draughtboard sharks (Cephaloscyllium laticeps) on his hand line and threw them all back,

and Magpie went after crabs (Ovalipes australiensis), which were delicious out of the billy.

A jetty engenders a special kind of community. It is a place for learning, marvelling and praising what the sea has to offer, and it is a place for connection and for song.

Public amenities are really the great civic remnant of a pre-corporatised world. These colonial structures are so often incorrect in today’s world where colonialism’s new face – paternalistic corporatism – is ashamed of yesterday and seeks utopia in a post-human tomorrow. We’re as happy to wild shit as find solace in public amenities. When you live outside it gets down to practicality – available ecology or architecture, digging tool or flush away your precious nutrients?

Another public amenity built in the pre-corporate colonial era is the Great Ocean Road, built by returned soldiers of the First World War. All the plaques along the road confuse whose Aboriginal country we’re riding on but are clear on the story of the mayor of Geelong’s project to have traumatised men return from France and construct a picturesque coastal road like in mother Europe. This road, emptied of tourist traffic, has been a cyclist’s joy.

Wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum L.) grows in abundance where the disturbance of settler road meets oldtimer coastline. This feral, uncorporatised food is a prize to neopeasants and gallantly sings into the trauma of our shared ancestries.

As are these turkey tails (Trametes versicolor). Both weedy brassica and bracket fungus are wild medicines,

and they belong to a very different medical philosophy than corporate health, which is lead foremost by monetisation and control. Charles Eisenstein details this in his latest essay where he writes: “When herbicide-resistant weeds appear, the solution is a new herbicide. When immigrants cross the border, we build a wall. When a school shooter gets into a locked school building, we fortify it further. When germs develop resistance to antibiotics, we develop new and stronger ones. When masks fail to stop the spread of covid, we wear two. When our taboos fail to keep evil at bay, we redouble them. The controlling mind foresees a paradise in which every action and every object is monitored, labeled, and controlled. There will be no room for any bad thing to exist. Nothing and no one will be out of place. Every action will be authorized. Everyone will be safe.” As Charles goes on to argue, the pursuit for ever greater control generates ever greater divisions and social illness.

Human wellbeing is wrapped up in connection to people and place, regularly diving into other worlds for not just food but insight,

to behold our own wildness as contiguous with the living of the world, be predator and prey in the same instance,

to find delight and challenge in the fierce determination of kin,

to experience the full force of the world and only retreat from it for short periods of recuperation,

and to pull on the primal materiality of ancestors.

We rolled into Apollo Bay in Gadubanud (Katubanut) Mother Country and dried out the tent.

Rainbows keep rolling in on this saltwater winter country,

as do the facilities to cook a public meal.

We soon found a hidden coastal camp site protected from wind, tides and rain. A place to call home for a while,

interact with the locals (Arctocephalus pusillus),

fish up some more shark (to throw back),

accept gifts (Seriolella brama) from fellow fishers (thanks Lonnie!),

cook up both gifts from sea and field,

and listen to local crabmongers talk about the elite markets in China for these Tasmanian giants (Pseudocarcinus gigas).

We are common students on this bicycle pilgrimage. All three of us human folk learning to cook in a windy kitchen without walls,

fishing up species we’ve never before encountered (Heterodontus portusjacksoni),

beholding the advance of more-than-human greatness (due to fewer boats on the ocean),

while observing the encroachment of dehumanising politics in subtle and not so subtle forms.

This pilgrimage begs for breathing with the wind, the gales, the gusts, as windbags ourselves. It begs for not holding our breath in the anxieties of corporate-apnea. It begs for not using scientific nomenclature, roads or public toilets without understanding the colonisations of these useful but unnecessary things. It begs for us to find gratitude in every food we eat that comes loaded in story. It begs for us to share our learnings and extend our studenthood with kinfolk we come across on the road like Sian and baby Kai,

and with you, Dear Reader. Thanks for riding along with us. We’ve travelled 177kms since St Leonards and while setting out in winter in a pandemic might have seemed to some a crazy-arse thing to do, we’ve really enjoyed the cold and the reduced noise along the coastal roads.

With much love, Artist as Family

The lockdown leg (sedentary, errantry, on the jetty)

Well, that was a strange 17 days! After our first magical spell on the road, starting to stretch our touring legs and build our fitness, the state of Victoria went into lockdown again. Friends Jo and Tony kindly offered us their sweet shack in St Leonards so we could lay low.

The day before the lockdown was enforced we went in search of a local bikesmith to help us with a rear tyre issue. On the way we came across another simple example of neighbourly generosity.

Unaccustomed to visiting supermarkets we spent far too long wandering through the aisles to see if there was anything we could eat. One thing! Unpackaged organic bananas were cheaper than some of the conventionally grown ones! Our waste free, nutritious lunch cost $8 for the whole fam. We found some nearby shrubbery and buried the skins discreetly. We could have eaten them, as they are higher in antioxidants, fibre and potassium than the fruit, but felt the municipal garden bed needed this food more than us.

It’s been a creative time in the shack with all that is going on in the world. We wrote and published our first blog post of the pilgrimage, recorded one of our busking songs, wrote a new one to rehearse, and a satirical one that we published, which saw us censored by YouTube for a day. This song came out of a cry for help.

The headline in The Australian triggered many emotions, as Patrick states in introducing our latest video, Anthropogenic pandemic – how to trust ‘the science’. This is part of our explanation for why we made the video, Jab the kids.

In this video we compile a number of sources who speak on the growing evidence for the lab leak theory, including Clive Hamilton’s two articles that made it past the gatekeepers. Why does this matter?

The Australian science ethics professor makes the case that not only did the pandemic originate in a lab, the virus was engineered to be more virulent by scientists to obtain gain of function research with the express purpose of developing vaccines. Seemingly, to be ahead of the game for the next global pandemic.

“A Bayesian analysis concludes beyond a reasonable doubt that SARS-CoV-2 is not a natural zoonosis but instead is laboratory derived.” You can download that analysis here. In this pre-reviewed report, which has been sent to both Lancet and WHO scientists for peer review, it states that the “Wuhan Institute of Virology analysis of lavage specimens from ICU patients at Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital in December 2019 contain both SARS-CoV-2 and adenovirus vaccine sequences consistent with a vaccine challenge trial.” This effectively means that vaccine research created the pandemic. This is not a comfortable conclusion for science, and we are very concerned it will be covered up once again.

While in St Leonards we reflected on how different the previous lockdowns were for us. We ordinarily live in a home which is highly energetic in producing our own food, fuel and medicine resources, one in which a television has no place, and positive actions are our main focus. With all the hard news and views encircling us we got suckered in to the dominant screen in the little shack, and became sickened by it. Charles Eisenstein has warned activists that if you wallow in the shit of the old story too much (we are paraphrasing in our own language) you become the same sickness of that story. The jetty was a major salve.

Each day we fished,

reeled in nourishing gifts (Arripis trutta) from Wadawurrung mother country,

collected and salted our own bait,

got wet and put the little ones back,

witnessed the sublime and the prosaic riffing off each other,

looked for many opportunities to eat outside the lock and key of the industrial food bowl,

practiced our breathing routines and rested,

and watched the dawns and dusks come and go with the pelicans, seagulls, cormorants and wrasse (Labridae) communities. We caught Australian salmon, local wrasse, ling and a baby flathead. Needless to say, the undersized went back from where they came.

We went on bike rides and walking excursions around the town, coming across these delicious feral fruits (Opuntia),

harvested oldtimer warrigal greens (Tetragonia tetragonioides) where there was evidence of the absence of pesticides,

exchanged books at another friendly roadside library,

found places to swim and spearfish,

places to embrace the cold as part of our immune strengthening regime, and places to tell our censorship story from.

We fiddled with a dumpster dived-for jigsaw puzzle,

and when Blackwood asked who the people were in the image, we laughed and told him they were world renown op-shoppers.

Be it on the TV, by the jetty, around the streets or in the virus, colonisation exuded itself everywhere. We showed Blackwood the place where William Buckley was found by Batman and his Boy Wonders.

“Always was, always will be.” Just for the record, Buckley was never included in “European society.” Alan Garner’s novel Strandloper about Buckley is the best thing we’ve read on his life. It shows how close the Greenman cosmology of Cheshire-dispossessed peasant Buckley is with Wadawurrung peoples’ cosmology. An escaped convict, Buckley spent three decades living in Wadawurrung (Wathaurong) country, becoming a fully initiated member of the local clan.

Just over the drink to the northeast we looked out to the pandemic embattled city of Melbourne, where friends and family are coming up for air as this lockdown ends. So many nerves frayed in the spray.

We are filled to the brim with gratitude that we have had a cosy place to be locked down in, but we cannot wait to get back on our deadly treadlies. We are committed to re-establishing the intentions for this pilgrimage – to not get caught up in the world online, to background our egoic minds, and to fearlessly, sensitively and lovingly inhale and exhale the living of the world. We are making a pledge to ourselves, and to you Dear Reader, to return to these intentions as we continue on our journey.

Baptism by ice and lemon: from southern Djaara to saltwater Wadawurrung country

Well, the quill of the feather pointed due south.

As we came onto the street fully loaded, our neighbour Bob greeted us and said (quite concerned), “You’re heading north aren’t you?”

A kilometre later at the top roundabout, south meant taking the third exit (right), and as we did so another neighbour, Gordon, took out his phone.

The bikes were laden and our legs not yet in tune.

It was always going to be slow going at first. We stopped for a splash of mineral water at Sailors Falls,

and Irish strawberries (Arbutus unedo) recharged our energy fields,

and then we truly left home, and crossed this threshold into Wadawurrung mother country.

We rode on through the Spargo Creek Road forest, crossed the Western Freeway and dropped into Gordon with these beautiful wood blewits (Clitocybe nuda) blinking up at our foraging eyes in a small reserve.

We were keen to get out our instruments for our first play on the road, when Maureen, a local resident, came by and introduced herself.

Maureen invited us home for a cuppa, which quickly developed into a backyard blitz, where we helped weed out the bent grass, trim the poa tussocks,

and plant them in another patch of the garden.

In the gloaming hour, Maureen showed us Kirritt Bareett, the hill where Bunjil resided after he created the first people.

With an invitation to camp over, and the lend of a few more blankets, we spent our first night in the tent at Maureen and Vince’s. It got down to minus 2 degrees celsius.

Vince (DJ icon from PBS radio’s Soul Time) and Maureen really keep a spirited home,

and their neighbour Andrew kept dropping off food packages for us over the fence while we were there. Such generous souls! Our first 24 hours were magical.

Just down the hill, heading towards Mount Egerton on our second morning, we came across John Smith in his front yard. We pulled over for a quick yarn and a laugh and rode on,

finding some lovely saffron milk caps (Lactarius deliciosus) on the road to Lal Lal.

We thought Lal Lal might be a place to lay our heads, but with all the downhill of the morning and still energy to burn, we selected a few books to take from the free roadside library and thought we’d try our luck at reaching Meredith before dark.

The delicious three-cornered garlic (Allium triquetrum) greeted us on the edge of town.

We rode through rough forest tracks and C roads for a few hours until we realised we’d better start looking for a camp at Elaine. Being landlocked and running alongside the A300, Elaine didn’t offer much in terms of a public reserve to pitch a tent. It was looking like an undesirable roadside camp when friendly Dave walked across the road to see if we needed assistance. That came in the offer to pitch our tent beside his woodshed. Thanks Dave!

The mercury fell to minus two again, and the fields over the back of Dave’s fence felt the full exposed force of the frost.

Home is the combination of kindness and fire. Thanks Dave!

In Meredith we swapped over the Lal Lal books,

and had a play in the sun,

before pushing off for Lethbridge to dry out the tent,

and cook up the mushrooms with the sourdough leaven we are carrying and mixing up each day.

The combination of the cold and the riding is keeping us perpetually hungry. We stopped in Bannockburn, played some tunes, received our first coin for our efforts, and cooked up some grub.

On dusk we headed down to the footy ground and on the margins of the reserve set up camp. We crashed early and woke an hour or two later to the sound of spinning wheels and a car zooming past our tent just metres from our heads.

A few hours later we woke again, this time to the thump of lemons being used as grenades at our tent. Despite the burnouts and lemon hurlers we got our first decent sleep of the trip. It was a balmy zero degrees and we had everything we needed, including lemons.

On the way out of Bannockburn we discovered the lemon hurlers had had a busy night. We rode down the noisy A300 without breakfast and found the sleepy Batesford Tennis Club,

where we set up the camp kitchen.

Some late season roadside apples and a few overhanging mandarins filled us up some more,

and we collected wild fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgare) as take-away spice.

Woody jumped off the bike and harvested some wood sorrel (Oxalis),

munching the golden flowers with gusto.

We’re not sure why we were drawn to easting into Geelong. The feather’s quill was only ever to be a starting point to enable the flow of the journey to set itself free. But it felt right and so we followed our intuition. And soon found ourselves beside a mussel and paella float, and struck up a yarn with another family about the indefatigable learnings when living in the realm of school of the road.

Blackwood quickly tried his luck with the local fish populations,

and we slept, cooked and sang our way across the afternoon.

With more musical pennies in our pocket, though no luck with the fish, we gathered up sea lettuce (Ulva australis) to join the evening’s meal.

Invited to stay in Tom, Clarrie and Lachie’s home garden farm in the burbs, we once more set up camp on dusk.

The next morning we feasted together on backyard rooster that Jenna had despatched the night before, and were treated to the soup of a pumpkin that had spent the summer growing where our pumpkin coloured tent now sat.

Just like our pumpkins back home are powered on humanure, same too here in Norlane,

as is the whole damn fine garden. These guys are living the RetroSuburban dream.

We all jumped on our bikes after a nourishing closed-loop brekky and headed downtown to join Wadawurrung mob celebrate their culture.

Blackwood added another hunting tool to the kit,

and we pedalled down the Bellarine Peninsula,

only to be hi-ho-ed off the highway by gardeners Ivan and Gretta to spend some time with them and the family’s herd.

Brother Zephyr called while back on our bikes, and so we pulled right off the road to hear his news and to share ours, finding lilly pilly (Syzygium smithii) delights alongside our conversation.

This was our biggest day in the saddle yet. Almost 50 kms with just a few big climbs. We were well spent by the time the pelicans witnessed our arrival.

Friends Jo and Tony offered us to stay in their beach shack at St Leonards and thus have given us a chance to get out of the cold and damp over the next few days when a load of rain is expected.

We’ll spend time gathering some saltwater nourishment thanks to Wadawurrung mother country,

resting, and carrying out some modifications and upgrades.

The generosity of people has been overwhelming over this past week, both at home, online and on the road. We are so grateful for your support in leaving home and during this first 180kms.

So the question is, Dear Reader, where to now? Any guesses? We look forward to sharing our next leg with you down the track. Signing off for now, with love, Artist as Family xx

Ten panniers, four instruments – most of what we’re taking

Meg’s bike, or rather Magpie’s bike (we’re going to use our forest names for this trip), is called Cosmo, after Cosmo Sheldrake. Here is the breakdown of what she is taking:

Pannier 1. Daily food pannier number one (6.4 kg). Thanks Marita Smith for the gift of Golden Lion and the Reishi. We’re taking our sourdough leven with us to make fermented crumpets for lunches. We’re committed to doing this trip single-use-plastic free so will be only buying produce that comes in its own packaging like avocados or that we can buy in bulk and put in our own bags and containers. We are taking a little of Magpie’s homemade miso, some cacao from Loving Earth, and oats and spelt from Burrum Biodynamics via our wonderful not-for-profit food co-op, Hepburn Wholefoods – making best practice farming affordable for low income households like ours. Thank you to all the volunteers.

Our food co-op is the same age as Blackwood, who has grown up with home-grown, foraged and not-for-profit organic food. He initiated his own co-op film last year and this year he was asked to be in one of a series of short films about the community-owned model.

Collective health doesn’t exist in the exclusive hands of science, science is just part of a much bigger story. Community health belongs in the many giving and making hands of strong community. To feed the world industrial food and medicine only serves a treadmill of ill health and produces destroyed habitats. This tradition comes from the death-seeking ideology of mechanistic scientism, which still proliferates western medicine in new profit-driven forms like virus engineering and other kinds of synthetic biology. We say enough of that sad old story! Community health is a return to eldership. Our dear friend Alison Wilken has been the volunteer-buyer at Hepburn Wholefoods for several years. Alison also co-runs our town’s Community Supported Bakery (CSB), Two Fold Bakehouse. Last time we left home for a year on our bikes Alison spent our last day helping us clean our house. We kept the tradition alive today too. Thanks Alison – your commitment to nourishing your community is both seen and respected.

Back to the pack… we’ll never leave at this rate… so many loved-ones to farewell…

Pannier 2. Daily food pannier number two (5.3 kg). Thanks Su and Dave for the gift of dried Melliodora strawberry grapes. Thank you again to Hepburn Wholefoods for stocking dark chocolate from Spencer Cocoa (Mudgee, NSW + beyond) and spelt pasta from Powlett Hill (Campbelltown, VIC). Thank you Tree Elbow soils for the humanure-grown garlic. Thank you Tree Elbow garden, chooks and nearby commons forest for the gifts of our dried-ground porridge additives. The organic soba noodles we buy in bulk from Hakubaku (Ballarat, VIC). And thanks to the local rural livestock supplies for stocking animal grade diatomaceous earth, which we use as a natural wormer and for being able to drink dodgy water.

Pannier 3. Magpie’s clothes pannier (4.8 kg). We have chosen books we adults both wish to read. Since taking this photo we found (in the pack-up) a half-size hot water bottle for sub-zero nights. Our loads are going to less weighty in a few months but right now woollen thermals, jumpers, beanies, mittens, scarves and jackets are essential to squeeze in.

Pannier 4. Artist as Family’s bedding (5.3 kg). We have liners for our light-weight, down-feathered, down to 0 degree celsius sleeping bags, making them sub zero proof, at least we hope. We have sleep mats to rest tired muscles upon.

Pannier 5. Artist as Family’s general ‘sub’ (5.0 kg). This pannier includes wet weather gear, spare bicycle tube, sun hats, 10 lt water bladder, towels, first aid kit, toiletry bag including spiralina gifted by generous community friend John Mayger, and other things since added like the gourd shell shaker – see below instrument pic.

Magpie is also taking our tent (2kg), violin and shaker (0.8 kg) and Zero (6.5 kg) on Cosmo with water bottles and handlebar bag filled with daily necessities (22.5kg). In total (not including Magpie’s weight) Cosmo fully loaded (including bike weight) = 58.6 kg. With Magpie (52kg) and Zero upon a fully loaded Cosmo the overall weight = 110.6 kg.

We are very excited to be taking these story-making tools with us.

Blue Wren (Patrick) and Blackwood’s tandem bike is called Merlin, after Merlin Sheldrake, brother to Cosmo. Here is the breakdown of what is riding on Merlin:

Pannier 6. Blue Wren’s clothes pannier (6.5 kg). Books, journal, pen, pillows for Blackwood and Blue Wren, warm clothes, sleeping bag liner and rain jacket.

Pannier 7. Blackwood’s clothes pannier (4.4 kg). Warm clothes, sleeping bag liner, rain jacket and cycling gloves.

Pannier 8. Artist as Family kitchen (7.4 kg). The plastic case contains a breadboard made by Blackwood out of his namesake, a diamond stone for knife sharpening, a Trangia stove and cooking kit, a strainer, matches, steel wool, a 3 lt billy, a foldable Luci solar lamp, three sporks, and (since added) a spatula. Additionally in the pannier we have a Trangia fuel bottle, two bottles of gifted garden-grown and locally pressed olive oil – one from friends Sandipa and Sambodhi, the other from Yonke (so much gratitude!), gifted friend-harvested salt (Thanks Yael and Matt – who stayed with their family at Tree Elbow on our last year-long adventure), a foldable bucket, Tree-Elbow grown Mountain Pepper, two tea towels (if you think they look grubby now, just wait a week or so), Tree Elbow honey, Tree Elbow dried chilli, more sneaky chocolate (thanks Brenna Fletcher!), and almond butter.

Pannier 9. Artist as Family’s dry store food packaged in reclaimed ziplock bags (8.9 kg). This includes rabbit, goat and roo jerky, various fruit leathers and dried fruit, dried mushrooms, and dried vegetables. Living well away from the slow-death-by-industrial-food grid is labour-intensive, as it is love-intensive. It demands close relationships with the living of the world and direct, sleeves-rolled-up encounters with birthing, consuming (in an earth-first sense), growing, ageing, dying and decaying.

Pannier 10. Artist as Family’s hunting, foraging and fishing ‘sub’ (8.2 kg). This pannier is our food-procuring kit. All these tools will mean that we can harvest fire wood, weedy root vegetables, wild fish and feral meat. Needless to say, this is Blackwood’s favourite pannier. Tyson Yunkaporta speaks about accountable and direct violence in one of his chapters in his book Sand Talk. This echoes a chapter on accountable killing in Blue Wren’s doctoral thesis, Walking for food (2014), where he reveals all the veiled violences of industrial food, be it a vegan, vegetarian or an omnivore diet. The 70 pound carp bow (below) has a coil and line that attaches to the front of the bow. We are taking our Carp song with us to share on the road. It starts with the story of us cooking carp on wood coals by the Millawa (Murray) River, and ends with these words – Eating carp cleans the river and the charcoal will clean you. We look forward to making a recording of this song at some stage on our pilgrimage.

Blue Wren and Blackwood are also taking a blanket (2kg) and the guitar and recorder (2 kg) on Merlin with water bottles and handlebar bag filled with recording and film equipment (33.7 kg).

In total (not including body weights) Merlin fully loaded (including bike weight) = 71.1 kg. With Blue Wren (75 kg) and Blackwood (30kg) upon a fully loaded Merlin = 177.4 kg.

Well, that’s the summary of the material things we are taking with us – our home (tent and bedding), food and tools. One more sleep before take off. We are sooooo excited!! Thank you everyone for your kind messages of support and love, and for your generous gifts. We are feeling so held and nurtured by our community, both near and far.

This will be our last post for a few weeks. We are going to go offline to lose our bearings and find our touring legs. We will throw the sulphur crested cockatoo feather up tomorrow morning to determine our direction. We hope, Dear Reader, that your feather takes you in the direction of where you need to go this year.

Signing out from us here in Djaara Country,

Artist as Family

Prepping to pilgrimage – our next year-long bicycle adventure

Life is good at home. We have a thriving productive garden, beautiful friends and neighbours, a magical nearby forest, daily ritual, goodly water, air, food and special country and community in our lives. But it’s time for a shake up, another really big shake up. There is so much fear encircling the world, crippling motivation and stifling spirit. We want to ride straight into that storm from this place of gentle settled sanity.

Seven years ago we rode our first big cycling adventure, and crawled up the east coast of Australia at a speed suitable and desirable for five mammals on two bicycles. Now we again have itchy pedals and a thirst for permaculture pilgrimage – to take neopeasantry to the road for a second time, to further test our resilience and embrace uncertainty, to travel in right story relationship, write a bunch of new songs, seek ways to be in service, and expand once again our foraging, fishing and hunting knowledges. This is us back then after we returned home and wrote a book about our journey:

Woody was 14 months old when we set off last time. He was 28 months old when we returned. Half his life on the back of a bike! That trip imprinted significantly on him in innumerable ways. Now he is eight. He is knowledgeable and adaptive, creative and up for anything. We adults have had timely and important bouts of pre- take off fear and anxiety, and have been busy preparing ourselves since we made the decision to journey a few months back, packing up all our various libraries at The School of Applied Neopeasantry.

So where are we going? We have no definitive plans. We are thinking we will decide on the morning we leave what direction we will travel, which will be some time in the next week. We’re going to leave on the warmest day. Yes, it is kinda crazy to be heading out in mid-winter just after solstice, which will certainly throw more than just cold water over us. We are once again ready to be slapped and trammelled, whacked and winded to feel the full force of freedom. At least we think we are…

On this trip we are taking with us many new skills and processes. Tummo or fire pranayama breathing technique for one (via Wim Hof), to help with exposure to the cold and for general disease prevention. We will also trial other breathing practices that we read about in James Nestor’s Breath: the New Science of a Lost Art, such as taping our mouths shut while riding, a hack we already use during sleep to promote nasal breathing. Hauling heavy bikes with our mouths taped is no easy thing, but we’ll give it a crack anyway.

We have had a remarkable seven years, which also brought a fair dose of familial grief. We’ve survived this time by going deep into it, by keeping our hearts open, by holding monthly fire circles in the nearby forest commons, and discovering that grief is given its full form in the company of community.

Tyson Yunkaporta recently referred to Artist as Family processes as ‘creoling’. We like this. It speaks to emergence and never arriving. Being in an ever-rearranging flow state is why we are seeking life on the road again – to intensify the processes.

At the outset of this trip we will take away with us a deeper sense of the spirit of Djaara Mother Country, and a deeper practice of being in country. Acknowledging the mothering of the worlds-of-the-world we travel in, and taking with us daily rituals to honour the land as we seek food, camping ground, water, good company and days of easy transit. A big fear is having to face the industrial food system again, so we’ve been dehydrating goat, rabbit, various vegetables, fungi and fruits to take.

All of this food from summer and autumn’s harvest has been carefully dehydrated, bottled, stored and will be packed into reclaimed ziplock bags to fill one of our ten panniers.

This really feels to us like a pilgrimage of errantry. As Jim Corbett writes, “The first decisive step into errantry is to become untamed”. We are open to the uncomfortable encounters that we will ride into, as we are open to the freedom, uncertainty and grace of the road. We will be four mammals on two bicycles this time, and each of us will have our own story to carry, along with our collective song kit.

While the last big journey focussed on extending our knowledges of food outside the locks and keys of capitalism, this one will be more about songlines, and Woody and his fiddle teacher, the talented Adam Menegazzo, worked hard to prepare a bunch of Artist as Family songs to take with us.

There has been a mountain of preparations for this journey so far, such as emptying the house of no longer required things at a garage (garden, really) sale,

taking surplus things back to the local opshops and to the tip from where many of them came,

finding, with Goathand Brad, a year-long home for our herd,

retrofitting the old tandem (Merlin) for Patrick and Woody to ride, with the expert help and generous enthusiasm of local bikesmith Eric the Red,

selling Meg’s trusty old longtail bike (farewell intrepid ten-year old friend),

to help buy herself and Zero a new freedom machine (Cosmo), which we promptly de-branded with retroreflective tape,

receiving help from legendary bicycle tourer, Mick ‘Permaculture Pedals’,

repairing old touring equipment – thanks local zip fixer, Matt,

and giving out some home-stitched, wild-shot flavour – thanks for your sewing skills Blue Wren,

lighting a fire with scratched-for dry bark tinder, wet wood and a flint and steel on a practice ride,

preparing Tree Elbow University’s house and garden for our dear friends Ruth, Tyson, Apollo and Solaris to move into, and for a French film crew to shoot an interview with us and David Holmgren at the School of Applied Neopeasantry.

So many things to put in place, handover, store, accept, cross off, reconcile, process, pull out and celebrate before we ride off in the direction of the pointy end of a feather – a feather we will fling up into the air, watch spin around and land, and then steer our rigs accordingly. Letting go like this at the very start of our journey – not being in control of the direction we will first head – will join our extensive medicine kit. This kit includes the obligatory bandages and home-made herbal salves along with singing, dancing, breathing, bicycling, cold-water plunging, rapturous-eye hunting, being together, foraging (eating origin-known food), sharing story with people we meet, and fungal medicines such as these dried-ground Turkey Tails (Trametes versicolor), which were growing on cankerous wild apple wood that we pruned in the nearby common a few years back.

We recently had a hearty chat with Morag Gamble on her podcast Sense-Making in a Changing World, where we spoke about our forthcoming travels, decolonising time and re-culturing earth-positive lifeways.

We have no idea what we’re doing, where we’re going and what will happen to life in the next year. Charles Eisenstein recently spoke about the necessary naïveté required to walk the new story. Yes naïveté, and a kind of foolish trust – to throw caution at a head wind, to deliciously flow with a tail wind, and to belong in the dovetail join of grief and praise. We hope you’ll join us in this wild ride.

Much love,

Artist as Family

Forest & free – an out-of-school experience and the power of risk

There are few places left where kids can use knives, climb trees, navigate forests, tend fires, sit in circle, speak their story, and generally get scratched up and stung by being participants of life. This is why we re-established a children’s forest group this year and why we volunteer our time to run it.

Forest & Free not about setting challenges that are too great for children, and we don’t encourage an overtly competitive or risk-taking culture, rather we encourage children to meet their own challenges and learn from others around them, and of course from the forest. We are observing, however, that the broader cultural narrative of ‘safety at all costs’ is harming children, making them less resilient, less mobile and suffering more health problems at an increasingly early age.

Forest & Free is about embodying resilience, meeting difficult (at times) challenges, and allowing uncomfortable things to occur – cutting oneself, standing on a Jumping Jack ant nest, putting all your weight on a rotten tree branch while climbing, taking off from the group and getting lost, and generally playing around with life.

Our culture, up until recently, used to see breaking a bone, receiving stitches, getting lost and a myriad of other uncomfortable things as ordinary rites of passage for 7-12 year olds – the pre-initiation age – necessary for the development of children. In the past few decades the possibility of embracing and learning through discomfort has been almost completely eliminated. This doesn’t serve children.

While we don’t wish on anyone any great pain – and we explain each skill, challenge, game or wild food in terms of the risks involved – adversity is the underlying, ever present flip side of enabling such learning and growth. That’s why we ask parents, carers and children to share the risk with us. This is the community model of organisation, which is a powerful antidote to the culture of fear and risk aversion that so greatly limits and incarcerates our children, and therefore inevitably our society.

As adults we come to understand that our greatest learnings come through some sort of discomfort, pain or suffering. And it’s how we respond to these things that really matters in building resilience, wisdom, freedom and bouncebackability. Overcoming fear is liberation!

In allowing a child to attend Forest & Free we ask parents to accept that some learning occurs through risk taking, that sometimes adversity will present itself as part of this risk, and in turn this presents itself as a gift of learning for everyone. When we go through adversity we gather in circle and share our story.

Children choose a forest name when they participate in Forest & Free. That is, when their forest names avail themselves. Sometimes this is a rapid process, sometimes a slow one. We have in our mob Echidna, Plantain, Blackberry, Deer, Silva, Blackwood, Jumping Jack, Thistle, Silent Night, Raven, Black Thorn, Fox, Black Cockatoo, Gum Tree, Huntsman, Brown Snake, Brush-tailed Phascogale, Pine Cone, Kangaroo and Kookaburra, amongst the dwellers who gather on a Wednesday afternoon.

Brown Snake’s mother: “I have watched such growth and confidence blossoming in Brown Snake recently, in huge part because of what you are offering – this space of adventure, risk, freedom, resilience, learning and cooperation. He holds himself slightly taller, prouder because he inhabits this space and can carry it with him. Without risk in the equation, as cliched as it is, there wld be no such reward.”

Huntsman’s mother: “There’s nowhere where the skills you share are offered in this manner & we are extremely grateful to be a part of it. Each week Huntsman is ecstatic when we meet up and can’t wait to tell his family and friends about the adventures you’ve been on.”

Pine Cone’s mother: “Thank you for all you do, for encouraging, empowering and enabling our children to rewild and connect with nature. We all try to avoid our children’s suffering at times, even when it’s beneficial for them to go through the process. It’s good to reflect upon this.”

Kangaroo’s mum: I love how much extra perception Kangaroo has of what’s going on in nature. That a tree has fallen on its own, or has been cut down, which [plants] to use for ailments etc. Probably most importantly, he has developed a better sense of his limits. So when he is climbing a tree, or a cliff, I feel more comfortable knowing he can make decisions for himself about how to stay safe and still take risks.

Black Cockatoo’s mother: “Forest & Free has given our child a sense of belonging and place at a time where he has been challenged to find that. It has reinforced and amplified his joy of being a part of a group and the relevance of safe behaviours in risky settings. Our child has been put down by educators for his engagement in “risky behaviours” such as jumping from things or climbing things that are “too high”, for questioning and pushing boundaries with a desire to understand. He has been made to feel like he is bad and naughty for wanting to explore and push the edges of his curiosity which has led to his exit from the education “system”. Through beautifully held mentoring where he feels respected and therefore chooses to be respectful… What is more, he is learning [to be in] a space where his intelligence, silence, ideas AND his wildness are ALL embraced. At F&F the world makes sense and therefore the boundaries are respected and embraced (because they make sense). Best of all, he feels like he is a part of something, something special, it is a place for belonging, a place to be his wild, loving, risk taking self and it grounds him, fills him up. Every week upon returning from forest and free he returns in the dark, dirty, beaming and bright eyed. He gets in the car and shows me his wet feet, scratches and cuts with joy from a good time well had. When asked how it was he always says it was awesome, or the best, something he never said about school.”

Many thanks to all who have contributed to the fun, adversity and adventure of Forest & Free this year. A big thank you to Blue Tongue and Thornbill who have both assisted us with the children. It doesn’t take much to organise a bush group, and the forest has so much to teach us, it’s just about getting children into forests, deserts, grasslands and any other non-mediated environments, and not placing too many restrictions on how they engage in these places so they can keep connecting to the living of the world’s worlds. Here is a short video made by Thornbill Fizzy Mitchell that gives a little more insight into how children connect if they have the opportunity.

Sending much love out to you, Dear Reader,

Magpie and Blue Wren

 

A new home – our step by step transition from social media and Big Tech

Hello Dear Reader,

What do you think of our new website? We hope you like it as much as we do. We’re really thrilled you won’t be spied on here, or have your data mined and sold onto third parties, and there will be no manipulating of your algorithm while you’re visiting us here. These are just some of the reasons why we collaborated with the wonderful meta4 team, Lorne and Juanita, to begin our steady transition away from Big Tech platforms. We’d love to hear of your plans and actions if you are considering doing the same. Equally as important, this new Artist as Family website houses all of our thoughts, blog posts, projects, videos and much more in the one independent place.

We feel quite grown up to have our own site, but to be completely transparent we also fear it not being as easily and seductively as interactive as the other media sites so please do comment, ask questions, share posts and bring others into this non-commercial autonomous zone. Yes, we agree, how can a website that relies on a coal-powered internet be anything but a contradictory thing? Our response to this may not satisfy some but if we don’t collectively share our narratives using this technology of trying to walk in right-relationship with the flowering, fruiting, sacred earth, then we can’t really begin or maintain our transitions and start the work that our future communities will need to build upon.

To have a little grace, thank you Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram for the numerous years of free story-sharing. It’s not entirely your fault you’re following an aggressive capitalist power agenda. It’s the dominant culture you grew up within, which if you don’t challenge you just end up going along with. Our elders have failed us. They have used fallen patriarchy – the forms of competitiveness and dominance – and put them before the mothering of the world. We all suffer for it, even the power seekers who will be the last to see it. Maybe one day they will. That will be a wonderful time for all. This is the world we seek. Between all three Big Tech platforms we use (well two really as Instagram is Facebook) we have around 25,000 followers. No small feat for unusual storytellers and unconventional culture makers. But before they ‘misinformation’ us, shadow ban or cancel us out entirely we’ve begun to make the leap.

Here, with the help of local love-futurists Lorne and Juanita, we have produced a CommonsTube to host our videos and this general website where we will share our writings, events, featured podcasts, public talks and photographs. We will continue to use the Big Tech platforms until they either completely disappear us from view or enough of you come across and subscribe here. We wish to get to 5000 dedicated subscribers before we decouple altogether from these powerful manipulators. So please sign up, and share with friends.

Previous blog posts were created over at Blogger between 2009 – 2020 and transported here.

Thanks so much for joining us on this new journey.