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A selection of our writings from 2009 to the present. If you'd like to keep up to date with our latest posts, please subscribe below.

Forest & Free: rebuilding the village from the forest in – our 2023 programs for kids

Forest & Free is a place of fun, adventure, challenge, and a place of risk for 8-12 year olds in Djaara Mother Country. The kind of activities the kids will experience are fire making and cooking, bush walking and foraging, fishing and wild swimming, safe knife use and simple tool making, regenerative farming and animal husbandry, deep listening and storytelling, tree climbing and shelter building, embodying ancestral lifeways and learning ecological knowledges and awareness, listening to one another and listening to Country.

There are few places left where kids can use knives, climb trees, navigate forests full of old mine shafts, light fires and generally get scratched up and stung by being participants of life. It is in this spirit that we invite children to attend Forest & Free and for them to experience a healthy interrelationship between safety and risk.

In allowing children to attend Forest & Free, parents agree to sharing the risk with us and with their children. The risk is therefore spread three-ways – we as the facilitators, the parents, and the children – and is distributed this way to build personal responsibility and to avoid blaming, shaming and the possibility of closing down this community resource.

Life happens, and we don’t believe this is a good enough reason to submit to the cult of safetyism, which is a mental virus that has bloomed from institutions of the most industrialised countries.

We are not about setting challenges that are too great for the children, and we don’t encourage an overtly competitive or risk-taking culture, rather we encourage children to meet new challenges and learn from others around them, and the forest.

Forest & Free is deep listening, embodying resilience, meeting challenges, learning skills and having fun. The broader culture, up until recently, used to see breaking a bone, receiving stitches, getting lost, being burnt by fire, etc as a rite of passage for young people – necessary for the development of children at this age.

While we don’t wish any of these things on any child, and we explain each skill, challenge, game or wild food in terms of the risks and benefits involved, adversity is the underlying, ever present flip side of enabling such learning and therefore such growth.

As adults we understand that some of our greatest learnings come through discomfort, and it’s how we respond to these situations that really matters in building resilience and bouncebackability.

In 2023 we are running 8 full-day paid events ($20 per child for the day, 10am – 4pm). These dates are either in school holidays or land on public holidays and will be open to not-schooled and schooled kids.

We also run a weekly full-day program for not-schooled kids every Monday from 10am – 4pm. These sessions are based on a gift exchange. If you have surplus homegrown or home-made food, hand-me-down clothes etc, they are gifts we value. When there is abundance let it flow. When there’s not we understand.

Children are required to come with water bottle, healthy lunch and snacks, a sun hat, clothing appropriate to the weather, a pocket knife, and a sense of adventure.

We are looking forward to an exciting year of forest play, learning, exploration and celebration of life. We begin each event with a listening circle so as we can all hear where each of us is at. This helps build compassion and bonds the group, while practicing deep listening.

If you are interested to learn more about Forest & Free, or are thinking of starting up a forest group in your own neck of the woods, please get in touch. Similarly if you know of other bush schools in your area or have experience as a participant in another community bush school, please let us know in the comments. We value your stories and your thoughts.

Signing off for now with blackberry scratches on our shins, and bidgee widgee burrs in our feathers,

Patrick and Meg (Blue Wren and Magpie)

Mother of mountain (a pickling recipe music video)

Hello pickled turnip and purslane lovers, introducing… a new Artist as Family music video to celebrate Meg on her 49th birthday, featuring Maya Green on fiddle.

Now for the recipe:

First:
Add your cleaned turnips to your jar. We pickle ours whole, but feel free to slice yours first. They will taste the same, but will ferment faster if they are sliced. Pick your purslane and wash if needed. As purslane grows along the ground, it can collect soil. Break off the leaves and smaller stems. Keeping these on will turn your ferment into mush. We only ferment the larger stems. Ideally wait until the stems turn red in colour, but dark green is fine too. Add the stems into a second jar. We pickle the turnips and stems separately as they ferment at different rates. Keep the turnip leaves for cooking, and the purslane leaves and smaller stems for eating fresh.

To each jar add:
Pepper corns, mustard seeds, fresh dill or dill seeds, bay leaves, peeled garlic cloves, slices of fresh lemon or dried lemon. For the brine: 1 tablespoon of salt (non-iodised and without caking agent in it) per 2 cups of water. We use salt from Loch Iel (the Pink Lake) and rainwater.

Fermenting:
Make sure all the solids in your jars remain under the liquid and that they stay that way for the duration of the fermenting process. You can keep the lid on your jar tightly, loosely or not at all. As the veggies begin to ferment they will release carbon dioxide and brine may spill from your jars, so it’s best to place each jar on a plate or bowl to catch the liquid. You may need to top up each jar if a lot spills out. The time your veggies take to ferment depends mainly on the temperature of your home. The hotter the environment, the faster the process. Fermenting is a relationship. Don’t be afraid to taste the brine with a spoon each day to witness the transformation, to embody it, and so the brine can be part of your development too. The brine will start out clear and will turn cloudy. After 10 days or so in a summer home, your veggies might be ready. Taste them. If they are too crunchy, let them ferment for a few days longer. Once you are happy with the flavour and crunchiness, put your jars somewhere cold, such as a fridge, cool cupboard or cellar, to slow the fermentation process right down.

Eating:
We like to put our pickles out in a bowl and just munch them, or chop them up and add them to summer salads.

The body politic (youngtimer edition)

7 minute read or audio version.

 

Bombing countries to kill terrorists not only ignores the ground conditions of terrorism, it exacerbates those conditions. Locking up criminals not only ignores the conditions that breed crime, it creates those conditions when it breaks up families and communities and acculturates the incarcerated to criminality. And regimes of antibiotics, vaccines, antivirals, and other medicines wreak havoc on body ecology, which is the foundation of strong immunity… – Charles Eisenstein, The Coronation, 2022

Australia’s most vulnerable young people have no meaningful support. Those who find themselves in prison experience a nightmarish reality, especially since Covid. If they want to see family they have to keep lining up for jabs, which as we now know are dangerous to young people, and therefore illogical and unethical to mandate. If prisoners want to eat fresh vegetables, breathe clean air, or feel natural sunlight on their skin mediated through the shade of a tree they have Buckley’s chance and none. Anything that can help them to heal or grow is road blocked.

Bourgeois culture, which frames much of the Australian experience, clings to strawman crusades promulgated by social and legacy medias, while at the same time this dominant cultural paradigm turns a blind eye on the harsh realities and dark and complex relationships of our most at-risk youth. Judgement and punishment are metered out rather than rehabilitation, deep listening and compassion. “Compared with Australia’s 53.1 per cent, Norway’s recidivism rate after two years is 20 per cent, in Austria it is 26 per cent and in Finland, it is 36 per cent. The US state of Oregon and the Canadian province of Ontario have recidivism rates similar to Finland.” Welcome to the incarceration nation; building more private prisons and growing an internment caste system to advance another lucrative misery industry.

While we can have compassion for all young people in whatever complexes they’re moving through, we can also remain critical of the adult world hubris, double standards and doubling down that continues to harm youngtimers. Can we imagine a world where young offenders are treated with as much media compassion and attention as furries? In many other countries programmes are run to help prisoners process their grief – the grief that lead them to drugs and/or crime, the grief they hold for what they did to others, the grief of living in sterile cells exiled from community and ecology.

Our social ills often have similar root causes, it’s just the expression of them that differ, based on our personalities and life contexts.

What leads one teen to bulimia, one to furrydom and one to meth and burgs? The answer, in our view, can be found in the disconnected values and projects of neoliberalism. Drugs and crime, body image anxiety, and other kinds of dysphoria all find lucrative legal markets – private prisons, social medias and hyper medicalisation products ranging from ritalin to puberty blockers. Neoliberalism knows that unhappiness and sickness pays handsomely, it trades on it and factors it into GDP. Neoliberal institutions – universities, governments, medias, etc. – that use the forms of neoliberal economics and psychopolitics, are unwilling to self examine how they support and fuel such alienation, disconnection and social destruction.

While this website is dedicated to positive responses to the predicaments of our time, we are also committed to calling out that which stops or blocks the rebuilding of connected communities and ecological knowledges and interrelationships. One of the most profound things we can do to carry out this work is to switch off the neoliberal medias, and invest in an ecology of views, journalism and discussion that is diverse, critical and creative. Aaron Maté for your news on the Ukraine and Russian war, for example, or CJ Hopkins for your awareness of the rise of New Normal fascism, or David Holmgren on the hubris of new energy tech promises, or Vandana Shiva and Bret Weinstein on the genetically modified organism that is Covid.

Neoliberal medias hold the power for neoliberalism to flourish, for propaganda to be normalised, for dissenters and heterodox thinkers to be continually hounded, censored or labelled as misinformation spreaders. The response to any diseased and dying monoculture is for a resurgence of weed species to repopulate and prepare the trammelled ground for the regrowing of forests. The war against weeds is unwinnable, so too the war against diverse approaches to science, politics, health, young offenders and governance. The time to regrow diverse cultures of place is now, and leave behind the medias that grow alienation, fear and control.

This year we’ve made a further commitment to advancing independent voices and platforms. What reporters, social and ecological commentators, podcasters or writers are floating your boat at the moment? Who are the weeds that are nourishing you? What is the ground they are rehabilitating? As always, your comments are welcome. All power to the those who smell rats and who are acting on all their senses of knowing.

Rebuilding the local village with Bei Yin and Jashan Singh (podcast)

Join Patrick as he asks timely questions of Bei Yin and Jashan Singh, two recent guests at our School of Applied Neopeasantry. Bei and Jashan’s stories offer clarity, warmth, honesty and generative responses to the discussion of how we might reclaim the local village.

You can listen to the audio-only version here.

 

And here is the audio with an image version:

Since our time together, we have begun discussions with Bei and Jashan and local farmers, land holders and community actors to see what can be achieved to enable young farmers from diverse backgrounds to grow food and sell it to local markets. We have been active in this space for a number of years matchmaking landless wanna-be neopeasants with people willing to share their land, and sharing our own story of farmless farming based not on private property ownership but rather on social relations. Our local food co-op feeds about 300 households and we could do with some more local growers who are willing to raise crops to directly supply them or to sell at the local Sunday market.

The majority of the world’s food is grown on small farms ranging between 2 and 70 acres. It is a blatant lie we need to use pesticides. It is a myth farmers need to get big. That’s merely the ideology of bankers, chemical companies, and the coalition of the willing found in the agribusiness and government sectors.

Neopeasants arise, take back control of how you grow and who you grow for!

Please feel free to comment or get in touch if Bei and Jashan’s story has inspired you and you would like to be kept in the loop about future farming possibilities. Additionally, if you have land to share and would like to offer younger farmers opportunities to start farming without going into debt please head to Land Share Central Victoria, contact us here, leave a comment, or start your own Land Share page in your region. The future of farming is debt and chemical free. We just need to link people up to begin discussions and collaborations.

What a time of the year to think big, farm small and cut out the banks and the middle men.

With love, Artist as Family

Summer solstice celebrations (with Dirty Trees and the men’s Firechoir)

The community garden beside the library in our home town has been a site of commons reclamation since a small bunch of us occupied this so-called ‘crown’ land, twelve or so years ago. This little patch of non-monetised, unenclosed, available-to-all organic food commons sits as the only ecologically complex environment in the central business district of Daylesford; a town that sells mostly unnecessary things to tourists in service to the dominant economic orthodoxy – hypertechnocivility.

Last night we gathered to celebrate the solstice, re-commoning and Djaara Mother Country at this bright moment – the longest day.

Artist as Family has been playing music with our friend Maya Green for a while now, and we put together a small set of songs to share with our fellow community gardeners at this gathering. At our first gig as Dirty Trees, we featured poems by an anonymous ancestor, William Blake and Martha Postlethwaite that we’ve set to music, sharing some of the wisdom and lyricism we’ve been holding dear this year.

In this video we play an instrumental version of Mairi’s Wedding (also known as Marie’s Wedding, the Lewis Bridal Song, or Scottish Gaelic: Màiri Bhàn AKA ‘Blond Mary’). It is a Scottish folk song originally written in Gaelic by John Roderick Bannerman (1865–1938).

We hope you enjoy this little garden-brewed moment as you slide into the summer’s downtime or into winter’s hibernation, wherever you are.

Thank you to Blackwood Ulman Jones and Anthony Petrucci for your filming craft, and thanks to you, Dear Subscriber, for staying with us in our various forms this year.

A few days earlier we celebrated solstice at David Holmgren and Su Dennett’s permaculture home, Melliodora. The mens’ Firechoir sang at this event six months after they formed, at the winter solstice. Patrick has so enjoyed facilitating this group with Anthony Petrucci as choirmaster and the men look forward to sitting in circle and singing with the women’s group, facilitated by Meg, in 2023.

Much neopeasant love for a festive and heartfelt season of joy,

Magpie, Blackwood, Blue Wren and Zero

Stories from the School of Applied Neopeasantry (podcast) with Coni, Ilenia and Carla

Please join us as we shell broad beans at the kitchen table and listen to stories about the homeplaces, wisdom and wildness of Carla Gallego, Ilenia Theuriclat and Constanza Hidalgo. Here’s the audio-only version:

 

 

These three women are the latest volunteers to visit Tree Elbow University and join our School of Applied Neopeasantry. It was a wild week of story, laughter, dancing and communing as we lived life richly together honouring earth, our food, more-than-humans and each other. Coni is hacking industrial design with permaculture, Ilenia wants to hack social work with permaculture, and Carla sees the potential of permaculture to reintroduce spirit into the arts.

This podcast series is dedicated to listening to those who have made themselves students of life, of permaculture and of neopeasantry, and are seeking their own learning pathways in diverse and dynamic ways. This podcast is slow media so feel free to create some space for the conversation. Make yourself a cuppa and catch some sunlight, or gently work through the piled up dishes while you listen. These women’s gifts, embedded in their stories, are a slow unfolding.

The week with Coni, Ilenia and Carla was magical and we hope you pick up a little of this spirit in our conversation, the spirit of which flowed into many places around home including the community garden working bee on their final day with us.

Wherever you are in your life right now we hope this hour of story calls to you. Your comments are always welcome and feel free to also tell us where you find your wild man or wild woman, and how you make room for this wildness.

Sending solstice greetings from Tree Elbow to your festive table,
Artist as Family

Permaculture & community sufficiency – regenerating ecological culture and economy

In June 2021, a small French film crew came to Australia to interview several people who are, in very diverse ways, responding to the predicaments of our age. Alongside permaculture elders and friends Su Dennett and David Holmgren, we have been featured in what is now published as a French TV series directed by Thierry Robert, starring Cyril Dion as the narrator. The series is in three parts and this short clip is an excerpt from ‘Regeneration | A New World (Part 3)‘ in which David, Su and Artist as Family speak of the cultural and economic shifts we have implemented in our lives.

When Thierry and his crew visited us to film the conversation we had with David, we recorded an audio version of it for our own purposes, which you can listen to in its entirety here. And you can watch all three parts of Thierry and Cyril’s series here: Resistance I A New World (Part 1) I ARTE.tv, Adapting I A New World (Part 2) I ARTE.tv , and Regeneration I A New World (Part 3) I ARTE.tv.

A little while ago we asked our friend, the talented Catie Payne, to illustrate a simple graphic to demonstrate our household’s transition from money to subsistence neopeasantry through applying permacultural community sufficiency principles. We gave Catie a crude sketch representing our 15-year transition of decoupling from a destructive, incarcerating and extractive economy to how we are living now, and she came up with several evocative drawings for us to use as teaching aids.

A transition from money, for us, has been a transition from debt to indebtedness, from gratuitousness to gratitude, from mistrust to ever deepening relationships with the living of the world. Yes, money has played a role in our transition, but step by little step it no longer masters over us and crushes our souls.

Barter is a crude and clumsy form of economy, not one we wish to dwell in for very long. However, it is essential for building trust on the way from money to what we call a flow of gifts economy. Trust is always conditional in order for us to arrive at unconditional love, which is the place our economy now mostly resides within – a deepening love for the living of the world.

This transition from scarcity (indulgence mind, unproductive waste, greed, hoarding and miserliness) to abundance (the continual flow of gifts and the reverence for life as sacred, suffering, dying and renewing) is what we have found after 15 years of setting out into the unknown. Knowing what we were moving away from and what we were longing for was all we needed to begin this journey towards a more beautiful world of connection, relationships and self respect.

Thank you Catie, for the gifts of these drawings, thank you David and Su for your wisdom and continuous collaboration, and thank you Thierry and Cyril and crew for the gift of sharing heterodox stories.

Where are you in your transition, Dear Reader? Are you finding it difficult to begin? Are you unable to begin because you lack support and resources? Are you already a certain way along but feel stuck or limited because you are waiting for your community or family members or neighbourhood to step onboard? Or, are you radically flying with abundance because you come from a cultural or family setting where self-respect, generosity and the flow of gifts have always been your main lifeways?

Stinging nettle for arthritis and allergies: neopeasant medicine food series

Patrick speaks to some of the virtues of Urtica dioica – the common stinging nettle – and how we use this generous and powerful medicinal plant as both food and medicine.

The more we interact with the living earth – the gifts, tonics and salves that come from intimate, walked-for and cultivated biomes, which we are participants of – the more we merge with Grandmother Gaia and Mother Country. This is the gift of true medicine.

How do you use nettle? What common complaints does nettle heal for you? What do you bring to nettle? We’d love to hear your experiences with this oldtimer medicine plant.

Paste ups for the Victorian election (the Vote 1 collection)

We’re feeling pretty despondent about the forthcoming election in the state of Victoria. None of the three major parties have admitted to the harm they helped implement on behalf of the state-pharma nexus. This is unsurprising given the Censorship and Suppression of Covid-19 Heterodoxy.

Yep, many have moved on. The pandemic is over. Except pharmacolonisation hasn’t moved anywhere, it’s digging in and further dragging public institutions and political parties down with it. No Lives Matter is the true creed of the state-pharma nexus.

But out of the despondency comes full moon creativity. Here are three posters you might like to print and paste up in your neighbourhood. While they’ve been crafted with the local state election (here) in mind, feel free to cut and paste to create your own fit-for-purpose paste ups. If you click on each image they’ll take you to a downloadable PDF.

Labor drives the pharmacolonisation program in this state,

Liberals follow along,