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.

The First Trees

We had another early start today. It was cold, so we all hooked in to the task of weeding, breaking up the clay, and preparing the ground for the first trees to be planted.

This is our friend Josh, who travelled up to Sydney to work with us on the Forest. Not only are you a gun with a shovel, Josh, but you’re a great person to be around.

This project may be credited to the Artist as Family, but there’s no way we could do this without the help we have received from people such as Josh, Anna at the MCA, Rachel, whose lodgings we crash out in each night, our friends back home who have been ringing and emailing their support, and people we meet on a daily basis such as Owen.

This is Owen. Our two main trees arrived on the back of his truck this morning.

Here comes the Spanish Chestnut. At 5 meters in height, she makes a very grand entrance and is carefully steered into her place at the head of the Forest.

Next up comes the Indian Horse Chestnut, generously donated by Michael Pfhal at Treekeepers Nursery, Bowral, NSW, who also grew the Spanish.

In an attempt to prevent the untiring couch grass from taking over the forest floor, we have weeded out every last skerrick of root and leaf, and today, laid black plastic in a trench around the periphery of the Forest as a barrier.

The couch grass may be indefatigable, but we mere mortals are not.

Sleep well chestnuts! See you on site in the morning.

That Ancient Ceremony

Gardening is not a rational act. What matters is the immersion of the hands in the earth, that ancient ceremony of which the Pope kissing the tarmac is merely a pallid vestigial remnant.
– Margaret Atwood

Today we lived our homage to Ms Atwood. We lived it in the rain. With two pairs of socks beneath our gum boots. We lived it in the rain as we intimately weeded the Food Forest floor, alongside magpies foraging for worms.

We lived it in the rain with our garden forks as we removed rocks and broken bricks and small tiles. And then we lived it with our shovels in hand as we mixed into the earth topsoil, compost and dynamic lifter, readying it for the trees that arrive tomorrow.


We have a big week of planting ahead of us, so we decided to take the weekend off to roam.

Even though it wasn’t on our agenda, each day we started off at St Michael’s to check that everything was as we left it.

The wind was chilly, but the sun was out. Perfect weather for drifting.

Good night. See you on site tomorrow.

Tools Up

We got up early today. The bobcat was due at 7am and we wanted to edge the Forest before it arrived.

Our OH&S officer was standing by.

And then it arrived!

And got to work right away.

So we found other things to inspect.

Such as our first shipment of trees to arrive. Want to know what they are? Come back next week and we’ll show you, when we make them feel at home in the soil.

But we can show you what arrived next: 4 cubic meters of steaming fresh compost mulch and 10 cubic meters of top soil. Now that was a satisfying dump..

Before adding these arrivals to the mix, we still need to weed and remove all the debris we find, such as the buried treasure we uncovered this afternoon.

But by far, the best arrivals of the day, are the passers by who stop to ask what we’re doing, and the friends who drop by to say g’day.
And the most satisfying aspect of the day? Seeing the shape of things to come.

Day One: Forming the Forest

It might have taken us a whole day to get from home to Sydney, but once we arrived on site it didn’t take us long to:

Contemplate the space,

hammer in the stakes,
have a look around,
catch up with old friends,
lay out the hose to get the shape right,
do some painting
Then we stood back and contempled the space again, that won’t look like this for much longer.

Cross-community purposes

Back in April, when we were desperate to find a home for the Food Forest, CarriageWorks tried really hard to accommodate us; we just couldn’t find enough raw dirt to work with for our particular project. But while visiting CarriageWorks we got to see what the community was able to grow in terms of food, high up in the air, and it was pretty damn exciting. There are peeps all over the world growing food on balconies, rooftops and in sunlit living rooms. Projects like the CarriageWorks Kitchen Garden show us that you don’t necessarily need a plot of land to relocalise your food supply.

Find out more here.

Plant List

After several weeks of sourcing available food plants we have come up with the following list, which we have ordered from several nurseries in NSW and Victoria. We would still like to find a pistachio, so if anyone knows of one in Sydney please send the details to us. Also we welcome those of you in Sydney to come along to the community plant-in day on Saturday 10 July, between 10am – 4pm. Please bring a picnic and a clump of something edible, beneficial or herbal from your garden, or gleaned, that you’d like to see growing in the Food Forest. We’re particularly looking for strawberries, thyme, mints, lavender, comfrey, borage, calendula, nasturtiums, sage and any annual or perennial vegetable seeds or seedlings you’d like to plant.
Bush foods and local Cadigal plants:
Native parsnip
Coastal rosemary
White root
Dianella caerulea
Lomandra longifolia (Matt Rush)
Westringia fruticosa (Native rosemary)
Podocarpus elatus (Illawara plum)
Acmena smithii (Lilly Pilly)
World food plants:
Apricot Moorpark
Necatrine Goldmine
Nectarine Fantasta
Peach Red Noonan
Peach Anzac
Fig Black Genoa
Mulberry Hicks
Multi Graft Plum Satsuma/Mariposa
Cherry Morello
Spanish chestnut
Indian horse chestnut
Pecan Desirable
Citrus lemon
Citrus lime
Citrus orange
Guava Brazilian
Guava Hawaiian
Grapefruit Rio Red
Kumquat Calamondin
Cherimoya White
Lemon Grass
Lemon Verbena
French Sorrel
Mushroom Plant
Loquat Seedling Nagasakiwase
Olive Azapa

Permission to plant

We have just received a wonderful letter of support from the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council (MLALC), the legal custodians of the Food Forest.

“We hold great pride and respect for our culture and fully support the way in which the food forest will educate the wider community on Aboriginal history and culture.” Rebecca McHugh, MLALC

Today we also spoke to Helen from Marrickville Community Nursery, a biodiversity nursery that specialises in plants native to the Cooks River in Sydney. Many of these plants are also native to Surry Hills, so we’ll be making our way there shortly to buy bush food plants for the forest.
A list of Cadigal Wangal Edible Plants will benefit any Sydney food garden. To produce food while renewing local ecology is a significant principal of permaculture, and this can be achieved on a balcony, in a backyard or on a farm.

From field to forest

When you get right down to it, there are few agricultural practices that are really necessary – Masanobu Fukuoka

While Meg and Zephyr were digging up more potatoes and tickling the first garlic shoots up out of the frosty Djadjawurrung soil in the home garden, Anna Davis (MCA) and Patrick met with the St Michael’s church wardens late last week to finalise the agreement to allow the Food Forest to go ahead on this ancient Cadigal site in Surry Hills, Sydney. Here are the set of working drawings Patrick presented to the group on behalf of the Artist as Family. (click for bigger)

Some members from the local community, including both church and non-church groups, have now been asked to choose from this plant list their more desired fruit, herbs and nuts. If you wish to participate in the development of this Food Forest please comment below your desired food plants and we’ll see how we can include your suggestions as we begin to source plants. But be quick as we aim to start planting in the first week of July, pending approval from the traditional owners.
Anyone wishing to help us with the planting in July please follow this blog and we’ll keep you informed as to the when and how. Indigenous locals and non-indigenous residents who can help build information relating to Cadigal plants and medicines, your input is highly sought after.