In this unscripted, barefoot generation of thought through Mother Country, Patrick returns to the Pandora myth, which is necessarily entangled with the twinning myth of Prometheus and Epimetheus, and he connects these major western origin stories to the present culturing, making and remaking possibilities of Mother Country.
Patrick offers an embodiment experiment into what he’s calling the reclamation movement, or the returning movement. This spirit of consciousness willing to draw on origins and ancestors is in direct contrast to the groundless, innovation-anxious, becoming-thrust of hypertechnocivility, which Jonathan Pageau, John Vervaeke, and Paul Kingsnorth are all critically and eloquently examining right now, among others such as Artist as Family.
Krishnamurti speaks to the “utterly religious” experience being characterised by a lack of fear in his 1972 work, The Impossible Question. This wisdom is unspoken in this reperforming of the feminine sacred by Patrick, but it underpins this experiment.
We hope you enjoy, Arriving at the Church of Mother Country.
Here is the audio-only version:
And here it is with vision (and cameos by Patch, Poppy, Drizzle and Eric – our goodly sheep):
“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.
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,
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,
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.
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.
Fire. One of the most significant phenomenons of this world. Fire makes us human, transports us into technological animals, transforms ecologies, and devastates life when we do not accept its uncompromising feedback.
The seven year old on the right in the below pic is Patrick, joined by his older brother Sam in 1977. They are on a camping trip with their father, Robert. On this night Robert (the photographer) lit a fathering fire after making a fire circle – an early rites of passage for his boys – and cooked a meal.
Four decades later Patrick and Meg light monthly fire circles and gather with community folk to listen deeply to one another and more-than-human life. Each circle, held within the Southwest community forest in the south of Djaara peoples’ land, starts with a listening to country. In an unprecedented time of fear, anxiety and aggregating bushfire cycles, these fire circles provide opportunities for collective reflection and care. And for transformation.
While a far greater acceptance and understanding of fire in Australia is required throughout the various non-Indigenous communities, there are things we can do to reduce bushfire risks.
For us, the most obvious things to mitigate bushfires have been to refuse air travel, boycott drought-producing supermarket products, and compost car ownership. Increasingly refusing drought-making economy and tools, has enabled an advancing of our form of neopeasantry, slowly transitioning over the past 12 years, making an immeasurable number of mistakes, which we’ve converted into an education, and a home.
Five years ago we began taking action in the forest near to us, on the edge of town in one of the most fire-prone regions in the terra-nullius-fiction state of Victoria. We work with neighbours and friends, transforming ourselves into community shepherds.
Our forestry practices marry bushfire mitigation with post-correct biodiversity values. Djaara people, First Custodians to this land, traditionally have managed their country through lores that maintain such a marriage. We’ve been organising community working bees to remove tyres from the creek,
and herd the most ecologically-sound weeders we know.
Above are a few of our co-op’s goats reducing weeds and bushfire risk at Daylesford Secondary College in the spring. Below are our goats carrying out guerrilla bushfire prevention on the edge of town this summer. Working with animals outside industrial-commercial relations connects us with our animal selves. We become dog and goat people.
Animals. Labouring with animals, being animals, eating and honouring them after fire has cooked up all those acres of medicinal fodder – blackberry, gorse, elderberry, broom, wild apple and oak – connects us to our ancestors and produces relationships of interbelonging between species and with land. To kill for food is sacred work. Whether we pull up a carrot or slit a throat. Souls are transformed. Life and death dance together to make more life possible.
There are always hierarchies, the question for us is whether the ideological order we subscribe to supports ecological hierarchy or mass-death hierarchy? The food we produce is some of the most nutritious money will never buy. Food that has been produced requiring almost no transportation fuels, no deforested pastures, no irrigation, no packaging or additives, and no industry-science laboratories.
Some of our walked-for food is produced by reducing the dominance of pioneer plants and their fire hazards, and in doing so moving ecological succession into the next phase to increase the number of species in the biome. The question of meat or not to meat is not a simply-packaged reductionist exercise, it’s an enquiry into ecological, cultural and economic functioning, or dysfunction, depending on what sort of consumer we are.
As ecological eaters and actors on Djarra peoples’ country, 100% of our manures – goat, dog, duck, hen and human – go back into the soil to make more life possible. This flow of goodly shit within a closed-cycle and walked-for poop-loop, gives to plants – the great converters of life.
Cultures that remove forests remove rain. Ingenious swidden agriculture grew Mayan cities and civilisation, for a while. As civilisations grow, increasingly more people become urban-centric and thus increasingly estranged from direct connection to land. Thankfully, all city-empires collapse. Ours will too. Cities represent the pinnacle of primitive thought, smugly bound up in ideologies of abstracted culture making, which inside the context of the city appear sophisticated and advanced. When such smugness reaches a tipping point cities collapse, the monocultures that feed the city return to forests or diverse perennial ecologies, rain returns, populations decrease, animism flourishes again.
Planting fire-mitigating, carbon-sequestering, shade-producing and moisture-retaining trees is now our emphasis. We’re being led by the trees themselves, oldtimer and newcomer species that have established their own inter-indigenous logic on Djaara country – blackwood wattles, English oaks, native ballart, wild apples, sweet bursaria, elder, holly and common hawthorn.
These forests make rain and they retard fires, while producing for us and countless others nourishing food, materials for habitat and more-than-human medicines that the Capitalocene will never access.
Food. There are well meaning people who are always trying to get us to scale up, put our food into a marketplace, subject ourselves to time-poverty, grow our art in capital-career terms, and generally get us to be more real in the realm of the Capitalocene. But what we do is modest, and we recognise that the scale must remain small, intimate, informal, flexible, and it must embrace uncertainty and constant change.
The market demands assurity, which in turn becomes a force against life. Assurity is essentially boring, so the transaction is a boredom in exchange for money, which can buy empty promises to fill the hollowness of modernity. While the spirit and ethic of what we do is free to grow, our household-community economy operates at a scale that enables ecological accountability and market degrowth. If the scale of everything is small, everything is novel, everyday there is a mosaic of labours, which never get boring.
We now know the origin stories of our food,
the medicinal properties of hundreds of plants.
how to turn raw materials into fermented wealth.
and many processes for making prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics.
People. An increasing urbanised civilisation produces ever greater enclosure laws. Peasants are kicked off ancestral lands, forests are cut down, ships are built, people once bonded to sacred land become transported slaves who in turn find their way to freedom and join their equally traumatised jailers in dispossessing other indigenous peoples. For the Capitalocene is really the Traumaocene. Healing societal trauma begins with a consciousness of the ruptures and displacements and the severing off from connection to ancestral (loved) land.
While living our ethics and values is foregrounded in forest, garden and community biomes, the political work to protect what’s left of the Djaara commons is also important.
We are currently fighting our local council on their proposed revised local laws, which are effectively new enclosure laws being brought onto unceded Djaara peoples’ country, drafted by lawyers in Melbourne. One such local law seeks to ban open fires in a public place, on non-total fire ban days. As Patrick argues, this attacks ancient cultural practices. Other laws stop us from salvaging waste, or mitigating bushfire threat. The laws are supposed to make us safer, they often don’t. Five people have died in cars in our shire in less than one month and our council is concerned about someone cutting themselves on the metal piles at the local tips while salvaging the waste of the Traumaocene. Cars kill animals, people, poison waterways and stoke up the bushfire gods, yet they are the most protected machines of hypertechnocivility.
Then on Invasion day, January 26, we came together to ‘fess up to the legal fiction of Terra Nullius.
People make a difference. Four years ago council was livid we established the Terra Nullius Breakfast outside the Daylesford Town Hall, without a permit. If we had asked permission, or applied for a permit, we would have likely been refused. This year council reached out to be involved. We are not Libertarians, but we’re not compliant puppets either. We believe in strict lores. We do however baulk at Capitalocene legalism. People make a difference. Unregulated actions change the culture. We all have a role to play in reculturing society from pollution ideology to diverse modes of low-carbon living.
People make a difference. Showing up makes a difference. Grandparents make a difference!
Permaculture scholars and filmmakers make a difference!
Wise forest women make a difference!
People on bikes make a difference!
Walked-for regenerative energy makes a difference!
And forest children (who are Free to Learn and who will never know what NAPLAN means) make a world of difference!
Until next time, Dear Reader, we need to get back to the real work now…
For those wishing to come to one of our two next house and garden tours you can find more info here.
If you’re just beginning your transition and would like a non-monetary online course in permacultural neopeasantry, start at the beginning of this blog (2009) and read forward, then smash your device and get digging. Working the soil gets you high.
A special thanks to Giulia and Michal, doctoral students currently living with us and sharing knowledges, labour and love. All the better pics in this post are theirs. We love you both and we love living with you.
The Austrian painter Eugene von Guerard painted this in 1864. An early colonial image of the place our privilege calls home.
There was a rapid appearance of European peasant goat grazing, browsing and shepherding upon Djaara peoples’ land at the moment when those who spoke old Dja Dja Wurrung tongue, and had survived the prior massacres, sickness and dispossessing intransigence of settlers (backed by the British nee Roman law terra nullius), were being forcibly relocated to Coranderrk.
Due to gold extraction, over grazing and then industrial-era forms of land management the wet gullies and creeks of Hepburn and Daylesford are now infested with woody perennial weeds such as gorse, broom and blackberry. While these plants provide useful ecological services – habitat, food, soil stabilising, etc – their dominance can diminish biodiversity and produce a fire threat each warming summer.
We’ve been involved in providing a climate-era response to this predicament that may be just more blind colonialism but ironically we think it is potentially a way back to the sort of land management practices of Djaara people. Using goats over a 4-year period as well as sensitive hand tools to diminish the dominance of weedy perennials, we believe we can begin to convert these steep stream ecologies back into perennial indigenous grasslands and ecology that will radically reduce bushfire risk.
As Goathand cooperative, we have just finished a trial collaborating with the Hepburn Shire Council and Federation University and the results are very positive. What we need now for this climate-safe weed and bushfire mitigation project to both upscale and outscale is broader government and community understanding of the succession process that could lead back to the possibility of Dja Dja Wurrung ecological burning processes, which have not been viable because of great stands of 2-3 m dry gorse, broom and blackberries that can climb fire up into eucalyptus canopies.
Below is Goathand cooperative‘s first film showing the trialling of goats and hand tools. Imagine this scaled up to 200-300 goats (permanently rotating around the shire so as not to overgraze until the dominance of the weeds are treated) and 10-15 human bodies with loppers and pruning saws for a few day’s work here and there. The people labour is generally nominal because the goats are so effective, but the human labour and goat interrelationship makes a beautiful marriage (not just pragmatic but one of love) and moves us towards a significant post-industrial behaviour change. Very quickly the town’s bushfire risk (Hepburn is one of the most fire-at-risk towns in Victoria) and weed cycle would be greatly diminished and no more glyphosate in our waterways or soil disturbing mechanical treatment or white-fella burning regimes, which all put the weed cycle back at stage one, dry out moisture in the soil and thus causes more fire-proneness. This is not ideal when temperatures are warming.
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