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Artist as Family’s Book of Neopeasantry (third excerpt)

 

October 25
Patrick

While weeding the food forest on the street with Victoria, a SWAP from Argentina, Meg yells out to us, ‘Swarm at Melliodora!’ I quickly load up the bike trailer with a Warré box, bee jacket and hood, a whitish bedsheet, a cardboard box and ride down to Hepburn. In my rush I can’t find my bee gloves so when I arrive I fossick around in Dave and Su’s workshop and find a solitary garden glove. It’ll have to do. I also spot a ladder in the workshop. I’m going to need that too.

Swarming bees are so laden with honey that it’s difficult for them to sting. Their main focus is on protecting their queen, transporting food stores, and awaiting the several hundred scout bees to return from seeking out a place to build a new hive.

The combination of bee-offending perspiration from my rapid 5 km bicycle ride, a humid spring day, lack of adequate gloves, and my general impatience to catch the swarm before it takes off is not ideal. Rushing bees is idiotic at any time, but especially rushing bees swarming high up on a tall, flexible oak sapling only reached by a ladder.

My plan is to make multiple trips up the sapling, gently sweep honey-laden bees into my cardboard box with my gloved hand, descend the ladder and tap the bees out of the cardboard into the timber Warré box, which I’ve set up on a flat knoll on the slopey ground with the whitish sheet used as an illuminating runway for the bees to navigate their way inside and join their sisters.

As I begin my labour, my uncovered hand is stung. It instantly becomes inflamed with stings, then my stomach, which is now exposed as I reach up to sweep the first thick pad of bees into the box. Stings then make their way to where the glove isn’t covering. I come down the ladder, angry bees following me. I tap the first lot into the Warré and take off to find Su or Dave to ask to borrow their bee gloves.

I return to the tree, suitably gloved up now and immediately bees start flying at me. I climb the ladder and reach up to sweep another pad of bees into the box. My exposed stomach is set upon again. What an absolute debacle this is. I have rushed my first swarm of the season. It’s obvious I haven’t as yet stepped into my bee care mind and I have come to do this work with all the stupidity a human can muster. All my knowledges about catching a swarm have eluded me. I’ve forgotten what I’ve learned in previous years. I am too cocky and too eager and these bees are aggressive, a trait I don’t ordinarily mind because it means the colony is generally robust to predators. It certainly is.

I pedal home with my tail between my legs, kicking myself for being such a fool. You cannot rush bees, and tonight I have a hundred swellings over my body as appropriate feedback for my foolishness.

 

 

October 27
Meg

I work from home today and sit near the fire with my laptop and a bottomless cup of tea: wild fennel, mugwort and stinging nettle.

It rains all day so Victoria, our lovely SWAP, is doing inside jobs. I am not sure how I’m going to go working from home while overseeing Victoria but it’s easy. I explain things once and she’s away.

Blackwood is supposed to have a friend over but his friend is unwell so he works with Victoria, telling her stories, asking her questions about her native home of Argentina, bringing her ingredients and utensils she needs.

They measure the seeds; sesame, linseed, chia, sunflower, then add almond meal, and the psyllium husks we collected from plantain seed heads, mix them with water, salt and herbs, roll them out, score them and bake them as crackers.

They harvest, peel and chop the last of our onions, blitz them with salt in the old food processor I inherited from my grandparents and make an onion kraut.

Next they make hummus, bland, the way Blackwood likes it. And then they scoop the yoghurt I strained last night into a jar and add greens from the pots on the deck to make a creamy herbed labne.

‘I like being a volunteer in my own house,’ Blackwood says, when we sit down for lunch.

~

Into the glean and scene of 2017

We ended 2016 with a community garden working bee with mates,

cleaning off graffiti from around the town (that one of us thought was a good idea to do at the time),

building a new squat compost loo with SWAP, Isobel,

going for a little ride,

to spend the summer solstice at Melliodora with neo-peasant and permie mates,

advertising for our first SWAP-intern suitable to work with the whole family, particularly Zeph,

and carried on with forest work and play,

until the year was done and we gathered with various friends and other community groups to celebrate the new year.

 Our little ensemble of community gardeners won best ‘float’, despite our on-foot-ness.

The next day, with our Milkwood mates, we were very floaty when we heard the news of our win ($500 to the community gardens to grow more free food).
This year we’ve been welcoming Connor into our family. Connor was chosen to be our first SWAP-intern. Within days it was like this remarkable young man has been with us for years.
And we’ve been blessed with more wonderful SWAPs coming to live and learn with us. Hello Anna!

And hello Marta!

We went out of town with our mate Pete to collect some locally grown and milled timber. We’re going to build a number of things in the next few months.

With friends Mara, Kirsten and Kat we made a banner,

which will be used each year to mark January 26, terra nullius day at the Daylesford Town Hall.

We’ve been doing little fermenting experiments and loving the results.

Actually, Connor doesn’t need elderflower cider to fool around in the gloaming.

Connor and Marta have been hanging out working together, riding the tandem and generally keeping the home fires burning.

Because it’s a time of storing,

food forestry and many people staying,

pumpkins, citrus and kiwi fruiting,

honey making,

poultry growing,

appling,

learning,

keeping the mice numbers down,

and more storing.

Collecting materials from building sites, the tip, and having friends who gift large doors and windows (thanks Nicko and Elle), has enabled the planning of the north-facing greenhouse.

Our home is a busy mess of multiple projects, ferments and general productivity. We’re using the excessive affluence of industrial civilisation to transition to low-money, low-carbon lifeways before inevitable decline or collapse.

Prepare now or struggle later is our motto, and what we’ve found in the meantime is a more joyous, meaningful form of life making.

Neo-peasants rise up!

English writer George Monbiot contests “the oddest insult in the English language [is] when you call someone a peasant, [because] you are accusing them of being self-reliant and productive.” Go Woody! You proud lil ‘peasant…

Words such as pagan and heathen were insults Christians used to describe various nameless land-sacred peoples of Europe. In our community our peasant, pagan, heathen women get together to raise awareness about the relocalisation of food and medicine in an age where Christian-capitalism is becoming a spent and dying force.

Zeph and Woody, like true neo-peasants, are learning grafting techniques to expand the food commons in their locasphere.

Woody (pictured here after his first haircut on his birthday morning) gets to four years of age without eating processed sugar,

and for another half year his brother is lovingly unschooled through the gifts of the community.

(Thanks Tosh, Danny, Nick, Kirsten, Pete, Jeff, Cath, Hamish, Fiona, Henri, Edward, Tim, Angela and Gael for aiding Zeph’s learning).

Zeph also experiments with his own forms of neo-peasant culture-making in his video Treeffiti:

and mucks around with developing his own written language.

He helps in numerous home projects such as building the cellar from stone unearthed from our land.

Nice job 14 year-old!

Zephyr is loving having his own pad to sleep in, entertain friends in and as a venue to host impromptu gigs by touring friends Formidable Vegetable Sound System.

This is Angela, who we welcomed as a SWAP (Social Warming Artists + Permaculturists), and who has since become a friend to all of us.

In this photo Angela and Meg are preparing a bed for cabbages.

We have irrigation lines set up for the dry months but for the rainy months we harvest water passively in our swales.

It wasn’t just Angela who arrived to our place by bike. These last few months we have hosted four Warm Showers travellers: Maya, Kirsten, Jaz and Tom, (pictured below). On most days we talk about upcoming cycle trips that we are scheming, but for now we are happy to be home where we can repay some of the kindness shown to us while we were on the road.

We also love being home because we love being community gardeners, helping to build an alternative food system based on care, nourishment and trust. The Daylesford Community Food Gardeners are planning to be in the Daylesford New Year’s Eve parade again this year, so please get in touch if you’d like to join us.

Love the poster, Jeff! We’re rapt you promised a bike or two for next year’s poster.

Learning the art of bicycle maintenance is an ongoing affair at our place. Bicycles are a preferred neo-peasant mobility.

But you always see more when you’re walking, such as this little family of hard shells we spotted at Lake Daylesford,

while fishing for some feral redfin.

Wild plants, fish and mushrooms are part of any neo-peasant sacred economy, as are wild bees. We caught our first wild swarm this spring, aided and tutored by Nick from Milkwood. Thanks Nick!

We’ve been mentoring and handing on knowledges too, while getting fashion tips in exchange. Thanks Ruby!

Harvesting the early planted garlic was an experiment worth repeating. We planted these bulbs in February.

Gift economies only work if the gifts flow in every direction. We’ve been foraging in the nearby forest so carrying out work that enables the diversity of that forest to flourish is the return.

And we’ve been speaking, sharing and learning at a number of events including talks at libraries, sustainability festivals and at this event, Futurelands2, where Patrick introduced Bruce Pascoe in the Kandos community hall.

We shared an event with Kirsten from Milkwood and Uncle Kevin Williams, a Wiradjuri man, at Ganguddy,

and we did a most non neo-peasant thing and flew to Cairns, breaking our no-fly principle. All throughout the flight we had to burp Beverly, our jun mother.

We were invited to Cairns as guests of the 2016 International Indigenous Allied Health Conference, and got to spend three days with this wonderful group, each of us sharing stories of resilience and creativity from our respective communities.

Patrick gave a keynote called Fermenting country: caring for the ecology of our guts, and Meg ran a complementary workshop on making fermented drinks, including jun.

Meg separated 16 parts of Beverly to give away. She named each one after a strong woman in our community. Here is Leith, an exhibitor from the Dept of Veteran Affairs.

The gifts flowed our way too. Matthew Tafoya, a Navajo man, designed and made this famous t-shirt in the Bush jnr era. Matt’s talk about his people’s community food gardens was inspirational.

So as you can see we’ve been busy lil’ neo-peasants and raising quite a sweat these past few months. Meg made us some soap so we can clean up a little before new year.
Wishing you all a peaceful summer solstice season, with love from Artist as Family