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Permaculture subsistence in the suburbs and beyond (a weekend course in Daylesford)

A two-day intensive with Artist as Family – May 18 & 19 at Tree Elbow University

Come and spend two days with Artist as Family at our home, Tree Elbow, in Central Victoria, in beautiful Djaara Country.

Share our harvest abundance, learn our alternative economic lifeways, experience our processes and observe the many relationships we’ve cultivated in order to turn our backs on industrial capitalism, while leaning ever further into what we call, ‘a flow of gifts economy.’

Artist as Family is just 20% reliant on the monetary economy. This weekend is offered for you to understand how we’ve crafted such a radical, economic-freeing lifeway for nearly two decades.

These knowledges are what we ordinarily share with our volunteers over the duration of a week, however this course is for people who are more time restricted; people who are looking to dive deep into the many knowledges and actions we employ to practice subsistence permaculture. While most of our teaching is non-monetary, we are offering this course to those with money who are looking to transition away from full money dependency, to become more economically resilient.

Over the weekend you will learn about biointensive food gardening, temperate food forestry,  walked-for food, medicine and energy, custodial forest practices, gift economy relating, managed herbivory, animal-centric poultry and bee systems, simple engineering, dynamic composting and grey water systems, salvaging and repair practices, community sufficiency, and most importantly our relationship with Mother Country.

The course runs from 9am Saturday 18 May to 4pm Sunday 19 May. All meals provided. Please note, this is not a residential course; you will need to find your own accommodation for Saturday night. There are many short term accommodation options in this region. We are experienced guerrilla campers, so if camping is your preference, we know of many spots you can pitch a tent nearby.

While with us, you will need only a backpack, water bottle, journal, pen, and camera. If you need to bring your phone, please keep it on silent during the weekend or better yet, use the time as a digital detox.

The course is designed for adults but older teenagers are welcome too. There are three scholarship places available for young adults (under 30 years of age), so please get in touch to learn more.

The food you will be eating over the weekend will be Artist as Family’s neopeasant produce, therefore mostly a locavore, organic diet. It will mainly cater to gluten free and vegetarian diets, though there will be animal fats, meat and spelt sourdough options too.

At dinner on Saturday night, we will be joined by permaculture elders David Holmgren and Su Dennett, and you’ll be able to yarn around the fire with them.

The course is suited to anyone wishing to transform their cultural and economic paradigm, those who are curious about alternative economic models that are lived not just theorised, and anyone who wants to deepen their permaculture knowledges.

The course costs $250 and includes all meals.

Please get in touch with us if you’d like to book your place or find out more.

We look forward to sharing our home, life and learnings with you,

Meg, Patrick, Woody and Zero

we@artistasfamily.is

(Above images of Meg and Patrick teaching by Jordan Osmond – thanks Jordan!)

Communing with plants in the abundance of harvest

Gratitude to plants.

This is not a wafty, throwaway praise. This is an embodied knowing, a deeply felt thank you for the living, growing, seeding, podding, storing and shitting of plants. For their many giving parts.

Whether plants are in their own autonomy, in relationship with measureless earth others, or requiring peoples’ union to thrive, plants embody the feminine divine. Mother Country is the vessel in which all things are brewed, hotly or coldly, and plants are often the very fibres that enable the alchemy of such fermentations throughout life, into death and back across into life.

They are encasements of nourishment, wisdom holders, inebriation agents and great revealers.

But so much plant living has been violated by industrial food, energy and medicine capitalisms. Plants have been incarcerated, mined and used as gratuitous commodities. When welded to the dominant culture we devour them, we’re never fully satisfied, never fully full. Why? Is it our relationship with plants has radically changed under the spell and ideology of modernity’s project?

We have never had more food available to us in our short time as a species, but is it in this glut that gluttony occurs? That we are unfulfilled?

So many of the capitalisms that exploit plants are greenwashing capitalisms. Biofuels are the obvious example, but almost all uses of plants are a form of enslavement, within the machine of hypertechnocivility.

Domesticating plants, it has long been said, is the story of our own domestication. This is not always the same story as the process of becoming hypertechnocivil – that is, so industrialised to think we are the only species worth feeding – our food automated and chugged into cities, from where anthropocentrism powers over all life.

However, if we open to the ritual possibilities, the medicinal, magical and teaching properties of plants, can we call on our more expansive selves – the broader, mythological, transformative and cosmological potentialities of our selves – to take hold in our daily actions and processes?

This, we’ve found, is more possible when our foods, energies and medicines come from the gentle labours of our creaturely bodies. When we are ecological participants in loved biomes. When we are creatures of place. A loved homeplace.

When we walk for the plant gifts that make our lives possible, we cannot but step into the magical and divine realms of plants. From such a place both abundance and gratitude flow. We, people, can once again co-union with plants. It is deep in our cultural DNA that we live this way. It is lifemaking connected to ancestors. It refuses the severings of modernity.

Highly cultivated plants such as grapes thrive in conditions where people yearly prune their radical vines. In turn people thrive by eating the fruits created by the goddess herself.

Borlotti beans don’t need highly cultivated soil as they fix nitrogen in the earth and bring fertility to any earthly biome. Their colours delight us in the sun, under which we dry them to store for winter fuel.

Basil loves the full brunt of summer’s heat – a powerful herb and food medicine destined for almond pesto.

Ella, one of this week’s volunteers at Tree Elbow, communes with prune plums. We all delight in this prunus variety, also destined to be dried for winter’s cellaring and eating.

Volunteer Beau works alongside Blackwood with spelt from Burrum Biodynamics to alchemise this old grain into pasta to join the almond basil pesto for dinner.

Patrick sets up a tree net to catch acorns for their harvesting, thus stopping the midnight clang of hard little nuts landing on the water tank and waking the underworlders sleeping nearby.

Blackwood demonstrates his method of acorn shelling to his family and volunteers, using a nut cracker. Acorn meal will be used with spelt for winter pancakes and for the brewing of Patrick’s acorn beer (a recipe which can be found at the end of his re:)Fermenting culture book).

It has been a week of communing with plants, glowing in the gratitude of abundance, and savouring this time of harvest with volunteers and visitors, including Jess from Canada, who like Beau and Ella brought a joyful spirit to Tree Elbow.

The week finished with Wild Fennel – our local herbal medicine circle led by local witches, Catie and Zoe. Their beautifully facilitated plant medicine circle elegantly brought us all into deeper presence with the holy Tulsi, while we were warmed by the equinox fire in the garden at Tree Elbow.

A special thank you to Jordan for the pic of the plant circle, Catie and Zoe for the love and for the crafting back of the peoples’ medicine, and to Beau and Ella for your loving attention and joyous labours this week as SWAPs.

If you’d like to listen to a conversation between Catie and Patrick, tune into this episode of Reskillience.

We look forward to hearing from you which plant or plants you are present to right now. What herbal teas or medicine plant foods are you most grateful for? What is your latest herbal/harvest discovery?

Towards a microbiome approach to culture and economy (or, Re-dreaming a gender-distributed science) with Gemma Smithson

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Hello dear Subscribers and other curious visitors,

Over the past week we’ve hosted three new volunteers at the School of Applied Neopeasantry, who have been learning-helping with the harvesting and storing of this warm season’s abundance. We’ve been harvesting and preserving summer crops and also prepping soils to plant winter crops while there’s still heat in the giving earth, here in Djaara Mother Country.

While we’ve been working hard – doing-saying, lifemaking, neopeasanting, demonstrating the possibilities of living a low-impact ecological-economy – Tully, Anisa, Gemma, and we mob have also engaged in many conversations.

On Gemma’s last day, she asked whether she could record Patrick for a university assignment. Gemma is studying environmental science and has, true to her openness and curiosity, organised two radically different placements for her summer work experience – with Artist as Family and with Parks Victoria. Go Gemma!

We have edited this little interview, recorded on Gemma’s phone in the garden at Tree Elbow, into a twelve minute excerpt, and we’re sharing it as a way of giving an insight into some of the subjects/conversations we have with volunteer-students at the school, this time occurring at the end of a neopeasant lunch, just before we all headed off for siesta.

We hope you enjoy this little moment (12min listen) with Gemma, pictured here with Meg and Patrick.

As always, your input, questions and comments are valuable to our readers and to us, so please feel free to offer up what’s living in you after listening in. Also, we have a place available next month if you’re interested in volunteering and learning with us. Head here for more details and please get in touch if you’re keen to join us.

Is there a time and place for binary thinking? Or, what mythos do you serve?

 

Do you stand against the abuses of institutional power in all forms and legalisms?

Do you stand against those who try to convince you health is dependent on industrial pharmacy?

Do you stand against politicians who fake democracy and grow corporatism?

Do you stand against industrial pollutants, contaminants and toxins that cause unnecessary disease and thus suffering?

Do you stand against anthropocentric capitalisms and socialisms, and the various city-centric ruinations they bring to life?

Do you stand against media that is permissive to the imperatives of Empire, power and global industrialisms?

Do you stand against the iatrogenocide that is the ‘Covid response’ by the state-Pharma nexus?

Do you stand against safetyism, paternalism and nanny statism, which render people immobile and dependent on institutions and industries that are manipulative and controlling?

Do you stand against the NATO/Azov nazi/US invoked genocide of Ukrainian youth by a reactive and bullish Russia?

Do you stand against the century-long genocide of Palestinians by British, US and Israeli colonists?

Do you stand against the extraction of fossil fuels and rare earth minerals used to power a false flag renewables industry?

Do you stand against cultural or political groups who silence and smear others based on their beliefs and values?

Do you stand against large-scale industries including factory farms, agricultural chemicals, pharmaceuticals and sweat shops that mistreat humans, animals and complex biota?

Do you stand against a King (and others like him dripping in privilege) arrogantly calling for an end to ‘convenience’?

Do you stand with the people of villages, towns, cities and suburbs who in their own power and capacity claim for themselves an end to industrial-scale convenience and consumption?

Do you stand with the flowering, fruiting and singing of Mother Country and Grandmother Gaia and everything else that is sacred and not industrially conformed?

Do you stand with life that enables more delicious life to cross over into necessary death and decay, and back into more abundance?

Do you stand for a future society that doesn’t help raise sociopaths or psychopaths into positions of power and influence?

Do you stand with eldership, mentorship and rites of passage, which mark the accruing of wisdoms, and the witnessing of all in the village, regardless of their stage in life?

Do you stand for the flow of gifts across all species and within all species?

Do you stand for distributed wealth, access to land for all, and subsistence economies that are earth-honouring?

Do you stand for the economic interweaving of community sufficiency and autonomous household productivity?

Do you stand with the rivers and creeks – the veins of the world that take life force to the largest biomes – the oceans?

Do you stand with mountains, caves, hills and rocks, and any undulation within the terrain of any Mother Country that enables the magic of surprise, and the shadow world from where wisdom springs?

Do you stand with the seeds that are our heritages, which have made our cultures of belonging, and will do so again?

Do you stand with the smallest biomes, bodily biomes and microbial communities, as extensions of Mother Country and Grandmother Gaia?

Do you stand with Mother Country and Grandmother Gaia, honour them in the way in which you live, and defend them from machine mind in whatever capacity you have to do so?

Do you stand with both individual freedoms and communitarian care, without one eroding the other?

Do you recognise that true consent is not possible when metered out by top-down authority?

Do you stand with pollinators, in all forms, recognising the monumental gifts they bring to lifemaking?

Do you stand with the fungal webs that rule the worlds of the world, including the unreal worlds of hubristic human Empires that will always collapse and turn back into the mycelial realm?

Do you stand with humus and humility, and recognise they have derived from the same root word?

Do you stand with your herbal and medicinal plant commons, the remnant traces of your indigenous liberty and soul, which continue to bring gifts to your health and to your meaning making?

Do you stand with ecological killing in order to take life that makes more life possible, outside of a ‘man-made mass death’ cosmology, where at arm’s length civilisational violence occurs on your behalf as an industrial-food-dependent vegan, vegetarian or omnivore?

Do you stand with empowering young people to obtain skills for the future, both pragmatic and sacred (such as deep listening and beholding, foraging, gardening, forestry and hunting)?

Do you stand with village rebuilding and grass roots, cultural, ecological and microbial diversity?

 

Here are the Forest & Free children after harvesting 1.5kg of narrow leaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata) seed heads for psyllium. This plantain is a common, ancestral (Eurasia) and abundant plant that brings healing food-medicine to our lives. The kids collected this amount in just twenty minutes. Each week they learn about a new food or medicine that is not under lock and key, so they can build the skills, knowledges and daily rituals to augment their own pathways to freedom, responsibility and wisdom. We run Forest & Free within a gift economy.

So, does binary thinking have a place? In the absence of binaries how do we form our values? Is it possible to live without binaries?

We’d love to hear from you. When is binary thinking problematic? When is it useful? Would you answer yes to any the above questions? All? We hope this post generates some goodly discussion, and serves the contemporary dialectic for what mythos, what world story, we want to serve.

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.

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

For the past year we’ve been journalling every day with the intention of collecting stories for a book focussed on the relationships and processes of how we live, make culture and practice economy. Today we share with you a first excerpt as we slowly transform our two journals into one manuscript, which we’re calling Artist as Family’s Book of Neopeasantry.

This is not a how to or guide book on neopeasantry but rather, like our first collaborative effort The Art of Free Travel, it’s a memoir. In Artist as Family’s Book of Neopeasantry both we adults share our days, sometimes with overlapping stories and themes, sometimes not.

We hope you enjoy this forthcoming series of excerpts. We’d love to hear from you in the comments about how you are building the parallel society in your neck of the woods, step-by-step composting your household’s reliance on neoliberal corporatism while strengthening your local forms of economy. If you’re moved to and have the capacity, please consider supporting our work in one of four ways and help keep the gifts flowing.

Now, without further ado, a first insight into Artist as Family’s Book of Neopeasantry.

October 16
Patrick

Nikki is a dear friend and elder of ours. She is one of those rare spirits who works to make the world sing. She with others in the community started the local Repair Café where people volunteer their time to fix things for others.

Fixers include those good with electrical devices, repairing bicycles, darning socks, mending jumpers, and sharpening knives. Blackwood takes his repair kit to fix loose soles on peoples shoes. Meg takes along her hand-fashioned sign, which announces she is MENDING BROKEN HEARTS, offering a listening and reflecting table for matters of the heart. For this month’s gathering, Nikki has asked me to run a chainsaw sharpening workshop. I also bring equipment to teach secateur maintenance.

A small cohort of people has gathered around my table at the club room at Victoria Park. I begin with demonstrating the filing of the teeth of a chain. How to maintain the correct angle and tension as you push the file through each tooth. I demonstrate the cleaning and sharpening of secateurs, first by disassembling all parts, then ragging away any remnant grease, sanding the crud or dried sap from the blades with wet and dry sandpaper, then reapplying a film of new grease and reassembling.

The grease I use is tallow from Bruce the bull. Veronika has often gifted us tallow and meat cuts from her family’s farm. We mostly cook with tallow, or ghee that Meg makes. Veronika used to come to Meg’s monthly free-to-learn fermentation workshops and she continues to shower us with gifts from her family’s subsistence productions.

All around us the gifts flow. We send them out into the world and others flow back. This is why we call our main economic form a flow of gifts economy. It grows with trust and love. It is not clunky like barter, and it’s not ruthless like money. As at the Repair Café, gifts aggregate and true eldership leads the way to start them flowing, leading by love and gentle encouragement.

Meg

I ride up to the Sunday market just with Zero as Blackwood is mowing our neighbour’s lawns and Patrick is working on a long blog post about the Free Julian Assange rally. 

Jono from Brooklands gifts me a bag of bones for Zero, then Ruby from Two Fold gifts me a loaf of bread, and I pedal home to find Dallas dropping off an unwanted rooster at our door. Another gift. The apple and quince blossoms are out in full glory, and the garden is humming with life and activity, and I am feeling inside the rich current of the generosity of the season.

We put the rooster in the cellar then pedal up to the Repair Café at Victoria Park. Patrick is running a chainsaw and tool sharpening workshop, Blackwood has taken his shoe repair kit, and I sit at my regular table and listen to people’s heart breaking stories. Mending is not fixing, it’s just listening and sometimes reflecting. It is a big and bustling afternoon and everyone is in good spirits because the sun is shining after so many days of rain.

The last person to sit at my table is John, who’s been sharpening knives at the table next to mine all afternoon. He is there to chat, not have his heart mended, he tells me. When it’s nearly time to pack up, I tell him I am heading home to kill and cook for dinner the rooster Dallas has dropped over and he tells me about the time many years ago he was on a tram in Melbourne. A woman gets on and the conductor tells her she isn’t allowed on the tram with a live duck tucked under her arm. They have a brief conversation then the woman casually wrings the duck’s neck, then puts it back under her arm and sits down.

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