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Ten panniers, four instruments – most of what we’re taking

Meg’s bike, or rather Magpie’s bike (we’re going to use our forest names for this trip), is called Cosmo, after Cosmo Sheldrake. Here is the breakdown of what she is taking:

Pannier 1. Daily food pannier number one (6.4 kg). Thanks Marita Smith for the gift of Golden Lion and the Reishi. We’re taking our sourdough leven with us to make fermented crumpets for lunches. We’re committed to doing this trip single-use-plastic free so will be only buying produce that comes in its own packaging like avocados or that we can buy in bulk and put in our own bags and containers. We are taking a little of Magpie’s homemade miso, some cacao from Loving Earth, and oats and spelt from Burrum Biodynamics via our wonderful not-for-profit food co-op, Hepburn Wholefoods – making best practice farming affordable for low income households like ours. Thank you to all the volunteers.

Our food co-op is the same age as Blackwood, who has grown up with home-grown, foraged and not-for-profit organic food. He initiated his own co-op film last year and this year he was asked to be in one of a series of short films about the community-owned model.

Collective health doesn’t exist in the exclusive hands of science, science is just part of a much bigger story. Community health belongs in the many giving and making hands of strong community. To feed the world industrial food and medicine only serves a treadmill of ill health and produces destroyed habitats. This tradition comes from the death-seeking ideology of mechanistic scientism, which still proliferates western medicine in new profit-driven forms like virus engineering and other kinds of synthetic biology. We say enough of that sad old story! Community health is a return to eldership. Our dear friend Alison Wilken has been the volunteer-buyer at Hepburn Wholefoods for several years. Alison also co-runs our town’s Community Supported Bakery (CSB), Two Fold Bakehouse. Last time we left home for a year on our bikes Alison spent our last day helping us clean our house. We kept the tradition alive today too. Thanks Alison – your commitment to nourishing your community is both seen and respected.

Back to the pack… we’ll never leave at this rate… so many loved-ones to farewell…

Pannier 2. Daily food pannier number two (5.3 kg). Thanks Su and Dave for the gift of dried Melliodora strawberry grapes. Thank you again to Hepburn Wholefoods for stocking dark chocolate from Spencer Cocoa (Mudgee, NSW + beyond) and spelt pasta from Powlett Hill (Campbelltown, VIC). Thank you Tree Elbow soils for the humanure-grown garlic. Thank you Tree Elbow garden, chooks and nearby commons forest for the gifts of our dried-ground porridge additives. The organic soba noodles we buy in bulk from Hakubaku (Ballarat, VIC). And thanks to the local rural livestock supplies for stocking animal grade diatomaceous earth, which we use as a natural wormer and for being able to drink dodgy water.

Pannier 3. Magpie’s clothes pannier (4.8 kg). We have chosen books we adults both wish to read. Since taking this photo we found (in the pack-up) a half-size hot water bottle for sub-zero nights. Our loads are going to less weighty in a few months but right now woollen thermals, jumpers, beanies, mittens, scarves and jackets are essential to squeeze in.

Pannier 4. Artist as Family’s bedding (5.3 kg). We have liners for our light-weight, down-feathered, down to 0 degree celsius sleeping bags, making them sub zero proof, at least we hope. We have sleep mats to rest tired muscles upon.

Pannier 5. Artist as Family’s general ‘sub’ (5.0 kg). This pannier includes wet weather gear, spare bicycle tube, sun hats, 10 lt water bladder, towels, first aid kit, toiletry bag including spiralina gifted by generous community friend John Mayger, and other things since added like the gourd shell shaker – see below instrument pic.

Magpie is also taking our tent (2kg), violin and shaker (0.8 kg) and Zero (6.5 kg) on Cosmo with water bottles and handlebar bag filled with daily necessities (22.5kg). In total (not including Magpie’s weight) Cosmo fully loaded (including bike weight) = 58.6 kg. With Magpie (52kg) and Zero upon a fully loaded Cosmo the overall weight = 110.6 kg.

We are very excited to be taking these story-making tools with us.

Blue Wren (Patrick) and Blackwood’s tandem bike is called Merlin, after Merlin Sheldrake, brother to Cosmo. Here is the breakdown of what is riding on Merlin:

Pannier 6. Blue Wren’s clothes pannier (6.5 kg). Books, journal, pen, pillows for Blackwood and Blue Wren, warm clothes, sleeping bag liner and rain jacket.

Pannier 7. Blackwood’s clothes pannier (4.4 kg). Warm clothes, sleeping bag liner, rain jacket and cycling gloves.

Pannier 8. Artist as Family kitchen (7.4 kg). The plastic case contains a breadboard made by Blackwood out of his namesake, a diamond stone for knife sharpening, a Trangia stove and cooking kit, a strainer, matches, steel wool, a 3 lt billy, a foldable Luci solar lamp, three sporks, and (since added) a spatula. Additionally in the pannier we have a Trangia fuel bottle, two bottles of gifted garden-grown and locally pressed olive oil – one from friends Sandipa and Sambodhi, the other from Yonke (so much gratitude!), gifted friend-harvested salt (Thanks Yael and Matt – who stayed with their family at Tree Elbow on our last year-long adventure), a foldable bucket, Tree-Elbow grown Mountain Pepper, two tea towels (if you think they look grubby now, just wait a week or so), Tree Elbow honey, Tree Elbow dried chilli, more sneaky chocolate (thanks Brenna Fletcher!), and almond butter.

Pannier 9. Artist as Family’s dry store food packaged in reclaimed ziplock bags (8.9 kg). This includes rabbit, goat and roo jerky, various fruit leathers and dried fruit, dried mushrooms, and dried vegetables. Living well away from the slow-death-by-industrial-food grid is labour-intensive, as it is love-intensive. It demands close relationships with the living of the world and direct, sleeves-rolled-up encounters with birthing, consuming (in an earth-first sense), growing, ageing, dying and decaying.

Pannier 10. Artist as Family’s hunting, foraging and fishing ‘sub’ (8.2 kg). This pannier is our food-procuring kit. All these tools will mean that we can harvest fire wood, weedy root vegetables, wild fish and feral meat. Needless to say, this is Blackwood’s favourite pannier. Tyson Yunkaporta speaks about accountable and direct violence in one of his chapters in his book Sand Talk. This echoes a chapter on accountable killing in Blue Wren’s doctoral thesis, Walking for food (2014), where he reveals all the veiled violences of industrial food, be it a vegan, vegetarian or an omnivore diet. The 70 pound carp bow (below) has a coil and line that attaches to the front of the bow. We are taking our Carp song with us to share on the road. It starts with the story of us cooking carp on wood coals by the Millawa (Murray) River, and ends with these words – Eating carp cleans the river and the charcoal will clean you. We look forward to making a recording of this song at some stage on our pilgrimage.

Blue Wren and Blackwood are also taking a blanket (2kg) and the guitar and recorder (2 kg) on Merlin with water bottles and handlebar bag filled with recording and film equipment (33.7 kg).

In total (not including body weights) Merlin fully loaded (including bike weight) = 71.1 kg. With Blue Wren (75 kg) and Blackwood (30kg) upon a fully loaded Merlin = 177.4 kg.

Well, that’s the summary of the material things we are taking with us – our home (tent and bedding), food and tools. One more sleep before take off. We are sooooo excited!! Thank you everyone for your kind messages of support and love, and for your generous gifts. We are feeling so held and nurtured by our community, both near and far.

This will be our last post for a few weeks. We are going to go offline to lose our bearings and find our touring legs. We will throw the sulphur crested cockatoo feather up tomorrow morning to determine our direction. We hope, Dear Reader, that your feather takes you in the direction of where you need to go this year.

Signing out from us here in Djaara Country,

Artist as Family

A month of growing, fermenting, retrofitting, foraging, forest work and lively, lovely people

It’s been a busy time for us up here in the hills to the north of the falsely-bartered city of Melbourne. We’ve had a string of wonderful young SWAPs come stay. This is Nina, far left, who was SWAPping with us when Bruce Pascoe and Lyn Harwood came to visit and speak at our town hall with David Holmgren and Su Dennett — we consider all four true elders of our respective communities, as well as our close friend, Pete O’Mara (far right and almost off screen), who dedicates so much time to the young people in our town. 

The couple of days we had with Bruce and Lyn were wonderful and Nina took some sweet snaps as well as pitched in with whatever needed doing. Here Patrick and Bruce get ready to plant yam daisies in Daylesford’s community garden beside the library.

About 400 people came to the various different events we (working on behalf of HRN) organised. Our dear mate Ant, and Patrick have begun work on a film that will cover the incredible day of knowledge sharing and thinking, particularly the social warming aspect of the day and of course David Holmgren and Bruce Pascoe’s wisdom and research.

Our dear friend Su, who started HRN back in the day (with Maureen Corbett), gave thanks to the 40 plus people who helped shape the day.

While Patrick had the idea to get Bruce and David together in one room and call it Land Cultures, Meg brewed up Culture Club. This was the poster we hacked up for the first get-together:

About 30 people came for what was a wonderful evening of knowledge sharing and the imperatives of wild fermented foods addressing the chronic health issues of industrialised food and medicine and what this has done to our guts. The energy was established for ongoing monthly meets. This is the next meet:

Actually Meg has gone quite fermenting mad over the past several months. Anything that walks in or is carried through our door gets utterly cultured.

When Angelica came to SWAP for a week, she learned to make sauerkraut, and many other useful things. In return she brought ebullience and taught us the art of making ghee.

In our household everyone has numerous roles to play. Zeph is proving to be the best cracker spreader in the ‘hood, and even though he’s exploring other ‘cultural’ realities at the moment, he’s usually willing to lend a hand.

Processing acorns from our inherited tree this autumn and milling them for pancake and bread flour has given us renewed focus on making sure seasonal local gifts are not wasted. This involves everyone chipping in as these processes can be laborious if there’s not a collective effort.

James has also come to SWAP with us for a week. His interests have been particularly focussed on the politics of permaculture. In our words: how old conservative processes (akin to peasant activities) are part of the radical household and community economies of the present and future. Something AaF is passionate about. We showed James some of our activities that reperform an engagement with public-Indigenous land. Here, he and Woody harvest Coprinus comatus for dinner.

James, like Nina, has a developed eye behind a camera and documented many activities, learning the meaning of doing-saying — thought and action. He learned our mantra: Ecological culture can only be modelled biophysically, on a small scale, in relationship and with many neighbouring models/relationships all responding to the predicament of our time.

Fun is essential in this life-making. Constant. Loose. Stupid behaviour. All are critical in our household’s transition. We are seriously not well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society, and we want to sing that from the tree-tops, and the compost buckets.

We are well-adjusted, however, to our soil; it is simply humming with life.

And we’re well adjusted to the nearby forest. We’ve entered into a gift exchange relationship with it, stomping down blackberries so they become dynamic soil-building and soil-holding ground covers, no longer a dry cane fire threat, nor a dominating species.

When we lay down the 2m high canes and let in sunlight to the earth, the gods of the forest offer up gifts for our efforts. In this case parasol mushrooms. Yum!

A few simple hand tools is all we need to engage in a stewardship relationship with the forest.

One of the reasons we want to reduce the fuel load in the forest is because land management authorities deem it unsafe every few years, and set fire to it. This affects not only the global climate, but the local ring tail possums who build their dreys in the forest’s hawthorns and apple trees. The hawthorns and wild apples are considered weeds around here and have no ecological status, so they can be burnt and cut and poisoned. However, if we use the fallen wood of the forest to heat our home, press the blackberries down to a groundcover, and thus limit the need for burn-offs, then the humus and moisture levels build up in the forest lessening the chance of fire.

Designing more community gardens is part of our public work too. This simple little garden (stage1) is about to go ahead at the local child-care centre. And with not a penny spent.

Eating weeds is another example of gift exchange with our biological commons or locasphere. The below weed is wild radish, the plant Patrick has chosen to feature (and give status back to) in the next Pip magazine Eat Your Weeds column.

Wild mushrooms are also a part of the gifts that return from the gods once a relationship is established.

Getting to know how the world’s more-than-human communities provide the opportunities for human life is essential learning, but how many kids are taught such a thing in school? Schools are factories for producing human-centricity.

Our boys know where their food and energy resources come from. They know their origins. But this knowledge is not valued in school. Zeph’s knowledge of bush craft, care and resilient living is ignored or shamed in his industrialised school environment. Go figure.

Woody will not go to school unless he decides to (like his brother did) when he becomes a teenager. Show us the boy at 7 and you’ll see the man. May this three-year-old always remain comfortable in a dress, just like his old man.

Woody and Zeph will leave home knowing how to turn rubbish from the tip into useful things, how to repair and service their means of mobility, how to build a house, how to capture and store energy, how to grow, preserve and ferment their food, and how to steward their local environment and help it spring forth more life.

Despite what they become, they’ll be prepared to adapt to whatever the future brings. We just wish that schools were aiding their contemporaries with real-life skills and knowledges, and valuing sustainable practices of life-making,

so more kids will grow into the kind of elders the world’s communities and environments really need right now. Elders not focussed on money and property, but on caring for the health of all the living, and keeping the gods nourished on our gifts. For our gods are our ancestors of regard. Those who lived before mass war and pollution, hierarchy and greed, who knew how to care for the earth.

Thanks Nina and James for your photos in this post. And thanks Dear Reader for checking in with us. We hope you have much autonomous and beneficial fungi popping up in your neck of the woods, be that in your local forests or in your wild urban kitchens.

From Gerroa to Genoa (Wet days, warm people, dangerous roads and Dark Emu visitations)

We left Warm Showers Claire, who was busy hosting a number of sodden cycle tourers, such as this jolly soloist Angus,

and rode out of Gerroa to begin our coastal descent. In Nowra we bumped into more fellow pedalist comrades who were riding around the world from France to raise awareness about climate change,

before our book event at Dean Swift ABC book shop, where we spoke to the possibilities of climate changed economies and societies of regard.

More rain and more barely ripe public stonefruit in southern Nowra,

and we were off on another wet leg,

to Huskisson, where booksellers Noela and Jill greeted us for a little signing event,

and Jill and her man David

put us up for the night, avoiding another soaking from the tricky gods of acummulating clouds. We’d had enough of things by now. Dangerous roads, anti-cyclist drivers, unrelenting rains. So we mapped out the alternative (option 2 Huskisson back to Albury),

and even though we thought it would be easier to cancel the remains of the tour and ride back to Nowra, train to Sydney, train to Goulbourn, ride to Albury, train to Melbourne, train to Woodend and ride the last 40 kms home, we didn’t. Something in us wanted to see this through.

Our decision was confirmed by this sweet family, who had read about us in their local paper a year earlier, got in touch and invited us to stay a night.

Ah, the comfort of strangers! Thanks Jo, Bren, Lucinda, Sam and Eliza. Even more gifts awaited us when we returned to one of our favorite guerilla camping spots south of Mollymook.

Last year we ate limpets and speared fish on coals at Collers Beach. This year Zero caught us a big rabbit,

and Patrick speared another bag of fish, including this leatherjacket and red mowrang for one of our meals.

We poached the rabbit in the billy for 25 mins and the flesh just slipped off the bones onto our fingers and into our mouths. For we hungry locavores it was a near perfect moment.

Living on Collers Beach for a few days further nourished our decision to complete this tour.

Further south in Batemans Bay we bumped into Justine and Pat, who like us were perfecting the practice of very very slow travel. When we all met up at about 3pm one afternoon, they’d travelled a whooping 2 kms for the day. We congratulated their efforts. It’s a momentous achievement to go that slow in such a savagely fast world.

While they headed north, we trundled several kms down the road to Batehaven and set up camp on some marginal land beside a little creek inlet.

On the gentler coast road to Moruya we stopped to chat to northbound rider Rapha el, a French tourist.

We picked up supplies from the wonderful bulk wholefoods store when we arrived in town, and rode on as our event had been cancelled at Moruya Books due to a boating accident in the business. We pedalled on to Old Mill Road Biofarm and kept the boating accidents at bay while we cooled down in Kirsti, Marlin, Pickle and Fraser’s luscious dam,

before feasting with this awesome lot — the brains and brawn behind one of the best market gardens on the south coast. As you can imagine the food was exceptional, cooked up by French chefs Nina and Elsa, who may well come and stay with us in Daylesford.

Southwards we rode, on and on our legs rotating, water in litres emptied down our throats, making the brief transit through our varied metabolisms out onto our clothes to transform into what we call cyclist stench. We stayed with this lovely family in Narooma (thanks Barry, Jimmie, Goldy and Em!),

rode on to Tilba,

with the kind promise of a lift to avoid the death trap 10 kms north of Cobargo where Meg and Woody had a near miss thirteen months earlier on our big trip. The kind offer came from Ronnie and her super family of Norris’s, where we got to spend a few days, sit out more rain, swim with them at Bermagui, drink real cows milk and speak on air to one of our favourite ABC presenters, Ian Campbell.

When the sun poked through we hightailed it to Bega, our bikes hit