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A gut healing book warming (and the importance of home)

There are so many entities to thank when a book comes into being. Convention dictates we thank humans only, which makes sense because a book is a fairly human-orientated thing. Yet a book has many other contributors who make it possible, so before we begin this post on the social warming event that brought re:)Fermenting culture: a return to insight through gut logic into the community, we wish to give thanks and praise to the vegetal flowerings, barks and pulp, the nitrogenous rain cycles and carbonous roots, the mycelial meanderings, bacterial bounties, autonomous chewers, borers and suckers, and much more life besides. Thank you for your part in making this book become.

Just before the punters arrived, each with their life-giving, much-more-than-human microbiomes, we put the finishing touches on the fermented foods that we wanted to warm people into our home with, and get their guts zinging.

The word home has become a pejorative term, initially engineered by industrial capitalists to shame unwilling peasants into leave the economic autonomy of home and get a “real job” in a factory. Then later the word was further degraded by a strain of industrialised feminism, those who could only imagine home as a stereotypical 1950s domain of feminine incarceration and boredom. Both these corrupted versions of home are not ours. As radical-homemaking-feminist-neopeasants we think of home as a place of intimate dwelling, and the most empowering environment we could possibly imagine. Of course, by home we don’t just mean the confine of our house and garden, but also our walked common land to neighbours, friends, community gardens, near forests, creeks and places of many other relationships that enable wellness to spring forth in relation to our own labours and insights. From such empowerment springs forth such food.

Home for us is a place of healing, growing, consuming, decaying, dying, birthing and giving back in order to keep the gifts of the earth flowering. Under this order all is compost, all is fermentation, all is food and labour and new life that sprouts from the necessity of death.

It was to be a day to celebrate poetics and philosophy in the community sphere and what better way to do this than share the food we consume that is our fuel for poesis. By 3pm we were ready for all comers. Speakers, guests, children, dogs – all manner of goodly folk – began to arrive after an earlier rain shower that filled the garden with a miraculous energy that was impossible not to sense.

Woody sang and strummed the warmers into the hearth of our homelife.

We were brought many gifts, such as wild fermented sourdough from Mara to add to the ferments table.

Some of the non-alcoholic fermented beverages Meg brewed for the day were turmeric tonic, jun and rejuvelac, all flavoured with various flowers and herbs from the garden including wild fennel and elderflower.

It was a day of bright light, colours and ongoing Woody instrumentations.

It was also a day of raffling hard-to-get-hold-of things, such as these hops vines that we divided from the mother plant and potted up in the winter. In the raffle we raised over $60 for the community gardens. That’s a lot of seed!

Woody tried every instrument in the house as more and more warmers assembled and he developed further a role for himself as musical host.

Summery peeps and chilled dogs wandered through the garden, where they beheld our neopeasant homestead on a quarter acre, being tended to and developed on a household income well below the poverty line. Such wealth is possible with a volunteered poverty.

Vegetal life and built environments are complimentary forces at Tree Elbow, and everyone at the warming got to feel the physicality of such energy transference between the formed and the forming.

More musical delighters rolled in.

Old and new friends came to the party.

The outdoor kitchen became a bar for chance encounters and a place of simple feeding. All the food and drink, including the acorn beer and elderflower mead, were fermented with ingredients that came from our homeplace. There were happy guts everywhere; in season and in step with life.

And there were serious conversation guts too. There’s so much work to be done by all of us to keep health flowering in a world being killed off by unhappy gut people whose main concern is money.

Steve brought some old ferments to trade for a book. They came with quite a story.

Maya, before giving her remarkable gut-heart-mind talk, catches up with David and Su, grandfolk of permaculture.

Hal was introduced to Su, just one of a myriad encounters that brought people together.

People gathered round the house as Patrick signed books and talked his passions – gut logic, Pandora and the creation stories our culture has all but buried.

Children gathered under the oak tree. They found their place before the talks began.

Our book table offered an assortment of publications written by Artist as Family members. Thanks Kat for minding the stall where money and non-money exchanges were made.

Despite the incredible weather to be outside we decided to welcome people into the house for an non amplified honouring of the book through deeply collected thoughts. Ant played a few sweet tunes as around 80 folk found a seat or a comfortable standing place.

Mara MC’d the proceedings. The gentle formality of such a relaxed event gave ritual regard to the purpose of why we’d gathered.

She welcomed Meg to speak who gave us considerable laughter (her very own gut-made serotonin and dopamine at work) and an impassioned insight into what we’d been eating – the origins and techniques of such food (which included delicious pickled spear thistle stems) are unobtainable in any supermarket.

Then Mara welcomed Nikki to speak,. Nikki had prepared an eloquent dissertation of the book, which Patrick will share later on his permapoesis blog.

The fermenting vessel Nikki used to illustrate her talk had been made especially by Petrus. The vessel was sculptured, broken and the shards put back together as a metaphor for Patrick’s putting back the fragments of the Pandora myth and the cosmology surrounding it so important to rethinking culture after the effects of misogyny and misogyny’s retaliating sister, misandry. Both hatreds neuter life and are in service only to more war making. Like Nikki’s talk, Petrus’ fermenting vessel becomes a gift back to Tree Elbow in exchange for the book. The vessel more than symbolising a return to sensible culture after the rupturing of industrial modernity that although masculine in form has harmed both women and men, and taken us away from an intimacy with a loved land and from each other. Thank you Petrus and Nikki! What a lovely ordering of thought and form from two giving elders.

Maya then spoke, with such force and insight that not a single photograph was taken. She held us in a homeplace where reclaiming life, refermenting it, taking in the medicine of the possibility of post-industrialism and orienteering our cultures again towards their permanent regeneration could be more than dreamt.

With Meg earlier speaking on the alive foods and drinks we wished to nourish our guests, Mara acknowledging country, the Dja Dja Wurrung elders upon whose land we were gathering, as well as our own elders before introducing everyone, Ant soulfully playing songs he has arranged using Patrick’s poems, and Nikki and Maya delivering their profound addresses concerning this new little book, it was the author’s time to speak.

After all the thank yous, and a brief talk on the imperatives of writing such a work right now, Patrick read Part 1, Vessel (a slow text poem) from re:)Fermenting culture. This work is the not-so-easy gateway into the book, into the underworld of it. It sets up a physical hurdle for the reader, which requires the time, personal resolve and quietude to engage. The book is divided into 3 parts – a poem, an essay and a recipe (the poetical, theoretical and practical) and we offer it here as an ebook to freely share (email us) or a hardcopy that can be purchased via this blog (see righthand side bar of this website). If you wish to read more about the book head to Patrick’s blog. And if you wish to get your local library to order it in they can do so through us here.

Thank you Brett for taking all the pics on the day. And thank you Nikki, Maya, Ant, Mara, Jeremy, Brett and Kat for helping out on the day. Thank you to all present and future readers of re:)Fermenting culture and for the goodly labours you each perform to keep the earth flowering, fruiting and producing more and more fermentable fibres on the loved ground you call your home.

The post-supermarket homefront (nearly a decade on)

Hello spring! What a flowering we’ve had this year! So much fruit set. Yippee!!
Some of our activities in the garden at this time of year include picking off the cabbage moth larvae to feed to the chooks (thanks Meg!), feeding weed tea to the onions (thanks Woody!), and cutting off the frost burnt leaves on the potatoes (thanks Patrick!).

All our produce ends up in the kitchen and much lands on the fermenting table, which is Meg’s shrine to our household’s health. We call this the Pandoran hub of the house, after Pandora, known since early Greece as the goddess of fermentation, hope and insight – who Patrick calls, in his latest book, the healing goddess of the underworld of our gut. The gut is where 90% of serotonin and 50% of dopamine is produced in our body. These are the happy chemicals essential for a good life. Give the body microbiome-killing industrial food and medicine and you have a significant problem, individually and culturally.

Here’s an example of Pandora’s goodly alchemistry performed by Meg. In this homemade apple cider vinegar made last autumn there are many beneficial herbs and weeds from the garden including: rosemary, coriander, dandelion, plantain, mallow, horseradish leaf, lemon thyme, calendula, hawthorn berries, rosehips, parsley and sheep sorrel. You can look up the benefits of each of these plants using that old thing, the Internet. Be sure to cross reference and go to peer reviewed papers if they exist. Otherwise trust your gut. She knows. Each plant contains vital minerals and nutrients, and the vinegar helps extract the minerals otherwise locked up. We use a little of this brew each time in salad dressings.

Meg’s raw milk cheeses are another form of wild fermented goodness. We don’t eat much animal protein, but adding this contraband local material into the mix of our life certainly adds a cow-kick punch to our week. Thank you gentle creatures of field and herb.

At this time of the year the cellar is becoming depleted, but there’s still something delicious to find on each journey into this other Pandoran underworld. Bottles such as our former SWAP, Marta’s Polish pears, or our dried plums, toms and citrus, or Meg’s raw wild fermented soft cheese balls preserved in olive oil with herbs.

So many of the processes and activities we carry out each day offer an array of learning moments, but play is equally as important.

If Woody wants to jump on the trampoline he does so, but fairly soon he’ll come over and say, “Can I have a job.” Sun drying herbs is probably not a labour that takes his fancy, so he’ll probably opt for the trampoline before lunchtime.

Speaking of which. Lunch is probably our favourite meal. A typical lunch? Patrick’s wild and slow fermented 100% spelt sourdough with sprouted lentils, Meg’s veggie spread (tahini, miso paste, olive oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic), her famous three-cornered garlic kraut, and her semi-hard raw milk, wild fermented cheese. Fit for any aspiring neopeasant. Yes, we know, this is all sounding so Portlandia. For a laugh we call it Daylesfordia, but the radicalism of how we live is not to be scoffed at. Just try us. We do all this well below the poverty line, and while our agency springs from two generations of privilege, the future for us is found in emulating the ecological intelligences of our peasant and indigenous ancestors. We make the bold gut claim that if everyone in the West lived with similar simple nourishment and low carbon lifeways we’d seriously mitigate the effects of climate change, obliterate pollution and species extinction and reduce many human health pathologies produced by unchecked modernity. Yes, it’s a big claim, and too big to go further into here, but we will happily chew your ear off, lock horns or swap knowledges with you if that’s your thing… Warning: trolls will be composted. Mmmm. Time for lunch.

This spring Patrick has built the outdoor kitchen in time for summer. Here he checks that the bread tins fit in the oven below.

Patrick has also just finished the greenhouse, with the help this year of SWAPs Connor, Marta and Jeremy. The suspended worm farm that sits under the bench catches all the drips and keeps the worms moist and happy. It’s really great having the worms so close to the kitchen. Scraps are either thrown out the window to the chooks or given to the worms. Gravity fed everything!

Water recycling has also required a lot of thinking this year, and as a result we are 100% water off-grid. All waste water is now directed into the garden at multiple points, gravity fed.

We continue our commitment to car-free living, although of late we’ve had to borrow a car here and there to go look for our gut-damaged teen Zeph and his best friend, trouble. Zeph’s rebellion has been to eat toxic corporatised food and drink. The inflammatory results have been startling, and extremely unsettling. Collecting wood on foot and on bikes, never over-harvesting but taking fire-prone buildups of fallen branches keeps us fit and healthy, and our carbon footprint very low. This wood cooks, dries, heats, bakes, boils, brews, roasts, toasts and generally keeps us warm and nurtured. We no longer need the appliances that do all those things. Year after year we live with less and less.

We daily clean out the wood stoves and sort the potash from the charcoal, using both useful products in the home and garden. The potash is returned to the perennial parts of the garden and the forest from where we pick fruits and mushrooms, and the char we crush and pee onto to activate before we use it in the annual beds. Unactivated charcoal can take up nitrogen out of the soil and therefore can negate plant growth. By activating it you get a slow release fertiliser.

We use sawdust from a local mill to sprinkle on our poo. The black hole (below right) is a bucket of charcoal for wee. In making humanure it is important to separate the urine from the faeces, otherwise it gets too nitrogeny and therefore stinky. Patrick made this dry composting toilet system which can either be used as a squat or conventional sit toilet, for less than $100. If we had to do it by the book it would have cost more like $10,000 rendering it impossible for us to make the change. The EPA approved systems are good, especially if you don’t understand the science of composting poo, but if you follow basic principles all you really need is a bucket, sawdust, compost bays and patience. We estimate we now save 20,000 lt of water a year by removing the old flush toilet. That’s 20,000 lt extra we can put on the garden and grow some decent food.

Building more humanure composting bays has been a priority with all the extra goodies going into our closed loop system. We have three humanure toilets now and plenty of visitors. Reclaiming old pallets and building bays into an existing wall makes this a straight forward and cost neutral operation.

The result: fertility of the highest order. We rate humanure as the best compost we’ve ever made.

Woody is wood obsessed. Every day he has a relationship with trees, timbers and various tools. Whittling,

chopping,

and playing.

This has been a brief snapshot of our lives this spring. A tremendously big warm thank you goes to Mara Ripani for the photos. A big congrats to Connor and Marta who are getting married in Feb. They met at Tree Elbow and fell in love.

A more detailed account of our lives and a manifesto of how we live can be read in Patrick’s forthcoming book, re:)Fermenting culture: a return to insight through gut logic. You are all most welcome to visit our garden at Tree Elbow and join us to warm this book into existence in a few weeks time. There will be tastings of our ferments, music and readings.

We are also now hosting regular house and garden tours. The last one for the year will take place Sunday Nov 19, 1.30 – 4.30pm. $30 per person. There are still a few places available. Contact us for more details.

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 hitching a ride with Ronnie’s sweet folks in an empty trailer that was predestined for the southern coastal city, and climbed 10 kms west to Autumn Farm to stay with Annie and Genevieve and their kids Oscar and Olive (AKA Jo). They cooked us a beautiful meal in their stunning radical homemakers’ kitchen.

The next day we were greeted by 45 enthusiastic Bega-ites who came to our foraging workshop and/or our book event at the wonderful Candelo Books. All the crazy summer traffic, physical fatigue and rain was rendered totally worth it by this enthusiatic mob.

The Princes Highway is a national road with many signs warning drivers of oncoming petrol stops, beach spots, drowsy driving, narrow bridges, overtaking lanes and wildlife. The highway provides, more or less, a safe lane for both northbound and southbound cars and trucks. But despite the daily use of this road by cyclists, almost nothing appears that aids our safety. This is what a typical lane looks like for a cyclist.

We’re supposed to stick between the dangerous loose gravelly bit and the far left white line (intersecting on Zero’s head in the photo). Now marry the above image with this one below and you’ll get a fairly accurate assessment of just how much work there is to do to create safe transit ways for non-polluters in Australia.

Respite from the terror of this highway was found once more when we stopped in to visit Dale and Jenni in Eden again.

These two lovelies put us up last time we rode through Eden. They cooked up a beautiful feast of their home-produced chicken and veggies,

and the next morning Dale offered to drop us 25 kms down the highway where he had to drive to work.

Despite all the generous and wonderful people on the South Coast we didn’t enjoy cycling down this highway on the first big trip. And this time has been little different with few opportunities to get onto quieter roads, so getting to the Victorian border signalled a kind of home coming, a kind of relief.

About four months ago, before we left on our tour, Patrick had contacted Bruce Pascoe to see whether we could visit him at Gipsy Point near Mallacoota. Bruce’s book Dark Emu is a remarkable work of Australian history written by an Aboriginal writer concerning the profound and little known agrarianism that existed in Australia pre-colonisation. His book opens the door to a completely alternative history. We spoke in his nursery,

where he is growing yam daisies (murnongs), which were once a big part of the Aboriginal economies of regard in south-temperate Australia pre 1788. He gave us some seed to plant out in April. Dr Beth Gott, an ethnobotanist from Monash University, claims that a murnong tuber has nearly 10 times the nutrient properties of a potato and was an important part of the health of Aboriginal people.