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Mobility and food (our first week home)

Now we are back home we find not all that much has changed. Just as it was on the road, our home-life is also all about mobility and food; how we move around and how we sustain ourselves.

After such a long time on the back of their parents’ bikes, the boys were keen to get their own forms of mobility cranking. Zeph made roadworthy one of our old tip bikes and Woody gave his hand-me-down first bike a thorough going over. Thanks Carly!

We continued to bike and walk as our main forms of mobility. Woody now walks a few kms each day.

We pedalled up to the community garden working bee (blogged here), to contribute to the community gift economy going on there.

We painted up some new signs to be put up at two of the growing number of food gardens in our small town.

We helped Peter install the signs,

and we began to organise some music events that will take place in the Albert St garden to simply celebrate life there.

We biked up to our local food co-op to buy what we couldn’t freely obtain and to support a more environmentally aware monetised economy.

We walked, bussed, trained and caught a tram to visit Woody’s great grandfather (aged 96) in the metropolis.

 We pushed our wheelbarrow over to Maria’s, our neighbour, to collect cockatoo-spoiled apples,

to feed to our girls.

We worked in our annual produce area planting some more food. This row: cayenne peppers as food-medicine for the winter.

We welcomed back Yael and Matt, Akira, Essie and Dante, who so wonderfully tended the house and garden while we were away and planted food for us to come home to. Thank you beautiful family!

We got busy in the kitchen making sauerkraut with cabbages that Matt and Yael had planted with the kids,

we revitalised our five year old sourdough starter and have been making bread daily,

we have made music each night before bed too,

and we have made our version of vegemite: miso paste, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic. Delish!

It is lovely to be home, and so far we haven’t got itchy pedals. After so many months of uncertainty, the comforts of home and community life have been both regenerative and restorative. We thank you, Dear Reader, for accompanying us on our journey in settling back into domestic life, and hope you too have both regeneration and rest cycling around in your neck of the woods.

The family leg (Willoughby to Moss Vale via Wilberforce)

The morning we packed up to leave Patrick’s sister’s home in the leafy northern burbs of Sydney,

the Sydney Morning Herald was awash with letters referring to a particular article.

The content of the article and its subsequent letters were not at all news to us, however seeing this content published in a major newspaper was. Australia has been smug about energy for decades; our odious car culture is built upon it. Power to the people without petroleum seemed like the right byline to head out on our bikes again, only we didn’t ride far before, for the second time in the year, we put Zero in a box and boarded a train.

Breaking laws has been a big part of our trip. As long as no one gets hurts or anything is damaged we think a law is open for interpretative experimentation. Zero would certainly be happier if he didn’t have to suffer the humiliation of being disappeared from view. Sorry Zero! But we’ll have to wait for Sydney’s cars to be out of petrol before we attempt to cycle out of this particular city.

Our train took us south over the Harbour Bridge, west towards the foothills of the Blue Mountains and then north to Windsor station. North you ask? Yes, briefly. We were asked to give a talk at Permaculture Sydney West and to stay with Danielle Wheeler, who is actively involved with PSW, and her family in Wilberforce.

We had stayed with Danielle and Mark, their son Patrick and pooch Rory on the way up about ten months earlier and it was a joy to visit them again. But we couldn’t linger, our Patrick’s mum’s birthday was approaching and we wanted to be in the Southern Highlands to celebrate it with her.

On the way out of Wilberforce we came across swathes of roadside balloon vine (Cardiospermum grandiflorum) and while there is much ethnobotanical information on its sister plant Cardiospermum halicacabum, which is also called balloon vine (so confusing), there are no uses or benefits listed online for C. grandiflorum. We think the young leaves could make a good cooked vegetable,

and the seeds could be used medicinally as is the case with C. halicacabum, but we need to do some more research. Perhaps our friend Diego Bonetto knows?

Back in Danielle’s garden another balloon-like-flower plant, the Cape gooseberry (Physalis peruvians), grows without care,

producing delicious fruits which we got to sample.

And further back on Palm Island (in August) we found native or wild gooseberry (Physalis angulata), also called (rather confusingly) balloon cherry and is related to, but not to be confused with, Cape gooseberry.

After a day’s ride we arrived in Luddenham and pitched our tents near the Showies (once called Carnies) at the show ground and cooked some grub.

The next morning we were keen to get an early start so we skipped on cooking porridge, packed up the tents and headed up the road to the service station to buy some juice to put on our oats, ginger, raisins and chia seed breakfast of champions.

As we slowly climbed to the cool Southern Highlands, autonomous stone fruits began to appear.

As did black nightshade (Solanum nigrum), which we rate as one of the most adaptable species in Australia following us all the way from cold Daylesford to Cape York and back again.

Its leaf and fruit shape seem to vary from soil to soil, region to region, but as far as we’re aware it’s the same species. We harvested the following plant on North Stradbroke Island in May. You can see the leaf here is finer and less hairy than in the colder climates.

Thirty kms north of Camden the tandem’s front tyre burst a hole and Patrick, Zeph and Zero came to a dramatic stop. We had absent-mindedly left our spare tyres in Sydney (under the cousin’s mulberry tree) and so we had to draw on our wits to get us out of this dilemma. We went foraging for old rubber material, found an old truck tyre, fashioned a piece to fit, repaired the tube, which had also burst, and hobbled on to Camden.

Thanks for the help and the generous discount Camden Cycles.

On the way to Picton we passed unintentionally planted fat hen or lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium album),

old wild rose hips (Rosa canina),

and new shoots of roadside wild fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), obviously thriving on all the Roundup its been getting.

We arrived in the town with the rain and observed all of civility’s industrial pollutants (mainly car detergents) being washed from the road into the little nameless creek that runs under the main drag,

before being snapped by the local press.

In almost 12 months on the road, living mostly outdoors, this was one of only a handful of days in which we got a soaking. We had stayed in Picton on the way up and camped on the edge of the botanical gardens where the friendly gardeners had encouraged us. This time we spoiled ourselves with a dry room at the George IV hotel. Again we had to smuggle Zero, this time through the window, put him on his bedding and leave early the next day without a trace of dog hair or scent.

It is about 150 kms from Wilberforce to Moss Vale where we were heading to visit Patrick’s parents. From Picton we needed to climb 60 kms or so to reach our destination. Along the way we discovered salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius) in flower and therefore too late to harvest as their roots become too woody to eat after buds appear.

But when we got to cooler Bowral we found some plants that were harvestable,

and we took them back to Patrick’s folks’ place where we cleaned and grated the roots and served up our delicious find.

Since our time in the Daintree, we had been carrying a small box of Daintree tea to bring back for Patrick’s mum. It was a somewhat rough and ready birthday gift having just survived the wreckage of life inside one of our panniers. But we found some used wrapping paper, Patrick got out his watercolours,

and we celebrated Nana Jones’ birthday with rich food and happy hearts.

Patrick’s brother’s family also live in Moss Vale and they had previously invited us to design and build them a chicken area. The arrangement that suited everyone was to be part gift economy, part family love, part money in the coffers. The bikes were overdue for a service and we booked them into Cycliste for the week we were to be in Mossy building. For any locals to this region, this was probably the best service we’ve had and we can highly recommend them. Thanks Marika and Stuart!

Before we began work Patrick mused on what makes happy chooks in order to get us all in the right frame of mind to begin work.

Ideally chooks are happiest and healthiest free-ranging but they also need protection from foxes and other creatures (pythons up north). We started out by marking the area we were to fence with kitchen string and flour,

and before going to the local hardware we first visited the local tip to see what we could recycle.

We found recycled wire, a small hutch that the Moss Vale Joneses could turn into a portable chook weeder, and a small homebuilt wheelbarrow for the cousins, Fred and Henry, and Woody to use while on site.

We also found a water tank we could install for the chicken’s water supply.

The only thing we had to buy new were posts, screws, nails and self tapping stirrups. No need for concrete! The rest of the material Patrick’s brother, Sam, had previously collected and stored near the site, awaiting our arrival.

We got to it. Zeph painting posts with old primer paint, Patrick doing the carpentry work, Meg documenting the process and bringing refreshments and Woody standing ready with his barrow to collect any off cuts.

We needed more wire so Uncle Sam and Zeph attacked the back fence and untangled some from various roots, shoots and leaves.

We built a gate, put flag stones under it (for fox proofing) and started work on the nesting boxes and coop.

We cut out privot from the garden and used branches as roosting limbs.

We stole some insulation from the roof in the main house,

and lined the walls, which will aid in extending the laying season.

Below where the chickens will roost is a slatted floor which enables easy scraping out of precious poo. A ramp helps the chooks up, especially young chicks who need the extra assistance. We built a small wall to come down in front of the roosting perches to block wind, although this opening is facing east and gets the least amount of weather. Making this area dark is appealing for laying hens but will also work to deter any egg thieving crows, who tend to avoid small dark areas. Uncle Sam still has to put on spouting and hook up the roof catchment to the water tank.

Outside the coop the nesting boxes can be accessed for quick egg retrieval. Above these boxes a ‘floppy top’ (chicken wire that flops about on top of a fence) has been installed to put off foxes jumping over it.

We have had such a lovely stay with family. Patrick’s parents (Nana and Papa) and Uncle Sam and Aunty Jacqui and Freddy and Henry have all spoiled us with good food and company for a week. Thank you all so very much! We love you all to pieces.
Tomorrow we once again board our bikes and head to Kiama to stay with the Milkwood Permaculture crew who have organised for us to give a free talk about our adventuring this coming Tuesday, November 18. If you live nearby, please come along at 6pm to the Little Blowhole Café (4 Tingira Crescent Kiama) to say g’day.
Until next time, ride safe and may we all have clear skies and tailwinds.
AaF xx

From extractive to generative lifeways: Tweed Heads to Stradbroke Island

Seven – Artist as (extended) Family – split into five after Meg’s parents departed Tweed Heads and we, the remaining, took to the border.

We rode a mere 10 kms into Queensland to the Gold Coast suburb of Tugun, where we stayed with the former sustainability officer from our hometown, and her man.

Meet Jill and Trent, soon to become parents, and their dog-kin Hippo. Jill was very much part of the success of getting our community food network up and running. She played a pivotal role as an insider becalming the council and encouraging them to work with us when we took over two council sites for the purposes of community food production.

You may well be asking how are we going to segue from community food production to the schmaltzy imperatives of Surfers Paradise? Well, we’re not even going to try, although we will say Jupiter’s Casino hasn’t dated a day. Oh boy, what a cultural wasteland! But we can see, or rather feel, why Surfers became such a destination of leisure. The swim was wondrous.

We have to confess we had a little fear coming into Queensland, especially concerning state politics and the police, some likening today with the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era. The guy from the Tugun bike shop added to our fears when he told us Queensland drivers don’t see or care about bikes. Needless to say we made ourselves as bright as possible.

We’ve been documenting roadside memorials as we travel and are constantly amazed at the regularity of them on Australian roads. This one was by far the most extensive we’ve come across and we contemplated the young lives lost and the taboo subject of car violence.

We later came across our first cyclist memorial, and were starting to think that maybe the guy in the bike shop was right and that this state isn’t such a good idea for a family on bikes.

However, after arriving on dusk in the little town of Pimpama, it felt extraordinarily safe to openly pitch our tents and cook dinner in the local park. This was just intuition, but one we nonetheless trusted. All was well in the world on that night and, as the saying goes, nothing beats fear like knowledge.

Since arriving in Queensland people have been extremely friendly and many more people have tooted us encouragingly with our Lock the Gate sign on the back of Patrick’s bike. We guess the reality of the fracking industry is more concrete here and people are therefore more worked up about it. In any case, after just a few days we found ourselves acclimatising to this sunny state.

Sadly, Pimpama was to be where we said goodbye to Brett. We so loved travelling with this delightful international-aid-nurse-poet-man. We will miss him dearly and all that he brings to such an expedition. Thanks Brett, we love you heaps!

Because Brisbane is a large centre and we assumed therefore more difficult a place to free camp we surfed Warm Showers and found Chris on the southern outskirts of the city. What a delight! Chris got off work early (a truck driver by profession) and did a full workout on our bikes (a cyclist by passion).

He cooked us a beautiful meal and we stayed the night in his awesome caravan, our first for the adventure. Thanks Chris!

Our ride into Brisbane city was intense. Bike paths appeared here and there and certainly made it easier, but the immensity of industrialised culture bore down on us little ecological beings with simple ecological needs.

Once in the city we bee-lined to a little book and music venue where Tim and Ahliya, who we met back in Uki, were playing that evening.

It was a special gig and we got to meet a small posse of Brisbane folk all doing great things. Meet another Tim, who works both as a water specialist for Brisbane City Council and as a permaculture consultant for his own business.

We also found Tim through Warm Showers, saw his collective interests on his profile (permaculture et al) and contacted him enthusiastically. We had three lovely days staying with Tim. He took us to the Northey Street City Farm on a day that coincided with the weekly market. Tim gave us a tour of the twenty-year-old site, which included a market garden, private garden plots, a food forest and an example of urban mirco-forestry. Tim showed us Soursop (Annona muricata), which is indigenous to Central America and a relative of the fruits cherimoya and pawpaw.

The market had an excellent range of stores from food to massage to textiles. We bought Woody a pair of soft leather shoes from this happy lady, who makes all her hats and footwear herself, based on traditional designs.

While we were at Tim’s, Artist as Family held a chicken killing workshop for a small group of budding locavores. There are many different ways to kill and dress a chook,

and we demonstrated our version in Tim’s backyard permaculture garden. For those interested in the discourse of butchering an animal, Patrick’s essay on accountable killing can be read on his blog.

While we were in Brisbane, with the help of the locals, we were able to finish our support video for the activists, local community and Jonathan Moylan, who are all bravely and tirelessly protecting the Leard State Forest from the imperatives of extractors.

Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) was calling us and after farewelling our wondrous new friends in Brisbane we hightailed it to Cleveland to catch a barge across to the island, joined by Ko, another cycling-permie-ecologist working his good intellectual toolkit towards systemic change.

The afternoon got away and by the time we arrived on Minjerribah it was dark. We thought we’d find a park and bunker down for the night, but Ko called a work colleague, Shelley, who with great cheer invited us to stay in her family’s Dunwich home. Shelley, with her daughter Milla, shared a hearty porridge with us and passed on some local knowledges.

Shelley told us that the extractive sand mining industry on the island was being challenged by many in the community who were attempting to transition the local economy to regenerative industries such as Indigenous education programmes for Brisbane school students and ecological tourism on the island.

Minjerribah is the second largest sand island in the world. But we didn’t come to make homage to small-minded men and their moneying ways:

We originally came because of Oodgeroo Noonuccal, the Indigenous poet and activist who was born on the island in 1920, and who became the first Indigenous poet to be published in Australia.

It is her spirit that we have immediately found here on this island, and feasting on midjim berries (Austromyrtus dulcis) has given form to this spirit.

Woody is becoming our most committed forager.

We think we’ll get truly swallowed by this place.

The lessons of salt (for an inlander family)

Crossing the Hawkesbury at Wisemans Ferry signalled our first real taste of salt water. To mark this ecological shift Zeph got stung by a jelly fish while swimming at Wisemans before we jumped on the friendly ferry. The kind lady at the ferry kiosk gave us some vinegar to calm the stinging as we couldn’t find any plantain and none of us had any wee on offer.