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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

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.

Preparing the ground for more flowering

It’s been a busy month since birthing The Cumquat and Land Cultures. There has been much late winter, early spring labouring under an occasional sun.

With another family we planted out chestnuts and walnuts on common land for the next generations.

Each of us contributing in our own way.

We planted trees, and we grafted medlar scions onto hawthorns.

We attempted this several years ago in the little forest near home with no success.

With a little more understanding we are trying again, and are willing the sap to flow into these fruiting branches to make more fruit possible.

With food forest work the natural order of things to follow is bee work. The boys have been making new housing for native bees.

Now we’re awaiting the warmer weather for the occupation.

Community gardening has been an ongoing priority for several years now. This winter we hosted two pruning workshops with Ian Clarke, a knowledgeable tree elder.

The pruned cuttings were cycled home and sat in the snow,

before being made into biochar, to feed back the flowering earth.

Each day the boys are involved in what Gertrude Stein once called the processes of circularity.

It has been a great relief for Zeph to be outside the strictures and inflexibilities of institutional life. Removing fences at a community garden working bee is not just a metaphor.

He has begun work on a critical-creative research project of his choice — The history of street art. For two hours every day he reads, writes and explores this world. And we’ve been on excursions to help better understand this world.

For country kids the city offers colour and excitement, as well as an understanding of the context for how urbanisation makes ill the world’s worlds. Such illness, such an interruption to life, is the very medium for graffiti writers and street artists who are not well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

On another day the boys take old tip-discarded timber and build a new bridge over one of the swales in the garden. Zeph taught his younger brother to use tools and calibrate his eyes and arms to the task of making the home garden more functional and productive.

Zeph has moved into the Cumquat. Imagine being 14 years old and living in the little home you co-built! Each morning between 7-9am he works on his street art research project and during the day he heads out to work with various skilled friends in our community. On organic and permaculture farms, at light earth building sites, stone retaining wall constructions, selling local produce at a market stall, and learning traditional restoration work on an old church have all been part of his experience over the past two weeks since he left school. 

And we’ve been sharing our skills too. Here Meg teaches the art of fermenting grains: sourdough bread and rejuvelac making.

And for the first time we have been eating our own oranges throughout the winter. Drying the peel to grind up and use to flavour fruit bread or using them as fire lighters to start our wood oven.

Most of the world’s worlds are flowering places, and these places that flower nurture and keep well the communities of the living. That this understanding is absent from the teaching that occurs in schools is why our culture is involved in permanent forms of destruction. To be involved in the sacred realm of buds and bees, seasons and cycles is what we want to pass on to our kids. And to further grow our understanding of what keeps life flowering, fruiting and making more life possible.

Building the Cumquat: an initiation and apprenticeship into life

About three months ago a handsome young strapper from Melbourne dropped out of his day-and-into-the-night job and began a personal pilgrimage. His first week on the road landed him at our home (after coming along to our talk at Melbourne Free University), and he very quickly became part of the family.
In this first week, conversations with James about communal living, the politics of permaculture, access to land, agency and privilege kept cycling around the pragmatic day-to-day tasks of our homelife. One conversation led to another and quite suddenly we were talking about the possibility of building another small dwelling for more SWAPs like James to come and live, labour and learn. We soon began collecting materials from the local tip and skip bins. 
A significant bulk of the material we collected on bicycle.

We hadn’t developed a design at this stage, but the seed for a building apprenticeship was planted. Not only did we want more non-monetary living opportunities for SWAPs, we wanted to empower others by learning the art of shelter making. We were about to advertise the position for a non-monetary, non-institutional apprenticeship when two things occurred: James let us know that he was keen to be an apprentice, and Zephyr was crumpling at school, and his self-esteem was plummeting. This was a wonderful opportunity and we all seized the day. We drew up a plan and brought everyone together to start working on our tiny house that Meg called The Cumquat.

Before we began, we bought Zeph a little something. As parents we thought it important his first porn came from us. He jumped right in.

The book is a great survey of small dwellings from across the world, and Zeph was truly inspired. We bought the lads (James 28, Zephyr 14) a tool bag each and got to work, starting with the stumps and subfloor.