Blog

A selection of our writings from 2009 to the present. If you'd like to keep up to date with our latest posts, please subscribe below.

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

Ups and downs

From 34 degrees celsius in the shade at Colac Colac (note the bike rider’s stockings),

to an overnight low of 6 degrees at Paddys River Flats free camping ground, just shy of Tumbarumba,

it has been a short leg of ups and downs, but mainly ups.

We left Colac Colac refreshed and recharged ready for what we knew would be a few big days in the saddle, regardless of which route we took.

We wanted to go through the Snowy Mountains (Khancoban, Thredbo, Cooma etc), but we have Zero with us and (the long and the short of it is) dogs are only permited to pass through National Parks in climate changing cars. Say it like it is Zero!

So we headed north, crossing the Murray into New South Wales at Towong,

and climbed and climbed and strained and at times got off and pushed our heavy loads

right up into the clouds

so we could look out across to Tidbillaga, one of the many Indigenous names for the Snowy Mountains,

and like true ecological mammals, return some precious nutrients to the soil before tackling the afternoon’s ascent.

It was an extrutiating 64 kms to Paddys River Flats where the weather turned cold and wet and Woody experienced rain on a tent for the first time. Things got a little wet overnight so we packed up and cooked breakfast in the camp ground amenities,

before we realised Patrick’s bike had more issues, this time electrical. With the climb up such ascents as Clarkes Hill (742m above sea level) we’ve been relying on some electrical assistance. Now we’re in NSW the stretches between towns is greater and the chance to recharge the bikes reduced.

Out of the half dozen or so campers at Paddys River Flats was Graeme, a fully licensed electrician. We couldn’t believe our luck.

Graeme scrutinised the root cause of the problem while his partner Julie brought us all cups of tea. He ascertained that moisture had got into the controller, something not fixable in the bush, so he offered to take Patrick’s panniers into Tumbarumba when he went in to do some shopping and we set off to climb another 18 km into town and find a camp spot here,

hidden behind the melaleucas in the town’s park, nestled among the leaf litter

where we can fish for trout, use the municipal BBQs, toilets, power, playground, drinking water, wake with the birds, wait for a new controller to arrive, and

generally practice our particular form of creative frugality.