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.

Neopeasants in China with Sunshine Yang

Hello dear Subscribers,

We have had the pleasure of hosting Sunshine Yang at Tree Elbow over the past few weeks, and towards the end of her stay Patrick and Sunshine sat down and had a yarn about the Chinese back-to-the-land movement and more besides. We hope you enjoy this glimpse into Sunshine’s world.

Here is the audio only version,

 

and here is the vision version.

In the conversation Patrick and Sunshine mention this Sandor Katz’s People’s Republic of Fermentation episode, which we all watched together this week. We highly recommend the series. Sandor has been one of AaF’s heroes for many years.

Sunshine is currently travelling the world participating as a volunteer in the renewal of peasant lifeways and back-to-the-land communities in other countries. She will be heading to West Africa, Cuba, South America and then southeast Asia, so if you know of like communities in those places or would just like to reach out to Sunshine, please get in touch with her.

We have so enjoyed living with your brightness and spark, Sunshine. Thank you for what you brought to the School of Applied Neopeasantry here in Djaara Mother Country.

We’d love to hear from you, Dear Listener. What has been stirred in you by this conversation?

Subsistence permaculture’s feral abundance (the shootin’-fishin’, catch ‘n cook post)

Listen to the audio version (14 mins):

 

Neopeasantry is our way of describing permaculture subsistence, a reaching into a glorious poverty – an abundant, anarchical economy that enables rich culture to spring forth; an earth-first, bankers last economy-culture. That’s neopeasantry. Not capitalism, not communism, more akin to a fair-share distributism, only not a theory but lived.

Today’s post specifically focuses on the abundance that is feral carp and rabbit, here in Djaara Mother Country. You can switch these two species for any weedy or ferally plant, mushroom or animal that is abundant in your region. While the information is specific, the spirit of incorporating unwanted abundance (abundance that capitalism is blind to), can be translated across endless species, riches and relationships, that is if we change our attitudes to things we’ve been told aren’t very good. Here, we intend to explain our techniques of procurement and processing, and share a recipe or two, including Magpie Meg’s famous carp mousse (or feral fish paste).

In this post we will cover how we come by this food, honour it and every part, be the biological controls of these tenacious critters, and generally participate in the flow of gifts that is life inside the thrum and wild grace of Mother Country.

Mother Country herself – the giving-taking earth who enables so much life to be made and unmade – is a sophisticated ecologist. Not an ideological one who sits smugly in the neoliberal academy. Her wisdom goes beyond correct and incorrect species and industry imperatives, and although she is perennially wounded and polluted by the narcissism of a now globalised kidult economic force, this Mother is more interested in those who are ecological participants, those who see her, those who listen, and those who sing divine gratitude into her ground for everything she gives. This is when she ceases to be dead matter, ever ready to be exploited, and instead becomes the Mother of all things.

There is no fear nor favour, no moralising goddess beyond the little walled city of neoliberal materialism, Mother Country is endlessly more vast than this tragic reduction of life. While ferocious and terrifying at times, she doesn’t wreak skygod fear and war-like terror into souls that ignore or exploit her. The mining industry carries on apace unharmed by her, is materially enriched by her, but miners die in their souls independent of her will. It is their souls who become forever unsettled ghosts in Country. Her consciousness extends beyond a childish right and wrong story. She deserves no cult, no pagan worshipping, no church built. She is already church. If she requires anything from us it is just a returned animist culturering, to be in sync with her and thus be a people in participation, wide-eyed appreciators, embodied in her patterns and gifts, which she gives in exchange for language, culture, food, medicine, fuel and magic.

Ferals are some of these gifts. The way we honour all her gifts is directly related to the gratitude we feel for Mother Country, which in turn informs the culture and rituals we perform as community. There is no appropriation here, the culturing is direct, felt, inspired, microbial. It is an exchange of presence.

Our economy as subsistence permaculturists or neopeasants is not based on scarcity. We don’t have anxiety about not having enough money like we once did, although we are still dependent on the monetary economy for about 20% of our needs. This is mainly for foods and resources we cannot grow, husband, witch, procure, wild harvest, or hunt ourselves. As many of you already know, we do not call this self-sufficiency but rather ‘community sufficiency’ – a term we’ve been advancing for a decade now to give power to the relationships that help us transition from narcissism to accountability, from wage-slave consumerism to radical homemaking, from soul-dead materialism to singers in the church of Mother Country. Relationships in this new/old economy are key to the unshackling from the banker’s realm. Trust, acceptance, skills and resilience are our focus.

If we keep developing language to describe our actions as we deepen them, then we can perform new/old forms of economy and culture making. For the language we use either incarcerates or liberates us. If we talk about economy as one thing – a thing in which the bankers alone puppeteer – then we are already ensnared. But step-by-step, season by season, relationship by relationship, word by word we can transform our worlds of the world into economic cultures that are dynamic, giving, in-service-to and receiving. We do not have to be anybody’s slave, and we don’t have to rely on unseen slaves from far away to augment our economic and cultural reality. Believing that we must conform to the universal wanking bankers is swallowing the bourgeois propaganda we’ve been force fed since birth.

We say, Enough! to that. Let’s grow up!

No more Taylor Swift narcissism or gratuitous alcoholic romps that never did fill the great hole in our souls that never needed filling. Rather, here’s the uncle figure at the end of the street who teaches the teenager his drumming, the grandmother who hands down her Polish pickle recipe, the brother who demonstrates his method for field gutting rabbits, the neighbour who shows the child the art of catching carp with compost worms, the story telling adventures of elders. Expensive, bourgeois workshops are not necessary, going into debt to buy land to farm is not required, tooling up can be done in a sleeves-rolled-up spirit of salvaging and repairing. An open-heart, a passion for not being enslaved, and making space to learn and share new skills, is liberty.

Rabbit

Big thanks to Jordan Osmond for the next two pics.

Some of the loveliest moments Patrick has experienced as a dad these past years, is when he’s been out hunting with Blackwood. As day recedes into night, the nocturnal world transforms their psyches in a myriad of ways. Father and son have lain on their backs beholding the stars, waiting for rabbits to return to the fields from their burrows, after gunshots had spooked them. A few rabbits before dusk are always a gift,

but the underworlding of night brings many more treasures. Any opportunity for Patrick to pass on what he’s learnt is the action of the gift in flow. In this picture Patrick demonstrates the field gut, which is the removal of the intestines not long after shooting to save the meat from spoiling.

The rabbits, with pelts still on, go into the fridge overnight, making skinning easier the next day.

It’s not entirely true rabbit meat is devoid of goodly fats and therefore of little nutritional value. The older the rabbit, the more pockets of fat it will have stored. Countless blessings rabbits! We honour and praise you as appropriate food. No industrial inputs grew you up.

In such honouring, all parts have meaning: The intestines left in the field for scavenger animals and soil communities to process, the heart, liver and kidneys used to make pâté, the bodies wrapped and frozen for winter roasts and stews, and the skins stretched and salted,

then sun dried,

to be later tanned and turned into useful textiles.

Other ferals, such as European wasps, help clean off the excess meat from the pelts making the scraping process later on, less work. While we are not engaged in colonially-constructed perverse incentives, meaning that we don’t intentionally help to grow these ecologically domineering, albeit undervalued species, we also don’t hate on them, nor any other more-than-human ferals who have settled as feral kin in Djaara Mother Country. We also eat European wasps.

Blackwood and Patrick went wood collecting yesterday and were set upon by angry wasps for the inconceivable crime of splitting logs too close to their nest. Blackwood received a sting on his leg and Patrick had wasps attempting to sting his neck but fortunately they couldn’t penetrate his beard.

In the past week, Blackwood took the life of a rabbit. His first. He stretched the pelt using a frame on a stand we found on the metal pile at the local tip.

We people, our species, can both love and kill animals. The two expressions are not mutually exclusive. Supermarkets have fed us the hubris and estrangement that they are. On the day after his first rabbit kill, Blackwood accompanied his mum to a neighbour’s home to put away their chooks and pet rabbits. He cuddled so much love into those dopey rabbits. That same night we watched Watership Down for our weekly movie night, and a few days later Blackwood was out again on a hunt with his dad. We, of our species, can hold many paradoxes, stories, ways of relating in the world, and this is a beautiful craft.

After stretching his first rabbit pelt, Blackwood then followed his mum’s recipe to convert the raw wild rabbit meat into jerky – a light, preserved and portable food to take on walking or cycling adventures – a food which can easily be rehydrated in the billy.

Meg’s rabbit jerky recipe: Cut the lean meat into thin slices and place in a bowl. Add spices such as cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cumin, sumac and minced garlic. Splosh in a whole lot of tamari and mix it all together. Cover with a plate and place somewhere cool for 12 – 24 hours. A fridge or cellar is fine. Then place the strips on racks and dehydrate until the meat is fully dry. A low oven (50 degrees C) or dehydrator will do the trick. When dry, place the jerky pieces in a jar, label and store.

Carp

Between the storing of wood and preserving of summer’s abundance in the cellar, we have also found time to go fishing. Here is Patrick’s simple set up for catching carp with compost worms and a hand line. Notice, in the image below, the line between the two stakes is being held down by the weight of leaves still attached to a very light branch. When these leaves rise up it indicates a fish is on, or at least taking the bait.

Carp is often devalued in Australia. If carp isn’t put onto ice packs in an esky or cooked on coals straight away it releases histamines throughout the body which gives it an unappealing flavour. Dealing with this is the first hurdle for enjoying this bountiful critter.

The second is the cooking process. Carp, like barracuda, has many small ‘y’ bones that make it, again, unappealing to eat. So we have developed a strategy to process every part, including the scales, head, tail and bones, only excluding the guts. First up, we cut the fish into chunks, add tallow (or any goodly cooking fat; not harmful vegetable cooking oils which we examined in a recent post), garlic and onion, and bake for an hour in a warm to hot oven,

then we put the parts into a pressure cooker, add a few cups of water, and put on the stove for a number of hours, intermittently checking the water level

Over this time, all of the parts of the fish and alliums melt, and Meg then weaves her magic…

Meg’s carp mousse recipe: Place the pressure cooked fish and allium mix in a food processor and add herbs such as parsley or oregano (fresh is best, but dried is good too), then salt and pepper. Sometimes Meg adds some olive oil if the mix is a bit dry. Process until it forms a cake batter consistency. Best spread on bread or crackers, but also yummy straight from a spoon. Store in a jar in the fridge, or freeze for when abundance wanes.

~

So many skills of economic resilience inform others. When we learn to make chicken liver pâté, we know how to make bunny liver pâté. When we know how to make goat bone broth, we know how to make bunny bone broth. When we know how to make chick pea hummus, we are well on the way to making carp mousse.

What undervalued riches of life do you value, Dear Reader? How are they part of your transition away from economic incarceration? We need not pay for much, but we need skills and knowledges to live this way. What are those skills you value so highly? We’d love you to share your alternative economic lifeways with us, even if you’re only just beginning down this magical, defiant and liberating path.

With autumnal glow,
Artist as Family

We are here together (Assange, freedom and the longest night)

This winter solstice we have been communing with mother country, father fire and community kin. Writing songs and singing in and to the forest, sharing food and story.

All the while Julian Assange is in a maximum security prison outside London, facing extradition to the US for publishing factual documents that expose the sickness and immorality of the Industrial Military Complex and the US empire more specifically.

Assange and the Wikileaks community are just a handful of people who have sent shock waves through that empire. Corrupt US war pundits want revenge. That’s how powerful revealing truth is. While Julian is being punished for doing what a journalist should be doing, can we imagine how things would change if more of us rose up and called for scientific transparency, the return of debate and healthy public discourse on all subjects, the end of lobbying in our political systems, and the deconstruction of the militarised and corporatised states?

This is our contribution to that call.

You can listen to the audio-only version below, and you can read the lyrics here.

Every morning we start the day with a courage ritual. We two adults plunge into icy water and remain in it for 5 minutes. It is also an acceptance meditation. We get out feeling calm and powerful. There are so many mental and bodily gifts received by doing this plunge each day, but the most important one right now is the courage we grow from doing it. We’d love to hear from you what you do to develop your courage. What rituals or methods do you practice? In the coming years we’re all going to need a lot more love, resilience, pragmatism, connectedness, groundedness and courage. How are you emboldening, caring for, and preparing yourself/selves to face what is coming?

Happy solstice, dear friends, summer or winter solstice depending on your dwelling place. May we greet the coming of the light or the dark, without turning our backs on the other.

Sending love from our hearth to yours,
Magpie, Blue Wren, Blackwood and Zero

A regrarian meets a neopeasant (with Darren Ó Dochartaigh)

Regrarian Darren Ó Dochartaigh (AKA Darren Doherty) met Patrick for a yarn at the Doherty family café in oldtimer Djaara country a few weeks back. What unfolds in this meeting is a complex and joyous discourse that spans biology, ideology and politics, and a slow building analysis of how white institutional paternalism and shareholder science have come together to erode personal responsibility and play false gods with ungovernable biomes.

Darren’s critique of scientific hubris is important for anyone wishing to understand the current and interrelated health and ecological crises, which have in large part been augmented by industrial food, medicine and energy productions and consumption.

Darren and Patrick’s conversation highlights the importance of doing-saying-thinking so chronically missing from anthropocentric academies. The importance of feedback loops is something David Holmgren and Darren have been arguing for over decades and is what makes these farmer-thinkers so valuable at this time of depletion, over consumption and stubborn intransigence to the earth’s actual capacity.

We welcome your comments and respectful debate relating to this provocative yarn.

Each episode in this series costs a minimum of $250 to produce so your support of our work enables us to keep having these conversations that are disallowed in mainstream media and in the academies. We are so grateful to those who have supported our work thus far, in many different ways. Thank you to Miles once again for shooting this conversation. The north facing window and the fast moving clouds made it quite a challenge with the light.

If you are new to Artist as Family’s School of Applied Neopeasantry please consider subscribing or supporting us.

We’re taking a short break from publishing to move back into Tree Elbow after a beautiful 9 month gestation of transient living. We are so looking forward to returning home. We look forward to seeing you back here shortly.

With love from our family to yours,

Meg, Patrick, Blackwood & Zero

Replacing growth with belonging economies

Last year we were invited to contribute a chapter to the forthcoming book, Food for Degrowth: Perspectives and Practices, to be published by Routledge later this year. Although, let’s not count on anything like that occurring.

We called our chapter, ‘Replacing growth with belonging economies: a neopeasant response’. We completed it in November.

Due to the times we’re living we offer it here as a film. It’s our most significant collaborative writing project since our book, The Art of Free Travel. (If you’re a subscriber and reading this in your inbox, you won’t see the below video, so here’s a link to it).


Replacing growth with belonging economies 
 
Lived, written and spoken by Patrick Jones and Meg Ulman
 
Text editing by Anitra Nelson and Ferne Edwards
Sound by Patrick Jones and Meg Ulman (assisted by Jordan Osmond)
Video editing and seven drawings by Patrick Jones (the second, third and fourth are in collaboration with David Holmgren)
Photographs and footage by Artist as Family, David Jablonka, Nina Sahraoui, Mara Ripani, Michelle Dunn, Thomas Dorleans, Michal Krawczyk, Giulia Lepori, Nicholas Walton-Healey, Ponch Hawkes, Gab Connole, Zac Imhoof, Anthony Petrucci, Jordan Osmond, Jason Workman, Ian Robertson and David Holmgren
Soundtrack: A place of simple feeding – a poem-recipe by Patrick Jones, arranged and performed by Anthony Petrucci
Gift Ecology Films
Shared under a creative commons license/non-commercial
an Artist as Family home production
Please let us know about your own transition from hypertechnocivility

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.