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.

Household gift economies, Blue Mountains style

This jaunt, this adventure, this research trip, this AaF-for-president-national-tour, this blessed extreme year on bikes in this new era of extreme weather, collapsing economies and peaking crude oil supply is the best bloody thing we’ve ever done. Predicated on chance encounters, uncertain destinations, biophysical challenges, autonomous foods and unpredictable weathers we approach each day as it so generously comes.

After a week in Katoomba the weather turned fairly wet and cold. We’d earlier met a particularly sweet family in a local park and they messaged us to come over and stay with them to see the bad weather out.

“Yes, we’d love to but only if we could do some sort of exchange, like a garden design…”

Our two babies, Woody and Lily, were born on the very same day, only two hours apart. But we had more in common than this remarkable fact. Food, what we consume and where it comes from, was a significant topic of discussion and so was the subject of permaculture. We took it in turns to cook and we showed off again the gentle delight of daylily buds by tossing them through a pasta dish.

Thanks Lily, Guy and Kirsten! So great to have met you and spent a few days in your home. After leaving Katoomba our new destination was just a short ride away to the town of Leura, passing through beautiful country to get there.

It was in Leura we stayed with another family, old friends through poetry networks: Ruby, Kate, Pete and Felix.

Despite being old friends we were keen to continue the communitarian gift economy exchange, sharing the kitchen work,

the gardening work (which included summer pruning, tomato bed preparation and compost setting),

and, on our last night together, some gentle foraging to make a Blue Mountains salad.

After adding olive oil, lemon and salt we had a classic bitter bowl of goodness to finish the meal.

We said farewell to our sweet friends of the mountains on a cool sunny morning,

and legged it downhill at thrilling speed. Our destination was to be somewhere along a river near Richmond, and so inevitably we passed both the regeneration and rebuilding that was occurring after the recent bushfires.

We arrived at Yarramundi in the heat of the afternoon and hopped straight in to the cool waters where the Nepean and Grose Rivers empty in to the upper reaches of the Hawkesbury River,

where we remained until dusk and prepared dinner,

fished for mullet and bass and aired out our bedding under the river she-oaks.

Much love and gratitude to the beautiful Blue Mountains and the people we met and stayed with. If you’re in South Australia, our thoughts are with you. More Catastrophic fire weather there right now, moving across to our loved ones in Victoria. With love and pedalspeed, AaF.

Day by daylily: one week in Katoomba

Over the last week of camping in our hideaway location on the edge of the township of Katoomba, we left the bikes at camp and walked everywhere, observing the ancient landforms that brings people from all over the world to this special place.

During the week Meg turned 40, on a day that nearly paralleled that number in degrees Celsius. We hid out in a shady park butressed by a cool and stately old stone wall. Happy Birthday Meg!

Meg’s parents, Vivienne and Ross, came to visit to help celebrate this special occasion, and we did a number of touristy things due to their generosity. Thanks Bee and Ra!

Vivienne and Ross also took us out for dinner where we played Hepburn Heads, a version of Celebrity Heads only replacing celebrities for members of our community.

On most days throughout the week we bought food from the Blue Mountains Food Co Op, which is the oldest food co op in the country, and the best we’ve ever seen. Because we belong to our own food co op we received the same member discount as the locals. Thanks BMFCO! Of a morning we bought organic Aussie oats and some local juice and set up breakfast outside on the communal table.

But with all our walking we also came across non-commercial foods, ripe for the picking. The last hot spell helped ripen the first wild apples we’ve had on our trip.
They may be small for lack of nutrients, but we’re often amazed how delicious and free of disease wild apples are. This is probably because they are generally growing in diverse ecologies where pests can’t plague due to the number of variable competitors. Wild apples are excellent for making cider and cider vinegar, and the very easy to make vinegar is an essential alkalising tonic for both internal organs and the skin. It is a great general antidote to the very acidic western diet most of us eat. Every autumn we ferment enough to last the year and this special gift of the autonomous gods costs us nothing.

We collected many more blackberries that had overnight ripened because of the heat of the previous week.

And because of this rich hit of vitamin C we were well prepared for the cold wet weather that came in leaving us quite damp but nonetheless invigorated.

But the greatest revelation of the week was the inclusion of daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva) to our growing list of desirable edible hardy weeds that grow throughout temperate Australia. They are very easy to grow or forage for, and in some regions they’re known as ditch lilies because they’ll grow almost anywhere, including ditches.

Several weeks earlier at the Moss Vale Community Garden, permaculture teacher Jill Cochrane had sung the praises of daylilies as a source of food. So when we came across great swathes of them in Katoomba we were determined to find out for ourselves just how edible they were.

We hung out for some of the wet in the Katoomba library, researching the plant. From a compliment of websites, stitching together a myriad of culinary experiments, we found out that depending on the time of year almost the entire plant is edible:

Young leaves – spring to early summer, eaten raw in a salad.
Shoots – late winter to early spring, eaten raw in a salad or cooked as a vegetable.
Flowers – late spring to summer, dried for soups, remove pistil and stamens before use.
Flower buds (about to open) – late spring to summer, lightly sautéed.
Tubers – autumn to winter, sautéed, mashed or roasted. Similar to a sweet potato.

Because it is mid-summer and there are plenty of flower buds around we harvested these, and to our delight every good thing that has been written about them was confirmed.

They were delicate and sweet sautéed in a little olive oil and garlic. We can definitely recommend this plant for any perennial food garden, for their flavour, hardiness and beauty. 

We look forward to sharing more free food treats with you again shortly. We hope wherever you are you are you’re eating delicious free food that you’ve found growing right under your nose.