Hello pickled turnip and purslane lovers, introducing… a new Artist as Family music video to celebrate Meg on her 49th birthday, featuring Maya Green on fiddle.
Now for the recipe:
Add your cleaned turnips to your jar. We pickle ours whole, but feel free to slice yours first. They will taste the same, but will ferment faster if they are sliced. Pick your purslane and wash if needed. As purslane grows along the ground, it can collect soil. Break off the leaves and smaller stems. Keeping these on will turn your ferment into mush. We only ferment the larger stems. Ideally wait until the stems turn red in colour, but dark green is fine too. Add the stems into a second jar. We pickle the turnips and stems separately as they ferment at different rates. Keep the turnip leaves for cooking, and the purslane leaves and smaller stems for eating fresh.
To each jar add:
Pepper corns, mustard seeds, fresh dill or dill seeds, bay leaves, peeled garlic cloves, slices of fresh lemon or dried lemon. For the brine: 1 tablespoon of salt (non-iodised and without caking agent in it) per 2 cups of water. We use salt from Loch Iel (the Pink Lake) and rainwater.
Make sure all the solids in your jars remain under the liquid and that they stay that way for the duration of the fermenting process. You can keep the lid on your jar tightly, loosely or not at all. As the veggies begin to ferment they will release carbon dioxide and brine may spill from your jars, so it’s best to place each jar on a plate or bowl to catch the liquid. You may need to top up each jar if a lot spills out. The time your veggies take to ferment depends mainly on the temperature of your home. The hotter the environment, the faster the process. Fermenting is a relationship. Don’t be afraid to taste the brine with a spoon each day to witness the transformation, to embody it, and so the brine can be part of your development too. The brine will start out clear and will turn cloudy. After 10 days or so in a summer home, your veggies might be ready. Taste them. If they are too crunchy, let them ferment for a few days longer. Once you are happy with the flavour and crunchiness, put your jars somewhere cold, such as a fridge, cool cupboard or cellar, to slow the fermentation process right down.
We like to put our pickles out in a bowl and just munch them, or chop them up and add them to summer salads.
Milk kefir is one of our daily medicines. It is an ancient wild fermenting practice that is able to turn milk – whatever kind of mammalian milk you have on hand – into a delicious food-drink that is rich in diverse beneficial microbes that make our guts sing. Milk kefir grains are happiest fermenting at room temperature, which makes them a perfect energy descent medicine as they don’t need heating or refrigeration.
In this video, Meg takes us through the process of how to care for your milk kefir grains. She makes a delicious milk kefir drink, and talks through some other ways we use this wild ferment in our daily lives.
Hello spring! What a flowering we’ve had this year! So much fruit set. Yippee!!
Some of our activities in the garden at this time of year include picking off the cabbage moth larvae to feed to the chooks (thanks Meg!), feeding weed tea to the onions (thanks Woody!), and cutting off the frost burnt leaves on the potatoes (thanks Patrick!).
All our produce ends up in the kitchen and much lands on the fermenting table, which is Meg’s shrine to our household’s health. We call this the Pandoran hub of the house, after Pandora, known since early Greece as the goddess of fermentation, hope and insight – who Patrick calls, in his latest book, the healing goddess of the underworld of our gut. The gut is where 90% of serotonin and 50% of dopamine is produced in our body. These are the happy chemicals essential for a good life. Give the body microbiome-killing industrial food and medicine and you have a significant problem, individually and culturally.
Here’s an example of Pandora’s goodly alchemistry performed by Meg. In this homemade apple cider vinegar made last autumn there are many beneficial herbs and weeds from the garden including: rosemary, coriander, dandelion, plantain, mallow, horseradish leaf, lemon thyme, calendula, hawthorn berries, rosehips, parsley and sheep sorrel. You can look up the benefits of each of these plants using that old thing, the Internet. Be sure to cross reference and go to peer reviewed papers if they exist. Otherwise trust your gut. She knows. Each plant contains vital minerals and nutrients, and the vinegar helps extract the minerals otherwise locked up. We use a little of this brew each time in salad dressings.
Meg’s raw milk cheeses are another form of wild fermented goodness. We don’t eat much animal protein, but adding this contraband local material into the mix of our life certainly adds a cow-kick punch to our week. Thank you gentle creatures of field and herb.
At this time of the year the cellar is becoming depleted, but there’s still something delicious to find on each journey into this other Pandoran underworld. Bottles such as our former SWAP, Marta’s Polish pears, or our dried plums, toms and citrus, or Meg’s raw wild fermented soft cheese balls preserved in olive oil with herbs.
So many of the processes and activities we carry out each day offer an array of learning moments, but play is equally as important.
If Woody wants to jump on the trampoline he does so, but fairly soon he’ll come over and say, “Can I have a job.” Sun drying herbs is probably not a labour that takes his fancy, so he’ll probably opt for the trampoline before lunchtime.
Speaking of which. Lunch is probably our favourite meal. A typical lunch? Patrick’s wild and slow fermented 100% spelt sourdough with sprouted lentils, Meg’s veggie spread (tahini, miso paste, olive oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic), her famous three-cornered garlic kraut, and her semi-hard raw milk, wild fermented cheese. Fit for any aspiring neopeasant. Yes, we know, this is all sounding so Portlandia. For a laugh we call it Daylesfordia, but the radicalism of how we live is not to be scoffed at. Just try us. We do all this well below the poverty line, and while our agency springs from two generations of privilege, the future for us is found in emulating the ecological intelligences of our peasant and indigenous ancestors. We make the bold gut claim that if everyone in the West lived with similar simple nourishment and low carbon lifeways we’d seriously mitigate the effects of climate change, obliterate pollution and species extinction and reduce many human health pathologies produced by unchecked modernity. Yes, it’s a big claim, and too big to go further into here, but we will happily chew your ear off, lock horns or swap knowledges with you if that’s your thing… Warning: trolls will be composted. Mmmm. Time for lunch.
This spring Patrick has built the outdoor kitchen in time for summer. Here he checks that the bread tins fit in the oven below.
Patrick has also just finished the greenhouse, with the help this year of SWAPs Connor, Marta and Jeremy. The suspended worm farm that sits under the bench catches all the drips and keeps the worms moist and happy. It’s really great having the worms so close to the kitchen. Scraps are either thrown out the window to the chooks or given to the worms. Gravity fed everything!
Water recycling has also required a lot of thinking this year, and as a result we are 100% water off-grid. All waste water is now directed into the garden at multiple points, gravity fed.
We continue our commitment to car-free living, although of late we’ve had to borrow a car here and there to go look for our gut-damaged teen Zeph and his best friend, trouble. Zeph’s rebellion has been to eat toxic corporatised food and drink. The inflammatory results have been startling, and extremely unsettling. Collecting wood on foot and on bikes, never over-harvesting but taking fire-prone buildups of fallen branches keeps us fit and healthy, and our carbon footprint very low. This wood cooks, dries, heats, bakes, boils, brews, roasts, toasts and generally keeps us warm and nurtured. We no longer need the appliances that do all those things. Year after year we live with less and less.
We daily clean out the wood stoves and sort the potash from the charcoal, using both useful products in the home and garden. The potash is returned to the perennial parts of the garden and the forest from where we pick fruits and mushrooms, and the char we crush and pee onto to activate before we use it in the annual beds. Unactivated charcoal can take up nitrogen out of the soil and therefore can negate plant growth. By activating it you get a slow release fertiliser.
We use sawdust from a local mill to sprinkle on our poo. The black hole (below right) is a bucket of charcoal for wee. In making humanure it is important to separate the urine from the faeces, otherwise it gets too nitrogeny and therefore stinky. Patrick made this dry composting toilet system which can either be used as a squat or conventional sit toilet, for less than $100. If we had to do it by the book it would have cost more like $10,000 rendering it impossible for us to make the change. The EPA approved systems are good, especially if you don’t understand the science of composting poo, but if you follow basic principles all you really need is a bucket, sawdust, compost bays and patience. We estimate we now save 20,000 lt of water a year by removing the old flush toilet. That’s 20,000 lt extra we can put on the garden and grow some decent food.
Building more humanure composting bays has been a priority with all the extra goodies going into our closed loop system. We have three humanure toilets now and plenty of visitors. Reclaiming old pallets and building bays into an existing wall makes this a straight forward and cost neutral operation.
The result: fertility of the highest order. We rate humanure as the best compost we’ve ever made.
Woody is wood obsessed. Every day he has a relationship with trees, timbers and various tools. Whittling,
This has been a brief snapshot of our lives this spring. A tremendously big warm thank you goes to Mara Ripani for the photos. A big congrats to Connor and Marta who are getting married in Feb. They met at Tree Elbow and fell in love.
A more detailed account of our lives and a manifesto of how we live can be read in Patrick’s forthcoming book, re:)Fermenting culture: a return to insight through gut logic. You are all most welcome to visit our garden at Tree Elbow and join us to warm this book into existence in a few weeks time. There will be tastings of our ferments, music and readings.
We are also now hosting regular house and garden tours. The last one for the year will take place Sunday Nov 19, 1.30 – 4.30pm. $30 per person. There are still a few places available. Contact us for more details.
It’s been a busy 6 months of building, producing, gathering and crafting, so busy in fact that we haven’t had a moment to blog. Until today.
Teaching younger folk to build has been our focus over the past year, starting with James and Zeph building The Cumquat, then more recently, Connor, Jeremy and Marta helping with the north-facing greenhouse.
We’ve built a number of other buildings too, including the Yause (named after Jeremy Yau, who came to SWAP with us in February and has been here ever since).
Jeremy moved into the Yause after just 7 weeks of building.
We also built the Cookhouse, the name we gave our low-tech sauna.
We used local cypress timber and discarded sheep’s wool to line the inside of Zeph’s old cubby, and we found an old wood heater at the tip which we bought for $30 and restored with a lick of stove paint. Thanks Zeph!
It works a treat!
We also installed more water tanks for further veggie production (nearly everything we spend money on is intended to take us away from further requiring it),
To preserve our gifted old timber windows (thanks Vasko!), Connor painted them before the rains set in.
and we started work on the Smithy, where Jeremy and Patrick will be setting up a blacksmith and wood crafting workshop to teach others.
There have been many other smaller projects we have worked on this year, such as completing the cellar – building more storage for our preserves, ferments, booze and cheeses. We are so close to going fridge-less now! Just a cool cupboard to build and a fridge to offload.
Home production has also been extensive with many hands making light work. Buster, who rode her bicycle from Brisbane, came to SWAP with us and hung about with Woody, decking the trampoline with summer fruit to sun-preserve. Thanks Buster!
Our bees have had a remarkable first season, storing food for themselves and for us in the near completed anti-aviary.
We robbed them of a third of their summer production,
obtaining a whopping 15 kgs out of a total of 45 kgs of honey that they produced in just 6 months. Astounding! Thank you beautiful creatures.
The annual veggie production began to ramp up again too,
and not only did we learn more about bees from our friends at Milkwood Permaculture, we learnt a thing or two about intensive veggie production too. We have begun to double dig all our beds.
Home production of perennials has also increased this year with plants such as hops for brewing and for sleepytime tea,
and kiwi fruits, which tease Woody with their unripeness well into early winter.
We have been gathering other perennial crops in the garden too, such as acorns – harvesting them for pancake meal and beer making,
and gathering together for all sorts of events with kin and community. From community garden working bees and free workshops that we’ve organised,
to fermenting workshops, including Culture Club’s wonderful community pickling day,
mushroom and weed foraging workshops that we’ve led,
and Friday night local food gatherings, which we’ve hosted weekly at Tree Elbow.
We’ve had so many remarkable guests stay with us over the past 6 months. David Asher came from Canada to share his passion for wild fermented raw cheeses,
permaculture teacher, Penny Livingston-Stark, came and feasted with our community and shared her remarkable story alongside David Holmgren,
and of course our three long-term SWAPs, Connor and Marta (here stacking a fine compost on the nature strip),
and Jeremy (here working on a forge blower he’s making from discarded material), have all been stalwarts at Tree Elbow this year.
Long term resident Zero, a huge personality in a little dog suit, will turn 49 this winter, rendering him the most significant elder of Artist as (extended) Family,
and while Zeph has been extricating himself from Artist as Family collaborations, he still makes regular appearances (often with friend Owen) to Tree Elbow, bringing his zest for disruption, bravado and beautiful independence, and keeping us all on our toes. Onya Zeph!
The way we get around and retrieve resources, or go out to participate in the community is very much about our continued practice of a low carbon consciousness. Bikes are essential for this cultural and economic transition. We’ve been car-less now for seven years!
Riding and walking into yet another wet and cold season means we are once again hardy to the change of weather. While community friends and other loved ones fall sick around us, colds and flu will be a long time coming into our neo-peasant home.
Walked-for, dug, and directly-picked food, dirt on hands, active and accountable living and mobility, goodly sleep, and generally being outside all gather as the ingredients for a health-filled, resilient and low-carbon life. While this is not THE solution to the many varied problems of industrialisation, it is for us a genuine response to the predicament of our age.
We hope you have found some spirit here, spirit to aid your resolve as we find strength and inspiration in yours. For those interested in a deeper unpacking of our practice and of our cultural fermentations, Patrick has an essay just published in Garland magazine. If you have similar life hacks you would like to share with us or any other Qs related to how we live, please leave a comment or send us a message. (NB: Trolls will be composted.)
Over for now, much loving and flowing of gifts to you, and from and to the worlds of the world, Artist as Family
In July 2007 The Age newspaper published a letter of Patrick’s where he conjured up a little vista into what a fairer, more just society might look like. One that was beginning to repair the damages of an extractive, anti-ecological culture and hold accountable those who knowingly act against life to the detriment of the world’s communities. Malcolm was then environmental minister in the Howard government and we were in the thick of the ten-year drought.
Almost nine years later our household and community economies, based on relationships more than money, are slowly maturing. We have been practicing a low-waste, low-fuel, walked-for food economy with community and friends where gifts play a big part. “I’m just going to drop off the compost to Malcolm and his colleagues, my darling!” yells Meg, as she heads off with Woody.
We held a mushroom foraging and identification workshop a week ago, and offered two forms of payment. Cash or working bee. More than half opted for the latter. This is another Meg. She took the work in the garden option and weeded around the veggies.
And this is Angela, who helped her.
Angelica, our previous SWAP, returned and brought her typical joy, and new pruning skills direct from her urban farming course at CERES.
The biodynamic duo, Moe and Chris, worked on a bed overrun by rhyzome-cunning bent grass,
while the helpful, engineer-minded Pearson assisted Patrick in building the almond, quail and bee enclosure.
The morning’s productive working bee ended with Meg’s delicious potato and leek soup cooked on a fire outside with a loaf of Patrick’s fresh sourbread to dip in. The shared lunch gave over to the afternoon’s mushroom foraging walk, and despite the 8 days since rain we found several edible species, some dangerous tikes and a whole heap we put into the category of little brown mushroom.
This time of year this is what our dinner hauls look like:
The day after the mushroom walk, Meg put on her teaching cap and shared her passion for fermented drinks with co-conspirator Raia Faith Baster. This second Culture Club event at the Senior Citizens wing of the Daylesford town hall was free, which Meg organised with her HRN cap on. The disseminating of knowledge where all have access to skills and ideas is very much part of performing a fair society.
Our most recent SWAP is Letitia, who has been learning from us forest crafts, wholistic land management practices and other performances of regeneration and renewal. Notice the possum dreys above her and below.
While she was turning 2m high blackberry canes into useful groundcover with a simple tool and her stomping boots Letitia uncovered a ringtail drey in the hawthorn and blackberries. If we don’t do this work the CFA will set a fire to this forest next season and all the possums will be smoked out or killed. Here’s an example of indigenous and newcomer species non-dualism.
We shared lunch and a walk around a nearby sculpture garden with our friend Richard Tipping (whose sign work you can see) and his partner Chris Mansell.
We spent time at the community park in town helping create a new natural playscape area, under the guidance of our friend and low impact building designer, Annabel Mazzotti.
We attended a meeting at our local council to discuss the very real possibility of implementing wholistic and organic land management practices – perhaps a first in Australia.
We said farewell to Nina, who SWAPped with us during the Bruce Pascoe fest. Nina is heading back to France after two years of travelling and knowledge building and sharing in Australia. You will be missed, but you’ve hooked us up with Danny. Merci Nina et bonne chance!
We are about to begin a 6-week building apprenticeship with former SWAP James and Artist as Family’s Zephyr, so we’ve been busy collecting materials from building skip bins and the local tip.
The building that James and Zeph will construct, under Patrick’s tutelage, is called The cumquat, and at the end of their 6-week crash course they should be fairly confident to build their own home.
Stay tuned, Dear Reader. We look forward to showing you the development of The cumquat, which will become a dwelling for more non-monetised SWAPping, thus enabling more learning and sharing of the knowledges that are attempting to model a set of responses to the multifarious predicaments of our time.
VOTE 1 for relocalised, low-monetary, low-carbon, more-than-human transitions to fairer, more diverse and biodiverse societies!
or in Bill Mollison’s words:
The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.
It’s been a busy time for us up here in the hills to the north of the falsely-bartered city of Melbourne. We’ve had a string of wonderful young SWAPs come stay. This is Nina, far left, who was SWAPping with us when Bruce Pascoe and Lyn Harwood came to visit and speak at our town hall with David Holmgren and Su Dennett — we consider all four true elders of our respective communities, as well as our close friend, Pete O’Mara (far right and almost off screen), who dedicates so much time to the young people in our town.
The couple of days we had with Bruce and Lyn were wonderful and Nina took some sweet snaps as well as pitched in with whatever needed doing. Here Patrick and Bruce get ready to plant yam daisies in Daylesford’s community garden beside the library.
About 400 people came to the various different events we (working on behalf of HRN) organised. Our dear mate Ant, and Patrick have begun work on a film that will cover the incredible day of knowledge sharing and thinking, particularly the social warming aspect of the day and of course David Holmgren and Bruce Pascoe’s wisdom and research.
Our dear friend Su, who started HRN back in the day (with Maureen Corbett), gave thanks to the 40 plus people who helped shape the day.
While Patrick had the idea to get Bruce and David together in one room and call it Land Cultures, Meg brewed up Culture Club. This was the poster we hacked up for the first get-together:
About 30 people came for what was a wonderful evening of knowledge sharing and the imperatives of wild fermented foods addressing the chronic health issues of industrialised food and medicine and what this has done to our guts. The energy was established for ongoing monthly meets. This is the next meet:
Actually Meg has gone quite fermenting mad over the past several months. Anything that walks in or is carried through our door gets utterly cultured.
When Angelica came to SWAP for a week, she learned to make sauerkraut, and many other useful things. In return she brought ebullience and taught us the art of making ghee.
In our household everyone has numerous roles to play. Zeph is proving to be the best cracker spreader in the ‘hood, and even though he’s exploring other ‘cultural’ realities at the moment, he’s usually willing to lend a hand.
Processing acorns from our inherited tree this autumn and milling them for pancake and bread flour has given us renewed focus on making sure seasonal local gifts are not wasted. This involves everyone chipping in as these processes can be laborious if there’s not a collective effort.
James has also come to SWAP with us for a week. His interests have been particularly focussed on the politics of permaculture. In our words: how old conservative processes (akin to peasant activities) are part of the radical household and community economies of the present and future. Something AaF is passionate about. We showed James some of our activities that reperform an engagement with public-Indigenous land. Here, he and Woody harvest Coprinus comatus for dinner.
James, like Nina, has a developed eye behind a camera and documented many activities, learning the meaning of doing-saying — thought and action. He learned our mantra: Ecological culture can only be modelled biophysically, on a small scale, in relationship and with many neighbouring models/relationships all responding to the predicament of our time.
Fun is essential in this life-making. Constant. Loose. Stupid behaviour. All are critical in our household’s transition. We are seriously not well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society, and we want to sing that from the tree-tops, and the compost buckets.
We are well-adjusted, however, to our soil; it is simply humming with life.
And we’re well adjusted to the nearby forest. We’ve entered into a gift exchange relationship with it, stomping down blackberries so they become dynamic soil-building and soil-holding ground covers, no longer a dry cane fire threat, nor a dominating species.
When we lay down the 2m high canes and let in sunlight to the earth, the gods of the forest offer up gifts for our efforts. In this case parasol mushrooms. Yum!
A few simple hand tools is all we need to engage in a stewardship relationship with the forest.
One of the reasons we want to reduce the fuel load in the forest is because land management authorities deem it unsafe every few years, and set fire to it. This affects not only the global climate, but the local ring tail possums who build their dreys in the forest’s hawthorns and apple trees. The hawthorns and wild apples are considered weeds around here and have no ecological status, so they can be burnt and cut and poisoned. However, if we use the fallen wood of the forest to heat our home, press the blackberries down to a groundcover, and thus limit the need for burn-offs, then the humus and moisture levels build up in the forest lessening the chance of fire.
Designing more community gardens is part of our public work too. This simple little garden (stage1) is about to go ahead at the local child-care centre. And with not a penny spent.
Eating weeds is another example of gift exchange with our biological commons or locasphere. The below weed is wild radish, the plant Patrick has chosen to feature (and give status back to) in the next Pip magazineEat Your Weeds column.
Wild mushrooms are also a part of the gifts that return from the gods once a relationship is established.
Getting to know how the world’s more-than-human communities provide the opportunities for human life is essential learning, but how many kids are taught such a thing in school? Schools are factories for producing human-centricity.
Our boys know where their food and energy resources come from. They know their origins. But this knowledge is not valued in school. Zeph’s knowledge of bush craft, care and resilient living is ignored or shamed in his industrialised school environment. Go figure.
Woody will not go to school unless he decides to (like his brother did) when he becomes a teenager. Show us the boy at 7 and you’ll see the man. May this three-year-old always remain comfortable in a dress, just like his old man.
Woody and Zeph will leave home knowing how to turn rubbish from the tip into useful things, how to repair and service their means of mobility, how to build a house, how to capture and store energy, how to grow, preserve and ferment their food, and how to steward their local environment and help it spring forth more life.
Despite what they become, they’ll be prepared to adapt to whatever the future brings. We just wish that schools were aiding their contemporaries with real-life skills and knowledges, and valuing sustainable practices of life-making,
so more kids will grow into the kind of elders the world’s communities and environments really need right now. Elders not focussed on money and property, but on caring for the health of all the living, and keeping the gods nourished on our gifts. For our gods are our ancestors of regard. Those who lived before mass war and pollution, hierarchy and greed, who knew how to care for the earth.
Thanks Nina and James for your photos in this post. And thanks Dear Reader for checking in with us. We hope you have much autonomous and beneficial fungi popping up in your neck of the woods, be that in your local forests or in your wild urban kitchens.