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.

Hulled up in Darwin – thrift, theft and fish in the top end

When we walked through the gates of the Dinah Beach Cruising Yacht Association (DBCYA), we soon arrived at this little encampment,

and met Ray and his mate Ben. Ray is the brother of a friend back home in Djaara Country, and he kindly invited us to stay on his boat, which is ‘on the hard’.

Named after his sister who died from breast cancer, Crissy Anne is Ray’s steel hull boat, which he is working on in preparation to sail around the world next year. After we arrived, he invited us to join his local sailing cohort at the bar at DBCYA ,

where we spoke to many of the folk there of our desire to crew a boat over the drink to Timor Leste or Indonesia. We were advised to post our wish on the various yachting websites, and to put up a poster on the association’s notice board, which we did the next day,

coupled with doing some much needed washing.

The following days were spent adjusting to ‘Darwin time.’ We were a bit restless to explore this little city none of us had visited before. “Go slow and calm the farm,” Ray told us, and “drink a load of water first thing in the mornings.” We were still somewhat in our get-shit-done southerner harvest-season bodies, and we’d arrived to 32 degree celsius days with overnight lows of just 18. On our first day we walked a 6 km round trip to Mindil Beach Sunset Market, hoping for fresh produce. We got instead over-priced tourist food, though they didn’t skip on the sunset.

For we adults, while Woody sleeps, our morning tea ritual is a sacred time. Between Crissy Anne and the laundry, a large patch of Tulsi grows. A powerful herb of the subtropical regions of the world, Tulsi is a perennial basil and an adaptogen,

and a dear friend of the nervous system, especially in times of change and turbulence.

When Woody gets up, and has had his oat breakfast,

it’s time to get going. Our project on the third day was to go out to Ray’s other boat, Orfeo, which is moored in the harbour. Ray said we’d be welcome to stay on this old yacht, and help get our sea legs in preparation for crewing a boat. He suggested we travel back and forth to Orfeo by the canoe he was recently given. So we loaded up, and pulled and strained the old gal a few hundred metres,

down to the wharf, dropped the canoe into the water and left Meg on the landing, as we were concerned the load was already too heavy.

Patrick and Woody rowed over our packs, food bags and instruments, then came back for Meg. We all approached our new home with excitement.

While Woody fished, his parents cleaned up the galley and were settling in when it became evident that Orfeo was an ill-fated operation.

There were problems with the solar power system, so there was no electricity, meaning our perishable food was being cooked by the day’s heat collecting inside the boat. We tried to problem-solve with Ben by phone, but the multimeter was back on shore, and there was no way we could locate the problem. Then we discovered that the canoe was taking in water. Patrick used a cup to empty it and we repacked the little boat and rowed back to shore with our sea tails between our legs. We moved back into Crissy Anne and in the work area beneath her we lived, cooked, communed with Ray and his many friends, and in the quieter times Meg got some office work done for our dear friends and permaculture elders, David Holmgren and Su Dennett.

Patrick worked on Ray’s collection of bikes. We may not be sea savvy folk, but we are bike savvy.

Only one of Ray’s four bikes was in working order, so Patrick stepped into his mechanic body until they were all functional.

As soon as we hit the road on these cruisy contraptions, we began to feel more at home in Darwin. “You don’t get done for not wearing a helmet,” said Ben, “if you stick on the bike paths you’ll be fine. The cops have plenty of other things to deal with.” The cult of safetyism in Australia’s southern states was just not apparent here. Instead of KeepCups and lattés as the dominant cultural drug-milieu by day, it is stubby holders and beer up here, which creates a continual boozy social environment. For a family on bikes, we had to be vigilant.

The bike paths are numerous and the little city is mostly flat.

There were shouts of joy as we rode Larrakia (saltwater) people’s Country, and the warm wind whooshed over the stickiness of our skin. We explored fishing spots,

caught some lovely things such as Blue swimmer crabs,

and introduced ourselves to a shell fish we’d never seen before, and strangely couldn’t ID it.

We sat, reflected, listened and relaxed in saltwater Country,

and gleaned old line and tackle on the low tide, salvaging the useful parts and binning the potentially hazardous.

We caught a bunch of fish in the first part of the week we were in Darwin, but many of them were inedible (puffer and bat fish), or they were undersize (bream and trevally). The blue bike Patrick fixed, the best of Ray’s treadlies, was stolen from underneath Crissy Anne the night after it was back on the road. Alongside feeling relaxed here in Darwin, we have also felt an uneasiness; a discomfort.

After many conversations with locals it was becoming increasingly apparent that crewing a boat for a family of three with no sailing experience was a bit of a pipe dream. We were generously offered a passage to Indonesia with Sleepy Dave, but he isn’t going until August. India is calling.

Ray is a yacht race referee in Darwin. He presides over the organisation of a number of races and he told us many sailors stay in Darwin over the dry season to join these events or repair their boats.

Ray has been so generous, going out of his way to help us while in we’ve been in Darwin. But, having inhabited the belly of Crissy Anne for several days,

we don’t want to overstay our welcome. With a fair amount of reluctance we booked a short flight to Dili in Timor Leste, 720 kms away. For a little more we could go all the way to India, but that’s not the point of this trip, to travel so fast. Meg and Patrick haven’t been overseas for twenty years, and Woody never has. We were really hoping we could do it without flying. From Dili we intend to continue northward, island-hopping towards India. Now we’ve made that decision we have work to do. Foremost, biking our winter gear and sleeping bags up to the post office to send home,

op-shopping for summer wear,

by thrift and by chance,

and obtaining some US dollars for Timor.

It’s been a strange time in Darwin. It’s almost a segregated town, at least from an outsider’s view. There’s mob here that are not Larrakia people, who have come to Darwin from remote communities, or other parts of the country. Then there’s mob here that have big grief stories, who have turned to substances that bedevil them, which in turn keeps them exiled from their respective communities. These troubled street folk are treated sternly, sometimes viciously by settler shopkeepers, security guards and managers of supermarkets across all ethnicities. Visitors are warned by locals not to engage with blackfellas looking for coin, smokes or grog, so they are often ignored or avoided. Ben told us, “It takes about two weeks for newcomers to Darwin to become racist.” On the street you have drug and alcohol affliction, and then in the board rooms, shrewd tactics of corporate power use Aboriginal people and culture to both aggregate and make-look-civil the destructive extraction of Aboriginal resources, for empire. This reckless corporate mining company, for example, dons Aboriginal art in its foyer as false flags of progressiveness and care.

It’s easy for blow-ins to jump to conclusions about a place. We understand the problems here are complex because they are generational and because western civilisation is a sophisticated propaganda machine. Drugs and alcohol have different impacts in differing cultures, depending on peoples’ approaches. Clearer for us now, is how industrial grog and industrial mining come from the same mythos of greed and subjugation, and no good culture can come from these things. These activities done in an indigenous way would require ceremony and ritual, where over-extraction or over-consumption are not present because of the gratitude and connection these cultural expressions elicit. Indigenous activities done at a scale of bioregional accountability can never be systematically or globally harmful, can never produce man-made mass suffering. Suffering is an ordinary and sometimes necessary part of life, it is a great teacher, but not on the scale industrialisation causes. This, we’ve found, is a critical difference between industrial and indigenous ways.

Towards the end of our time in Darwin, we returned to the Fishermen’s Wharf and were reminded to speak to Saltwater Mother Country, a quiet ritual we often do down south. Before we fish at a place, we speak our intention for coming. “We’ve come to catch food for our family tonight, and we will only take a little of your abundance.”

Fairly shortly after we arrived and acknowledged Mother Country in this way, Woody’s rod started bending,

and the youngtimer began pulling them in.

Four beautiful bream (from $1.50 worth of chicken) made our dinner on the second last night.

Patrick’s attempt to add to the bag saw him bring in several little critters and this Moon fish, which is apparently good eating though, due to its size, he released it.

We are leaving Darwin with much gratitude for what Country and the people have taught us here. To slow down. To accept the stickiness. To acknowledge it takes time to adjust to new places and ways. To be with the disappointment of flying and not crewing on a boat. To better understand the life-wreckingness of industrial substances and extractions. To not reduce complexity to a facile judgement. To further behold the propaganda and hubris of this nation and its subservience to empire. What can a family do in the face of all this? Eat meals together, ask questions, meet people and find out our commonalities with them, and bring more love into the world.

We didn’t come to Darwin to catch trophy fish or take in the club life. We didn’t come for the burnouts of Supercars and military jets. We didn’t come to consume Aboriginal art or Aussie-ised Asian food. We came as pilgrims on an adventure seeking nothing famous or big, rather for the accumulations of everyday magic, provided by the goddesses of small things.

Thank you, Dear Reader, for continuing to follow our journey. We feel tremendously supported by our community back home, the community of subscribers here, and the community we’re meeting on the road.

Hitch hiking to India (Daylesford to Darwin, the first 10 days)

A few months back we hatched a cheeky desire to hitch hike to India. After a long list of to-do’s before we could set off, including moving the flerd 5 kms across town,



and hosting Jordan’s 30th and our farewell gathering,



we walked with our backpacks to the A300 and stuck out our thumbs. Ballarat was our first destination as we needed to head west before we could go north. Can you even hitch to India? Dunno, let’s find out.



Hitch hikers should be added to the list of rare breeds in Australia. As news cycles have merged into fear cycles, we get many worried looks when we hitch. Nonetheless, on this first morning we got a ride within 10 mins with a lovely lady named Cath, who dropped us off at Ballarat Station where we boiled the billy. Thanks for starting us off Cath!



We enquired about the cost of a train to Adelaide, and were sold tickets for a train and two buses, costing just $52.50 in total,



grateful for such affordability, and for the homemade, light-weight, high nutrition food we brought such as rabbit and roo jerky.



While this is a hitch hiking trip, we’ll take affordable transport should it come up. We were a little startled we got so far in just one day, and arriving on dusk in Adelaide, we were taken in by Nicole Brammy and her permie family. After a good night’s sleep in the backyard, we helped out with the household productions.



While Meg helped Nicole and Olivia sort walnuts, Patrick defrosted unwanted fish heads clogging up Nicole’s family freezer and converted them into a miso broth for the workers.



In the afternoon we packed up our tent from the backyard,



and headed a few hours south to spend the second night with old friends from Daylesford, Chris and Vanessa and their boys Willem and Alejandro, at their home in Willunga.



It was wonderful to connect with these families. In all we spent three nights in Adelaide and on our fourth day we caught a bus and a train north to the Salisbury Interchange from where we walked for about an hour out to the A1 to resume our thumbing adventure.



The only bus to Alice Springs from Adelaide would have cost us over a $1000, though more importantly, would have ruined our dance with chance. After two hours of waving in a friendly fashion at concerned motorists, Ali picked us up.



Ali is originally Afghani and he spent 6 months on Christmas Island before arriving in Australia. He said it was destiny that we met and he hoped he’d see us again. We felt the same. He dropped us off at Port Wakefield,



where we worked our thumbs hard for another two hours until Marie picked us up. Marie Warren, is a grandmother, artist and screen printer whose ancestral mob are the Arabana people. As we journeyed, she shared stories of the Mother Country we were travelling in, including the Seven Sisters story.



We talked about our ancestry, and Marie and Patrick (and therefore Woody) found they share Scottish roots. Marie’s grandfather is Francis Warren, formally a Scot before becoming a fully initiated Arabana man who, as Marie stated proudly, was a fierce fighter in the Frontier Wars in Central Australia. As we travelled and spoke about our shared lineage, a giant serpent appeared in a salt lake to our right, looking much like Uilebheist Loch Nis (the Loch Ness Monster). We pulled over for a gander.



Travelling with Marie was akin to entering a mythological adventure. We laughed and cried and shared story. After dusk Marie dropped us off at the caravan park on the west side of Port Augusta. “You’ll be safe there, “ she told us,



and we shared some more tears and words. “We need you white fellas,” she said with big feeling. “The dealers use Aboriginal street kids here as guinea pigs when they bring a new drug into the country,” she said with gravity. “I want to come see your bush school, see how you do it. That’s what our babies need here.”



We white fellas need you too, Marie, though many of us have lost connection to a land- and story-bonded life so we no longer know why we do.

After our emotional farewell we found the caravan and camping park was full, even for a small hiking tent, so heeding Marie’s warning about the town we avoided seeking out a sneaky camp, and headed instead for the Flinders Hotel and booked the cheapest room in town.

Early that morning we began our day’s labour, switching our ‘Alice’ sign for something more modest. We were finding out just what huge distances we needed to travel,



and we were in for the long game. It took us four hours before we got a ride, a perfect opportunity for catching practice.



While we waited to fill up a car already committed for a northern transit, an Indian taxi driver pulled over and asked us if we needed a ride. We got talking about our attempt to travel to India overland, hitch hiking and crewing on a boat from Darwin to visit our friend, Jashan’s family farm in Punjab and stay with his parents in his childhood village, visit Vandana Shiva’s farm Navdanya and other permaculture farms in the north, and to cut our teeth on the streets of India playing cricket.


Yes, we’ve become a cricket family since Blackwood fell in love with the game. Here’s Woody practicing his batting with a round bat he carved from hazel wood just before we left,



and here he is, just 11 years old, belting his dad around in the Hepburn cricket nets a few weeks back.



The taxi driver was so moved by the story of our attempt to get to his ancestral lands he returned an hour later to check on us and to give us a wad of cash. Our initial refusal caused some awkwardness, and we realised the gift dearly wanted to be given so we accepted with grace and much gratitude. This generous soul left before we shared names, and he said on parting, “I’m not wealthy, but it’s in my religion. Go well.”


Not long after this immense act of kindness, and about four hours in total out on the road, a young fella called Adrian (or A-train to his mates), stopped, picked us up, and drove us into what is called The Outback.



Adrian was heading to his mother’s engagement party near Roxby Downs and said he’d be happy for the company. We travelled for about an hour together before he needed to turn off, so he dropped us at Spuds Roadhouse on the Stuart Highway,



where we once again got out our hitching sign.



We were pretty buggered. None of us had slept well so far on the trip. Roxby Downs, Woomera, these are big names we adults know through news stories only.



But, we’re not really here to drift, it’s become apparent.


We were going to spend the winter curled up by the fire, working on our book, which the growing, harvesting and teaching seasons helped to put on the back burner. But a few months ago India called us and we had to pay attention to that.


While labouring with our thumbs out on this long road, we also paid attention to the changing colours of Mother Country.



Nearing dark, two Frenchies, Loren and Enzo, pulled over.



They were on a 300km round trip to do their food shopping, and told us there was a free camp site where they worked at Glendambo. So they dropped us there, on that red earth,



and with their joie de vivre spirit we set up camp, got a fire going,



cooked dinner, played some songs, and passed out under a magnificent desert sky.


By the next morning our tent was drenched in dew. It was the first time damp had permeated our family house on the road. We cooked a seedy oaty porridge for breakfast while waiting for the sun to dry our gear,



utilising the shrubbery as a makeshift dryer.



Our night in Glendambo was an initiation into the desert, at least from a settler’s point of view.



We decided we’d pack up the tent wet and get going early. We hoped to get to Coober Pedy and stood out on the Stuart Highway again to roll the hitch dice.



To the west of our frugality was this land and this sky.



Little rituals of acknowledgement and connection are playing out through the waiting. When Woody needs a little encouragement on these long waits, we remind him that if we travelled fast and assuredly we’d need a lot of money, therefore he’d be sent to school so his parents could earn it, and he’d miss out on all the chance encounters that were already making this trip so rich.


After a few hours of courting the wild twin on the Stuart Highway, Steve and Sue, caravaners from WA, picked us up. Covid dissidents like us, we had plenty to talk about, and politics filled our journey akin to this graffiti we discovered in a public toilet on the Stuart.



We adults in the car were all Greens voters back in the day – environmental lefties. While we travelled, we collectively lamented how few now are reading this aggregating era of regulatory capture and the systemic corruption in the state-corporate nexus. Needless to say neither Green, Blue, or Red are parties any of us trust and are repulsed by their complicity.


Sue and Steve, salts of the earth, rolled us into Coober Pedy,



a dusty old mined-to-hell-and-back town,



where we set up the tent and dried out our wet things before the sun lost its sting. Each day is getting warmer as we progress north.



The temperatures drop at night but we’re toasty with all our winter gear. Once set up we explored the town



that has been turned over and



mongreled in both crude and novel ways.



You know what they say when you travel, As in Rome… so we donned the digger’s spirit,



for a very brief moment, and got the hell outta that strange lil town,



passing Waa on our way,



and walking 45mins back to the highway to begin our morning’s labour.



We smiled and waved to motorists, and received a goodly assortment of friendliness back in return. Being three of us plus our gear, not many people have the space. What we gain in being friendly, we lose by being numerous and bulky. It took two hours before a car pulled over. “I can give you a lift. You’re not psycho-killers are you?” asked Shannon, “No, are you?” Meg asked back, with a grin.



“We’re going to Alice,” said Patrick. “Yeah, I can take you there, I’m heading to Darwin,” said Shannon. Did someone say Darwin?! We piled in, so immensely grateful for the ride and for the dog named Rocky.



Over the next four days we lived on the road with Shannon and Rocky,



visiting Alice only briefly,



and camping at roadside free camps.



Shannon didn’t turn out to be a psycho-killer. He’s a kind and generous man, and we got to do a lot of yarning,



and as our shared stories deepened and grew, so too the termite mounds the more we travelled north.



On our last morning together we stopped in to Bitter Springs



for a refreshing swim, the water almost the same as our body temperature.



We travelled far with Shannon and Rocky, over four beautiful days. On our last leg-stretch before Darwin we stopped and took a family snap.



Shannon and Rocky are about to embark on a new life up here. Shannon will be driving trucks out to remote communities for an Aboriginal transport company, and Rocky will travel with him.



We farewelled this awesome man and his dog outside the Dinah Beach Yacht Association, in Darwin



and walked through the gates into the next stage of our adventure.



Thank you to everyone who waved and smiled at us on the road, who gave us rides and took us in. And thank you Dear Reader, for accompanying us on this first leg of our adventure.

And thanks to Jordan for the first and third images, and to Kim for the second.

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?

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