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.

White people dreaming (and performing other forms of culture and economy)

We saw out the year with greenkin friends, once again walking and pedalling the main drag of our home town for the 2018 Daylesford New Year’s Eve Parade. 
(photo by David Jablonka)
It was quite a challenge to pull around 100kg of future community food on our e-bike. We community food gardeners were awarded money to dress our annual NYE float. By purchasing fruit trees and perennial veggies we once again steered arts funding into something deep-rooting.

This lil video will give you a feel for the parade and our contribution to it, for which we won the sustainability award. (Please note: videos won’t appear in your inbox subscription.)

Yes, it’s a strange time of year to plant dozens of trees, herbs and perennial veggies, but with our $100 prize money (Thanks Hepburn Wind!) we bought a new hose and established a watering roster so we can nurture these generous gifts through the coming hot weeks. A big thanks to the permie crew from Deans Marsh who strengthened our numbers and dug right in, joining the local permablitz working bee mob.

In late December we had a number of friends come and stay for the Melliodora solstice party, which eventuated in another form of spontaneous permablitz, this time a music video. Charlie (from Formidable Vegetable) came for dinner and he spoke of the possibility of a new video clip. We hooked him up with our mate Jordan (from Happen Films), added in a whole bunch of Artist as Family creative direction, garden and community peeps, and voilà, this was hatched:

It was another moment of spontaneous creation at Tree Elbow. Thanks to all the neopeasant solstice revellers who showed up and ensouled the morning; all we singulars numbering a collective effort with not a single dollar mentioned, spent or sought. An example of permaculture media-making at its best – and an antidote to typical white-people careerism, profit motives and meaningless content.

photo by Vasko Drogriski

In other news, the violet and rhubarb leaves at Tree Elbow are being frequented by these lovely Southern brown tree frogs (Litoria ewingi),

as well as common garden snails (Helix aspersa). While allcomer frogs, toads and froglets are more than encouraged to make their life in, through and around the garden, snails are gathered up in large numbers and fed to the chooks and ducklings, or we prepare them this way for dinner. Yum!

The ducklings certainly think so. Snails and comfrey leaves are their faves.

Photo by Amy Wagner

For Blackwood (much like the froglets, baby snails and ducklins), home schooling and home economics have become the same thing. Like us, most things he requires are non-monetised, but each of us have occasion to save up for things. A new guitar has been the motivator for this little market store.

But generally we try to make what we need, such as this fishing spear. Every occasion, every visitation, project and ecology

is another school for Woody. It is in these places where play, exploration and experimentation are given true homes. His education isn’t evaluated or assessed. He is free to learn without anxiety or comparison. He is free to collate all his learnings and build upon them in his own time and way,

and with others, such as the children he is bonded to at the Make & Play bush school we hold. Here’s Charlie again at the M&P end of year celebration. (Jumpers in late December? Yikes!)

And because of the expansive time given to him to learn, time to be, time to thoroughly explore what NAPLAN could never allow for a child, the rewards come, which only aid more learning,

where play making and knowledge building are all part of the same flow.

While his learning is mostly self-directed, he also absorbs his parents’ knowledges, and they share with him what to glean and hunt and make bounties from,

while far away from the high country lakes
and productive gardens of home.

He observes the gifts that can be made from the abundant raw materials of our local terra. This wrist band was made by Patrick for Meg on her birthday. The lake is a special place for Meg, where giant-leaved newcomer NZ flax grow (great for cord making) and moulted breast feathers from oldtimer cockatoos are shed around the foreshores (thanks for the tip Kimshar!).

Woody observes the gifts and skills of other adults too, from musicians like Charlie, filmmakers like Jordan and Antoinette, and all the community gardeners to name just a few. Out of all the adults that generously pass on their trades, it is Jeremy that Woody calls mentor. Jeremy made this insulated oven window cover for us, especially for summertime cooking. It reduces the heat radiating into the house on the coolest day of the week when we bake bread, roast veggies and heat up our hot water.

We traded him a wild ferment brewing lesson, exchanging microbe knowledges for technical know-how. What we’ve found is that gifts flow, if generosity flows. A few years back Edward from nearby Adsum Farm gifted us some garden bed hoops. In spring they support a hothousing re-usuable plastic hood to get the potatoes going early, in summer they support a fine netting to keep the cabbage moths from destroying the brassicas.

Photo by Amy Wagner

Knowing what to protect and what to leave open to the multifarious relations of diverse garden ecology requires kinship with both domestication and wild entities – a subject Patrick will be speaking on with Claire Dunn and Maya Ward at the National Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne on February 9. And this subject is at the heart of why we hold the annual Terra Nullius Breakfast,

which acknowledges, accepts and seeks compassion for the history of this continent – a nation that has crippled symbiotic life by over-playing domestication’s hand.
Terra Nullius stands at the heart of property relations in Australia and aggregating wealth division. When property is turned from a basic need into a predatorial industry, more and more people will suffer. We wrote this song for our friend Eka, a fellow Bentley Blockader, when we visited her on our travels last winter she spoke of the constant insecurity and powerlessness of her housing situation. Eka stood with thousands to stop the Northern Rivers from being fracked by greed’s intransigence to common sense, giving her time and skills over weeks and months as a volunteer. While we dedicate this song to Eka, it is also for all people kept from having secure tenure over a little plot of land that can be loved, held sacred and given back to for the momentary time we dwell with and upon it.

If you feel passionate about this issue, please copy the link of this Youtube video and share it widely. Songs can be fertile seeds for change, even rough-cut home-brewed ones such as this.

Well, thank you Dear Reader, we hope we served up some nourishment and inspiration for you in our more or less monthly instalment. If you’d like come on a house + garden tour we’ve released more forthcoming dates. If you’re interested in applying for one of our Permaculture Living Courses please watch this space, we’ll be opening the applications for the spring 2019 courses shortly.

Giving, taking and making (from Jingellic to Goulburn)

Thank the stars we rested at Jingellic and ate the bounty of local critters the Upper Murray offered,

an idle few days cooking carp on walked-for wood coals and playing songs around the campfire prepared us for the 44 km slog all up hill,

to Tumbarumba. Hello cows! We guerrilla camped for three nights beside the town’s creek,

kinda hidden, kinda not.

We were invited to dinner at Geoff and Karen’s, who are fourth generation farmers we’d met on the first trip. Respectful debate concerning land use, economies and politics continued from where we’d left off in 2013. Back then Geoff was a climate change skeptic. But no longer.

We held a free foraging class, and identified around twenty species of autonomous edibles,

gathered up the best of what we found and demonstrated how to turn these free gems into desirable food.

We then gave a reading at Nest, and sold a swag of books. Yippee!

We’d heard the ranger was keen to catch up with us in Tumba, so we hightailed it to Batlow and hung out in the library where we met Robert, the town’s librarian, who went home at lunch time and picked us a bunch of his glorious asparagus. Thanks Robert!

We were offered a free camp at Greg Mouat’s apple orchard with permission to fish out the redfin from his dam. Thanks Greg!

We caught 5 mid-sized ones and added them to Robert’s asparagus for dinner, before bunking down for the night.

We stopped in Tumut for a little reading at Night Owl Books,

and took off along the Brungle Road to Gundagai where flashes of the old Wiradjuri spirits collided with newcomer glimmer.

We rode on to Jugiong, made camp again along the Murrumbidgee River where the water was clear enough to go spearing for fish.

Woody and Zero watched from the pebbly bank,

while Meg took a skinny dip.

Patrick was unsuccessful catching fish, but we did harvest stinging nettle and cooked up a bag of this rich-in-iron free medicine with pasta, olive oil, salt and lemon.

We woke to a billy of porridge and hit the Hume Highway.

A tedious, roadkill-marred ride brought us to Bookham for a rest, where two years earlier Patrick had pruned this little feral apple tree. He gave it another prune to encourage a habit for greater fruiting in the years to come. Go little tree, grow!

We schlepped into Yass after a deafening and hot 60 kms, pulled up outside the local land council and had a yarn to Brad, a Ngunnawal man. He told us about a local program set up to rid foxes and feral cats who are, he stated, wreaking havoc on the local tortoise population.

What’s remarkable is how many tortoises we’ve seen killed by cars and trucks since Gundagai. There have been at least 100.

We anthropocenes really are brilliant at kidding ourselves… More lambs; a better environment?

By observing the relationships between other animals —non-mediated earth folk— is it possible to reclaim for ourselves a place as ecological creatures, in relationship and not at war; where one-on-one interspecies killing is part of everyday life, but man-made mass death is not?

Eating a broad, local diet (such as these dianella buds and flowers, soon to be berries), can perhaps aid a process of becoming post-anthropocene. We believe that if we engage in our own resource gathering we can better be accountable to that which makes life possible.

Learning to forage plants that cultivate by themselves, produce food without the need of fossil fuels, mined superphosphate and excessive water inputs all contributes in being able to walk away from the Anthropocene.

We took this merry bunch of Canberra foragers out for a walk in a suburban park and showed them how much food lies just underneath their feet, before returning to Paperchain Books in Manuka for a talk and reading from The Art of Free Travel.

While in Canberra we stayed with an old friend of Patrick’s from undergraduate days. Tim treated us to his excellent cooking and a generosity that made us feel like we were back at home. Thanks Tim!

While in the capital we also got to stay with these two kind Warm Showers hosts Kerri-Ann and Michael, who shared their cycling stories and cooked us a lovely meal.

We left Canberra well rested and cared for and rode hard for 70 kms to Tarago to set up an unorthodox camp in their weird but welcoming little public park.

We didn’t linger, leaving early the next day for Goulburn where just before we arrived in this old sheep town we spotted fruiting African boxthorn berries to snack on.

We hope the thorns in your fingers, Dear Reader, provide delicious sweets and free delights. One of the lessons we’ve learned from the road is how the hardships of the day prick the joys, they are one of the same tree.

Eating ants, bush fruits and eels, and meeting crocodiles (Narragon Beach to Daintree Village)

It was very hard to leave our free-camping sanctuary with our freshwater pool streaming onto Narragon Beach just down from the Clump Point jetty where we pulled in our evening hauls of fish.

It was also hard to leave our lovely new and not so new friends.

We had our last ride in to Mission Beach with the delightful Tom Dean, the errant wayfarer, before once again setting our compass north.

Our restored senses went immediately into shock after we got back on the Bruce Highway. Trucks, motorhomes, caravans, misnamed ‘eco’ tourists, roadkill, roadside memorials, anthropogenic garbage and sugarcane mayhem all came flooding back to raze the peace and make us harden back up for another dose of digi-industrial reality. Needless to say we took the longer back road to Innisfail, via south Johnstone and Japoon, which rewarded us with this little haul of free fruit,

and a croc safe (at least in the dry season) swimming hole.

Further down the road we stopped to investigate some of the hidden ingredients in conventional banana farming.

This farmer was using two different pesticides: Echo 720, a fungicide and known carcinogen and the herbicide Gramoxone 250, which is an extremely dangerous chemical. The active constituent in Gramoxone 250 is paraquat dichloride, which is banned in 32 countries including China and all the EU nations including Switzerland where Syngenta, the chemical company that produces it, has its headquarters. This chemical has been linked to the development of Parkinson’s disease.

What is incredible is that bananas are considered ‘health food’ in Australia! When we’ve been stuck for food and have had to resort to supermarkets on this trip we routinely ask one of the staff where the ‘health food’ and ‘organic’ foods are. These minuscule couple of shelves contain products that have too much packaging or are also packed with hidden nasties such as refined sugar.

To paraphrase Michael Pollan: If it comes from a plant eat it; if it’s made in a plant don’t. The sugar industry in South Johnstone had certainly made its mark on the town, the cane trains surge down the main drag like cocaine through a major vein.

We just keep thinking: what would it look like if the Queensland Government pulled its subsidies from cane farmers, taxed refined sugars like they do tobacco and transferred the revenue to organic food producers or farms transitioning to organic food, bringing the price of organic food down so as everyone could purchase it? Imagine the savings made to public health! Imagine the beautiful ruination of predatory pharmaceutical companies and irresponsible doctors who have built their businesses on an innutritious, immune depleting food system! And then there are the environmental questions.

Imagine if soils were no longer mined to grow a substance that isn’t necessary and that is causing so much ill health. Can you imagine in these razed fields as food forests of Maccadamia nuts, Davidson Plums, paw paws, bananas, grapefruits, oranges and a hundred other fruits all grown as a polyculture with leguminous plants interplanted, used as chop and drop fertilisers, where thick humus would form, repairing the soil and its mycorrhizal strata, and where perennial groundcovers would spread out after the first years of pioneering annual weeds doing their work to repatriate the earth, where a billion organisms live and build soil structure, and who through rigorous competition fight off the threat of dominating species, so as no pesticides, no corporations making decisions about our health, no organic certification was necessary because agricultural pesticides were all banned and common sense prevailed? But for now this is the present: millions of acres of completely unnecessary sugar cane.

Because Woody has never had refined sugar, his taste buds are open to all foods and their sensations. Whereas we older ones in the tribe may have a few blue quandongs here and there, Woody seeks them out with a passion. He’ll eat the tart ones, sour ones, mildly sweet over ripe ones, as well as the way past desirable ones.

He’s becoming the most enthusiastic forager of us all. He’s also partial to autonomus meat. At the free-camping spot at Babinda, Patrick hand speared a small black fish for bait and used it to catch this lovely creature on a 40-pound hand line:

an Australian long-finned eel (Anguilla reinhardti). We made a fire and cooked it on the coals for around 12 minutes each side. It was heavenly dining after peeling back the bitter skin and revealing the extraordinary white, moist flesh.

Artist as Family gave blessings to this powerful water creature and slept with the watery whirlings of the eel inside us. The next day we packed up early,

and took to the road. Our long-finned fuel powering us all the way into Cairns where we stayed with this delightful family:

Meet warm showers hosts Sarah, Oscar and Renee, who we look forward to spending more time with when we return to Cairns. After a night of great conversation, games, showers and delicious shared food, we picked up some supplies from the community food co-op and from a local park,

and headed north again. Sarah and Oscar rode ahead to steer our departure as Zero was having an RDO as our biological GPS.

One species that we have camped with everywhere, been stung by, admired their architecture but so far failed to try out as a bush food is the green ant (Oecophylla smaragdina).

These amazing fruitarians are everywhere and we’ve now incorporated them into our everyday diet as a robust free food species. Like whitchetty grubs they have a high fat content; perfect as a cycling fuel. They are a zingy citrus-like edible, which is not surprising as they love citrus. We have all, including Woody, learnt to catch them by the head with our pincers, killing them instantly and popping them whole into our mouths.

We only got as far as Smithfield, an outer suburb of Cairns, and Patrick’s front wheel rim spilt open, possibly as a result of his eating too many green ants.

While waiting for the repairs we walked for a few hours in an industrial wasteland along the A1 and found these delicious ripe bush passionfruits (Passiflora foetida).

They oozed the devine right off the vine: no built religious environment was necessary to partake in this godly moment.

We were rather abruptly asked to leave the bike shop in Smithfield, prompting Patrick to write the following poem from our campsite at Unity Reef.

It felt right to be kicked out of the bicycle shop
in Cairns. We had coveted all their back room
power points with our touring stench. Baby and dog
running in and out of the place unsettling the gloss
while we waited for the expensive repair.
But perhaps it was really the ‘G20 – – – – LIES’
writ large across one of our tail panniers
that prompted the call for our exile by the boss.
After all the city was in feverish preparation
eager to celebrate the international visitors
with a cultural festival of entertainers
known as ‘the arts’.

Even if our schooling system today does its best to breed out the inquistive and critical in the population this doesn’t mean that the forthcoming G20 bankers get-together in Cairns isn’t a pox on the planet. But obviously many disagree, especially in Port Douglas where we came across this holidaying couple near the beach. When we asked the lady wearing it about her singlet she boasted it cost only $3 from K-Mart. Is it a joke? Are we missing the irony? Where do you start with such intransigence to life and the suffering of others for the sake of a $3 joke?

No doubt G20 finance delegates will flock to Port Douglas with all its monetary shmaltz. We on the other hand couldn’t wait to leave, legging it back to the A1 after a picnic lunch with fake artisan bread, temporarily being split up by big sugar before the town of Mossman in Kuku Yalanji country, on the way to the Daintree.

Not far on we met this fantastic duo who were heading south and who are working on a very exciting bicycle touring project. It was lovely to meet you Simon and Alia!

Just nearby we found a laden grapefruit tree, loaded up, gave some to our fellow tourers before pushing on to find some ripe guavas, which we have commonly picked all along the east coast from as far south as Kempsey.

We camped the night at Newell Beach and the following day arrived at the village of Daintree.

Prone to regular flooding and therefore constant change the Daintree River is an ecological hive of activity.