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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

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.

We adults were as wide-eyed and excited as Woody when we saw fishing birds such as this pied cormorant (Phalacrocorax varius),

the numerous reptilian water critters such as this grand male estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porous),

and these common tree snakes, sunning themselves.

While in the Daintree village we also learned more about Far North Queensland plant life, such as native taro (Colocasia esculenta var. aquatilis), which requires much lengthy preparation in order to make the tubers edible,

and Woody, completely unprompted, collected up all the Kuku Yalanji forest delights he knew including blue quandongs, satin ash fruit, peanut tree pods and hibiscus flower.

We were fortunate enough to meet Linda, a Kuku Yalanji elder, who was collecting freshwater mussels (Velesunio ambiguous) from the river. Linda told us that there are many important Aboriginal places around the village including a burial site that the local historical society is simply not interested in marking. Daintree village seems to be another case of white history told, black history conveniently disappeared.

We are resting up here for a few days, readying ourselves for the final northern leg, up the Broomfield Track to Cooktown, which is going to be quite a challenge from all accounts. We hope you are meeting all your challenges too, Dear Reader, and we thank you, once again, for joining us on our adventure.

From Bwgcolman to Djiru country: entering the wet (Cassowary) tropics

We jumped off the ferry from Palm Island late in the afternoon, grabbed some supplies and hightailed it out of Townsville for several kms until we found this little, unofficial, free camp site/ office at Bushland Beach.

We were fairly exhausted after a big learning week on Palm, so we travelled only a handful of kms north the next day too, to Bluewater’s official free camping ground, and where this lovely lady greeted us with tea, cake and a banana for Woody.

Thanks Irene! We set up camp on the sports oval,

and headed across the field to the community hall for the Friday night social to dance with the locals and caravaning nomads. The downside was we ate some really bad tucker that night, and with poor fuel in our tanks we sluggishly rode on to Rollingstone the following day and camped beside the Rollingstone River where turtles,

eels and black bream are in numbers plenty.

It was great to get some decent tucker again, tucker we were actively engaged in procuring,

and rest up for a few days.

Heading north from Rollingstone we came across Pandanus spiralis for the first time. This is why these trees are called screw palms and like pandanus species generally they have edible base leaves and kernels.

We rode back into sugar country as we approached Ingham and found excellent public interest billboards put out by the health ministry of the Artist as Family collective.

We’d heard there was a free camp ground behind the tourist info centre in Ingham, so we stopped in, only to find that bikes carrying small tents weren’t allowed, only RVs with their own toilets. We went inside the centre and politely asked if there was any free camping for non-polluters. Zero, like the rest of us, wasn’t impressed with their answer.

As it happens it was Woody and Patrick’s birthday so we celebrated by having a shower and washing our clothes, booking in for a night’s camp at the town’s carvan park. The next day after a fearless night’s sleep coralled by mobile nursing units and other such caravans we climbed the Hinchinbrook Range,

and entered Cassowary country and the base of the Cape York Pennisula, where these particular fruits grow.

The Beach Calophyllum or ball tree (Calophyllum inophyllum) is called Wiri by the Girramay people, who valued the kernel of the seed for its pain-relieving body oil. Nuts were eaten after a lengthy process of washing and roasting.

We arrived in Cardwell, a town recently rebuilt after Cyclone Yasi, and found another useful species, the Cardwell cabbage (Scaevola taccada).

The Cardwell cabbage, unlike the Camberwell carrot, is a coastal plant and the juice of the ripe fruits were traditionally used to sooth dry or inflamed eyes.

We fished on Cardwell jetty, but the previous days of wind had stirred up the mud in the water making visibility a problem for jagging white bait or silver spinning for trevally.

We free-camped looking out to this little vista, back-dropped by the ancient, mountainous Hinchinbrook Island.

We were nicely tucked in behind the public toilets in a local beach front municipal park, until the floodlights came on and played all night with our circadian rhythms.

We left Cardwell a little tired again, stopping to pick up some supplies from Sue’s Store,

including delicious sun-dried bananas. Sugar, temporarily, had a rival monocrop in this part of Queensland.

Not far out of town we rode into Martin, a cycle tourer from Newcastle in the UK. Hello Martin! Stay safe on the Bruce, our beloved Road of Death.

After another short day we stopped and rested at Bilyana.

This micro-touring is very agreeable, although the Bruce is considerably dull. Next stop Tully, an industrial town framed by the industry that cooks sugar into a more harmful drug than cocaine. We found little to sustain us,

so we headed to the Cassowary Coast where we found immediate sustenence in these Blue Quandongs (Elaeocarpus angustifolius).

They may be reported to have little nutritional value compared with other autonomous foods, but compare them with supermarket fare today and we’re sure they would romp it in. This was the first time we’d come across these beautiful sour, zingy blue fruits and they were pretty good eating. At Mission Beach we also came across scurvy weed (Commelina cyanea) in flower,

blue flax lily (Dianella caerulea),

and this supposed whichetty grub, the larvae of the cossid moth Endoxyla leucomochla. Although according to knowledgeable Matt (see below), it might be the larvae of a rhinoceros beetle (Dynastinae). If you know for certain Dear Reader, we’d love to hear from you. In two minds we decided not to experiment with eating this critter.

We did however have no qualms eating the delicious flowers and flower buds of the Cotton Tree (Hibiscus tilliaceus),

one of us gobbling them up with great gusto.

These beautiful flowers turn into these beautiful fruits and the leaves were traditionally used to make an infusion to treat wounds and ulcers.

We camped at Mission Beach in the council run caravan park, and met this beautiful lady, who bestowed on us gifts of homemade sauerkraut, yoghurt and tumeric she had grown at her local community garden and had ground herself.

Thanks Claire! We left the park topped up on fermented probiotics and headed north a few kms to do some fishing at Clump Point jetty, where we met this awesome couple:

Lavina and Hola. Lavina is an elder on council of the Djiru tribe, a descendant of the Clump Mountain people of Mission Beach. Hola, originally from Tonga, is her man. We fished with these two on the jetty on several afternoons,

and talked about raising children, Indigenous and non-Indigenous sovreignty and the ethics of killing animals, which to all of us concerned is nothing to do with sport. We asked Lavina’s permission to camp on her country, and she warmly agreed. We found a beautiful spot just north of the jetty on Narragon Beach.

We stayed a week, swimming in the fresh water coming into the sea,

washing there (using no soaps or detergents),

and fishing on the jetty where we caught yellow-fin trevally,

queenfish, jewfish and herring.

Each day we cooked fish on a small beach fire.

While in Djiru country we also came across a number of Great Morinda (Morinda citrifolia) trees, some with nearly ripe fruits or cheeses. When ripe the fruits apparently turn almost translucent white, smell like rancid cheese and can be eaten raw or cooked.

And we met many beautiful peeps as we settled in to this paradise where rainforest meets the reef, such as this sweet family:

Meet (from left) Matt, Eli, Jill and Nina. Nina, Jill’s sister, has co-written a local text on Indigenous foods and medicines in the area. We hope to get hold of a copy before we leave. 
And to top off a wonderful stay we reunited with the awesome Tom Dean, our fellow cycle-touring mate originally from cold Melbourne but equally comfortable up a coconut tree. 

This is our third hook-up with Tom and each time our little tribe has loved his company.

We have enjoyed your fine company too, Dear Reader and hope to share the next leg of our journey with you as it comes to pass. 

Palm Island: a beautiful, friendly, frontier community

From Becc’s, our Warm Showers host in Townsville, we walked out to explore some of the town’s significant sites.

We finally got to taste ripe bush passionfruit on the hill. Yum!

And we were newsworthy down on The Strand. The article neighbouring ours is fairly amusing. It features a male, Jones, 44 years old, involved with bikes; a description that matches Patrick…

While in Townsville we asked the Palm Island Council permission to visit their island. Palm has been a closed community until this year, but it’s not open to tourists. Council filters those who come by asking them to state their intention. We told council about our free food project and the research we were doing and they kindly decided to sponsor us by offering a much reduced rate to stay in the council-run motel, the only accomadation for visitors on the island. We still had a few days to wait for the next ferry and were lucky enough to stay with more Warm Showers hosts, Mick and Jen. Mick runs The Bicycle Pedlar shop in Townsville, specialising in touring. He gave Patrick’s bike a good going over. Thanks Mick!

On the first night Jen cooked us all a beautiful curry. Thanks Jen! So we reciprocated on the second, beginning the meal with a haul of foraged passionfruit we found at a nearby abandoned house site.

We thanked and farewelled Jen and Mick and boarded the ferry for Palm Island, otherwise known by its Aboriginal name Bwgcolman, meaning many tribes, one people.

Palm, as the locals call it, was like stepping into another country.

One of the most joyous things we soon discovered was all the free-ranging going on. Quite a contrast to surbanite Australia. On Palm, horses,

dogs,

goats,

and children have free range of the island.

It was a beautiful thing, and so too were all the foods we discovered. Over the week we were there we compiled a list of 60 autonomous edibles we found or locals told us exist on the island. Bush cucumber grows along the beaches,

as do tropical almonds,

peanut trees,

native gooseberries,

and coconuts.

The local kids were very knowledgeable about fishing,

hunting,

and having a good time.

So we followed their lead. Zero mixed it with Big Girl and Mango,

Meg fished for Burracuda,

Patrick for mullet,

and Woody foraged Burdekin plums and cluster figs.

Each day we found more and more species of both traditional bush tucker and newcomers. We met Uncle Nick and he took us out foraging.

He showed us a number of plants including this weed, possibly a spurge, which is good for treating worts,

and these ripe emu berries.

By the end of the week we had discovered living on or around the island the following species: mango, chinee apple, banana, bush banana, African tulip tree, bush lemon, amaranth, coconut, barracuda, barramundi cod, sea turtle, bush passionfruit, snakeweed, snapper, trevally, brush turkey, echidna, possum, Burdekin plum, bush cucumber, cluster fig, autonomous goat, queenfish, clam, native mulberry, rock wallaby, mud mussel, spider shell, crab, pipi, cassava, sweet potato, naturalised squash, mangrove snail, mud whelk, stingray, sea caper, beach cherry, autonomous pig, jackfruit, emu berry, Pacific rosewood, lady apple, fleabane, goats foot, dugong, grasshopper, naturalised tomato, green ant, guava, mullet, nardoo, native gooseberry, native rock fig, pandanus, paw paw, peanut or monkey nut tree, mackerel, purslane, oyster, emu berry and tropical almond.

The green fruit of the tropical or beach almond looks like this:

During the week Patrick wrote a paper for the forthcoming Indigenous Men’s Health Conference in Cairns. His paper is called Future food, future health: Remodelling tradional Indigenous food and lifeways. For those wishing to delve into more detail of our time on Palm Island and his thesis of walked-for food, you can read his draft.

Later in the week we also got to hang out with these two lovely peeps, Yo and Jarrod,

who are involved with Kinfolk in Melbourne, a café whose sole purpose is to generate funds to support goodly things. They were on Palm with one such enterprise, the Cathy Freeman Foundation, which is set up to assist Indigenous kids education. While on Palm Artist as Family considered ways to help improve non-Indigenous kids education around Australia, to ‘close the gap’ so to speak, with the lack of knowledge in free-ranging, foraging, fishing, hunting and general life resilience. Palm kids were simply awesome and each afternoon fishing off the jetty we met a great number of them and shared our stories and knowledge.

Many outsiders consider Palm Island a third world country and focus on the negatives well publicised in the media. But to us this island represents a frontier, and much is to be learnt from Bwgcolman people as we move into an energy descent era. Resilient kids are certainly the future, as are Indigenous knowledges.

Palm has been a such a highlight in our journey. Thank you to all on the island for sharing your stories, skills and knowledges. It has been a wonderful learning for us.