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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?

Communing with plants in the abundance of harvest

Gratitude to plants.

This is not a wafty, throwaway praise. This is an embodied knowing, a deeply felt thank you for the living, growing, seeding, podding, storing and shitting of plants. For their many giving parts.

Whether plants are in their own autonomy, in relationship with measureless earth others, or requiring peoples’ union to thrive, plants embody the feminine divine. Mother Country is the vessel in which all things are brewed, hotly or coldly, and plants are often the very fibres that enable the alchemy of such fermentations throughout life, into death and back across into life.

They are encasements of nourishment, wisdom holders, inebriation agents and great revealers.

But so much plant living has been violated by industrial food, energy and medicine capitalisms. Plants have been incarcerated, mined and used as gratuitous commodities. When welded to the dominant culture we devour them, we’re never fully satisfied, never fully full. Why? Is it our relationship with plants has radically changed under the spell and ideology of modernity’s project?

We have never had more food available to us in our short time as a species, but is it in this glut that gluttony occurs? That we are unfulfilled?

So many of the capitalisms that exploit plants are greenwashing capitalisms. Biofuels are the obvious example, but almost all uses of plants are a form of enslavement, within the machine of hypertechnocivility.

Domesticating plants, it has long been said, is the story of our own domestication. This is not always the same story as the process of becoming hypertechnocivil – that is, so industrialised to think we are the only species worth feeding – our food automated and chugged into cities, from where anthropocentrism powers over all life.

However, if we open to the ritual possibilities, the medicinal, magical and teaching properties of plants, can we call on our more expansive selves – the broader, mythological, transformative and cosmological potentialities of our selves – to take hold in our daily actions and processes?

This, we’ve found, is more possible when our foods, energies and medicines come from the gentle labours of our creaturely bodies. When we are ecological participants in loved biomes. When we are creatures of place. A loved homeplace.

When we walk for the plant gifts that make our lives possible, we cannot but step into the magical and divine realms of plants. From such a place both abundance and gratitude flow. We, people, can once again co-union with plants. It is deep in our cultural DNA that we live this way. It is lifemaking connected to ancestors. It refuses the severings of modernity.

Highly cultivated plants such as grapes thrive in conditions where people yearly prune their radical vines. In turn people thrive by eating the fruits created by the goddess herself.

Borlotti beans don’t need highly cultivated soil as they fix nitrogen in the earth and bring fertility to any earthly biome. Their colours delight us in the sun, under which we dry them to store for winter fuel.

Basil loves the full brunt of summer’s heat – a powerful herb and food medicine destined for almond pesto.

Ella, one of this week’s volunteers at Tree Elbow, communes with prune plums. We all delight in this prunus variety, also destined to be dried for winter’s cellaring and eating.

Volunteer Beau works alongside Blackwood with spelt from Burrum Biodynamics to alchemise this old grain into pasta to join the almond basil pesto for dinner.

Patrick sets up a tree net to catch acorns for their harvesting, thus stopping the midnight clang of hard little nuts landing on the water tank and waking the underworlders sleeping nearby.

Blackwood demonstrates his method of acorn shelling to his family and volunteers, using a nut cracker. Acorn meal will be used with spelt for winter pancakes and for the brewing of Patrick’s acorn beer (a recipe which can be found at the end of his re:)Fermenting culture book).

It has been a week of communing with plants, glowing in the gratitude of abundance, and savouring this time of harvest with volunteers and visitors, including Jess from Canada, who like Beau and Ella brought a joyful spirit to Tree Elbow.

The week finished with Wild Fennel – our local herbal medicine circle led by local witches, Catie and Zoe. Their beautifully facilitated plant medicine circle elegantly brought us all into deeper presence with the holy Tulsi, while we were warmed by the equinox fire in the garden at Tree Elbow.

A special thank you to Jordan for the pic of the plant circle, Catie and Zoe for the love and for the crafting back of the peoples’ medicine, and to Beau and Ella for your loving attention and joyous labours this week as SWAPs.

If you’d like to listen to a conversation between Catie and Patrick, tune into this episode of Reskillience.

We look forward to hearing from you which plant or plants you are present to right now. What herbal teas or medicine plant foods are you most grateful for? What is your latest herbal/harvest discovery?

Is there a time and place for binary thinking? Or, what mythos do you serve?

 

Do you stand against the abuses of institutional power in all forms and legalisms?

Do you stand against those who try to convince you health is dependent on industrial pharmacy?

Do you stand against politicians who fake democracy and grow corporatism?

Do you stand against industrial pollutants, contaminants and toxins that cause unnecessary disease and thus suffering?

Do you stand against anthropocentric capitalisms and socialisms, and the various city-centric ruinations they bring to life?

Do you stand against media that is permissive to the imperatives of Empire, power and global industrialisms?

Do you stand against the iatrogenocide that is the ‘Covid response’ by the state-Pharma nexus?

Do you stand against safetyism, paternalism and nanny statism, which render people immobile and dependent on institutions and industries that are manipulative and controlling?

Do you stand against the NATO/Azov nazi/US invoked genocide of Ukrainian youth by a reactive and bullish Russia?

Do you stand against the century-long genocide of Palestinians by British, US and Israeli colonists?

Do you stand against the extraction of fossil fuels and rare earth minerals used to power a false flag renewables industry?

Do you stand against cultural or political groups who silence and smear others based on their beliefs and values?

Do you stand against large-scale industries including factory farms, agricultural chemicals, pharmaceuticals and sweat shops that mistreat humans, animals and complex biota?

Do you stand against a King (and others like him dripping in privilege) arrogantly calling for an end to ‘convenience’?

Do you stand with the people of villages, towns, cities and suburbs who in their own power and capacity claim for themselves an end to industrial-scale convenience and consumption?

Do you stand with the flowering, fruiting and singing of Mother Country and Grandmother Gaia and everything else that is sacred and not industrially conformed?

Do you stand with life that enables more delicious life to cross over into necessary death and decay, and back into more abundance?

Do you stand for a future society that doesn’t help raise sociopaths or psychopaths into positions of power and influence?

Do you stand with eldership, mentorship and rites of passage, which mark the accruing of wisdoms, and the witnessing of all in the village, regardless of their stage in life?

Do you stand for the flow of gifts across all species and within all species?

Do you stand for distributed wealth, access to land for all, and subsistence economies that are earth-honouring?

Do you stand for the economic interweaving of community sufficiency and autonomous household productivity?

Do you stand with the rivers and creeks – the veins of the world that take life force to the largest biomes – the oceans?

Do you stand with mountains, caves, hills and rocks, and any undulation within the terrain of any Mother Country that enables the magic of surprise, and the shadow world from where wisdom springs?

Do you stand with the seeds that are our heritages, which have made our cultures of belonging, and will do so again?

Do you stand with the smallest biomes, bodily biomes and microbial communities, as extensions of Mother Country and Grandmother Gaia?

Do you stand with Mother Country and Grandmother Gaia, honour them in the way in which you live, and defend them from machine mind in whatever capacity you have to do so?

Do you stand with both individual freedoms and communitarian care, without one eroding the other?

Do you recognise that true consent is not possible when metered out by top-down authority?

Do you stand with pollinators, in all forms, recognising the monumental gifts they bring to lifemaking?

Do you stand with the fungal webs that rule the worlds of the world, including the unreal worlds of hubristic human Empires that will always collapse and turn back into the mycelial realm?

Do you stand with humus and humility, and recognise they have derived from the same root word?

Do you stand with your herbal and medicinal plant commons, the remnant traces of your indigenous liberty and soul, which continue to bring gifts to your health and to your meaning making?

Do you stand with ecological killing in order to take life that makes more life possible, outside of a ‘man-made mass death’ cosmology, where at arm’s length civilisational violence occurs on your behalf as an industrial-food-dependent vegan, vegetarian or omnivore?

Do you stand with empowering young people to obtain skills for the future, both pragmatic and sacred (such as deep listening and beholding, foraging, gardening, forestry and hunting)?

Do you stand with village rebuilding and grass roots, cultural, ecological and microbial diversity?

 

Here are the Forest & Free children after harvesting 1.5kg of narrow leaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata) seed heads for psyllium. This plantain is a common, ancestral (Eurasia) and abundant plant that brings healing food-medicine to our lives. The kids collected this amount in just twenty minutes. Each week they learn about a new food or medicine that is not under lock and key, so they can build the skills, knowledges and daily rituals to augment their own pathways to freedom, responsibility and wisdom. We run Forest & Free within a gift economy.

So, does binary thinking have a place? In the absence of binaries how do we form our values? Is it possible to live without binaries?

We’d love to hear from you. When is binary thinking problematic? When is it useful? Would you answer yes to any the above questions? All? We hope this post generates some goodly discussion, and serves the contemporary dialectic for what mythos, what world story, we want to serve.

Stinging nettle for arthritis and allergies: neopeasant medicine food series

Patrick speaks to some of the virtues of Urtica dioica – the common stinging nettle – and how we use this generous and powerful medicinal plant as both food and medicine.

The more we interact with the living earth – the gifts, tonics and salves that come from intimate, walked-for and cultivated biomes, which we are participants of – the more we merge with Grandmother Gaia and Mother Country. This is the gift of true medicine.

How do you use nettle? What common complaints does nettle heal for you? What do you bring to nettle? We’d love to hear your experiences with this oldtimer medicine plant.

Collective preparedness

Back in 2018 Artist as Family was asked to be involved in an art event called Pandemic at Arts House in North Melbourne. The exhibition, coordinated by artists Lizzy Sampson & Asha Bee Abraham, was one of a number of Refuge events centred on where art meets emergency.

Artist as Family’s role was to address the topic of Collective Preparedness. A dinner was held and Patrick joined a Médecins Sans Frontières field coordinator, a herbalist, an epidemiologist, a Melbourne Uni outbreak forecaster, an Indigenous Futurist, a medical ethicist, and a human rights academic as one of eight Sanatorium Hosts.

Photo: Lizzy Sampson

This was one of the questions he was asked:

What do you do individually and what should we be doing collectively to prepare for the future?

And this was his reply:

[We are] learning ever more knowledges that decouple our household further from the monetary economy and help model ecologically focussed and resilient communities of place. [We are] re-establishing economies that make returns to people, biomes and the future.

Patrick took some talking point objects and brews with him. Our hand-made hunting and fishing equipment, hand carved tools, medicinal mushrooms, shade-dried herbs, Meg’s fermented mistress tonic, elderberry syrup, and our hawthorn fruit leathers as our walked-for Vitamin C, “fermented by the sun.”

Photo: Lizzy Sampson

Nearly two years later, we find ourselves no longer in an art event, no longer in a dress rehearsal, but actually cancelling house and garden tours (today’s was again fully booked), cancelling visitors, volunteers, public talks, play dates, community meetings and events, and basically every social hang. Today we also cancelled all future bookings for our Permie Love Shack. A first known case of Coronavirus, albeit still unofficial, has landed in our small town.

Things have been moving pretty fast over the past two weeks and we’ve been following the speed of the Coronavirus pandemic closely. However, this morning when a friend sent a link to Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now, we decided we wouldn’t wait for our leadershipless leaders to finally recommend everyone socially distance themselves. After reading the article we feel it is a social responsibility to act now, for the sake of health-compromised people and the health system more generally. There will be medical shortages, and therefore those of us who are prepared and have good health must step back from services and equipment that will be vital for those at greater risk.

Today we are pressing grapes to make wine, stewing and bottling apples, quince and pears, chopping and bringing in firewood, making bread and pancakes and pickling gherkins.

Photo: Michal Krawczyk

We do these things as we always do them, but now with a greater sense of urgency and intent. Our non-monetary home chemist will keep us as well as we can be.

Photo: Michal Krawczyk

Several weeks back, after the bushfire crisis, we were in Melbourne to speak as part of another art-meets-emergency event, Earth: A Place of Reconciliation, a Reconciliation of Place. Listening back to that talk is a strange thing now, as world events race across our local places and intersect with our local lives. One crisis follows another. The next will be another global recession.

Innumerable well-meaning folk have said to us over the years, “When the shit hits the fan, we’ll be knocking on your door.” While this comment is perhaps supposed to compliment us, it actually always makes us feel vulnerable and angry. The comment isn’t “we can see the resilience, economic logic and environmentalism of what you’re doing, and we’re also going to get on with our transition before the shit hits the fan.”

It’s time we all share in the responsibility of the predicaments of our time. We’ve been advocating for years decoupling from the Capitalocene before affluence-descent sends smug Modernity into chaos. Those luxurious days are numbered. Speaking of luxuries: five years of using family cloth, and these little op-shopped squares of soft flannel cotton are still going strong!

We’ll keep blogging in this time of social distancing and keep our sharing going digitally. We’re looking forward to honing our hunting, sewing, repairing and foraging skills. Reading all those books we haven’t had time for. Carving new objects, fixing tools, sowing more veg, and generally resting. We’ll prepare another post on what we’re up to shortly. You might find yourselves having more time for things you’ve been meaning to do too. We hope so. In grief there is learning, there is praise, there is renewal and opportunity.

We hope, Dear Reader, while this pandemic is still largely an abstract and mediated phenomenon, you are not vulnerable, not in despair or panic, but are preparing as adults in any capacity to meet this global predicament, remaining eternal students within this shapeshifting world as the Anthropocene matures deeper into systemic crises and calls on our adult selves to step forward.

Much love, community-immunity, social warming and joy,
Patrick, Meg, Woody and Zero