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Mapping Our Menu

For the next three years, Patrick will be a student again, undertaking research for his doctoral thesis in the areas of ecology and poetics. Part of his research is to document our family’s transition from being oil dependent to as self-sufficient as we can be in terms of water, energy and food.

We have solar panels, water tanks and bikes. But what about our food?

We have been spending a lot of time in the garden talking about what it will take for our family to become self-sustaining in terms of what we eat. So, to determine how far we have to go, we decided to mark the beginning of our journey by spending 24 hours eating the food we have growing here in our garden or provided by our chickens, and the public food we are able to forage locally. No salt and pepper, no butter, oil or any condiments. We only drank our own rain water. We didn’t drive anywhere all day and we didn’t spend any money.

7:06 am
7:08 am
7:10 am
7:13 am
7:20 am
7:26 am
9:32 am
9:35 am
9:48 am
11:07 am
11:35 am
11:45 am
12:39 pm
12:44 pm
1:24 pm
5:12 pm
7:46 pm
7:50 pm
8:13 pm
8:27 pm
As you can see, we by no means went hungry, though we all lacked energy throughout the day, had headaches at one time or another, and felt lackluster.

Patrick: I experienced a mild depression along with a headache. As the head gardener in the Artist as Family, I know how much work it takes to generate our own food, and this challenge – or experiment – really emphasised the enormous task we have of becoming self-sufficient.

Zephyr: Just before lunch I had a nap!! I haven’t done that since I was three years old.

Meg: I had a meeting to attend in the afternoon. While I was sitting in it, I couldn’t help but feel that the issues that were being discussed that I normally feel are vital and worth discussing, were completely irrelevant compared to the imperative issue of finding food for one’s self and one’s family.

40% of greenhouse gases come from industrial agriculture (supermarket food): pesticides, fertilisers, tractors, harvesters, packaging, transportation, refrigeration, lighting etc. Food prices are only going to rise courtesy of peak oil. Communities that start to plan for energy descent now will be better off in the long run. What the Artist as Family is learning, is that relocalisation is a several year transition.

How Did We Get Here?

It doesn’t look like much, just a regular pile of beach flotsam that one would ordinarily walk right past. But when you spend all day at the beach looking down at such debris, you see the small aqua square of plastic, the cigarette butt and the top of the icy-pole stick. We could have chosen a photo containing far more waste but thought we’d use this one to give you an indication of the minutiae of so many of our minutes.

Although we still picked up the larger trash items today, we mainly concentrated on the small. Slowing down and focusing gave us time to contemplate and wonder and ask, How did we get here? How did we arrive at a place in our society that nearly every broken wave upon a beach contains some fragment, however small, of oil-based waste?

These questions make us think about this book, that we adults were both read as kids. We bought it for Zeph a few days ago in an op shop, for him to find on our shelves when he becomes more curious.

The questions we asked ourselves today both started and ended with these foodstuffs, gifted to us by Gerry, the Director of the Lock-Up and the co-keeper of the soil and chickens from whence these goods did come. We are missing our garden and our hens so these gifts are much appreciated.

To help us answer the question of how our culture got so tangled up in this anthropocentric mess we looked to the walls of the Lock-Up’s exercise yard for some answers.

Each marking tells a story of circumstance and place, that is rich with history and individual misfortune, but doesn’t quite answer our question as specifically or collectively as we’d hoped.

Our search continues.

Social Warming

There’s a café just down the road from the Lock-Up that roasts its own coffee using the energy they create by burning their own waste. A fantastic idea. I wonder when such actions are going to be the norm rather than the exception.

Around the corner from that café is a laundromat we took our washing to this morning. Outside it are some planter boxes in which the owners have planted vegetables and herbs. “Why have flowers when we can grow vegetables?” They asked us. “Why don’t more people grow their own food?” We wondered back.

We found other food today. Though unfortunately not all of it was edible.

Mostly we just found rubbish. I guess because that’s what we were looking for.

At one point in the afternoon we found some trash that was a little out of our reach.

So we had to ask some of our feathered friends to help us.

Normally nimble Zephyr would have climbed that fence in one swift swoop and retrieved the rubbish from atop. But today Zephyr spent the day at the local primary school where he joined a class of other grade ones. School holidays have already begun in Victoria, but being the sociable kid that he is, Zephyr jumped at the chance to hang out with some peers and talk about his experience as one third of the Artist as Family. Here is some of the work he did today:

Although we’re meeting lots of people, kids have an innate knack of social warming wherever they may be. And Zephs’ brand new school was no exception. When we went to pick him up at the end of the day, we were invited over for a play at Perry’s house, one of the kids from his class.

We ate delicious cake and drank tea (Meg’s first good cuppa since we arrived)

and helped out with another art project: making Xmas tree decorations to be sold at Perry’s school’s upcoming school fair.

But not everything is always fair. Zeph declared it was most unfair that we couldn’t move to Newcastle so he could play with Perry and his other new friends every day.

Meanwhile, our own project continues to grow.