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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.

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.

Artist as Family’s Book of Neopeasantry (sixth excerpt – between the town and the forest)

If you are just coming to these excerpts now – welcome! We spent a year journalling every day and currently we are spending a year releasing excerpts as we combine our journals into one manuscript. If you would like to read the previous five, please start here, then go to two, three, four and five. If you’d like to give to our labours and writing in one of four ways, please visit our Support page. Your comments and questions are always welcome. We’re open to all forms of generative feedback – critical, loving and all that is.

 

November 28
Meg

Our neighbour Andrew brings around a box of dusty jars. He is cleaning out his shed and thinks we might like them. Blackwood and I are cooking our respective dinners when Andrew drops by. He also offers some insulation bats, so I tell him I’ll message our friend Leif who’s building a tiny house to see if he wants them.

After dinner in the tree house, Blackwood and I put on our hiking packs and head torches and walk up the street to go hunting. We are on the lookout for newspaper; a precious resource in our home economy that we wouldn’t waste our money on buying.

We know which recycling bins always have newspaper, but we inspect them all anyway. I take one side of the road and Blackwood takes the other. We turn our head torches off as we run between the bins, and then on again as we open each lid. It’s like lifting up river stones when we hunt yabbies.

After a successful session of collecting and filling our backpacks with newspapers, and some 2-litre plastic bottles, (which we are going to clean, fill with water and put in our chest freezer for Blackwood and Patrick to take next time they go fishing), we drop some newspapers at Andrew’s as he said he’d like some too. Like us, Andrew heats his home with wood, and like us, he doesn’t read newspapers.

There are some huge eucalypts outside Andrew’s house, and while Blackwood tells him about our night of hunting, I collect an armload of kindling from his nature strip. We farewell Andrew then walk home with our heavy backpacks. My arms are full of kindling, while Blackwood is carrying a box he found in someone’s bin containing an internet modem and a whole bunch of cables that he and his friend Django are going to make something with tomorrow.

 

Patrick

The men saw me off last night. I left the warmth of the firecircle and my soft-hearted brothers and walked into the forest without any light except for a fine crescent moon. I didn’t know where I was going or where I was going to sleep. I just headed southwest; everywhere else was town. It was already late.

After some walking towards what I’ve come to call Fear Country, which is mostly country within me, I arrive at a creek but find the water too high over the stepping stones to cross. Without thinking, I’d started on a course to the part of the forest where all my big visions and happenings have occurred over the years. Where a wave of blue wrens had saved me from an abyss of evil and permanent dying, and the place where white serpent revealed himself, writhing elegantly from out of the forest and across the sky, covering me in peace and belonging. All revelations and visions had occurred once I’d gathered up the courage to let go of the fear I held in my body and open to the grace and immensity of Mother Country’s spirit world.

But I turned back. I was spent and did not have the wherewithal or the light to negotiate the creek. My tiredness and growing fear of the dark turned me back towards my goats. To sleep beside them. Something I’ve always wanted to do. I felt shame for turning back and novelty, all mixed up in my fatigue.

Alice, our oldest nanny, was intrigued as I set up a crude bed, and she stayed close to me with her kid Daphne throughout the night. I fell asleep wondering if I’d botched my first challenge on this outing and how that would play its part.

~

I wake with both the dawn and the goats beside me, pack up my dew-sodden gear, wish the horned ones a goodly day, and walk an alternative route to the creek to explore a part of the forest I’ve never camped in.

At Sutton Spring I take a breakfast of mineral water, cross the creek and head off through the brambles, sweet bursaria and broom and on and up to a woodland hill. I sit for a while before I speak my two intentions for coming: to open to the oneness of the worlds of the world, and to fully accept everything. Acceptance and oneness.

The morning holds just enough sun to dry my gear, and with darkening clouds in the afternoon I set up my hammock tent between two trees, the base touching the ground where I’ll sleep. I crawl in and out for the remainder of the day, with a heavy fatigue.

Occasionally I hear bushwalkers, a truck growling up the A300, or an aeroplane going over, though for much of the day I listen to running water, little gusts of wind stirring dry leaves, and continuous bird song and call.

Falling in and out of sleep I dissolve into the thrum of the forest.

 

Wise and curious Alice has taught us much about oneness and acceptance.

Civil roads, underworld sharks, olympian neopeasants and crabmongers for China (Wadawurrung to Gadubanud Country)

There’s an ever present chill from saltwater wind that we’re becoming more hardy and alive to, so too the smell of old fish, which proliferates our hands and our clothes. We are in ever greater degree the great unwashed in an increasingly controlled human world, but life supports us in her abundance, provides shelter when it rains,

a wall to pitch a tent behind when ferocious winds rip through the night,

and calm, magical mornings to set out upon.

The roads have been endless providers too, of such things as road killed ringtail

and hare for Zero meat,

valuable rope to add to our kit as we neglected to bring a washing line,

and pretty good shoulders for cyclists.

We left St Leonards after two weeks of lockdown with a spring in our pedals, camped at Barwon Heads and rode on to Torquay, stopping for regular breaks.

At Torquay Magpie caught up with her office work in a sunny park,

while Blackwood cut some three-cornered garlic (Allium triquetrum) for the dinner pot.

and Blue Wren toasted some almonds on the municipal BBQ as Zero took a nap.

Each day we have been travelling in and out of Magpie, Blackwood and Blue Wren countries, and down here on the coast Willy Wagtail Country is ever present.

In the park in Torquay we happened across Monica, and after a far bit of yarning she invited us to mind her home (including her neighbourhood compost drop off) for the weekend while she was to be away tree planting.

In exchange we got to work repairing doors,

nurturing housemates,

and restoring her bike to roadworthy condition.

While in Torquay it felt good to help out at Monica’s while she was planting trees, but we also rested up, and explored the coastline.

While this town is the gateway to the Great Ocean Road we left Torquay in winter sunshine

and headed back inland. We wanted to volunteer at Common Ground Project, a ‘not-for-profit community farm that promotes food security by creating fair access to locally grown, healthy food.’

which is managed by these two bright sparks, Ivan and Greta.

We were offered beautiful food, shown a goodly camp spot, and had a chance to learn more about how their regenerative farming practices are feeding people in the community. The next day we rode towards Deans Marsh, in the traditional lands of the Gadubanud and Gulidjan peoples, thus leaving Wadawurrung Country for the first time since our first day’s ride back in early July.

The road offered up these wood blewits (Clitocybe nuda) before we arrived in Deans Marsh,

where some lovely locals Sian and Ads showed us a beautiful place to camp. Then in the rain we left to climb our biggest hill of the trip so far.

From Deans Marsh (elevation 155m above sea level) we pedalled for more or less 12km up hill, stopping for drink breaks,

encouragement cuddles,

and to take layers off.

Then we arrived at the top. Yippee!

The ten kilometres down hill was heaven. We soared and glided, laughed and whooooped out loud. Woody was learning what Zeph learnt on our first adventure – ‘a hill is just a hill.’ At the bottom was lovely Lorne, a place to pitch our tent and, as we discovered, another snap lockdown starting that night.

We headed for the nearby jetty, 2km from our home camp, and fished our way through the lockdown.

Zero had developed gunky eyes, which he nursed by staying quiet on the jetty, letting the sun treat him.

Blackwood pulled up an array of fish including this Australian salmon (Arripis trutta) which we enjoyed for dinner,

Blue Wren caught Port Jackson, Banjo and Draughtboard sharks (Cephaloscyllium laticeps) on his hand line and threw them all back,

and Magpie went after crabs (Ovalipes australiensis), which were delicious out of the billy.

A jetty engenders a special kind of community. It is a place for learning, marvelling and praising what the sea has to offer, and it is a place for connection and for song.

Public amenities are really the great civic remnant of a pre-corporatised world. These colonial structures are so often incorrect in today’s world where colonialism’s new face – paternalistic corporatism – is ashamed of yesterday and seeks utopia in a post-human tomorrow. We’re as happy to wild shit as find solace in public amenities. When you live outside it gets down to practicality – available ecology or architecture, digging tool or flush away your precious nutrients?

Another public amenity built in the pre-corporate colonial era is the Great Ocean Road, built by returned soldiers of the First World War. All the plaques along the road confuse whose Aboriginal country we’re riding on but are clear on the story of the mayor of Geelong’s project to have traumatised men return from France and construct a picturesque coastal road like in mother Europe. This road, emptied of tourist traffic, has been a cyclist’s joy.

Wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum L.) grows in abundance where the disturbance of settler road meets oldtimer coastline. This feral, uncorporatised food is a prize to neopeasants and gallantly sings into the trauma of our shared ancestries.

As are these turkey tails (Trametes versicolor). Both weedy brassica and bracket fungus are wild medicines,

and they belong to a very different medical philosophy than corporate health, which is lead foremost by monetisation and control. Charles Eisenstein details this in his latest essay where he writes: “When herbicide-resistant weeds appear, the solution is a new herbicide. When immigrants cross the border, we build a wall. When a school shooter gets into a locked school building, we fortify it further. When germs develop resistance to antibiotics, we develop new and stronger ones. When masks fail to stop the spread of covid, we wear two. When our taboos fail to keep evil at bay, we redouble them. The controlling mind foresees a paradise in which every action and every object is monitored, labeled, and controlled. There will be no room for any bad thing to exist. Nothing and no one will be out of place. Every action will be authorized. Everyone will be safe.” As Charles goes on to argue, the pursuit for ever greater control generates ever greater divisions and social illness.

Human wellbeing is wrapped up in connection to people and place, regularly diving into other worlds for not just food but insight,

to behold our own wildness as contiguous with the living of the world, be predator and prey in the same instance,

to find delight and challenge in the fierce determination of kin,

to experience the full force of the world and only retreat from it for short periods of recuperation,

and to pull on the primal materiality of ancestors.

We rolled into Apollo Bay in Gadubanud (Katubanut) Mother Country and dried out the tent.

Rainbows keep rolling in on this saltwater winter country,

as do the facilities to cook a public meal.

We soon found a hidden coastal camp site protected from wind, tides and rain. A place to call home for a while,

interact with the locals (Arctocephalus pusillus),

fish up some more shark (to throw back),

accept gifts (Seriolella brama) from fellow fishers (thanks Lonnie!),

cook up both gifts from sea and field,

and listen to local crabmongers talk about the elite markets in China for these Tasmanian giants (Pseudocarcinus gigas).

We are common students on this bicycle pilgrimage. All three of us human folk learning to cook in a windy kitchen without walls,

fishing up species we’ve never before encountered (Heterodontus portusjacksoni),

beholding the advance of more-than-human greatness (due to fewer boats on the ocean),

while observing the encroachment of dehumanising politics in subtle and not so subtle forms.

This pilgrimage begs for breathing with the wind, the gales, the gusts, as windbags ourselves. It begs for not holding our breath in the anxieties of corporate-apnea. It begs for not using scientific nomenclature, roads or public toilets without understanding the colonisations of these useful but unnecessary things. It begs for us to find gratitude in every food we eat that comes loaded in story. It begs for us to share our learnings and extend our studenthood with kinfolk we come across on the road like Sian and baby Kai,

and with you, Dear Reader. Thanks for riding along with us. We’ve travelled 177kms since St Leonards and while setting out in winter in a pandemic might have seemed to some a crazy-arse thing to do, we’ve really enjoyed the cold and the reduced noise along the coastal roads.

With much love, Artist as Family

The lockdown leg (sedentary, errantry, on the jetty)

Well, that was a strange 17 days! After our first magical spell on the road, starting to stretch our touring legs and build our fitness, the state of Victoria went into lockdown again. Friends Jo and Tony kindly offered us their sweet shack in St Leonards so we could lay low.

The day before the lockdown was enforced we went in search of a local bikesmith to help us with a rear tyre issue. On the way we came across another simple example of neighbourly generosity.

Unaccustomed to visiting supermarkets we spent far too long wandering through the aisles to see if there was anything we could eat. One thing! Unpackaged organic bananas were cheaper than some of the conventionally grown ones! Our waste free, nutritious lunch cost $8 for the whole fam. We found some nearby shrubbery and buried the skins discreetly. We could have eaten them, as they are higher in antioxidants, fibre and potassium than the fruit, but felt the municipal garden bed needed this food more than us.

It’s been a creative time in the shack with all that is going on in the world. We wrote and published our first blog post of the pilgrimage, recorded one of our busking songs, wrote a new one to rehearse, and a satirical one that we published, which saw us censored by YouTube for a day. This song came out of a cry for help.

The headline in The Australian triggered many emotions, as Patrick states in introducing our latest video, Anthropogenic pandemic – how to trust ‘the science’. This is part of our explanation for why we made the video, Jab the kids.

In this video we compile a number of sources who speak on the growing evidence for the lab leak theory, including Clive Hamilton’s two articles that made it past the gatekeepers. Why does this matter?

The Australian science ethics professor makes the case that not only did the pandemic originate in a lab, the virus was engineered to be more virulent by scientists to obtain gain of function research with the express purpose of developing vaccines. Seemingly, to be ahead of the game for the next global pandemic.

“A Bayesian analysis concludes beyond a reasonable doubt that SARS-CoV-2 is not a natural zoonosis but instead is laboratory derived.” You can download that analysis here. In this pre-reviewed report, which has been sent to both Lancet and WHO scientists for peer review, it states that the “Wuhan Institute of Virology analysis of lavage specimens from ICU patients at Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital in December 2019 contain both SARS-CoV-2 and adenovirus vaccine sequences consistent with a vaccine challenge trial.” This effectively means that vaccine research created the pandemic. This is not a comfortable conclusion for science, and we are very concerned it will be covered up once again.

While in St Leonards we reflected on how different the previous lockdowns were for us. We ordinarily live in a home which is highly energetic in producing our own food, fuel and medicine resources, one in which a television has no place, and positive actions are our main focus. With all the hard news and views encircling us we got suckered in to the dominant screen in the little shack, and became sickened by it. Charles Eisenstein has warned activists that if you wallow in the shit of the old story too much (we are paraphrasing in our own language) you become the same sickness of that story. The jetty was a major salve.

Each day we fished,

reeled in nourishing gifts (Arripis trutta) from Wadawurrung mother country,

collected and salted our own bait,

got wet and put the little ones back,

witnessed the sublime and the prosaic riffing off each other,

looked for many opportunities to eat outside the lock and key of the industrial food bowl,

practiced our breathing routines and rested,

and watched the dawns and dusks come and go with the pelicans, seagulls, cormorants and wrasse (Labridae) communities. We caught Australian salmon, local wrasse, ling and a baby flathead. Needless to say, the undersized went back from where they came.

We went on bike rides and walking excursions around the town, coming across these delicious feral fruits (Opuntia),

harvested oldtimer warrigal greens (Tetragonia tetragonioides) where there was evidence of the absence of pesticides,

exchanged books at another friendly roadside library,

found places to swim and spearfish,

places to embrace the cold as part of our immune strengthening regime, and places to tell our censorship story from.

We fiddled with a dumpster dived-for jigsaw puzzle,

and when Blackwood asked who the people were in the image, we laughed and told him they were world renown op-shoppers.

Be it on the TV, by the jetty, around the streets or in the virus, colonisation exuded itself everywhere. We showed Blackwood the place where William Buckley was found by Batman and his Boy Wonders.

“Always was, always will be.” Just for the record, Buckley was never included in “European society.” Alan Garner’s novel Strandloper about Buckley is the best thing we’ve read on his life. It shows how close the Greenman cosmology of Cheshire-dispossessed peasant Buckley is with Wadawurrung peoples’ cosmology. An escaped convict, Buckley spent three decades living in Wadawurrung (Wathaurong) country, becoming a fully initiated member of the local clan.

Just over the drink to the northeast we looked out to the pandemic embattled city of Melbourne, where friends and family are coming up for air as this lockdown ends. So many nerves frayed in the spray.

We are filled to the brim with gratitude that we have had a cosy place to be locked down in, but we cannot wait to get back on our deadly treadlies. We are committed to re-establishing the intentions for this pilgrimage – to not get caught up in the world online, to background our egoic minds, and to fearlessly, sensitively and lovingly inhale and exhale the living of the world. We are making a pledge to ourselves, and to you Dear Reader, to return to these intentions as we continue on our journey.

Baptism by ice and lemon: from southern Djaara to saltwater Wadawurrung country

Well, the quill of the feather pointed due south.

As we came onto the street fully loaded, our neighbour Bob greeted us and said (quite concerned), “You’re heading north aren’t you?”

A kilometre later at the top roundabout, south meant taking the third exit (right), and as we did so another neighbour, Gordon, took out his phone.

The bikes were laden and our legs not yet in tune.

It was always going to be slow going at first. We stopped for a splash of mineral water at Sailors Falls,

and Irish strawberries (Arbutus unedo) recharged our energy fields,

and then we truly left home, and crossed this threshold into Wadawurrung mother country.

We rode on through the Spargo Creek Road forest, crossed the Western Freeway and dropped into Gordon with these beautiful wood blewits (Clitocybe nuda) blinking up at our foraging eyes in a small reserve.

We were keen to get out our instruments for our first play on the road, when Maureen, a local resident, came by and introduced herself.

Maureen invited us home for a cuppa, which quickly developed into a backyard blitz, where we helped weed out the bent grass, trim the poa tussocks,

and plant them in another patch of the garden.

In the gloaming hour, Maureen showed us Kirritt Bareett, the hill where Bunjil resided after he created the first people.

With an invitation to camp over, and the lend of a few more blankets, we spent our first night in the tent at Maureen and Vince’s. It got down to minus 2 degrees celsius.

Vince (DJ icon from PBS radio’s Soul Time) and Maureen really keep a spirited home,

and their neighbour Andrew kept dropping off food packages for us over the fence while we were there. Such generous souls! Our first 24 hours were magical.

Just down the hill, heading towards Mount Egerton on our second morning, we came across John Smith in his front yard. We pulled over for a quick yarn and a laugh and rode on,

finding some lovely saffron milk caps (Lactarius deliciosus) on the road to Lal Lal.

We thought Lal Lal might be a place to lay our heads, but with all the downhill of the morning and still energy to burn, we selected a few books to take from the free roadside library and thought we’d try our luck at reaching Meredith before dark.

The delicious three-cornered garlic (Allium triquetrum) greeted us on the edge of town.

We rode through rough forest tracks and C roads for a few hours until we realised we’d better start looking for a camp at Elaine. Being landlocked and running alongside the A300, Elaine didn’t offer much in terms of a public reserve to pitch a tent. It was looking like an undesirable roadside camp when friendly Dave walked across the road to see if we needed assistance. That came in the offer to pitch our tent beside his woodshed. Thanks Dave!

The mercury fell to minus two again, and the fields over the back of Dave’s fence felt the full exposed force of the frost.

Home is the combination of kindness and fire. Thanks Dave!

In Meredith we swapped over the Lal Lal books,

and had a play in the sun,

before pushing off for Lethbridge to dry out the tent,

and cook up the mushrooms with the sourdough leaven we are carrying and mixing up each day.

The combination of the cold and the riding is keeping us perpetually hungry. We stopped in Bannockburn, played some tunes, received our first coin for our efforts, and cooked up some grub.

On dusk we headed down to the footy ground and on the margins of the reserve set up camp. We crashed early and woke an hour or two later to the sound of spinning wheels and a car zooming past our tent just metres from our heads.

A few hours later we woke again, this time to the thump of lemons being used as grenades at our tent. Despite the burnouts and lemon hurlers we got our first decent sleep of the trip. It was a balmy zero degrees and we had everything we needed, including lemons.

On the way out of Bannockburn we discovered the lemon hurlers had had a busy night. We rode down the noisy A300 without breakfast and found the sleepy Batesford Tennis Club,

where we set up the camp kitchen.

Some late season roadside apples and a few overhanging mandarins filled us up some more,

and we collected wild fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgare) as take-away spice.

Woody jumped off the bike and harvested some wood sorrel (Oxalis),

munching the golden flowers with gusto.

We’re not sure why we were drawn to easting into Geelong. The feather’s quill was only ever to be a starting point to enable the flow of the journey to set itself free. But it felt right and so we followed our intuition. And soon found ourselves beside a mussel and paella float, and struck up a yarn with another family about the indefatigable learnings when living in the realm of school of the road.

Blackwood quickly tried his luck with the local fish populations,

and we slept, cooked and sang our way across the afternoon.

With more musical pennies in our pocket, though no luck with the fish, we gathered up sea lettuce (Ulva australis) to join the evening’s meal.

Invited to stay in Tom, Clarrie and Lachie’s home garden farm in the burbs, we once more set up camp on dusk.

The next morning we feasted together on backyard rooster that Jenna had despatched the night before, and were treated to the soup of a pumpkin that had spent the summer growing where our pumpkin coloured tent now sat.

Just like our pumpkins back home are powered on humanure, same too here in Norlane,

as is the whole damn fine garden. These guys are living the RetroSuburban dream.

We all jumped on our bikes after a nourishing closed-loop brekky and headed downtown to join Wadawurrung mob celebrate their culture.

Blackwood added another hunting tool to the kit,

and we pedalled down the Bellarine Peninsula,

only to be hi-ho-ed off the highway by gardeners Ivan and Gretta to spend some time with them and the family’s herd.

Brother Zephyr called while back on our bikes, and so we pulled right off the road to hear his news and to share ours, finding lilly pilly (Syzygium smithii) delights alongside our conversation.

This was our biggest day in the saddle yet. Almost 50 kms with just a few big climbs. We were well spent by the time the pelicans witnessed our arrival.

Friends Jo and Tony offered us to stay in their beach shack at St Leonards and thus have given us a chance to get out of the cold and damp over the next few days when a load of rain is expected.

We’ll spend time gathering some saltwater nourishment thanks to Wadawurrung mother country,

resting, and carrying out some modifications and upgrades.

The generosity of people has been overwhelming over this past week, both at home, online and on the road. We are so grateful for your support in leaving home and during this first 180kms.

So the question is, Dear Reader, where to now? Any guesses? We look forward to sharing our next leg with you down the track. Signing off for now, with love, Artist as Family xx

Forest & free – an out-of-school experience and the power of risk

There are few places left where kids can use knives, climb trees, navigate forests, tend fires, sit in circle, speak their story, and generally get scratched up and stung by being participants of life. This is why we re-established a children’s forest group this year and why we volunteer our time to run it.

Forest & Free not about setting challenges that are too great for children, and we don’t encourage an overtly competitive or risk-taking culture, rather we encourage children to meet their own challenges and learn from others around them, and of course from the forest. We are observing, however, that the broader cultural narrative of ‘safety at all costs’ is harming children, making them less resilient, less mobile and suffering more health problems at an increasingly early age.

Forest & Free is about embodying resilience, meeting difficult (at times) challenges, and allowing uncomfortable things to occur – cutting oneself, standing on a Jumping Jack ant nest, putting all your weight on a rotten tree branch while climbing, taking off from the group and getting lost, and generally playing around with life.

Our culture, up until recently, used to see breaking a bone, receiving stitches, getting lost and a myriad of other uncomfortable things as ordinary rites of passage for 7-12 year olds – the pre-initiation age – necessary for the development of children. In the past few decades the possibility of embracing and learning through discomfort has been almost completely eliminated. This doesn’t serve children.

While we don’t wish on anyone any great pain – and we explain each skill, challenge, game or wild food in terms of the risks involved – adversity is the underlying, ever present flip side of enabling such learning and growth. That’s why we ask parents, carers and children to share the risk with us. This is the community model of organisation, which is a powerful antidote to the culture of fear and risk aversion that so greatly limits and incarcerates our children, and therefore inevitably our society.

As adults we come to understand that our greatest learnings come through some sort of discomfort, pain or suffering. And it’s how we respond to these things that really matters in building resilience, wisdom, freedom and bouncebackability. Overcoming fear is liberation!

In allowing a child to attend Forest & Free we ask parents to accept that some learning occurs through risk taking, that sometimes adversity will present itself as part of this risk, and in turn this presents itself as a gift of learning for everyone. When we go through adversity we gather in circle and share our story.

Children choose a forest name when they participate in Forest & Free. That is, when their forest names avail themselves. Sometimes this is a rapid process, sometimes a slow one. We have in our mob Echidna, Plantain, Blackberry, Deer, Silva, Blackwood, Jumping Jack, Thistle, Silent Night, Raven, Black Thorn, Fox, Black Cockatoo, Gum Tree, Huntsman, Brown Snake, Brush-tailed Phascogale, Pine Cone, Kangaroo and Kookaburra, amongst the dwellers who gather on a Wednesday afternoon.

Brown Snake’s mother: “I have watched such growth and confidence blossoming in Brown Snake recently, in huge part because of what you are offering – this space of adventure, risk, freedom, resilience, learning and cooperation. He holds himself slightly taller, prouder because he inhabits this space and can carry it with him. Without risk in the equation, as cliched as it is, there wld be no such reward.”

Huntsman’s mother: “There’s nowhere where the skills you share are offered in this manner & we are extremely grateful to be a part of it. Each week Huntsman is ecstatic when we meet up and can’t wait to tell his family and friends about the adventures you’ve been on.”

Pine Cone’s mother: “Thank you for all you do, for encouraging, empowering and enabling our children to rewild and connect with nature. We all try to avoid our children’s suffering at times, even when it’s beneficial for them to go through the process. It’s good to reflect upon this.”

Kangaroo’s mum: I love how much extra perception Kangaroo has of what’s going on in nature. That a tree has fallen on its own, or has been cut down, which [plants] to use for ailments etc. Probably most importantly, he has developed a better sense of his limits. So when he is climbing a tree, or a cliff, I feel more comfortable knowing he can make decisions for himself about how to stay safe and still take risks.

Black Cockatoo’s mother: “Forest & Free has given our child a sense of belonging and place at a time where he has been challenged to find that. It has reinforced and amplified his joy of being a part of a group and the relevance of safe behaviours in risky settings. Our child has been put down by educators for his engagement in “risky behaviours” such as jumping from things or climbing things that are “too high”, for questioning and pushing boundaries with a desire to understand. He has been made to feel like he is bad and naughty for wanting to explore and push the edges of his curiosity which has led to his exit from the education “system”. Through beautifully held mentoring where he feels respected and therefore chooses to be respectful… What is more, he is learning [to be in] a space where his intelligence, silence, ideas AND his wildness are ALL embraced. At F&F the world makes sense and therefore the boundaries are respected and embraced (because they make sense). Best of all, he feels like he is a part of something, something special, it is a place for belonging, a place to be his wild, loving, risk taking self and it grounds him, fills him up. Every week upon returning from forest and free he returns in the dark, dirty, beaming and bright eyed. He gets in the car and shows me his wet feet, scratches and cuts with joy from a good time well had. When asked how it was he always says it was awesome, or the best, something he never said about school.”

Many thanks to all who have contributed to the fun, adversity and adventure of Forest & Free this year. A big thank you to Blue Tongue and Thornbill who have both assisted us with the children. It doesn’t take much to organise a bush group, and the forest has so much to teach us, it’s just about getting children into forests, deserts, grasslands and any other non-mediated environments, and not placing too many restrictions on how they engage in these places so they can keep connecting to the living of the world’s worlds. Here is a short video made by Thornbill Fizzy Mitchell that gives a little more insight into how children connect if they have the opportunity.

Sending much love out to you, Dear Reader,

Magpie and Blue Wren