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Workshops in walked-for food

Patrick is taking small groups out every Saturday morning in Daylesford to teach the art of finding free food.

Between 20 and 30 species is typically what’s found. These will revolutionise your kitchen and add richly to your preventative medicine cabinet. Patrick teaches you how, what and where to forage.

After a two-hour walk join Artist as Family for a light locavore lunch including a foraged salad from the walk, Meg’s ferments and pickles, Patrick’s slow-fermented spelt sourdough, produce from our garden, bush tucker, teas, weed juices and more. 
This is the table after our 9 delightful guests left today.

Today’s lunch—with everything made at home—included slow-juiced apples, spelt sourdough, a raw milk fresh cheese, a pesto of kale, almond and oregano, pickled butter beans, pickled beetroot, fermented sprouts, olives, sauerkraut, carrot pulp, rosemary and flaxseed crackers, semi-dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, dried nashi pears, and a salad of dandelion, mallow, wild fennel, sheep’s sorrel, wild mustard, sow thistle, vetch, calendula and borage flowers.

Meg will be taking fermenting workshops shortly, so stay tuned for these forthcoming bubbling sessions.

Moss Vale to Hyams Beach (with a video recipe for eating garden snails)

We left Moss Vale with full bellies and much family cheer, but an aching to be on the open road again. The Illawarra Highway welcomed us with mostly broad shoulders.

Just before the little potato town of Robertson, Zero jumped bike and chased lunch down a hole. But he really needed some more skilful help – another Jacky, a feret or Andrew Ucles perhaps.

It will have to be spuds for lunch, then.

Just out of town we spotted some naturalised elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum) growing among the bracken fern (Pteridium sp.) – another edible, but only in a survival situation – and roadside weeds.

Great! Something to take to the Milkwood crew, now of Kiama.

We flew down Jamberoo Pass with our newly replaced brake pads smokin’,

and arrived in Kiama mid-afternoon. Patrick thought he’d try to spear some fish to also bring to the Milkwood table, but he only speared this estuary cobbler or catfish (Cnidoglanis) thinking it was an eel. These fish have large venomous dorsal and pectoral-fin spines that are capable of inflicting very painful wounds. He put this ugly but divine critter back in the ocean and watched it swim away.

We did collect a turban shell (Turbo undulata),

that we hammered open to cook at Nick, Kirsten and Ashar’s place. Hello Milkwood family! So good to meet you again after all these years.

The turban shell was, well, typically shellfish-like with a strong scent of pork as we cooked it in strained pig fat. We were blessed with an extended piggy feast that night: the pork was served up with bone broth noodles and our elephant garlic. A few days later we were to become intimate with the origin of that very local pork,

which we’ll get to shortly. The next day we walked around to the Boneyard, a famous surfing haven when conditions are right, and went in search of lunch. Before long Patrick speared what we think is a wrasse of some kind,

and Zeph took us on a short fish gutting demo. Thanks Zeph!
While at the Boneyard we munched on some Warrigal greens (Tetragonia tetragonioides),

noted (not quite ripe) cape gooseberries (Physalis peruviana),

and saw loads of the edible weed cobbler’s peg, otherwise known as farmer’s friend (Bidens pilosa).

We picked some wild brassica leaves and flowers,

and some pigface (Carpobrotus glaucescens) fruit,

and with foraged sow thistle, wild fennel and some leaf vegeatables and herbs growing in Nick and Kirsten’s new garden we made a salad,

to accompany the fish for lunch. It was a delicious and very local meal.

Milkwood had organised for us to speak at the Little Blowhole Café that night, where we shared our year’s story with about 40 peeps. There was so much to say, and so little time, and so many great questions!

Thanks Nick and Kirsten for hosting us! It has been wonderful to get to know you both and Ashar better. Two of the people who came along to our talk were the very farmers of the delicious pork we’d had the previous night and they invited us to camp at their organic farm in Gerringong. This is the view we cycled across, looking south to Gerringong. Pretty horrid, hey??

We arrived at Buena Vista Farm and Woody jumped straight into the strawberry patch. It was serious work.

And in that same patch were hundreds of snails (Helix aspersa) that Maarten, a dutch WWOOFer working at the farm with his partner Marlies, collected up and demonstrated how to turn into a valuable source of meat. Brilliant Maarten, we love experimental permies!

We had two precious days of exchanging knowledges with the Buena Vista crew. We learnt more about cell grazing chickens and cows and market gardening, and Patrick took a foraging tour over the farm, identifying a dozen or so common weed species including plantain, hawksbeard, dandelion, black nightshade, dock, chickweed, stinging nettle, fat hen, fleabane, spear thistle, sow thistle, clover, cobbler’s peg and amaranth.

After lunch we walked across a neighbour’s farm to the coast to go for a spear,

and brought back two fishy offerings for the dinner table feast on our last night.

The feast included locally farmed trout, which Buena Vista had traded for some of their meat birds, and roasted parsnips pulled straight out of the rich organic market garden soil. Like at Milkwood we were treated to the region’s finest fare. Thank you Fi, Adam, Henry, Tilly, Ivy, Holly the dog and the delightful (and knowledgeable) interns, Maarten and Marlies! Our stay at Buena Vista Farm was a true treat!

Before leaving the farm we realised we had a bit of a problem.

The seat post we had welded on the way up north in Gosford was showing signs of stress after about 6000 kms. Fi was going to Nowra on the morning we were leaving, so she kindly offered to load up her car with our panniers and we put the bikes on the train for the 18 km joy ride,

to Bomaderry station. Fi, who also took Zeph and Zero, met us there, where we bid farewell to this amazing woman, and rode across town to south Nowra where the alumimium welder Jason was waiting for us.

Only $20! Thanks Jason! We love not having a car! By the time we left the workshop it was 38 degrees in the shade. Zeph wished we did have a car. The heat surprised us, and so did this sign:

Wow, we’re that close to home. We struggled on the short and dangerous ride to Huskisson but were rewarded for our efforts at Shark Net Beach on Jervis Bay. Where else would you want to be on such a baking afternoon?

This south coast really is remarkable. We got the free-camping low-down from some friendly locals who set our course on a 15 minute bike ride south to Plantation Point, which from our tents looked like this:

The boys made themselves at home,

and the dawns pretty much emmulated this one:

Pure dawn porn! We settled in for four nights in our quiet haven. One of the joys of cycle-camping is being able to get away from cars and vans and into areas where their various pollutions can’t follow us. It was quiet at Plantation Point, the sleepy surf rocked us to sleep and created a perfect white noise to sleep past the little night sighs of our toddler and the sleep talk of Zero and Zeph. Ah bliss…

While at Plantation Point we spearfished and fished off the rocks with the remains of a bull shark some local fishermen had left behind. 

Zeph wrote a synopsis of Lord of the Flies and answered the question: Put yourself on the island: what would you do differently?

We ate native violets (Viola hederacea), the flowers and leaves,

and rock oysters (Saccostrea glomerata),

and we started to document seaweeds,

before we moved on just 10 kms south to Hyams Beach where we continued our research on these common Australian algaes we really know nothing about.

We’re sure there is good tucker in at least some of these species.

If you know anything about edible seaweeds in Australia, Dear Reader, we’d love to hear from you.

Zero conducted his own research – chance canine encounters and coastal bird chasing.

We walked south along the white sand beach towards the navy college, musing, not on the education of young people in the business of man-made mass death, but on all the wondrous finds of regenerative life we came across along the way including this jellyfish,

American sea rocket, (Cakile edentula), which has thick succulent edible leaves.

beautiful marine jewellery,

and even more varieties of kelp.

Our walk was cathartic. Boys on a beach is a joy to behold; it doesn’t get any more uncomplicated.

That night we again snuck the bikes into the beachside bush, picked up a bag of rubbish in exchange for our camping fees,

waited for dusk and the departure of the daily beachfolk before we set up our tents, cooked dinner, put Woody and Zero to bed and lit a little evening fire to help us reflect on the past few weeks.

That’s about all from us this post. We’ll see you again shortly, Dear Reader. We hope you too have comfort and warmth from the love of kin and healthy ecologies.

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.

Household gift economies, Blue Mountains style

This jaunt, this adventure, this research trip, this AaF-for-president-national-tour, this blessed extreme year on bikes in this new era of extreme weather, collapsing economies and peaking crude oil supply is the best bloody thing we’ve ever done. Predicated on chance encounters, uncertain destinations, biophysical challenges, autonomous foods and unpredictable weathers we approach each day as it so generously comes.

After a week in Katoomba the weather turned fairly wet and cold. We’d earlier met a particularly sweet family in a local park and they messaged us to come over and stay with them to see the bad weather out.

“Yes, we’d love to but only if we could do some sort of exchange, like a garden design…”

Our two babies, Woody and Lily, were born on the very same day, only two hours apart. But we had more in common than this remarkable fact. Food, what we consume and where it comes from, was a significant topic of discussion and so was the subject of permaculture. We took it in turns to cook and we showed off again the gentle delight of daylily buds by tossing them through a pasta dish.

Thanks Lily, Guy and Kirsten! So great to have met you and spent a few days in your home. After leaving Katoomba our new destination was just a short ride away to the town of Leura, passing through beautiful country to get there.

It was in Leura we stayed with another family, old friends through poetry networks: Ruby, Kate, Pete and Felix.

Despite being old friends we were keen to continue the communitarian gift economy exchange, sharing the kitchen work,

the gardening work (which included summer pruning, tomato bed preparation and compost setting),

and, on our last night together, some gentle foraging to make a Blue Mountains salad.

After adding olive oil, lemon and salt we had a classic bitter bowl of goodness to finish the meal.

We said farewell to our sweet friends of the mountains on a cool sunny morning,

and legged it downhill at thrilling speed. Our destination was to be somewhere along a river near Richmond, and so inevitably we passed both the regeneration and rebuilding that was occurring after the recent bushfires.

We arrived at Yarramundi in the heat of the afternoon and hopped straight in to the cool waters where the Nepean and Grose Rivers empty in to the upper reaches of the Hawkesbury River,

where we remained until dusk and prepared dinner,

fished for mullet and bass and aired out our bedding under the river she-oaks.

Much love and gratitude to the beautiful Blue Mountains and the people we met and stayed with. If you’re in South Australia, our thoughts are with you. More Catastrophic fire weather there right now, moving across to our loved ones in Victoria. With love and pedalspeed, AaF.

Preserving fruit, extending kin

We made it to Moss Vale! 929 kms from our home in Daylesford, Victoria to the Southern Highlands of NSW, averaging a leisurely 24 kms per day.

We joined kin from far and wide to become artist as extended family for a lovely, warm but nonetheless strange little timezone between Christmas and New Year.

We caught up with some old friends and reunited with Zeph so that finally all our bike seats are full.

It feels good to have onboard again what Zeph brings to the gang.

We have yabbied and swam in the Wingecarribee River,

and foraged for wild cherry plums to turn into fruit leather.

Although not all reached the bag…

The ones brought home we squashed and mashed with our hands,

and then pushed the pulp through a sieve

leaving all the pips and skin.

We spread out the pulp over grease-proof paper on a large-sized pizza tray

and dried in a low oven for about 8 hours. Alternatively you can dry the paste in the sun over several days.

The result is a delicious, sweet and nutritious fruit leather which is preserved for many moons with no additives or added sugar.

From we five here, we wish you a happy and health-filled year ahead.

Tumbarumba – a town of dandies

This is the second time we’ve been forced to stop in one place waiting for a bike part to arrive, but as our wise friend John (who we met in Colac Colac) says, “It’s not the problem that’s important, but how you handle it.” Time is expanding out for us in this slow journeying through beautiful hill country and we are appreciating what happens when life is slow and ecologically calibrated.

We saw this incredible Walgalu coolaman at the Tumbarumba museum. A coolaman is typically used for baby cradling and bathing and food storage, gathering and preparation. One tool, many uses – brilliant, appropriate and non-polluting technology! It has made us think about each of the tools we’ve brought along on our ride.

This is our root vegetable tool. It slices down through the soil and uproots deeply buried sources of free and highly nutritious carbohydrate. But we also use it for digging toilet pits, digging for worms to fish with, and Woody uses it as a toy. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) roots are everywhere in temperate Australia and now is a good time to harvest the young tap roots and the tender leaves, especially in the ranges where it is still cool and the roots haven’t become too woody.

While in Tumba we had the chance to rest and laze, throw a line in the creek and do a little gentle foraging.

We caught a 25cm rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and made a delicious meal using local and bicycled ingredients:

Tumbarumba Creek trout, Tumbarumba parkland dandelion root and leaves, our home-grown garlic (bicycled), Tallangatta backyard lemons (bicycled. Thanks George and Laura!), Biodynamic Powlett Hill pasta (bicycled from our local region) and Benalla olive oil (bicycled from Benalla).

We cooked the garlic inside the fish and BBQ’d the dandelion root in the fish juices, adding some olive oil. We cooked the pasta, strained and emptied it onto a bed of washed dandelion leaves. We added more olive oil and squeezed lemon and let the pasta gently steam the leaves. We then added the fish and roots and, well, we can highly recommend this dish…

After a few nights free-camping in the Tumbarumba township we thought it time to do some washing and headed along to the caravan park and pitched our tents beside the Tumbarumba Creek.

With time to drift we closed up the tents, covered the bikes and hopped on a local bus for a wee adventure to Batlow where we knocked on a door to a house with a yard full of chooks and asked whether we could purchase some eggs.

The delightful Eileen welcomed us to her little appley town and we paid $2 (after insisting on paying something) for six just-laid eggs from happy gals such as this proud mama.

In both Tumbarumba and Batlow the towns are filling with a multiplicity of ethnicities to work in the orchards. These particular itinerate workers are using their Sunday to write to loved ones, hotspotting from the town’s library and pulling free spark from the public toilets next door.

Sudanese, French, American, Japanese, Nepalese, Thai and Taiwanese are arriving in the towns to pick blueberries or thin the apples.

Our little caravan park is a hotspot of culture mashing. Amber, a graduate of literature from Taiwan, took a particular liking to Zero and hung out by the creek with Meg and Woody

while Patrick jumped into the outdoor communal kitchen to see what he could rustle up with another large bunch of freshly foraged dandelion. Notice the modern day coolamon.

We thought it time for a medicinal booster using three of the most punchy beneficial foods – cayenne, garlic and dandelion – none of which are store bought but either grown or foraged by us.

Patrick caramelised this awesome threesome in the Benalla olive oil, added the chopped dandelion leaves, cooking them through before adding water and boiling. He then changed the water to lessen the bitterness, simmered towards a soup,

strained off the water, laid the highly medicinal veg on a bed of Tumbarumba sourdough and finished the dish with Eileen’s gorgeous eggs. A simple and delicious preventative to illness and the need for commercial pharmaceuticals.

Our bike part has now arrived (thanks Sam!), we’re feeling nourished, rested and nurtured by a host of local peeps (thanks Peta, Laura, Geoff, Kate, Heather, Adam, Wayne, Peter, Debbie, Graeme and Julie), and we’re ready to face the hills again and the next stage of our journey. Thanks for travelling along with us.