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Getting away

It was quite some effort to leave Daylesford last Friday. Months of work, teary farewells with friends and family and a general emptying of settled life. All this culminated at the Albert Street community garden before we pushed off towards banjo country, accompanied by our friend Clay.

At Guildford we spotted water ribbons (Triglochin spp.), a traditional bushfood, and dug up a small plant to discover that the rhyzome was comparatively small. While our digging tool was out we dug a hole for our first compostable nappy.

The hills of home flattened out and it was a cruisy ride into Castlemaine where Juliette and Tosh kindly offered their home and Lee and Dave generously cooked for us. But despite all the warmth and familiarity of Castemaine we were keen to push on.

There is free food everywhere (milkmaid tubers, roadside trees coming into fruit, dozens of edible weeds) but we have brought supplies still fresh from home to keep us going (thanks for the lovely cookies Chris),

so we just pass by many noteworthy things. A magnificant crop of roadside Salsify (Tragopogon spp.) en route from Redesdale to Heathcote.

We are just finding our pedals in our very new way of transitory living, which is tiring and mid-day seistas are mandatory,

for all.

Yesterday we travelled for 75 kms to Nagambie, happy for the most part. We found that our 70-80 kg bikes are rideable without electric assistance, even up the hills. We’re in training for the high country.

Yet this is a year-long, low-carbon art performance, not the Olympics. We’re only wanting to travel around 30 kms a day but we’re finding out that sometimes a good camp spot is worth the effort. Zero leads our road train, forever on the look out for free food and free accomadation,

which isn’t as difficult to find as you might expect.

We’re spending about $20 a day and the nightlife is awesome.

Practice runs

We headed to Trentham this afternoon (sans Zeph) with some of our panniers stuffed full of camping equipment for the first of a series of practice runs. Thanks to Sophie and Greg who visited last friday (spruiking, or should we say spoking, their brilliant book Changing Gears at our local bookshop), we are feeling better prepared for the mid-November departure. Sophie and Greg are peddling their wares to 30 bookshops in just 60 days, between Melbourne and Sydney.

It was a pleasant 22 km to Trentham, which is precisely the distance we need to average each day in order to arrive in Moss Vale for the summer solstice. It was a sweet, slow ride after some early gear problems. Avoiding sticks and loose gravel in places were minor challenges, which nevertheless were helping us to get calibrated to the ins and outs of bike touring again.

We arrived at our favourite bakery, RedBeard to refuel with a late lunch. We joked, if only there was a RedBeard at the end of every 22 km stint. Their food uses the best regional ingredients and their breads are baked in a wonderful old scotch oven. Al Reid, one of the two brothers who set up the business, quizzed us about our bikes, the electric kits we’ve had installed and the scope of our coming trip. As we ate, chatted and rested we recharged our bike batteries. Thanks John and Al.

But the purpose of our trip is to find free food, and as we’ll not have many RedBeards to call in on we’ll need to find our own source of good food along the way. On the return leg we pulled over to photograph some lovely roadside clumps of new season cranesbill. The leaves make a good steamed vegetable. This mostly medicinal plant, used for the treatment of diarrhoea, gives new meaning to our current preoccupation with practice runs. The notes we have written so far for this particular cranesbill follow.

Cranesbill (Geranium dissectum) purple flowered native of Europe; naturalised in Australia; roots are rich in tannin; used for the treatment of diarrhoea, gastro-enteritis, cholera and internal bleeding; externally, used for the treatment of cuts, haemorrhoids, vaginal discharges, thrush, inflammations of the mouth. It is best to harvest the roots as the plant comes into flower since they are then at their most active medicinally; leaves can be cooked as a vegetable; roots and leaves can be dried for future use; seeds roasted. 

We also made this little video during the week, which speaks our notes on wild salsify. Now is a good time for many autonomous root vegetables such as spear thistles, dandelions, hawksbeard and salsify.

Free food – our new adventure project

We’re getting prepared to rent out our house and head off for a year of bike-camping along the east coast of Australia, extending our knowledges of free food that we will forage, hunt and hopefully barter for along the way.

Photo: Dave Cauldwell

We’re loading our most essential tools onto just two bikes that we’ve recently had converted to electric to help haul on the hills, and we’re doing plenty of practice rides before we go.

Photo: Dave Cauldwell 

With successive GFCs looming, climate chaos and the end of cheap crude oil, Artist as Family want to take the gloom by the handlebars and extend our everyday art practice of resource generation and accountability into evermore ‘social warming’ opportunities. This new adventure will be a kind of biographical nomadism where we will share our experiences weekly (from mid-November), recording recipes, making ecological notes, airing our dirty laundry and generally performing our unique form of art based on our family’s idiosyncrasies and taste for permapoesis. At the end of our travels we will compile a book and possibly even stage an exhibition that will include videos, drawings, photos and writings we make along the way. We aim to show that it’s possible to live without being entirely dependent on the monetary economy, as we adapt to change and engage further with lean logic.

Walking for Food

Artist as Family plan to walk for five days to Melbourne from our home in Central Victoria and we wish to do this respectfully acknowledging the elders and traditional communities of the country through which we travel.

We are a carless family and understand how ecological knowledges are foregrounded when technologies are backgrounded. This is our first walk to Melbourne which takes only an hour and a half by car.

We aim to leave Daylesford on March 31 and be at Point Cook or thereabouts on April 5. We aim to walk out from our home in Daylesford in Jaara country through the Wombat Forest, across the Lerderderg State Park, dropping down East of Bacchus Marsh before heading on to Port Phillip Bay.

We will take as little food and equipment as possible and put our foraging/walking/camping knowledges to the test.

Artist as Family proposed walk April 2013

The walk is also to celebrate the completion of Patrick’s manuscript, ‘Walking for Food: Regaining Permapoesis’. His book and our walk to Melbourne both attempt to raise issues around food and energy sustainability and environmental ethics. The book heavily quotes Aboriginal voices and sensibilities relating to the respectful treatment of country. This book is the result of three and a half years doctoral research based on our family and community’s transition to local food and energy resources. Patrick has conducted the research in our home community of Daylesford and through the University of Western Sydney.

On the afternoon of April 5 Patrick will give a talk at The Real Through Line poetry symposium at RMIT, a free event open to the public.