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From the Snowy to the Yarra (Orbost to Warburton)

We set out from Orbost with the prospect of travelling almost 100 kms along the East Gippsland Rail Trail, passing over the Snowy River,

and past an incredible hedge of wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa), an early relative of cos that is also called opium lettuce. Yes, it is mildly psychoactive taken in large quantities and is supposed to have a chill pill effect; good for people suffering from high blood pressure.

After about 10 kms on the trail we decided that the rough surface was better suited to mountain bikes and that our heavy bikes on touring frames and tyres were not really suited. We got back on the bitumen and rode with the noisy ones to a wonderful little caravan park in Nowa Nowa that sported this awesome open communal kitchen, and whose owners greeted us with just-picked strawberries and fresh eggs. Thanks Helen and Neil!

With more rain about we stayed a few wet nights, swimming during the sunny days in the creek.

While at Nowa Nowa we received an invitation to join some friends in Traralgon for Christmas. We had just a day to ride 170 kms, not quite manageable for us, so we took off early in the morning passing these roadside walnut trees,

noting the central problem of our culture: paid for food, or as Daniel Quinn puts it:

Making food a commodity to be owned was one of the great innovations of our culture. No other culture in history has ever put food under lock and key – and putting it there is the cornerstone of our economy, for if the food wasn’t under lock and key, who would work?

After 50 kms of riding we arrived at Bairnsdale station with a bright blue box to help smuggle Zero onto the train to make up the remaining 120 kms.

We hadn’t been separated from Zero the other times we smuggled him on public transport. He always kept quiet because he knew we were there, beside him. This time he whined for us from the cargo carriage and we were paid a visit from the conductor, who thankfully was delightful and explained that next time we travel we have to have a proper regulation travel box for our dog-kin. Even though this is absurd, we weren’t about to argue with this nice fella. He didn’t kick us off the train and we got to Traralgon, where our friend Ben Grubb met us and led us through the town and out into the outlaying fields to his parents’ home.

We all got to work preparing for the feast. Patrick and Ben killed and dressed a chicken,

Jaala and Shannon Freeman (friends of ours from Daylesford, and who are also Grubb family members) joined the festivities and helped Jim and Jeni (Ben’s parents) and Meg in the food preparation. It was a joyous collective effort using herbs, vegetables and fruits from the garden,

to deliver a delicious lunch. Thanks earth! Thanks chicken. Thanks Grubbs and Freemans.

The following day more food prep continued, turning cherry plums,

into fruit leathers,

until it was time to thank Jim and Jeni for so generously hosting us, and say goodbye, Zeph feeling pretty poorly with a cold. Ben rode with us for several kms showing us the back roads and short cuts, and

he also helped Zero catch a rabbit by blocking one end of a drain with sticks and his feet. It is a technique worth finessing…

Patrick butchered the rabbit, apportioned a share to Zero and we kept the rest for later in the day. Not far on from the rabbit catch we came across Aaron, a solo cycle tourer on his maiden voyage. Go Aaaron!

We farewelled Aaron, and a little later on Ben, and rode into the altered country of dirty coal.

About 70% of water in Australia is used by industry, a remaining 20% is used by government and a tiny percentage, less than 10%, is used in domestic use. As we rode past the old relic of old thinking that is Yalourn power station we listened to the millions of litres of water running through the cooling towers, reflecting on these figures.

We ate our free lunch a little further on, poaching the rabbit for 4 minutes in the billy and separating the soft and tender meat from the bone.

On another invitation, from an old Hepburn Relocalisation Network friend Liz, we visited Entropia eco-village near Moe. Liz is one of a number of residents who are about to live rent free on the 20 acre site for one year and be filmed for a documentary, which sounds a bit like Hippy Big Brother. Watch that space!

There are a number of small or tiny houses being built at Entropia, which came about after Samuel Alexander’s book of the same name.

Part of the land is bush and we found a few geebungs (Persoonia linearis) growing there. When the fruit is ripe it will yellow and fall to the ground. The skin and the seed was traditionally discarded when eaten.

Certainly Woody found utopia at Entropia.

But the dystopian road called us back, and the prospect of home.

Play fighting has been a fun part of our day to day. It gives the boys an opportunity to push back from we ever steering adults. It builds strength and body control and develops emotions that can cope under physical pressure.

Research is another thing we’ve all been learning: how to find out stuff that interests us and grow our knowledges.

By the time we reached Yarragon, Zeph was on the mend from his cold but Meg and Patrick were starting to fall apart. We’ve all been fit and strong the whole way and now in the final weeks our defences are crumbling. We nestled into this little wetland forest setting up our version of a MASH rehab camp,

but after another short leg we figured some hot water and a place to get out of the strong winds was needed in Warragul.

We were all sporting hacking coughs and rode up to Neerim South in blustery, wet conditions and again took refuge in a motel room. The next day the winds abated and the sun shone and we rode through the prettiest country, passing wild displays of the sweet flower of the coffee substitute chicory (Cichorium intybus),

and later moist valleys filled with giant tree ferns,

along quiet C roads with little traffic.

We rode 66 kms to Warburton in time for New Years eve,

to stay with our friend Maya Ward in her tiny house that she designed and helped build,

and to see in the New Year a festive picnic followed by fireside music and intimate chats.

The first day of 2015 saw Zeph gearing up for high school. Go Zeph!

Maya and her lovely man James treated us to delicious meals and restorative places. Thank you both so much, it has been a gentle few days in beautiful Warburton and now we are ready to begin our final leg towards home.

We wish you, Dear Reader, a peaceful and productive International Year of Soils, filled with great adventure, slow travel, encouraging friends and free, walked-for food.

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.