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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.

White people dreaming (and performing other forms of culture and economy)

We saw out the year with greenkin friends, once again walking and pedalling the main drag of our home town for the 2018 Daylesford New Year’s Eve Parade. 
(photo by David Jablonka)
It was quite a challenge to pull around 100kg of future community food on our e-bike. We community food gardeners were awarded money to dress our annual NYE float. By purchasing fruit trees and perennial veggies we once again steered arts funding into something deep-rooting.

This lil video will give you a feel for the parade and our contribution to it, for which we won the sustainability award. (Please note: videos won’t appear in your inbox subscription.)

Yes, it’s a strange time of year to plant dozens of trees, herbs and perennial veggies, but with our $100 prize money (Thanks Hepburn Wind!) we bought a new hose and established a watering roster so we can nurture these generous gifts through the coming hot weeks. A big thanks to the permie crew from Deans Marsh who strengthened our numbers and dug right in, joining the local permablitz working bee mob.

In late December we had a number of friends come and stay for the Melliodora solstice party, which eventuated in another form of spontaneous permablitz, this time a music video. Charlie (from Formidable Vegetable) came for dinner and he spoke of the possibility of a new video clip. We hooked him up with our mate Jordan (from Happen Films), added in a whole bunch of Artist as Family creative direction, garden and community peeps, and voilà, this was hatched:

It was another moment of spontaneous creation at Tree Elbow. Thanks to all the neopeasant solstice revellers who showed up and ensouled the morning; all we singulars numbering a collective effort with not a single dollar mentioned, spent or sought. An example of permaculture media-making at its best – and an antidote to typical white-people careerism, profit motives and meaningless content.

photo by Vasko Drogriski

In other news, the violet and rhubarb leaves at Tree Elbow are being frequented by these lovely Southern brown tree frogs (Litoria ewingi),

as well as common garden snails (Helix aspersa). While allcomer frogs, toads and froglets are more than encouraged to make their life in, through and around the garden, snails are gathered up in large numbers and fed to the chooks and ducklings, or we prepare them this way for dinner. Yum!

The ducklings certainly think so. Snails and comfrey leaves are their faves.

Photo by Amy Wagner

For Blackwood (much like the froglets, baby snails and ducklins), home schooling and home economics have become the same thing. Like us, most things he requires are non-monetised, but each of us have occasion to save up for things. A new guitar has been the motivator for this little market store.

But generally we try to make what we need, such as this fishing spear. Every occasion, every visitation, project and ecology

is another school for Woody. It is in these places where play, exploration and experimentation are given true homes. His education isn’t evaluated or assessed. He is free to learn without anxiety or comparison. He is free to collate all his learnings and build upon them in his own time and way,

and with others, such as the children he is bonded to at the Make & Play bush school we hold. Here’s Charlie again at the M&P end of year celebration. (Jumpers in late December? Yikes!)

And because of the expansive time given to him to learn, time to be, time to thoroughly explore what NAPLAN could never allow for a child, the rewards come, which only aid more learning,

where play making and knowledge building are all part of the same flow.

While his learning is mostly self-directed, he also absorbs his parents’ knowledges, and they share with him what to glean and hunt and make bounties from,

while far away from the high country lakes
and productive gardens of home.

He observes the gifts that can be made from the abundant raw materials of our local terra. This wrist band was made by Patrick for Meg on her birthday. The lake is a special place for Meg, where giant-leaved newcomer NZ flax grow (great for cord making) and moulted breast feathers from oldtimer cockatoos are shed around the foreshores (thanks for the tip Kimshar!).

Woody observes the gifts and skills of other adults too, from musicians like Charlie, filmmakers like Jordan and Antoinette, and all the community gardeners to name just a few. Out of all the adults that generously pass on their trades, it is Jeremy that Woody calls mentor. Jeremy made this insulated oven window cover for us, especially for summertime cooking. It reduces the heat radiating into the house on the coolest day of the week when we bake bread, roast veggies and heat up our hot water.

We traded him a wild ferment brewing lesson, exchanging microbe knowledges for technical know-how. What we’ve found is that gifts flow, if generosity flows. A few years back Edward from nearby Adsum Farm gifted us some garden bed hoops. In spring they support a hothousing re-usuable plastic hood to get the potatoes going early, in summer they support a fine netting to keep the cabbage moths from destroying the brassicas.

Photo by Amy Wagner

Knowing what to protect and what to leave open to the multifarious relations of diverse garden ecology requires kinship with both domestication and wild entities – a subject Patrick will be speaking on with Claire Dunn and Maya Ward at the National Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne on February 9. And this subject is at the heart of why we hold the annual Terra Nullius Breakfast,

which acknowledges, accepts and seeks compassion for the history of this continent – a nation that has crippled symbiotic life by over-playing domestication’s hand.
Terra Nullius stands at the heart of property relations in Australia and aggregating wealth division. When property is turned from a basic need into a predatorial industry, more and more people will suffer. We wrote this song for our friend Eka, a fellow Bentley Blockader, when we visited her on our travels last winter she spoke of the constant insecurity and powerlessness of her housing situation. Eka stood with thousands to stop the Northern Rivers from being fracked by greed’s intransigence to common sense, giving her time and skills over weeks and months as a volunteer. While we dedicate this song to Eka, it is also for all people kept from having secure tenure over a little plot of land that can be loved, held sacred and given back to for the momentary time we dwell with and upon it.

If you feel passionate about this issue, please copy the link of this Youtube video and share it widely. Songs can be fertile seeds for change, even rough-cut home-brewed ones such as this.

Well, thank you Dear Reader, we hope we served up some nourishment and inspiration for you in our more or less monthly instalment. If you’d like come on a house + garden tour we’ve released more forthcoming dates. If you’re interested in applying for one of our Permaculture Living Courses please watch this space, we’ll be opening the applications for the spring 2019 courses shortly.

The locavore’s pleasure: eating garden snails, laughing cap mushrooms and making local spelt grain beer with honey

Our two weeks with Maarten and Marlies have been sheer delight. They made many a scrumptious meal, including a locavore’s feast of garden snails,

served with Powlett Hill biodynamic spelt, ground, freshly rolled and made into pasta,

roasted salsify root (they look like grasses, don’t they?),

and parsnip. Both root vegetables we have successfully encouraged to naturalise in the garden.

The snails were prepared for a few days using the method we videoed Maarten back in Gerringong telling us about. Then they were pan-cooked in ghee, beetroot, carrot, garlic and Patrick’s infamous 2013 Library Wine. The parsnip and salsify were roasted in the oven and sprinkled with rosemary. Fresh basil was tossed over the top of the whole dish. The result was delicious!

We’ve also been enjoying Meg’s lovely fresh cheese for our lunches.

But sadly not from raw milk, at least not for now. And not because of the Victorian government poisoning raw milk, but because there isn’t any currently on offer around the corner where we usually get it. Huh! The gift economy is unpoliceable! Nonetheless, we joined many good folk on the steps of Parliament in Melbourne to voice our concerns about the State’s overreaching hand when it comes to some foods, but not others. Where does the nanny-state begin and end?

Get the government out of my kitchen read one very apt placard.

David Holmgren, Joel Salatin, Tammi Jonas and Costa Georgiadis were among keynote speakers who addressed a packed Collingwood Town Hall later that day, an event organised by the very cool Regrarians.

Back at home, while Meg and Zero worked on Chapter 8 of our book, and Zeph was busy at school, Woody and Patrick rode out to see our own family of regrarians new farmgate store.

Since being home from the road, we’ve enjoyed a weekly visit from Meg’s folks, known in the family as Ra and Bee, bringing the Friday night challah. Thanks Ross and Vivienne!

Patrick has also been in full bread production mode since we returned, making rolls for Zeph’s school lunches and daily spelt loaves for home lunches,

and from the same Powlett Hill spelt grain, he has been experimenting with producing a very local beer with the ingredients of just forest honey, our garden hops and dandelion, and the spelt grain. Andrew Masterson’s great article recently on eating local food spoke of the dilemma of not being able to find a local brew. Well, we hope this is one delicious response to that call. As for Andrew’s exception of coffee to his local diet, we made the switch to dandelion root coffee a number of years ago because it grows in the garden and because, well, it’s free! And free is freeing. We’re very excited about the making of a very local beer. The only thing not local is the little sachet of ale yeast.

Every Summer our hops grows across our bedroom window, making sleeping a dream.

At this stage Patrick is keeping things simple by brewing in a bag, using 1.5 kg of grain, 1.5 kg of honey, 40 g of hops and about 20 g of dandelion leaf (though he’d prefer to use the flower, when it is available). The brew is currently bubbling away and will do so for a week to ten days before being bottled for several weeks for the second fermentation process. We’ll keep you posted on how it turns out.

Another local food we’ve been eating this week is the laughing cap (Gymnopilus junonius) otherwise known as the spectacular rustgill.

Because we thought this fungus was the Australian Honey Fungus (see comments below) and therefore very bitter, we soaked the mushrooms in milk for 24 hours,

cooked them in ghee and ate them with fresh parsley. They were delicious, although left a bitter aftertaste that could have been remedied with a fruit chutney or some honey.

Well, it is time to say goodbye for now Dear Reader. It is also time to farewell the dynamic Dutch duo, Maarten and Marlies, and thank them for all the knowledge, work and love they brought to our household and community. We will miss them sorely.

Groetjes!

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 &nda