Blog

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.

Preparing for the next fire season

As you may know we’ve been vlogging on our YouTube channel since COVID first pioneered Australia, and this winter we’ve been especially focussed on preparing for the next great challenge –this summer’s potential bushfire risk. We’ve had well below annual rainfall and a mild winter, at least by chilly Daylesford’s standards. Some of the bushfire mitigation work we do in Dja Dja Wurrung spoken-for country is the subject of a new Happen Film, which we’re eager to share with you here.
 
We do this bushfire mitigation work as community volunteers and we’re reaching out to those who’d like to support us and who have the capacity to do so. We require a little more equipment and three new nanny goats so we can keep doing this work. If you’d like to support our post-pesticide, regenerative land-mangament practices please click on the donate tab below (or, if you’re reading this in an email feed please click this link.

  

If you want to keep up to date with our sharing, our life hacks and even the occasional daggy music video, you might like to subscribe to our Youtube page. As for now Dear Reader, we hope you and your mob are well and full of possibility for a ‘more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.’ If you are looking for more inspiration here’s a link to our resources page.

Tending a climate for change – reclaiming, divesting, repairing, resowing, returning, renewing…

Currently there are less than 1% of us living carbon-positive lifeways in the rich countries. While taking to the streets is of course important, 
it is the day-to-day relationships of the home and community economies that will ultimately replace the old paradigm of extractive-consumptive economics driving so much woe. And even as our gardens lie dormant –

and it’s time to rest, make music, fool around and play,

celebrate various rites of passage,

give out responsibilities and roles (such as tending wild apples on common land after being shown how to prune for abundance and against disease),

share celebratory cake, in gathered and op-shopped winter colour,

and begin again the prepping and planting for another growing season (while living off the fruits from the last sun-gifted season) – there are many things to do and many to give to.

We have begun to take volunteers again. Our first for the new season the delightful, gutsy 16 year-old self-schooler Ishaa,

who came to us after spending a few weeks protecting sacred trees near Ararat. This is where we met her and where earlier we’d made a few videos to help grow awareness of that struggle.

Because the dominant culture still puts roads before trees we must stand with local mobs. Here is the story explained by Djab Wurrung warrior, Zellenach Djab Mara.

While it’s important to rally and blockade, if we only make demands of governments and don’t change within ourselves we are just fiddling while Rome burns. 

In Melbourne Woody was captured by news media responding to the question of why he was at the largest climate rally in Australia’s history:

He knows life is much more-than-human.

Walk for degrowth, indeed. And bicycle and bike-trailer for degrowth too.

This is what degrowth looks like in action after nearly 10 years of being a carless household:

While having the right tools is important for transition, it’s the behavioural and biological changes we can make in our daily lives that are key to real transformation. If political power resides in industrial forms of food, energy, education and medicine etc., then our daily divesting from these things is far more powerful than voting once every few years and more empowering than taking to the street.

Teaching kids to use appropriate tools that can be fixed, sharpened and repurposed is just one example of changing behaviour. Keeping kids out of school is another, either for two days a week like Tom or permanently like Woody.

Woody has spent much of the year saving up for a violin by selling foraged kindling. The pre-loved violin he bought came from the Swap Shop in Melbourne where he traded in his walked-for sticks for musical strings.

He is involved in the household’s sifting of potash from the char of our home-fire and he routinely returns such wood-promoting fertiliser back to the forest floor from where he gathers the kindling and we carefully handpick our fuel source – a fuel source that requires no grid, is regenerative and requires ecological thinning. This complete approach to economy, including the making of making returns, is at the heart of neopeasant relocalisation.

Woody is also one of a growing community of shepherds farming without farmland on public land to mitigate increasing bushfire risk and reduce weed dominance.

Goathand co-op, which several households contribute to now, has recently got a gig at the local high school where the goats are eating down blackberries, broom, grass and annual weeds ahead of a large-scale carbon sequestration planting project.

As a co-op committed to new and old forms of land custodianship practices we’ve run into some hurdles, which we explain here in our second Goathand video:
Is Zero related to our Boer goats? He certainly has their agility.
Life in the home and community economies enables us to drop everything when a child is ready to learn something new, and this means learning is magnified and relational. Forced learning may suit institutional life but it doesn’t serve children or their futures. Climate change will radically strip our wealth so we’ll need to know how to repair things again, like a favourite torn flanny.

Because there’s always loads to do, we have to be well in ourselves in order to keep performing the new-old economies. Preventing disease and staying well will be key as the global economy collapses and the climate gives increasingly louder feedback to its toxic culture of hypertechnocivility. Non-monetised community immunity and wellbeing is central to our transition.

Meg makes garlic kraut at Culture Club. Photo by Mara Ripani

After nearly three and half years Meg is still facilitating Daylesford Culture Club, our region’s free monthly fermenting group. She is now also convening Wild Fennel, a free monthly herbal group, facilitated by local herbalist, Rosie Cooper. And she is also helping fellow plant lover Brenna Fletcher organise Hepburn Seed Savers, which will operate out of our town’s library. You can read more about these and other projects we are involved with here. Two weeks ago Meg addressed our councillors at an ordinary meeting asking them to declare a climate emergency in our shire. All seven councillors unanimously agreed, and our local shire officially joined over a thousand local councils across the globe in committing to put climate action front and centre of all their decisions.

Well, that’s enough from us for another post. If you need a little more food for thought here are some recent talks. This one is Meg and Patrick speaking to the transitioning communities of the Yarra Ranges,

and this one is Patrick’s defence and praise of pioneering biota and the great gifts they bring in performing ecological restoration in a climate chaos era.

And this one is a talk we organised late last year to promote indigenous, permacultural and post-capital cross pollinations, which we only released recently.

We hope you enjoyed this little offering, Dear Reader. Spending increasingly less time online means our posts are more infrequent. But sharing a little of what we’re up to continues to link us into the global spirit of change for people seeking alternatives well beyond taking to the streets.

Towards post-colonial bushfire mitigation practices (using goats and hand tools)…

The Austrian painter Eugene von Guerard painted this in 1864. An early colonial image of the place our privilege calls home.
There was a rapid appearance of European peasant goat grazing, browsing and shepherding upon Djaara peoples’ land at the moment when those who spoke old Dja Dja Wurrung tongue, and had survived the prior massacres, sickness and dispossessing intransigence of settlers (backed by the British nee Roman law terra nullius), were being forcibly relocated to Coranderrk.
Due to gold extraction, over grazing and then industrial-era forms of land management the wet gullies and creeks of Hepburn and Daylesford are now infested with woody perennial weeds such as gorse, broom and blackberry. While these plants provide useful ecological services – habitat, food, soil stabilising, etc – their dominance can diminish biodiversity and produce a fire threat each warming summer.
We’ve been involved in providing a climate-era response to this predicament that may be just more blind colonialism but ironically we think it is potentially a way back to the sort of land management practices of Djaara people. Using goats over a 4-year period as well as sensitive hand tools to diminish the dominance of weedy perennials, we believe we can begin to convert these steep stream ecologies back into perennial indigenous grasslands and ecology that will radically reduce bushfire risk.
As Goathand cooperative, we have just finished a trial collaborating with the Hepburn Shire Council and Federation University and the results are very positive. What we need now for this climate-safe weed and bushfire mitigation project to both upscale and outscale is broader government and community understanding of the succession process that could lead back to the possibility of Dja Dja Wurrung ecological burning processes, which have not been viable because of great stands of 2-3 m dry gorse, broom and blackberries that can climb fire up into eucalyptus canopies.
Below is Goathand cooperative‘s first film showing the trialling of goats and hand tools. Imagine this scaled up to 200-300 goats (permanently rotating around the shire so as not to overgraze until the dominance of the weeds are treated) and 10-15 human bodies with loppers and pruning saws for a few day’s work here and there. The people labour is generally nominal because the goats are so effective, but the human labour and goat interrelationship makes a beautiful marriage (not just pragmatic but one of love) and moves us towards a significant post-industrial behaviour change. Very quickly the town’s bushfire risk (Hepburn is one of the most fire-at-risk towns in Victoria) and weed cycle would be greatly diminished and no more glyphosate in our waterways or soil disturbing mechanical treatment or white-fella burning regimes, which all put the weed cycle back at stage one, dry out moisture in the soil and thus causes more fire-proneness. This is not ideal when temperatures are warming.
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If you’re a journo and you’d like to know more about Goathand cooperative, please get in touch.