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.

Keeping it mostly hillbilly with a brush of face powder in Sydney Town (Goulburn to Katoomba)

We hung around Goulburn until the evening, cooked dinner in the town’s central park,

before boarding a quiet, off-peak metro train where our big bikes would be less in the way and Zero less likely to be discovered. Hello little patient dog under there.

We haven’t been so hardcore on this book tour. If there’s the prospect of a day of riding beside heavy traffic and there’s a train line running near to our route, the train option has been fair game. While we climbed up to Marulan, Meg fed Woody by standing on her helmet. He was dead tired. So were we.

We arrived in Bundanoon and made camp in the dark, waking to this little idyllic park environment. Oh sleep, you magical medicine.

We headed to our favourite Bundanoon bike cafe,

and after reaquainting ourselves with the friendly crew there, Woody found a little scooter, dumped in some bushes. We got to work to make it a going concern again.

Not surprising, wheels have always fascinated our youngest, as they have our eldest. Back at home Zeph has become a madkeen downhill mountain biker and stunt dude.

Patrick’s brother, Sam, rode out to Bundanoon to meet us and we all rode into Moss Vale and unpacked our gear before the afternoon book event at The Moose Hub in Bowral. Our talk there was part of the Southern Highlands Green Drinks, where various different green groups merge once a month and share their different projects and approaches. Thanks for snapping some shots Uncle Sam!

Woody thought all his Chanukahs had come at once when our delightful host Nicole brought out the fruit spread. Thanks Nicole!

It was a short visit to the Southern Highlands. We had a full plate of things in Sydney to get to, including guerilla camping at a fine little harbour free camp (surrounded by billion dollar dog box apartments and poisoned harbour fish), picnicing with the Milkwood crew and their lovely garden produce which included fennel root, carrots, zuccinini, saw-leaf corriander, parsley, basil and capsicum all wrapped up in reusable beeswax cloths,

and visiting Lucas, John and Diego at Big Fag Press.

Diego Bonetto is a consumate communicator. Above he is showing off the Big Fag printing press to some local punters, below he sings the virtues of the plants that plant themselves.

Diego invited us to collaborate on a walk with him, and about 20 kindred spirits joined us along the Cooks River.

Wow, it still amazes us how much food can be found growing on a municiple lawn. After we finished our walk and cooked up a weedy horta dish for everyone to try, a group of landcare volunteers come in with plastic bags and trampled all over the precious sandstone ecology pulling out weeds. It was a remarkable spectacle of nativist ideology in action where an environment is stripped of the plants holding soil and sand from ending up as sediment pollution in the river.

We left this tragic expression of eco-purity and rode on a little further to hook up with the Bicycle Garden: a group of volunteers that regularly sets up a pop-up bicycle repair station in public areas to teach people to fix their own bikes. What an awesome social collective! We had lunch with these generous and knowledgeable folk,

before heading to SNO where Patrick spoke about his and Artist as Family‘s practice of permapoesis.

Then it was TV time. So many diverse communities. We were lightly powdered and went on the record at Channel 9 and Channel 7. We had to be on set at the Today Show at 7am, luckily Patrick’s sister Hen and her family live just around the corner making our early morning tent pack-up and ride a breeze. Thanks Hen and Ant and girls!

Our Sydney book event occurred at the delightful Florilegium book shop, owned and operated by the charming plant lover Gil, who generously loaded us up with books after our talk, read and Q&A.

It was a media circus in Sydney. An excerpt from one of Meg’s chapters was published in the summer issue of Slow Magazine. The theme for this bumper issue is resilience.

After Sydney it was rest we needed to pursue, so we hopped a train to Katoomba and headed for our infamous camp site where on the last trip we were visited by the Federal Police. The story appears in The Art of Free Travel.

Just a wee walk down from the camp is this little hidden billabong, a source of great pleasure and restoration.

This afternoon we speak at Gleebooks in Blackheath and then more rest and riding and visiting old and new friends until the new year and we point our two-wheeled caravans south and coastal. We wish you much rest in the coming weeks, Dear Reader, whether you’re a hillbilly, city-dweller, coast rider or other.

Day by daylily: one week in Katoomba

Over the last week of camping in our hideaway location on the edge of the township of Katoomba, we left the bikes at camp and walked everywhere, observing the ancient landforms that brings people from all over the world to this special place.

During the week Meg turned 40, on a day that nearly paralleled that number in degrees Celsius. We hid out in a shady park butressed by a cool and stately old stone wall. Happy Birthday Meg!

Meg’s parents, Vivienne and Ross, came to visit to help celebrate this special occasion, and we did a number of touristy things due to their generosity. Thanks Bee and Ra!

Vivienne and Ross also took us out for dinner where we played Hepburn Heads, a version of Celebrity Heads only replacing celebrities for members of our community.

On most days throughout the week we bought food from the Blue Mountains Food Co Op, which is the oldest food co op in the country, and the best we’ve ever seen. Because we belong to our own food co op we received the same member discount as the locals. Thanks BMFCO! Of a morning we bought organic Aussie oats and some local juice and set up breakfast outside on the communal table.

But with all our walking we also came across non-commercial foods, ripe for the picking. The last hot spell helped ripen the first wild apples we’ve had on our trip.
They may be small for lack of nutrients, but we’re often amazed how delicious and free of disease wild apples are. This is probably because they are generally growing in diverse ecologies where pests can’t plague due to the number of variable competitors. Wild apples are excellent for making cider and cider vinegar, and the very easy to make vinegar is an essential alkalising tonic for both internal organs and the skin. It is a great general antidote to the very acidic western diet most of us eat. Every autumn we ferment enough to last the year and this special gift of the autonomous gods costs us nothing.

We collected many more blackberries that had overnight ripened because of the heat of the previous week.

And because of this rich hit of vitamin C we were well prepared for the cold wet weather that came in leaving us quite damp but nonetheless invigorated.

But the greatest revelation of the week was the inclusion of daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva) to our growing list of desirable edible hardy weeds that grow throughout temperate Australia. They are very easy to grow or forage for, and in some regions they’re known as ditch lilies because they’ll grow almost anywhere, including ditches.

Several weeks earlier at the Moss Vale Community Garden, permaculture teacher Jill Cochrane had sung the praises of daylilies as a source of food. So when we came across great swathes of them in Katoomba we were determined to find out for ourselves just how edible they were.

We hung out for some of the wet in the Katoomba library, researching the plant. From a compliment of websites, stitching together a myriad of culinary experiments, we found out that depending on the time of year almost the entire plant is edible:

Young leaves – spring to early summer, eaten raw in a salad.
Shoots – late winter to early spring, eaten raw in a salad or cooked as a vegetable.
Flowers – late spring to summer, dried for soups, remove pistil and stamens before use.
Flower buds (about to open) – late spring to summer, lightly sautéed.
Tubers – autumn to winter, sautéed, mashed or roasted. Similar to a sweet potato.

Because it is mid-summer and there are plenty of flower buds around we harvested these, and to our delight every good thing that has been written about them was confirmed.

They were delicate and sweet sautéed in a little olive oil and garlic. We can definitely recommend this plant for any perennial food garden, for their flavour, hardiness and beauty. 

We look forward to sharing more free food treats with you again shortly. We hope wherever you are you are you’re eating delicious free food that you’ve found growing right under your nose.