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Gift economy

We said goodbye to the Goulburn River and the Murchison caravan park, home to a community of colourful permanent residents – Desley, Brian, Keith and Di – and headed east.

It was an unexpectedly difficult ride due to the lack of shade and a headwind for much of the forty-three kilometres to Violet Town. The sun baked us on this flat and straight stretch of road where annual grasses and fences dominated. Little stood out apart from the occassional creek and composition of wild flowers.

We arrived in Violet Town hot and exhausted, we found some shade to recuperate under and some free municiple power to recharge.

According to Sam from Ballarat e-bikes, “each lithium ion battery holds 0.333 kilowatt hours. Assuming someone is paying 27 cents per kilowatt hour, and the charger is 90% efficient, it’s about ten cents per charge per battery.” While the bikes recharge we have been collecting litter in the parks, reserves and sports grounds that we poach the power from.

We figure that the 20 cents of free energy we take from each town to assist our movement equates to about one bag of collected rubbish. When people ask us about our art practice we say we’re quite well-known for waste collecting. We also pick up rubbish and pull up weeds in exchange for a free camping ground.

This morning we woke to a rich chorus of birdsong at our camp along the Honeysuckle Creek. A morning’s walk enabled a feast of free food, including these deliciously sweet Nagami kumquats (Citrus japonica spp.)

and these luciously ripe loquats (Eriobotrya japonica).

Zero had earlier just missed out on hunting down a buck hare along the creek, so when we stopped for a cup of tea in the main drag we asked the cafe if they had any meat scraps for him. Success!

We’ve discovered three other things while being in friendly Violet Town. The first is the potential food supply in the gardens of abandoned houses, something to note as we move from town to town.

The second is walnut shell mulch. The region is a walnut growing climate, at least for now, and what a great way to use the waste product of this food.

The third is that Violet town has a range of publicly-accessible, intentionally-planted fruit trees and herbs, including figs, plums, rosemary, lemongrass, sage and olives,

which compliment the spontaneous roadside fruit growing here including cherry plums, pears, apples and walnuts.

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.