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.

Neopeasants in China with Sunshine Yang

Hello dear Subscribers,

We have had the pleasure of hosting Sunshine Yang at Tree Elbow over the past few weeks, and towards the end of her stay Patrick and Sunshine sat down and had a yarn about the Chinese back-to-the-land movement and more besides. We hope you enjoy this glimpse into Sunshine’s world.

Here is the audio only version,

 

and here is the vision version.

In the conversation Patrick and Sunshine mention this Sandor Katz’s People’s Republic of Fermentation episode, which we all watched together this week. We highly recommend the series. Sandor has been one of AaF’s heroes for many years.

Sunshine is currently travelling the world participating as a volunteer in the renewal of peasant lifeways and back-to-the-land communities in other countries. She will be heading to West Africa, Cuba, South America and then southeast Asia, so if you know of like communities in those places or would just like to reach out to Sunshine, please get in touch with her.

We have so enjoyed living with your brightness and spark, Sunshine. Thank you for what you brought to the School of Applied Neopeasantry here in Djaara Mother Country.

We’d love to hear from you, Dear Listener. What has been stirred in you by this conversation?

Permaculture subsistence in the suburbs and beyond (a weekend course in Daylesford)

A two-day intensive with Artist as Family – May 18 & 19 at Tree Elbow University

Come and spend two days with Artist as Family at our home, Tree Elbow, in Central Victoria, in beautiful Djaara Country.

Share our harvest abundance, learn our alternative economic lifeways, experience our processes and observe the many relationships we’ve cultivated in order to turn our backs on industrial capitalism, while leaning ever further into what we call, ‘a flow of gifts economy.’

Artist as Family is just 20% reliant on the monetary economy. This weekend is offered for you to understand how we’ve crafted such a radical, economic-freeing lifeway for nearly two decades.

These knowledges are what we ordinarily share with our volunteers over the duration of a week, however this course is for people who are more time restricted; people who are looking to dive deep into the many knowledges and actions we employ to practice subsistence permaculture. While most of our teaching is non-monetary, we are offering this course to those with money who are looking to transition away from full money dependency, to become more economically resilient.

Over the weekend you will learn about biointensive food gardening, temperate food forestry,  walked-for food, medicine and energy, custodial forest practices, gift economy relating, managed herbivory, animal-centric poultry and bee systems, simple engineering, dynamic composting and grey water systems, salvaging and repair practices, community sufficiency, and most importantly our relationship with Mother Country.

The course runs from 9am Saturday 18 May to 4pm Sunday 19 May. All meals provided. Please note, this is not a residential course; you will need to find your own accommodation for Saturday night. There are many short term accommodation options in this region. We are experienced guerrilla campers, so if camping is your preference, we know of many spots you can pitch a tent nearby.

While with us, you will need only a backpack, water bottle, journal, pen, and camera. If you need to bring your phone, please keep it on silent during the weekend or better yet, use the time as a digital detox.

The course is designed for adults but older teenagers are welcome too. There are three scholarship places available for young adults (under 30 years of age), so please get in touch to learn more.

The food you will be eating over the weekend will be Artist as Family’s neopeasant produce, therefore mostly a locavore, organic diet. It will mainly cater to gluten free and vegetarian diets, though there will be animal fats, meat and spelt sourdough options too.

At dinner on Saturday night, we will be joined by permaculture elders David Holmgren and Su Dennett, and you’ll be able to yarn around the fire with them.

The course is suited to anyone wishing to transform their cultural and economic paradigm, those who are curious about alternative economic models that are lived not just theorised, and anyone who wants to deepen their permaculture knowledges.

The course costs $250 and includes all meals.

Please get in touch with us if you’d like to book your place or find out more.

We look forward to sharing our home, life and learnings with you,

Meg, Patrick, Woody and Zero

we@artistasfamily.is

(Above images of Meg and Patrick teaching by Jordan Osmond – thanks Jordan!)

Composting Moloch, returning to the cob, clay & bramble of Pandora, Mother Country (with Joel Gray)

In our latest video, Patrick shares a rich, long-form yarn with English artist, Joel Gray. Together they traverse the sticky, dominating, Promethean go-it-alone world of the machine, of the all-consuming Moloch. They arrive at a composting, cob-building place, restoring Pandora’s fermenting vessel, her Gaia place, her Mother Country – the entanglements and gossipy liveliness of tending the village seeds beyond transhumanism.

Links to Joel’s collaborative work are embedded in the video, plus other material from both his and our worlds. And, here’s a link to Joel’s initial comment that lead to this abundant connection.

We hope you enjoy this yarn as much as we did making it. Love and power to the brothers and sisters who are learning to dance with gut (Pandora), heart (Epimetheus) and mind (Prometheus) integration.

Here’s the audio-only version (1:34 mins):

 

And here’s the video:

As always, your comments and pitchforkings are more than welcome. But before we sign off we’d like to share a moment of Hephaestian crafting from Blackwood and his friend Django this week.

Stories from the School of Applied Neopeasantry (podcast) with Coni, Ilenia and Carla

Please join us as we shell broad beans at the kitchen table and listen to stories about the homeplaces, wisdom and wildness of Carla Gallego, Ilenia Theuriclat and Constanza Hidalgo. Here’s the audio-only version:

 

 

These three women are the latest volunteers to visit Tree Elbow University and join our School of Applied Neopeasantry. It was a wild week of story, laughter, dancing and communing as we lived life richly together honouring earth, our food, more-than-humans and each other. Coni is hacking industrial design with permaculture, Ilenia wants to hack social work with permaculture, and Carla sees the potential of permaculture to reintroduce spirit into the arts.

This podcast series is dedicated to listening to those who have made themselves students of life, of permaculture and of neopeasantry, and are seeking their own learning pathways in diverse and dynamic ways. This podcast is slow media so feel free to create some space for the conversation. Make yourself a cuppa and catch some sunlight, or gently work through the piled up dishes while you listen. These women’s gifts, embedded in their stories, are a slow unfolding.

The week with Coni, Ilenia and Carla was magical and we hope you pick up a little of this spirit in our conversation, the spirit of which flowed into many places around home including the community garden working bee on their final day with us.

Wherever you are in your life right now we hope this hour of story calls to you. Your comments are always welcome and feel free to also tell us where you find your wild man or wild woman, and how you make room for this wildness.

Sending solstice greetings from Tree Elbow to your festive table,
Artist as Family

Radicalising the home economy for greater adaptation and well-being

Hello Dear Reader,

We’ve been incredibly busy with harvest season this year. It’s the first time in 12 years without volunteers helping to prepare and store food, fuel and medicine for the winter, exchanging their labour for learning, and helping us process the various abundances of this giving season.

We’re happily ensconced in the thrum of this seasonal moment with a quieter, more beautiful world, engaging with a plethora of wonderful neighbours, song birds, goats and other sentients while ramping up the next chapter of our radical homemaking.

We’ve also been making more neopeasant how-to videos and putting out other offerings on our Youtube page as our way of contributing to strengthening peoples’ home economies, adaptation and general well-being.

Last week we participated in the first Happen Films podcast, which is a weekly, hour-long conversation with people navigating this new era, embracing the not-knowing of it while at the same time knowing pretty much what to get on with.

While we’ve spent the past 12 years slowly weaning ourselves off the monetary economy, and up until COVID-19 we had managed to achieve a 70% reduction of dependancy on the global monetary economy, like many people we have lost money income. We are now a 85% non-monetary household, and while we’re pretty excited about this as we’ve been working towards such an achievement for a while, we weren’t entirely prepared for it. The first 50% of reliance on money was fairly quick to achieve. Going car-free, giving up air travel and a few other expenditure-curbing things did this for us within the first twelve months of our transition all those years ago. However, the remaining 50% has been a slow step-by-step process, the last 30% being for our rates and some some utility bills, though mostly for our access to a modest parcel of land.

Let’s talk about housing being recognised as a basic human need again in Australia, and let’s all work together to phase out multiple property ownership. Let’s sing up the seeds and the rain for universal access to land for everyone so we can grow the local-ecological economies we really need to invest in now.

***

We have been overwhelmed by people’s generosity in response to our return to social media, and specifically for our neopeasant how-to films. Your kind and encouraging words (both publicly and privately) are spurring us to share more about our life and daily processes. We have had many people ask us to put a Donate button on our blog. We have ummed and aahed about this but today have decided to. Many thanks for your support, everyone. We are feeling most humbled and most grateful.

In our recent fermenting garlic film we offered a free copy of Patrick’s 2017 book re:)Fermenting culture. Here again is the link to the PDF of the book and the link to the audio version.

Thanks Dear Reader for joining us on this strange, unknowable, threatening and exciting journey.

May your homeplaces be strong, productive, restful, and places of deep belonging.

Meg, Patrick, Woody and Zero x

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.