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Autonomous foods of Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island)

One rule he [Oodgeroo’s father] told us we must strictly obey. When we went hunting, we must understand that our weapons were to be used only for the gathering of food. We must never use them for the sake of killing. This is in fact one of the strictest laws of the Aborigine, and no excuse is accepted for abusing it. –– Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Minjerribah elder)

We have had a wonderful week and more on Minjerribah, sampling Quandamooka bush tucker and being the biological (not chemical) controls of more newly naturalised autonomous foods (agricultural weeds, etc.), while hiding out in the bush.

It is early winter on the island and at this time of year, like home in cold highlands Victoria, chickweed (Stellaria media) commonly appears, packed with vitamin C at a time when it is most needed. Clover is also pictured below and is also edible in salads; the flowers used for tea.

And while chickweed is just appearing we foraged the last of the season’s apple guavas (Psidium guajava),

and midjim (Austromyrtus dulcis) berries.

Even though none of the delicious red sweet-salty fruits of pigface (Carpobrotus glaucescens) were about, some flowers were present,

and biting the base of these flowers, where the fruits will later form, can offer some small delight.

Like home, black nightshade (Solanum nigram) berries enjoy the cooler weather, a favourite of Woody’s on the island.

And we tried beach flax lily (Dianella congesta) berries and weren’t unimpressed, even though the Quandamooka people apparently didn’t eat this food.

We cooked fish with Indigenous spinach (Tetragonia tetragoniodes),

and succulent purslane (Portulaca oleracea), otherwise known as pigweed.

And we tried chewing the ripe fruits of Pandanus (P. tectorius),

at first raw, which irritated our throats, then roasted on coals, with wave-washed-in pilchards (Sardinops neopilchardus).

We sucked the sweetness out of the pandanus kernels after they were roasted for about 15 minutes. Although a modest pleasure, we think there must be a better technique to eating this food and getting more from it. If anyone has any suggestions please let us know.

Fish we speared included grey mowrang (Nemadactylus douglasii) and a number of sand whiting (Sillago ciliata),

and fish we caught by rod and line also included sand whiting and a new one for us, swallowtail dart (Trachinotus coppingeri). A surprising delicacy, easy to catch, tasting even better than the whiting, which is an excellent eating fish as well.

We met Megan from Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation and she generously passed on the knowledge required for eugarie or pipi (Plebidonax deltoides) gathering and cooking. We walked for a few kilometres down Main Beach with our dandelion root foraging tool, setting off an hour before low tide. Then suddenly,

small mounds began appearing,

and lo and behold, eugaries!

We harvested enough for lunch and some for the evening’s fishing.

Megan told us the best way to cook them was straight on the coals of a small campfire. This really was a Minjerribah treat.

Other autonomous edibles we foraged on the island included common sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus),

wandering jew (Commelina diffusa),

and cobbler’s peg (Bidens pilosa), otherwise known as farmer’s friend. Eating the leaves raw provides a good source of calcium, potassium, iron, vitamin C, chlorophyll and magnesium.

We’ll be sad to leave this beautiful island, but we’ll take with us many delightful experiences.

From extractive to generative lifeways: Tweed Heads to Stradbroke Island

Seven – Artist as (extended) Family – split into five after Meg’s parents departed Tweed Heads and we, the remaining, took to the border.

We rode a mere 10 kms into Queensland to the Gold Coast suburb of Tugun, where we stayed with the former sustainability officer from our hometown, and her man.

Meet Jill and Trent, soon to become parents, and their dog-kin Hippo. Jill was very much part of the success of getting our community food network up and running. She played a pivotal role as an insider becalming the council and encouraging them to work with us when we took over two council sites for the purposes of community food production.

You may well be asking how are we going to segue from community food production to the schmaltzy imperatives of Surfers Paradise? Well, we’re not even going to try, although we will say Jupiter’s Casino hasn’t dated a day. Oh boy, what a cultural wasteland! But we can see, or rather feel, why Surfers became such a destination of leisure. The swim was wondrous.

We have to confess we had a little fear coming into Queensland, especially concerning state politics and the police, some likening today with the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era. The guy from the Tugun bike shop added to our fears when he told us Queensland drivers don’t see or care about bikes. Needless to say we made ourselves as bright as possible.

We’ve been documenting roadside memorials as we travel and are constantly amazed at the regularity of them on Australian roads. This one was by far the most extensive we’ve come across and we contemplated the young lives lost and the taboo subject of car violence.

We later came across our first cyclist memorial, and were starting to think that maybe the guy in the bike shop was right and that this state isn’t such a good idea for a family on bikes.

However, after arriving on dusk in the little town of Pimpama, it felt extraordinarily safe to openly pitch our tents and cook dinner in the local park. This was just intuition, but one we nonetheless trusted. All was well in the world on that night and, as the saying goes, nothing beats fear like knowledge.

Since arriving in Queensland people have been extremely friendly and many more people have tooted us encouragingly with our Lock the Gate sign on the back of Patrick’s bike. We guess the reality of the fracking industry is more concrete here and people are therefore more worked up about it. In any case, after just a few days we found ourselves acclimatising to this sunny state.

Sadly, Pimpama was to be where we said goodbye to Brett. We so loved travelling with this delightful international-aid-nurse-poet-man. We will miss him dearly and all that he brings to such an expedition. Thanks Brett, we love you heaps!

Because Brisbane is a large centre and we assumed therefore more difficult a place to free camp we surfed Warm Showers and found Chris on the southern outskirts of the city. What a delight! Chris got off work early (a truck driver by profession) and did a full workout on our bikes (a cyclist by passion).

He cooked us a beautiful meal and we stayed the night in his awesome caravan, our first for the adventure. Thanks Chris!

Our ride into Brisbane city was intense. Bike paths appeared here and there and certainly made it easier, but the immensity of industrialised culture bore down on us little ecological beings with simple ecological needs.

Once in the city we bee-lined to a little book and music venue where Tim and Ahliya, who we met back in Uki, were playing that evening.

It was a special gig and we got to meet a small posse of Brisbane folk all doing great things. Meet another Tim, who works both as a water specialist for Brisbane City Council and as a permaculture consultant for his own business.

We also found Tim through Warm Showers, saw his collective interests on his profile (permaculture et al) and contacted him enthusiastically. We had three lovely days staying with Tim. He took us to the Northey Street City Farm on a day that coincided with the weekly market. Tim gave us a tour of the twenty-year-old site, which included a market garden, private garden plots, a food forest and an example of urban mirco-forestry. Tim showed us Soursop (Annona muricata), which is indigenous to Central America and a relative of the fruits cherimoya and pawpaw.

The market had an excellent range of stores from food to massage to textiles. We bought Woody a pair of soft leather shoes from this happy lady, who makes all her hats and footwear herself, based on traditional designs.

While we were at Tim’s, Artist as Family held a chicken killing workshop for a small group of budding locavores. There are many different ways to kill and dress a chook,

and we demonstrated our version in Tim’s backyard permaculture garden. For those interested in the discourse of butchering an animal, Patrick’s essay on accountable killing can be read on his blog.

While we were in Brisbane, with the help of the locals, we were able to finish our support video for the activists, local community and Jonathan Moylan, who are all bravely and tirelessly protecting the Leard State Forest from the imperatives of extractors.

Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) was calling us and after farewelling our wondrous new friends in Brisbane we hightailed it to Cleveland to catch a barge across to the island, joined by Ko, another cycling-permie-ecologist working his good intellectual toolkit towards systemic change.

The afternoon got away and by the time we arrived on Minjerribah it was dark. We thought we’d find a park and bunker down for the night, but Ko called a work colleague, Shelley, who with great cheer invited us to stay in her family’s Dunwich home. Shelley, with her daughter Milla, shared a hearty porridge with us and passed on some local knowledges.

Shelley told us that the extractive sand mining industry on the island was being challenged by many in the community who were attempting to transition the local economy to regenerative industries such as Indigenous education programmes for Brisbane school students and ecological tourism on the island.

Minjerribah is the second largest sand island in the world. But we didn’t come to make homage to small-minded men and their moneying ways:

We originally came because of Oodgeroo Noonuccal, the Indigenous poet and activist who was born on the island in 1920, and who became the first Indigenous poet to be published in Australia.

It is her spirit that we have immediately found here on this island, and feasting on midjim berries (Austromyrtus dulcis) has given form to this spirit.

Woody is becoming our most committed forager.

We think we’ll get truly swallowed by this place.