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.

From Gerroa to Genoa (Wet days, warm people, dangerous roads and Dark Emu visitations)

We left Warm Showers Claire, who was busy hosting a number of sodden cycle tourers, such as this jolly soloist Angus,

and rode out of Gerroa to begin our coastal descent. In Nowra we bumped into more fellow pedalist comrades who were riding around the world from France to raise awareness about climate change,

before our book event at Dean Swift ABC book shop, where we spoke to the possibilities of climate changed economies and societies of regard.

More rain and more barely ripe public stonefruit in southern Nowra,

and we were off on another wet leg,

to Huskisson, where booksellers Noela and Jill greeted us for a little signing event,

and Jill and her man David

put us up for the night, avoiding another soaking from the tricky gods of acummulating clouds. We’d had enough of things by now. Dangerous roads, anti-cyclist drivers, unrelenting rains. So we mapped out the alternative (option 2 Huskisson back to Albury),

and even though we thought it would be easier to cancel the remains of the tour and ride back to Nowra, train to Sydney, train to Goulbourn, ride to Albury, train to Melbourne, train to Woodend and ride the last 40 kms home, we didn’t. Something in us wanted to see this through.

Our decision was confirmed by this sweet family, who had read about us in their local paper a year earlier, got in touch and invited us to stay a night.

Ah, the comfort of strangers! Thanks Jo, Bren, Lucinda, Sam and Eliza. Even more gifts awaited us when we returned to one of our favorite guerilla camping spots south of Mollymook.

Last year we ate limpets and speared fish on coals at Collers Beach. This year Zero caught us a big rabbit,

and Patrick speared another bag of fish, including this leatherjacket and red mowrang for one of our meals.

We poached the rabbit in the billy for 25 mins and the flesh just slipped off the bones onto our fingers and into our mouths. For we hungry locavores it was a near perfect moment.

Living on Collers Beach for a few days further nourished our decision to complete this tour.

Further south in Batemans Bay we bumped into Justine and Pat, who like us were perfecting the practice of very very slow travel. When we all met up at about 3pm one afternoon, they’d travelled a whooping 2 kms for the day. We congratulated their efforts. It’s a momentous achievement to go that slow in such a savagely fast world.

While they headed north, we trundled several kms down the road to Batehaven and set up camp on some marginal land beside a little creek inlet.

On the gentler coast road to Moruya we stopped to chat to northbound rider Rapha el, a French tourist.

We picked up supplies from the wonderful bulk wholefoods store when we arrived in town, and rode on as our event had been cancelled at Moruya Books due to a boating accident in the business. We pedalled on to Old Mill Road Biofarm and kept the boating accidents at bay while we cooled down in Kirsti, Marlin, Pickle and Fraser’s luscious dam,

before feasting with this awesome lot — the brains and brawn behind one of the best market gardens on the south coast. As you can imagine the food was exceptional, cooked up by French chefs Nina and Elsa, who may well come and stay with us in Daylesford.

Southwards we rode, on and on our legs rotating, water in litres emptied down our throats, making the brief transit through our varied metabolisms out onto our clothes to transform into what we call cyclist stench. We stayed with this lovely family in Narooma (thanks Barry, Jimmie, Goldy and Em!),

rode on to Tilba,

with the kind promise of a lift to avoid the death trap 10 kms north of Cobargo where Meg and Woody had a near miss thirteen months earlier on our big trip. The kind offer came from Ronnie and her super family of Norris’s, where we got to spend a few days, sit out more rain, swim with them at Bermagui, drink real cows milk and speak on air to one of our favourite ABC presenters, Ian Campbell.

When the sun poked through we hightailed it to Bega, our bikes hitching a ride with Ronnie’s sweet folks in an empty trailer that was predestined for the southern coastal city, and climbed 10 kms west to Autumn Farm to stay with Annie and Genevieve and their kids Oscar and Olive (AKA Jo). They cooked us a beautiful meal in their stunning radical homemakers’ kitchen.

The next day we were greeted by 45 enthusiastic Bega-ites who came to our foraging workshop and/or our book event at the wonderful Candelo Books. All the crazy summer traffic, physical fatigue and rain was rendered totally worth it by this enthusiatic mob.

The Princes Highway is a national road with many signs warning drivers of oncoming petrol stops, beach spots, drowsy driving, narrow bridges, overtaking lanes and wildlife. The highway provides, more or less, a safe lane for both northbound and southbound cars and trucks. But despite the daily use of this road by cyclists, almost nothing appears that aids our safety. This is what a typical lane looks like for a cyclist.

We’re supposed to stick between the dangerous loose gravelly bit and the far left white line (intersecting on Zero’s head in the photo). Now marry the above image with this one below and you’ll get a fairly accurate assessment of just how much work there is to do to create safe transit ways for non-polluters in Australia.

Respite from the terror of this highway was found once more when we stopped in to visit Dale and Jenni in Eden again.

These two lovelies put us up last time we rode through Eden. They cooked up a beautiful feast of their home-produced chicken and veggies,

and the next morning Dale offered to drop us 25 kms down the highway where he had to drive to work.

Despite all the generous and wonderful people on the South Coast we didn’t enjoy cycling down this highway on the first big trip. And this time has been little different with few opportunities to get onto quieter roads, so getting to the Victorian border signalled a kind of home coming, a kind of relief.

About four months ago, before we left on our tour, Patrick had contacted Bruce Pascoe to see whether we could visit him at Gipsy Point near Mallacoota. Bruce’s book Dark Emu is a remarkable work of Australian history written by an Aboriginal writer concerning the profound and little known agrarianism that existed in Australia pre-colonisation. His book opens the door to a completely alternative history. We spoke in his nursery,

where he is growing yam daisies (murnongs), which were once a big part of the Aboriginal economies of regard in south-temperate Australia pre 1788. He gave us some seed to plant out in April. Dr Beth Gott, an ethnobotanist from Monash University, claims that a murnong tuber has nearly 10 times the nutrient properties of a potato and was an important part of the health of Aboriginal people.

It was in Mallacoota, Gipsy Point and Genoa that we hooked up with our friends Maya and James, who came with us to meet Bruce and his partner Lyn. Bruce offered us his boat to go fishing in and we cruised the gentle waters of the Genoa River, fishing for tailor, speaking of our river loves without, of course, the use of a motor.

We hope, Dear Reader, that whatever propels you forward into your days this year is just as enjoyable, thrilling, frightening and vital as what has been casting us forward. Thank you for accompanying us on this leg of our journey.

Cold season food and family cloth

The cold months in Daylesford are a time of surprise and pleasure. It has given us much delight, for example, to suck out the bletted jelly from medlars plucked from the tree.
The currawongs have loved them too.

We’ve been praising walked-for snared rabbit, stewing the flesh, brothing the bones and salting the pelts.

We’ve been digging up dandelion roots for roasting and brewing into a dark thick coffee. Patrick discusses the full process in the next issue of Pip magazine.

Our goodly neighbours brought us back some fish they’d caught on the coast and we cooked them on coals in the garden, which made us nostalgic for what we loved about living on the road.

We’ve been hunting common pine mushrooms like these saffron milk caps,

and slippery jacks,

We’ve been harvesting and drying hawthorn berries for Meg’s nourishing herbal infusions (with rosemary, rose hips, elderberries, parsley and fennel).

We’ve been juicing autumn’s cellared fruit and winter’s wondrous weeds.

We’ve been free-ranging the chooks to make sure they are healthy to get them through the sub-zero nights.

We’ve been finishing off the SWAP* shed, ready for our next guests.

We’ve been reclaiming our peasant sensibilities with our friend Vasko, herding his sheep on common land as part of an organic land management model.

This is the current land management model: herbicides kill a patch of the nutritious free street vegetable mallow in Daylesford and the toxic residues end up in the local water supply.

One of the big break throughs AaF has made since our last post was to rid our household of toilet paper. We once spent around $260 a year on this unsustainable, forest-pulp product.

Here is our bathroom. Notice anything unusual?

Instead of toilet paper there are numerous cut up rectangles of cloth sitting on the cistern that are used over and over again. We cut this cloth from an old flannelette bed sheet.

In our SWAP* shed we have built a simple composting bucket toilet, note the family cloth here too.

After wiping with a rectangle of family cloth, we simply fold the cloth and put it in a bucket with a lid that sits beside the toilet. Family cloth is much softer than toilet paper and much much easier to process than cloth nappies.

Inside the bucket it is dry. Occasionally we throw in a few drops of eucalyptus oil. It doesn’t smell at all (although we may have to adapt the process in the warmer months). We learnt by trial and error that cutting the cloth with pinking shears,

didn’t help with the cloth fraying when they went through the wash.

So we bartered a sour-dough lesson with the delightful Mathilda, who beautifully over-locked them.

This is what they now look like up close.

About once or twice a week we put on a hot wash of our family cloth and hang them out to dry.

Thanks boys! And thank you Dear Reader for checking in with us again.

*SWAP (Social Warming Artists and Permaculturalists) is our version of WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms).

From the Snowy to the Yarra (Orbost to Warburton)

We set out from Orbost with the prospect of travelling almost 100 kms along the East Gippsland Rail Trail, passing over the Snowy River,

and past an incredible hedge of wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa), an early relative of cos that is also called opium lettuce. Yes, it is mildly psychoactive taken in large quantities and is supposed to have a chill pill effect; good for people suffering from high blood pressure.

After about 10 kms on the trail we decided that the rough surface was better suited to mountain bikes and that our heavy bikes on touring frames and tyres were not really suited. We got back on the bitumen and rode with the noisy ones to a wonderful little caravan park in Nowa Nowa that sported this awesome open communal kitchen, and whose owners greeted us with just-picked strawberries and fresh eggs. Thanks Helen and Neil!

With more rain about we stayed a few wet nights, swimming during the sunny days in the creek.

While at Nowa Nowa we received an invitation to join some friends in Traralgon for Christmas. We had just a day to ride 170 kms, not quite manageable for us, so we took off early in the morning passing these roadside walnut trees,

noting the central problem of our culture: paid for food, or as Daniel Quinn puts it:

Making food a commodity to be owned was one of the great innovations of our culture. No other culture in history has ever put food under lock and key – and putting it there is the cornerstone of our economy, for if the food wasn’t under lock and key, who would work?

After 50 kms of riding we arrived at Bairnsdale station with a bright blue box to help smuggle Zero onto the train to make up the remaining 120 kms.

We hadn’t been separated from Zero the other times we smuggled him on public transport. He always kept quiet because he knew we were there, beside him. This time he whined for us from the cargo carriage and we were paid a visit from the conductor, who thankfully was delightful and explained that next time we travel we have to have a proper regulation travel box for our dog-kin. Even though this is absurd, we weren’t about to argue with this nice fella. He didn’t kick us off the train and we got to Traralgon, where our friend Ben Grubb met us and led us through the town and out into the outlaying fields to his parents’ home.

We all got to work preparing for the feast. Patrick and Ben killed and dressed a chicken,

Jaala and Shannon Freeman (friends of ours from Daylesford, and who are also Grubb family members) joined the festivities and helped Jim and Jeni (Ben’s parents) and Meg in the food preparation. It was a joyous collective effort using herbs, vegetables and fruits from the garden,

to deliver a delicious lunch. Thanks earth! Thanks chicken. Thanks Grubbs and Freemans.

The following day more food prep continued, turning cherry plums,

into fruit leathers,

until it was time to thank Jim and Jeni for so generously hosting us, and say goodbye, Zeph feeling pretty poorly with a cold. Ben rode with us for several kms showing us the back roads and short cuts, and

he also helped Zero catch a rabbit by blocking one end of a drain with sticks and his feet. It is a technique worth finessing…

Patrick butchered the rabbit, apportioned a share to Zero and we kept the rest for later in the day. Not far on from the rabbit catch we came across Aaron, a solo cycle tourer on his maiden voyage. Go Aaaron!

We farewelled Aaron, and a little later on Ben, and rode into the altered country of dirty coal.

About 70% of water in Australia is used by industry, a remaining 20% is used by government and a tiny percentage, less than 10%, is used in domestic use. As we rode past the old relic of old thinking that is Yalourn power station we listened to the millions of litres of water running through the cooling towers, reflecting on these figures.

We ate our free lunch a little further on, poaching the rabbit for 4 minutes in the billy and separating the soft and tender meat from the bone.

On another invitation, from an old Hepburn Relocalisation Network friend Liz, we visited Entropia eco-village near Moe. Liz is one of a number of residents who are about to live rent free on the 20 acre site for one year and be filmed for a documentary, which sounds a bit like Hippy Big Brother. Watch that space!

There are a number of small or tiny houses being built at Entropia, which came about after Samuel Alexander’s book of the same name.

Part of the land is bush and we found a few geebungs (Persoonia linearis) growing there. When the fruit is ripe it will yellow and fall to the ground. The skin and the seed was traditionally discarded when eaten.

Certainly Woody found utopia at Entropia.

But the dystopian road called us back, and the prospect of home.

Play fighting has been a fun part of our day to day. It gives the boys an opportunity to push back from we ever steering adults. It builds strength and body control and develops emotions that can cope under physical pressure.

Research is another thing we’ve all been learning: how to find out stuff that interests us and grow our knowledges.

By the time we reached Yarragon, Zeph was on the mend from his cold but Meg and Patrick were starting to fall apart. We’ve all been fit and strong the whole way and now in the final weeks our defences are crumbling. We nestled into this little wetland forest setting up our version of a MASH rehab camp,

but after another short leg we figured some hot water and a place to get out of the strong winds was needed in Warragul.

We were all sporting hacking coughs and rode up to Neerim South in blustery, wet conditions and again took refuge in a motel room. The next day the winds abated and the sun shone and we rode through the prettiest country, passing wild displays of the sweet flower of the coffee substitute chicory (Cichorium intybus),

and later moist valleys filled with giant tree ferns,

along quiet C roads with little traffic.

We rode 66 kms to Warburton in time for New Years eve,

to stay with our friend Maya Ward in her tiny house that she designed and helped build,

and to see in the New Year a festive picnic followed by fireside music and intimate chats.

The first day of 2015 saw Zeph gearing up for high school. Go Zeph!

Maya and her lovely man James treated us to delicious meals and restorative places. Thank you both so much, it has been a gentle few days in beautiful Warburton and now we are ready to begin our final leg towards home.

We wish you, Dear Reader, a peaceful and productive International Year of Soils, filled with great adventure, slow travel, encouraging friends and free, walked-for food.

Our medicine is free and found in both our food and physicality (from Bundaberg to Gladstone)

The days here in Queensland have been sunny and warm but the nights very cool. Before we left Bundaberg we went op-shoping for some warmer clothes. Woody scored this great vest.