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Hulled up in Darwin – thrift, theft and fish in the top end

When we walked through the gates of the Dinah Beach Cruising Yacht Association (DBCYA), we soon arrived at this little encampment,

and met Ray and his mate Ben. Ray is the brother of a friend back home in Djaara Country, and he kindly invited us to stay on his boat, which is ‘on the hard’.

Named after his sister who died from breast cancer, Crissy Anne is Ray’s steel hull boat, which he is working on in preparation to sail around the world next year. After we arrived, he invited us to join his local sailing cohort at the bar at DBCYA ,

where we spoke to many of the folk there of our desire to crew a boat over the drink to Timor Leste or Indonesia. We were advised to post our wish on the various yachting websites, and to put up a poster on the association’s notice board, which we did the next day,

coupled with doing some much needed washing.

The following days were spent adjusting to ‘Darwin time.’ We were a bit restless to explore this little city none of us had visited before. “Go slow and calm the farm,” Ray told us, and “drink a load of water first thing in the mornings.” We were still somewhat in our get-shit-done southerner harvest-season bodies, and we’d arrived to 32 degree celsius days with overnight lows of just 18. On our first day we walked a 6 km round trip to Mindil Beach Sunset Market, hoping for fresh produce. We got instead over-priced tourist food, though they didn’t skip on the sunset.

For we adults, while Woody sleeps, our morning tea ritual is a sacred time. Between Crissy Anne and the laundry, a large patch of Tulsi grows. A powerful herb of the subtropical regions of the world, Tulsi is a perennial basil and an adaptogen,

and a dear friend of the nervous system, especially in times of change and turbulence.

When Woody gets up, and has had his oat breakfast,

it’s time to get going. Our project on the third day was to go out to Ray’s other boat, Orfeo, which is moored in the harbour. Ray said we’d be welcome to stay on this old yacht, and help get our sea legs in preparation for crewing a boat. He suggested we travel back and forth to Orfeo by the canoe he was recently given. So we loaded up, and pulled and strained the old gal a few hundred metres,

down to the wharf, dropped the canoe into the water and left Meg on the landing, as we were concerned the load was already too heavy.

Patrick and Woody rowed over our packs, food bags and instruments, then came back for Meg. We all approached our new home with excitement.

While Woody fished, his parents cleaned up the galley and were settling in when it became evident that Orfeo was an ill-fated operation.

There were problems with the solar power system, so there was no electricity, meaning our perishable food was being cooked by the day’s heat collecting inside the boat. We tried to problem-solve with Ben by phone, but the multimeter was back on shore, and there was no way we could locate the problem. Then we discovered that the canoe was taking in water. Patrick used a cup to empty it and we repacked the little boat and rowed back to shore with our sea tails between our legs. We moved back into Crissy Anne and in the work area beneath her we lived, cooked, communed with Ray and his many friends, and in the quieter times Meg got some office work done for our dear friends and permaculture elders, David Holmgren and Su Dennett.

Patrick worked on Ray’s collection of bikes. We may not be sea savvy folk, but we are bike savvy.

Only one of Ray’s four bikes was in working order, so Patrick stepped into his mechanic body until they were all functional.

As soon as we hit the road on these cruisy contraptions, we began to feel more at home in Darwin. “You don’t get done for not wearing a helmet,” said Ben, “if you stick on the bike paths you’ll be fine. The cops have plenty of other things to deal with.” The cult of safetyism in Australia’s southern states was just not apparent here. Instead of KeepCups and lattés as the dominant cultural drug-milieu by day, it is stubby holders and beer up here, which creates a continual boozy social environment. For a family on bikes, we had to be vigilant.

The bike paths are numerous and the little city is mostly flat.

There were shouts of joy as we rode Larrakia (saltwater) people’s Country, and the warm wind whooshed over the stickiness of our skin. We explored fishing spots,

caught some lovely things such as Blue swimmer crabs,

and introduced ourselves to a shell fish we’d never seen before, and strangely couldn’t ID it.

We sat, reflected, listened and relaxed in saltwater Country,

and gleaned old line and tackle on the low tide, salvaging the useful parts and binning the potentially hazardous.

We caught a bunch of fish in the first part of the week we were in Darwin, but many of them were inedible (puffer and bat fish), or they were undersize (bream and trevally). The blue bike Patrick fixed, the best of Ray’s treadlies, was stolen from underneath Crissy Anne the night after it was back on the road. Alongside feeling relaxed here in Darwin, we have also felt an uneasiness; a discomfort.

After many conversations with locals it was becoming increasingly apparent that crewing a boat for a family of three with no sailing experience was a bit of a pipe dream. We were generously offered a passage to Indonesia with Sleepy Dave, but he isn’t going until August. India is calling.

Ray is a yacht race referee in Darwin. He presides over the organisation of a number of races and he told us many sailors stay in Darwin over the dry season to join these events or repair their boats.

Ray has been so generous, going out of his way to help us while in we’ve been in Darwin. But, having inhabited the belly of Crissy Anne for several days,

we don’t want to overstay our welcome. With a fair amount of reluctance we booked a short flight to Dili in Timor Leste, 720 kms away. For a little more we could go all the way to India, but that’s not the point of this trip, to travel so fast. Meg and Patrick haven’t been overseas for twenty years, and Woody never has. We were really hoping we could do it without flying. From Dili we intend to continue northward, island-hopping towards India. Now we’ve made that decision we have work to do. Foremost, biking our winter gear and sleeping bags up to the post office to send home,

op-shopping for summer wear,

by thrift and by chance,

and obtaining some US dollars for Timor.

It’s been a strange time in Darwin. It’s almost a segregated town, at least from an outsider’s view. There’s mob here that are not Larrakia people, who have come to Darwin from remote communities, or other parts of the country. Then there’s mob here that have big grief stories, who have turned to substances that bedevil them, which in turn keeps them exiled from their respective communities. These troubled street folk are treated sternly, sometimes viciously by settler shopkeepers, security guards and managers of supermarkets across all ethnicities. Visitors are warned by locals not to engage with blackfellas looking for coin, smokes or grog, so they are often ignored or avoided. Ben told us, “It takes about two weeks for newcomers to Darwin to become racist.” On the street you have drug and alcohol affliction, and then in the board rooms, shrewd tactics of corporate power use Aboriginal people and culture to both aggregate and make-look-civil the destructive extraction of Aboriginal resources, for empire. This reckless corporate mining company, for example, dons Aboriginal art in its foyer as false flags of progressiveness and care.

It’s easy for blow-ins to jump to conclusions about a place. We understand the problems here are complex because they are generational and because western civilisation is a sophisticated propaganda machine. Drugs and alcohol have different impacts in differing cultures, depending on peoples’ approaches. Clearer for us now, is how industrial grog and industrial mining come from the same mythos of greed and subjugation, and no good culture can come from these things. These activities done in an indigenous way would require ceremony and ritual, where over-extraction or over-consumption are not present because of the gratitude and connection these cultural expressions elicit. Indigenous activities done at a scale of bioregional accountability can never be systematically or globally harmful, can never produce man-made mass suffering. Suffering is an ordinary and sometimes necessary part of life, it is a great teacher, but not on the scale industrialisation causes. This, we’ve found, is a critical difference between industrial and indigenous ways.

Towards the end of our time in Darwin, we returned to the Fishermen’s Wharf and were reminded to speak to Saltwater Mother Country, a quiet ritual we often do down south. Before we fish at a place, we speak our intention for coming. “We’ve come to catch food for our family tonight, and we will only take a little of your abundance.”

Fairly shortly after we arrived and acknowledged Mother Country in this way, Woody’s rod started bending,

and the youngtimer began pulling them in.

Four beautiful bream (from $1.50 worth of chicken) made our dinner on the second last night.

Patrick’s attempt to add to the bag saw him bring in several little critters and this Moon fish, which is apparently good eating though, due to its size, he released it.

We are leaving Darwin with much gratitude for what Country and the people have taught us here. To slow down. To accept the stickiness. To acknowledge it takes time to adjust to new places and ways. To be with the disappointment of flying and not crewing on a boat. To better understand the life-wreckingness of industrial substances and extractions. To not reduce complexity to a facile judgement. To further behold the propaganda and hubris of this nation and its subservience to empire. What can a family do in the face of all this? Eat meals together, ask questions, meet people and find out our commonalities with them, and bring more love into the world.

We didn’t come to Darwin to catch trophy fish or take in the club life. We didn’t come for the burnouts of Supercars and military jets. We didn’t come to consume Aboriginal art or Aussie-ised Asian food. We came as pilgrims on an adventure seeking nothing famous or big, rather for the accumulations of everyday magic, provided by the goddesses of small things.

Thank you, Dear Reader, for continuing to follow our journey. We feel tremendously supported by our community back home, the community of subscribers here, and the community we’re meeting on the road.

Subsistence permaculture’s feral abundance (the shootin’-fishin’, catch ‘n cook post)

Listen to the audio version (14 mins):

 

Neopeasantry is our way of describing permaculture subsistence, a reaching into a glorious poverty – an abundant, anarchical economy that enables rich culture to spring forth; an earth-first, bankers last economy-culture. That’s neopeasantry. Not capitalism, not communism, more akin to a fair-share distributism, only not a theory but lived.

Today’s post specifically focuses on the abundance that is feral carp and rabbit, here in Djaara Mother Country. You can switch these two species for any weedy or ferally plant, mushroom or animal that is abundant in your region. While the information is specific, the spirit of incorporating unwanted abundance (abundance that capitalism is blind to), can be translated across endless species, riches and relationships, that is if we change our attitudes to things we’ve been told aren’t very good. Here, we intend to explain our techniques of procurement and processing, and share a recipe or two, including Magpie Meg’s famous carp mousse (or feral fish paste).

In this post we will cover how we come by this food, honour it and every part, be the biological controls of these tenacious critters, and generally participate in the flow of gifts that is life inside the thrum and wild grace of Mother Country.

Mother Country herself – the giving-taking earth who enables so much life to be made and unmade – is a sophisticated ecologist. Not an ideological one who sits smugly in the neoliberal academy. Her wisdom goes beyond correct and incorrect species and industry imperatives, and although she is perennially wounded and polluted by the narcissism of a now globalised kidult economic force, this Mother is more interested in those who are ecological participants, those who see her, those who listen, and those who sing divine gratitude into her ground for everything she gives. This is when she ceases to be dead matter, ever ready to be exploited, and instead becomes the Mother of all things.

There is no fear nor favour, no moralising goddess beyond the little walled city of neoliberal materialism, Mother Country is endlessly more vast than this tragic reduction of life. While ferocious and terrifying at times, she doesn’t wreak skygod fear and war-like terror into souls that ignore or exploit her. The mining industry carries on apace unharmed by her, is materially enriched by her, but miners die in their souls independent of her will. It is their souls who become forever unsettled ghosts in Country. Her consciousness extends beyond a childish right and wrong story. She deserves no cult, no pagan worshipping, no church built. She is already church. If she requires anything from us it is just a returned animist culturering, to be in sync with her and thus be a people in participation, wide-eyed appreciators, embodied in her patterns and gifts, which she gives in exchange for language, culture, food, medicine, fuel and magic.

Ferals are some of these gifts. The way we honour all her gifts is directly related to the gratitude we feel for Mother Country, which in turn informs the culture and rituals we perform as community. There is no appropriation here, the culturing is direct, felt, inspired, microbial. It is an exchange of presence.

Our economy as subsistence permaculturists or neopeasants is not based on scarcity. We don’t have anxiety about not having enough money like we once did, although we are still dependent on the monetary economy for about 20% of our needs. This is mainly for foods and resources we cannot grow, husband, witch, procure, wild harvest, or hunt ourselves. As many of you already know, we do not call this self-sufficiency but rather ‘community sufficiency’ – a term we’ve been advancing for a decade now to give power to the relationships that help us transition from narcissism to accountability, from wage-slave consumerism to radical homemaking, from soul-dead materialism to singers in the church of Mother Country. Relationships in this new/old economy are key to the unshackling from the banker’s realm. Trust, acceptance, skills and resilience are our focus.

If we keep developing language to describe our actions as we deepen them, then we can perform new/old forms of economy and culture making. For the language we use either incarcerates or liberates us. If we talk about economy as one thing – a thing in which the bankers alone puppeteer – then we are already ensnared. But step-by-step, season by season, relationship by relationship, word by word we can transform our worlds of the world into economic cultures that are dynamic, giving, in-service-to and receiving. We do not have to be anybody’s slave, and we don’t have to rely on unseen slaves from far away to augment our economic and cultural reality. Believing that we must conform to the universal wanking bankers is swallowing the bourgeois propaganda we’ve been force fed since birth.

We say, Enough! to that. Let’s grow up!

No more Taylor Swift narcissism or gratuitous alcoholic romps that never did fill the great hole in our souls that never needed filling. Rather, here’s the uncle figure at the end of the street who teaches the teenager his drumming, the grandmother who hands down her Polish pickle recipe, the brother who demonstrates his method for field gutting rabbits, the neighbour who shows the child the art of catching carp with compost worms, the story telling adventures of elders. Expensive, bourgeois workshops are not necessary, going into debt to buy land to farm is not required, tooling up can be done in a sleeves-rolled-up spirit of salvaging and repairing. An open-heart, a passion for not being enslaved, and making space to learn and share new skills, is liberty.

Rabbit

Big thanks to Jordan Osmond for the next two pics.

Some of the loveliest moments Patrick has experienced as a dad these past years, is when he’s been out hunting with Blackwood. As day recedes into night, the nocturnal world transforms their psyches in a myriad of ways. Father and son have lain on their backs beholding the stars, waiting for rabbits to return to the fields from their burrows, after gunshots had spooked them. A few rabbits before dusk are always a gift,

but the underworlding of night brings many more treasures. Any opportunity for Patrick to pass on what he’s learnt is the action of the gift in flow. In this picture Patrick demonstrates the field gut, which is the removal of the intestines not long after shooting to save the meat from spoiling.

The rabbits, with pelts still on, go into the fridge overnight, making skinning easier the next day.

It’s not entirely true rabbit meat is devoid of goodly fats and therefore of little nutritional value. The older the rabbit, the more pockets of fat it will have stored. Countless blessings rabbits! We honour and praise you as appropriate food. No industrial inputs grew you up.

In such honouring, all parts have meaning: The intestines left in the field for scavenger animals and soil communities to process, the heart, liver and kidneys used to make pâté, the bodies wrapped and frozen for winter roasts and stews, and the skins stretched and salted,

then sun dried,

to be later tanned and turned into useful textiles.

Other ferals, such as European wasps, help clean off the excess meat from the pelts making the scraping process later on, less work. While we are not engaged in colonially-constructed perverse incentives, meaning that we don’t intentionally help to grow these ecologically domineering, albeit undervalued species, we also don’t hate on them, nor any other more-than-human ferals who have settled as feral kin in Djaara Mother Country. We also eat European wasps.

Blackwood and Patrick went wood collecting yesterday and were set upon by angry wasps for the inconceivable crime of splitting logs too close to their nest. Blackwood received a sting on his leg and Patrick had wasps attempting to sting his neck but fortunately they couldn’t penetrate his beard.

In the past week, Blackwood took the life of a rabbit. His first. He stretched the pelt using a frame on a stand we found on the metal pile at the local tip.

We people, our species, can both love and kill animals. The two expressions are not mutually exclusive. Supermarkets have fed us the hubris and estrangement that they are. On the day after his first rabbit kill, Blackwood accompanied his mum to a neighbour’s home to put away their chooks and pet rabbits. He cuddled so much love into those dopey rabbits. That same night we watched Watership Down for our weekly movie night, and a few days later Blackwood was out again on a hunt with his dad. We, of our species, can hold many paradoxes, stories, ways of relating in the world, and this is a beautiful craft.

After stretching his first rabbit pelt, Blackwood then followed his mum’s recipe to convert the raw wild rabbit meat into jerky – a light, preserved and portable food to take on walking or cycling adventures – a food which can easily be rehydrated in the billy.

Meg’s rabbit jerky recipe: Cut the lean meat into thin slices and place in a bowl. Add spices such as cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cumin, sumac and minced garlic. Splosh in a whole lot of tamari and mix it all together. Cover with a plate and place somewhere cool for 12 – 24 hours. A fridge or cellar is fine. Then place the strips on racks and dehydrate until the meat is fully dry. A low oven (50 degrees C) or dehydrator will do the trick. When dry, place the jerky pieces in a jar, label and store.

Carp

Between the storing of wood and preserving of summer’s abundance in the cellar, we have also found time to go fishing. Here is Patrick’s simple set up for catching carp with compost worms and a hand line. Notice, in the image below, the line between the two stakes is being held down by the weight of leaves still attached to a very light branch. When these leaves rise up it indicates a fish is on, or at least taking the bait.

Carp is often devalued in Australia. If carp isn’t put onto ice packs in an esky or cooked on coals straight away it releases histamines throughout the body which gives it an unappealing flavour. Dealing with this is the first hurdle for enjoying this bountiful critter.

The second is the cooking process. Carp, like barracuda, has many small ‘y’ bones that make it, again, unappealing to eat. So we have developed a strategy to process every part, including the scales, head, tail and bones, only excluding the guts. First up, we cut the fish into chunks, add tallow (or any goodly cooking fat; not harmful vegetable cooking oils which we examined in a recent post), garlic and onion, and bake for an hour in a warm to hot oven,

then we put the parts into a pressure cooker, add a few cups of water, and put on the stove for a number of hours, intermittently checking the water level

Over this time, all of the parts of the fish and alliums melt, and Meg then weaves her magic…

Meg’s carp mousse recipe: Place the pressure cooked fish and allium mix in a food processor and add herbs such as parsley or oregano (fresh is best, but dried is good too), then salt and pepper. Sometimes Meg adds some olive oil if the mix is a bit dry. Process until it forms a cake batter consistency. Best spread on bread or crackers, but also yummy straight from a spoon. Store in a jar in the fridge, or freeze for when abundance wanes.

~

So many skills of economic resilience inform others. When we learn to make chicken liver pâté, we know how to make bunny liver pâté. When we know how to make goat bone broth, we know how to make bunny bone broth. When we know how to make chick pea hummus, we are well on the way to making carp mousse.

What undervalued riches of life do you value, Dear Reader? How are they part of your transition away from economic incarceration? We need not pay for much, but we need skills and knowledges to live this way. What are those skills you value so highly? We’d love you to share your alternative economic lifeways with us, even if you’re only just beginning down this magical, defiant and liberating path.

With autumnal glow,
Artist as Family

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.

Giving, taking and making (from Jingellic to Goulburn)

Thank the stars we rested at Jingellic and ate the bounty of local critters the Upper Murray offered,

an idle few days cooking carp on walked-for wood coals and playing songs around the campfire prepared us for the 44 km slog all up hill,

to Tumbarumba. Hello cows! We guerrilla camped for three nights beside the town’s creek,

kinda hidden, kinda not.

We were invited to dinner at Geoff and Karen’s, who are fourth generation farmers we’d met on the first trip. Respectful debate concerning land use, economies and politics continued from where we’d left off in 2013. Back then Geoff was a climate change skeptic. But no longer.

We held a free foraging class, and identified around twenty species of autonomous edibles,

gathered up the best of what we found and demonstrated how to turn these free gems into desirable food.

We then gave a reading at Nest, and sold a swag of books. Yippee!

We’d heard the ranger was keen to catch up with us in Tumba, so we hightailed it to Batlow and hung out in the library where we met Robert, the town’s librarian, who went home at lunch time and picked us a bunch of his glorious asparagus. Thanks Robert!

We were offered a free camp at Greg Mouat’s apple orchard with permission to fish out the redfin from his dam. Thanks Greg!

We caught 5 mid-sized ones and added them to Robert’s asparagus for dinner, before bunking down for the night.

We stopped in Tumut for a little reading at Night Owl Books,

and took off along the Brungle Road to Gundagai where flashes of the old Wiradjuri spirits collided with newcomer glimmer.

We rode on to Jugiong, made camp again along the Murrumbidgee River where the water was clear enough to go spearing for fish.

Woody and Zero watched from the pebbly bank,

while Meg took a skinny dip.

Patrick was unsuccessful catching fish, but we did harvest stinging nettle and cooked up a bag of this rich-in-iron free medicine with pasta, olive oil, salt and lemon.

We woke to a billy of porridge and hit the Hume Highway.

A tedious, roadkill-marred ride brought us to Bookham for a rest, where two years earlier Patrick had pruned this little feral apple tree. He gave it another prune to encourage a habit for greater fruiting in the years to come. Go little tree, grow!

We schlepped into Yass after a deafening and hot 60 kms, pulled up outside the local land council and had a yarn to Brad, a Ngunnawal man. He told us about a local program set up to rid foxes and feral cats who are, he stated, wreaking havoc on the local tortoise population.

What’s remarkable is how many tortoises we’ve seen killed by cars and trucks since Gundagai. There have been at least 100.

We anthropocenes really are brilliant at kidding ourselves… More lambs; a better environment?

By observing the relationships between other animals —non-mediated earth folk— is it possible to reclaim for ourselves a place as ecological creatures, in relationship and not at war; where one-on-one interspecies killing is part of everyday life, but man-made mass death is not?

Eating a broad, local diet (such as these dianella buds and flowers, soon to be berries), can perhaps aid a process of becoming post-anthropocene. We believe that if we engage in our own resource gathering we can better be accountable to that which makes life possible.

Learning to forage plants that cultivate by themselves, produce food without the need of fossil fuels, mined superphosphate and excessive water inputs all contributes in being able to walk away from the Anthropocene.

We took this merry bunch of Canberra foragers out for a walk in a suburban park and showed them how much food lies just underneath their feet, before returning to Paperchain Books in Manuka for a talk and reading from The Art of Free Travel.

While in Canberra we stayed with an old friend of Patrick’s from undergraduate days. Tim treated us to his excellent cooking and a generosity that made us feel like we were back at home. Thanks Tim!

While in the capital we also got to stay with these two kind Warm Showers hosts Kerri-Ann and Michael, who shared their cycling stories and cooked us a lovely meal.

We left Canberra well rested and cared for and rode hard for 70 kms to Tarago to set up an unorthodox camp in their weird but welcoming little public park.

We didn’t linger, leaving early the next day for Goulburn where just before we arrived in this old sheep town we spotted fruiting African boxthorn berries to snack on.

We hope the thorns in your fingers, Dear Reader, provide delicious sweets and free delights. One of the lessons we’ve learned from the road is how the hardships of the day prick the joys, they are one of the same tree.

The art of free travel (the homecoming leg – Warburton to Daylesford)

We probably should have spent the day at Maya’s swimming hole on the Yarra, 

as the second day of 2015 was a scorcher. But instead we travelled the relatively shady Warburton-Lilydale Rail Trail, coming across these osyter mushrooms (Pleurotus sp) growing on what looked like dead underground conifer wood.

Only we weren’t 100% convinced they were edible oyster mushrooms and as there was a tiny chance they could be the poisonous look-alike, glow-in-the-dark ghost fungus (Omphalotus nidiformis), which also grow on woody material (mostly eucalypts) we abandoned them before finding this great little Yarra swimming hole, near Woori Yallock.

The long hot evenings of summer have proven a little inconvenient for us weary, early-to-bed, early-to-rise campers, and daylight savings certainly plays havoc with our circadian rhythm.

In the past we have spoken about breast milk being one of the most important medicines in our medical kit, but another one we regularly resort to, and is equally free from the imperatives of capitalism, is good sleep. Patrick just couldn’t throw off the cold we all had over the past week and became really sick because of a relentless sore throat, which made swallowing almost impossible, thus cancelling out the possibility of the medicine of sleep for three nights. This was the result.

Not a happy camper! But we still had kms to cover if we were to get home to our chooks and ducks and garden, so wallowing in sickness was not an option. We had to push on, and on we travelled to Seville for another hot night,

followed by rain the next morning, a wet pack up and breakfast under the local footy ground shelter.

Zeph has been booming along during these last three months on the road. He has missed his mum and his mates and is eager to get to high school, but he is also present and bubbly and more than meets the challenges of each day, which are quite intense. Roadkill, aggressive drivers, rain, steep hills, healthy food (something he has an aversion to) and a dad who can be quite hard on him, have all been daily pressures that he has grown from.


Even though Zeph can be quite in awe of a certain motorbike or car that races past and will rib his ‘hippy’ parents about his love of these ‘cool’ motors (can something that goes so fast really be cool?), he will also, off his own bat, articulate his despair at what he/we see as the senseless mass death of animals brought about by an intransigent car culture in Australia.

Even though the endless roadkill has probably become progressively less shocking as our senses have hardened over 9,000 kms of cycled bitumen and gravel, we still have many moments that really choke us up. For the 2,800 kms we drove a rental car (our leg from Cairns back to Sydney), we didn’t produce any flattened fauna and drove with the utmost of care. But for all the 14 months on the road, bar those 11 difficult days in a car, it was really impossible to inflict much damage, even if we tried…

One of the few autonomous fruits we came across on this last leg, between Yarra Glen and Hurstbridge, is a species of passionfruit (Passiflora sp.), a prolific garden escapee that has taken up residence along the fence lines that run beside the roads in that region. Should be good bush tucker for locals in that area in a few weeks from now.

Having made up some kms we took up a stealthy residence in a park reserve in Hurstbridge and rested for two nights.

Zeph found a three-wheeled scooter lying around in the park and when Woody wasn’t on it he honed his mobility skills to the max.

A less significant but nonetheless useful medicine plant we’ve seen all over the country is petty spurge (Euphorbia peplus), otherwise known as radium weed.

It produces a milky latex sap that is good at ridding warts and liver spots. Be careful in applying this free medicine as it can burn the skin, and make sure you keep it away from eyes and internal parts of the body. Dabbed directly on the wart or sunspot over several days will generally get rid of these unwanted skin anomalies. They will form a scab and then disappear.

From Hurstbridge we rode a big day to Wallan, picked up some supplies and headed on towards Romsey. We found a little camp site along the way. The site sorely lacked water and thick shade and the heat of the afternoon prompted a nudist beach free-for-all to compensate.

We got away early the next morning after some bike maintenance where a tree branch and strap were used to make a hoist.

We’re going to miss the camaraderie of bike-camping life, although we will apply the lessons we’ve learnt to help each other in home and community life.

As we approached Romsey the land was tinderbox dry. It recalled for us the relatively recent 10-year drought and the feeling of becoming environmental refugees again as yet another extreme fire season develops.

Not far on from here a siren was heard and then the engine itself roared past and this uneasy feeling rendered itself concrete.

As we approached Woodend a fire raged near Kyneton and a storm brewed on the horizon. The effect was nothing but dramatic.

The rain soothed and cooled and came and went in a hurry, allowing a reprieve for our last night of our long trip.

After so many months, Zeph is a gun at packing up TJ (Tent Junior) and races Patrick when he packs up Big Bad Barry (the adults’ tent, named by three-year old Ruby back in Katoomba).

We stopped off at the Woodend Community Garden for a few breakfast berries,

and set off for our last day’s ride.

Near Tylden the rain was followed by a glorious rainbow.

And at Trentham we stopped in to Redbeard Bakery, where some of the best organic sourdough in Australia is made and where Patrick used to work and learned the art of sourdough. The delightful John Reid shouted us a beautiful breakfast and sent us on our way with five loaves. Thanks John! If all businesses were as green, ethical and generous as yours we wouldn’t be such ardent critics of monetary economics.

The loaves John gave were to share with some of our loved ones who gathered at the community garden (well, next door because of the rain) to cheer and greet us as we rode into our hometown of Daylesford.

We have been blessed by the countless folk who have followed our journey online and sent us well wishes for the entire way. Our dear friend Pete took us on a little tour of our beloved Albert St community garden,

life was brimming there, and the storm clouds were brewing so we hightailed it home with Cam, Tia, Jeremy, Arden and Jasper on their bikes,

to join other mates in our home garden that was lovingly tended by Matt and Yael and their kids while we were away. With such restorative rain, trees full of fruit and our teary, gift-giving friends it was such a smooth landing home.

After everyone left and the heavens opened for another deluge, we decided to set up our beds inside after all instead of setting up our tents in the backyard as we had planned. Then Patrick got to work cutting the legs off our kitchen table.

We’d been talking about doing this for months and it felt like a good first thing to do to bring into our home what we liked about camp life. Pete brought some crates over the next day as we’d mentioned to him we’re going to try to keep sitting on our sit bones and rid our house of the dreaded chair.

Another thing we came home with is a book deal with the Sydney publisher NewSouth Publishing, an imprint of UNSW Press. We are going to be busy beavers for the next several months getting a first draft completed of the book we are calling The art of free travel.

We really can’t thank you enough for your well wishes and positivity these last 14 months. It has been such a highlight and comfort to us to have you along on this journey. Although we are home now, we will still continue to do our work as community food activists and car-free advocates, only now from the one location instead of many.

Hills and thrills and possum stew (from Cobargo to Orbost)

While staying with Ronnie and Phil on their farm just north of Cobargo we got to see up close what a small-scale commercial dairy looks and smells like. 
Crippling regulations for producers means they are locked into ways of farming that don’t support best practice land management. We spoke with Ronnie about how regulations lead to large monetary loans, which in turn lead to putting more pressure on the land in order to service the accruing debt.

This is a common picture in regional Australia, the debt that is. Zeph hit it off with Ronnie and Phil’s son, Alexander, sharing a love of independent mobility.

And we got to go walkabout up in the hills in between the storms. Thanks so much Ronnie, Phil, Alexander and Eliza-Jane! We had such a restorative and nourishing time with you all.

Alexander rode with us the 6 kms to the Cobargo township,

on the morning of our talk at Sweet Home Cobargo,

where about thirty thoroughly decent folk turned up to hear us rant the pleasures and pressures of cycling, stealth camping and everything else we do to inspire the idea of a permaculture mode of travel, a node of which we found in this very edible pond.

The pond included bulrush, waterlily and lotus lily and was situated just below our night’s campsite,

which came about as a chance invitation from one of the punters from the talk. At the old butter factory east of Cobargo a little two day festival of music was occuring where a pig and cow were killed for the occasion and local vegetables roasted and laid out in beautifully primitive quarters while a band whose name we didn’t catch played old school rock n roll.

It was a loose night and we packed up the next morning a little tired,

thanked our hosts and headed out of town, moving an anthropogenicised wombat off the road so it could decompose in peace.

As we rode towards Bega we got a call from our friend Mel Pickering, who’d arranged our Sweet Home Cobargo talk, shouting us a picnic by the river with her family.

Mel used to live in our community and was involved in the early stages of setting up the community gardens, the food co-op and the Daylesford branch of Critical Mass. Mel is also an experienced cycle tourer. Thanks so much Mel, Dan, Max and Evan, your lunch and company were delicious! To top off our time together the boys made a raft by the river.

We certainly have been spoiled on the South Coast of NSW, and on this day it kept on getting more social when we headed to Ian Campbell‘s home to meet his family and the family of Autumn Farm Bega. Ian interviewed Meg on the radio. You can listen to it here, if you like.

So many inspiring stories on the Sapphire Coast and we were treated to a ferment fest at Ian and Megan’s home with Genivieve and Annie’s rhubarb wine, Ian’s Elderflower champagne and Meghan’s home-baked bread. Thank you everyone!

The following day we met a person who is putting all these great stories of human-scale action and production together in a fantastic magazine called Pip. Meet Robyn Rosenfeldt, telling her own narrative of the beginning of her beekeeping adventures:

We were cooked a delicious campfire dinner of Autumn Farm Bega chicken and home grown veg by Robyn and Alex and were joined by their girls Ruby, Ella and Indi and Alex’s dad Andrew. 

We crashed out in their guest quarters and slept deeply until Woody rose with the roosters and got us up and packing, only to be stopped a few hours later on the road with some thankfully fixable bike problems. The worst part about this roadside fix-it job was being so close to traffic. Woody slept through the event.

It didn’t take us long to relax into the rhythm of cycle touring again, with a complimentary copy of Pip mag to propel us,

all the way to Love Street, Eden (what an address!),

where Dale and Jenni live, and where they are working on their new extensive covered orchard.

Dale and Jenni met us on the street in Merrimbula and invited us to stay with them. These two salt-of-the-earth-back-to-the-landers are growing their own meat and vegetables and brewing their own beer and lemonade.

We again benefitted from the nutrition of nurtured food and land. A former butcher and man of many skills, Dale threw us an impromtu knife sharpening workshop (we are kicking ourselves we didn’t video) and Jenni collected up a bag of home-grown produce to take on our way.

After such a social couple of weeks we were ready to head to the bush again and stealth camp for a bit at Quarantine Bay south of Eden.

We were really bloody exhausted but because of all the rain on the South Coast we needed to make up some kms.

For the first time in over a year we are working to a deadline. Our dear tenants move out shortly and we need to be home to feed the chooks and ducks and get Zeph ready for a life at secondary school (his decision) in January, the month of goats.

Where we breakfasted with the goats was also home to devil’s guts (Cassytha filiformis) or devil’s twine, a bush tucker more common in the north of the country and which comes with a toxicity warning as the seeds and skin of the berries can cause stomach cramps and even prove fatal if too many are consumed.

It was to be our last new found bush tucker before we reached our home state border,

an arbitrary line drawn by colonialists over the territories of Indigenous peoples with little regard. Nevertheless, it felt like a kilometrestone. With a wild storm brewing up hail stones and a radical temperature drop we knew we had crossed into Victoria and we set up camp in Genoa in good time.

We had some drip-drying to do the next morning,

before some more defensive riding on roads not that much better than NSW’s. It’s remarkable how many drivers will overtake a cyclist over a double white line, or what Patrick refers to as the doublewhiteAustralialinepolicy. The truck that almost collected us a few weeks ago overtook Meg and Woody on the crest of a hill and met another truck coming the other way. Who is the driver going to collect? Will he or she smash into a tonne of steel and potentially die or take the soft option and kill the cyclist?

We stopped before Cann River to check out the specials on eco tents not for sale along a rainforest walk,

before arriving in the town with terrible pies and great camp sites.

Zeph got busy making stick damper with some fairly ordinary Aussie flour,

and Zero found and put out of its misery a brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) that had been hit by a car. We were certainly not going to waste this tenacious life.

We stewed the possum with garlic, carrots, tomato, salt, pepper and a handful of buckshorn plantain (Plantago coronopus), the seed heads of which are mucalaginous and help thicken soup.

Over the five or so hours of slowly cooking our little brew our campsite grew. We welcomed Doris the vintage bike and her lovely rider Connor, a dancer from Leeds in the UK, with some damper and honey. Doris declined, while Connor relished the moment.

We invited him to stay for more damper and possum stew,

and camp with us. Just after dinner we welcomed another cycle tourist to our camp. Hello Nathan, delightful Kiwi. We are sorry there’s no more stew left to share.

With possum in our bellies we farewelled our new northbound friends and rode our biggest day (75kms) for quite a while, powering up the ranges and singing down the slopes to Orbost in Gunai Kurnai country, and found a stealthy campsite here,

behind this lovely oak tree in the town’s park.

We hope you too, Dear Reader, find a stealthy Summer solstice retreat where you can rest with loved ones.