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Salsify days (from Trentham to Violet Town)

Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius) flowers have been out in great numbers this year, lining the roads between Daylesford, Woodend and Kyneton. They are a great source of free food if you can identify them before they flower. By now the roots have become too woody to roast. The flower seeds however can be toasted and used in a salad and the petals make a great edible garnish.
We arrived in Woodend with an afternoon to relax before introducing ourselves to Woody, co-owner of New Leaves Bookstore. He had set up a prominent stand of our books before a nice little crowd gathered. Thanks Woody!
We were invited back to the Earthstar’s home where we were treated to delicious food from their garden, a fine bed and the chance to enjoy Sam and Woody, both 3 years old, playing together. Thank you sweet family!
We left Woodend early attempting to beat the storms, but got wholly drenched anyway and thus reinitiated into the vagaries of cycle touring life. We loved it, especially as it remained warm and the ride along the old Cobb and Co coach road was quiet and virtually carless until we arrived in Kyneton and pulled up at Aesop’s Attic Bookshop, greeted by the store owner, Clare.
From Aesop’s we took a small group out on a foraging walk identifying over 20 edible species within a short walk from Clare’s well stocked bookshop (that sells excellent books such as Dark Emu), 
before returning to give a reading and Q & A to a lovely bunch of book punters. Energised by our first two events we rode on towards Pastoria, coming across this wonderful signifier of chemical-company-embedded environmentalism — get your government-funded carcinogens cheap!
We made camp behind the Pastoria CFA,
slept soundly, woke up, had some breakfast, stretched down, 
took to the road and momentarily became muddled with all the possible routes we could take.

We’ve been finding this trip that if we have a few nuts and some dried fruit in the mornings, ride for an hour or two, then cook up a big billy of porridge we get away much earlier and do more riding in the coolest part of the day.
The road from Tooborac to Seymour was fairly uninteresting, punctuated regularly by roadkill in varying states of decay. When we arrived in Seymour we put Zero in a regulation travel box and for the first time we were all legitimate travellers on the state’s public transport.
We got off a few stops along the track in Violet Town, where 2 weeks shy of 2 years ago we arrived in this little town. We found the same friendliness and abundance of street accessible fruit.
In 2013, at 14 months of age, Woody fell in love with loquats in Violet Town, and the passion hasn’t waned.
And once again the town offered up free camping,
free power, and one of the local shops was giving away the most delicious grapefruits.
We set up the Artist as Family merch stand on the main drag and sold a few copies of our book,

before we ran our second foraging walk for the tour and our third book event. These two gigs occurred at Dave Arnold’s Murrnong Permaculture Farm.

Before we say farewell for this leg of the trip we want to tell you we’ve found an error in our tour map. So, for all you Southern Highlanders, please note our event is on the 2nd of December in Bowral.

OK, so we said we weren’t going to blog much this trip. Let’s update that to we’ll blog when we can because we’d like to. We hope, Dear Reader, that your days are filled with things you like too, that your winds are fair and your hands are sticky from overhanging fruit.

The locavore’s pleasure: eating garden snails, laughing cap mushrooms and making local spelt grain beer with honey

Our two weeks with Maarten and Marlies have been sheer delight. They made many a scrumptious meal, including a locavore’s feast of garden snails,

served with Powlett Hill biodynamic spelt, ground, freshly rolled and made into pasta,

roasted salsify root (they look like grasses, don’t they?),

and parsnip. Both root vegetables we have successfully encouraged to naturalise in the garden.

The snails were prepared for a few days using the method we videoed Maarten back in Gerringong telling us about. Then they were pan-cooked in ghee, beetroot, carrot, garlic and Patrick’s infamous 2013 Library Wine. The parsnip and salsify were roasted in the oven and sprinkled with rosemary. Fresh basil was tossed over the top of the whole dish. The result was delicious!

We’ve also been enjoying Meg’s lovely fresh cheese for our lunches.

But sadly not from raw milk, at least not for now. And not because of the Victorian government poisoning raw milk, but because there isn’t any currently on offer around the corner where we usually get it. Huh! The gift economy is unpoliceable! Nonetheless, we joined many good folk on the steps of Parliament in Melbourne to voice our concerns about the State’s overreaching hand when it comes to some foods, but not others. Where does the nanny-state begin and end?

Get the government out of my kitchen read one very apt placard.

David Holmgren, Joel Salatin, Tammi Jonas and Costa Georgiadis were among keynote speakers who addressed a packed Collingwood Town Hall later that day, an event organised by the very cool Regrarians.

Back at home, while Meg and Zero worked on Chapter 8 of our book, and Zeph was busy at school, Woody and Patrick rode out to see our own family of regrarians new farmgate store.

Since being home from the road, we’ve enjoyed a weekly visit from Meg’s folks, known in the family as Ra and Bee, bringing the Friday night challah. Thanks Ross and Vivienne!

Patrick has also been in full bread production mode since we returned, making rolls for Zeph’s school lunches and daily spelt loaves for home lunches,

and from the same Powlett Hill spelt grain, he has been experimenting with producing a very local beer with the ingredients of just forest honey, our garden hops and dandelion, and the spelt grain. Andrew Masterson’s great article recently on eating local food spoke of the dilemma of not being able to find a local brew. Well, we hope this is one delicious response to that call. As for Andrew’s exception of coffee to his local diet, we made the switch to dandelion root coffee a number of years ago because it grows in the garden and because, well, it’s free! And free is freeing. We’re very excited about the making of a very local beer. The only thing not local is the little sachet of ale yeast.

Every Summer our hops grows across our bedroom window, making sleeping a dream.

At this stage Patrick is keeping things simple by brewing in a bag, using 1.5 kg of grain, 1.5 kg of honey, 40 g of hops and about 20 g of dandelion leaf (though he’d prefer to use the flower, when it is available). The brew is currently bubbling away and will do so for a week to ten days before being bottled for several weeks for the second fermentation process. We’ll keep you posted on how it turns out.

Another local food we’ve been eating this week is the laughing cap (Gymnopilus junonius) otherwise known as the spectacular rustgill.

Because we thought this fungus was the Australian Honey Fungus (see comments below) and therefore very bitter, we soaked the mushrooms in milk for 24 hours,

cooked them in ghee and ate them with fresh parsley. They were delicious, although left a bitter aftertaste that could have been remedied with a fruit chutney or some honey.

Well, it is time to say goodbye for now Dear Reader. It is also time to farewell the dynamic Dutch duo, Maarten and Marlies, and thank them for all the knowledge, work and love they brought to our household and community. We will miss them sorely.

Groetjes!