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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.

In honour of Meg ‘Magpie’ Ulman

We gathered a few days ago to celebrate Meg’s 50th orbit around the sun, neopeasant village style.

As individuals or in small groups we spoke our praise of Magpie in heartfelt words and song, including ‘Clearing the inbox’ to the tune of Waltzing Matilda, created and performed by Meg’s frolleagues (friend-colleagues) at Melliodora – David, Ostii, Catie, Beck and Su.

We ate nourishing, potluck, home-tended/crafted food while we kept warm by the fire.

There were also many potluck poems, stories, and honourings shared into the night, including by Ruth,

and Trace,

and Maya,

who, like Catie, shared gratitude and love in a hand drawn card. Did you notice Catie’s worm font?!

Thanks Kim and Jordan for taking these pics, especially this one Kim, capturing Magpie in her nest of love ones.

We each expressed our love uniquely for Magpie, who’d returned that morning from three days and nights fasting and listening in the nearby forest by herself. While she was away, Patrick wove a love poem as long as Meg is tall, attempting to portray a little of her love- and lifemaking adventures, and their shared collaborations. (9min listen)

 

Four things about this recording: Firstly, if you haven’t heard of The Decameron referred to in this piece, you might want to get to know it, if only for the horny monks and nuns in 14th century plagued Europe. Secondly, Patrick’s piece ends with a recorder solo performed by Meg, which is situated towards the end of a newish Artist as Family song called Fish, which we’re still working on. Thirdly, in the piece, Patrick is referring to a virologist in Beijing called Dr Song, who he has been corresponding with. Maybe more on that in a future post. Fourthly, here is the bunny merkin-sporran Patrick made for Meg as an accompanying gift with his poem, which is mentioned (indirectly) in the piece.

Now, back to this Neopeasant Queen (née Jewish Princess).

Another piece delivered on the night was written by our old friend Pete O’Mara, who was MC for the night and who’d predicted Meg and Patrick’s suitability even before they’d met, 18 years ago, when Meg was just new to Djaara Country.

Thank you for the warmth and radiance you bring to life, Meg. You are a lit and giving hearth in the rebuilding of our village, and your love reverberates out into the living of the world.

Is there a time and place for binary thinking? Or, what mythos do you serve?

 

Do you stand against the abuses of institutional power in all forms and legalisms?

Do you stand against those who try to convince you health is dependent on industrial pharmacy?

Do you stand against politicians who fake democracy and grow corporatism?

Do you stand against industrial pollutants, contaminants and toxins that cause unnecessary disease and thus suffering?

Do you stand against anthropocentric capitalisms and socialisms, and the various city-centric ruinations they bring to life?

Do you stand against media that is permissive to the imperatives of Empire, power and global industrialisms?

Do you stand against the iatrogenocide that is the ‘Covid response’ by the state-Pharma nexus?

Do you stand against safetyism, paternalism and nanny statism, which render people immobile and dependent on institutions and industries that are manipulative and controlling?

Do you stand against the NATO/Azov nazi/US invoked genocide of Ukrainian youth by a reactive and bullish Russia?

Do you stand against the century-long genocide of Palestinians by British, US and Israeli colonists?

Do you stand against the extraction of fossil fuels and rare earth minerals used to power a false flag renewables industry?

Do you stand against cultural or political groups who silence and smear others based on their beliefs and values?

Do you stand against large-scale industries including factory farms, agricultural chemicals, pharmaceuticals and sweat shops that mistreat humans, animals and complex biota?

Do you stand against a King (and others like him dripping in privilege) arrogantly calling for an end to ‘convenience’?

Do you stand with the people of villages, towns, cities and suburbs who in their own power and capacity claim for themselves an end to industrial-scale convenience and consumption?

Do you stand with the flowering, fruiting and singing of Mother Country and Grandmother Gaia and everything else that is sacred and not industrially conformed?

Do you stand with life that enables more delicious life to cross over into necessary death and decay, and back into more abundance?

Do you stand for a future society that doesn’t help raise sociopaths or psychopaths into positions of power and influence?

Do you stand with eldership, mentorship and rites of passage, which mark the accruing of wisdoms, and the witnessing of all in the village, regardless of their stage in life?

Do you stand for the flow of gifts across all species and within all species?

Do you stand for distributed wealth, access to land for all, and subsistence economies that are earth-honouring?

Do you stand for the economic interweaving of community sufficiency and autonomous household productivity?

Do you stand with the rivers and creeks – the veins of the world that take life force to the largest biomes – the oceans?

Do you stand with mountains, caves, hills and rocks, and any undulation within the terrain of any Mother Country that enables the magic of surprise, and the shadow world from where wisdom springs?

Do you stand with the seeds that are our heritages, which have made our cultures of belonging, and will do so again?

Do you stand with the smallest biomes, bodily biomes and microbial communities, as extensions of Mother Country and Grandmother Gaia?

Do you stand with Mother Country and Grandmother Gaia, honour them in the way in which you live, and defend them from machine mind in whatever capacity you have to do so?

Do you stand with both individual freedoms and communitarian care, without one eroding the other?

Do you recognise that true consent is not possible when metered out by top-down authority?

Do you stand with pollinators, in all forms, recognising the monumental gifts they bring to lifemaking?

Do you stand with the fungal webs that rule the worlds of the world, including the unreal worlds of hubristic human Empires that will always collapse and turn back into the mycelial realm?

Do you stand with humus and humility, and recognise they have derived from the same root word?

Do you stand with your herbal and medicinal plant commons, the remnant traces of your indigenous liberty and soul, which continue to bring gifts to your health and to your meaning making?

Do you stand with ecological killing in order to take life that makes more life possible, outside of a ‘man-made mass death’ cosmology, where at arm’s length civilisational violence occurs on your behalf as an industrial-food-dependent vegan, vegetarian or omnivore?

Do you stand with empowering young people to obtain skills for the future, both pragmatic and sacred (such as deep listening and beholding, foraging, gardening, forestry and hunting)?

Do you stand with village rebuilding and grass roots, cultural, ecological and microbial diversity?

 

Here are the Forest & Free children after harvesting 1.5kg of narrow leaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata) seed heads for psyllium. This plantain is a common, ancestral (Eurasia) and abundant plant that brings healing food-medicine to our lives. The kids collected this amount in just twenty minutes. Each week they learn about a new food or medicine that is not under lock and key, so they can build the skills, knowledges and daily rituals to augment their own pathways to freedom, responsibility and wisdom. We run Forest & Free within a gift economy.

So, does binary thinking have a place? In the absence of binaries how do we form our values? Is it possible to live without binaries?

We’d love to hear from you. When is binary thinking problematic? When is it useful? Would you answer yes to any the above questions? All? We hope this post generates some goodly discussion, and serves the contemporary dialectic for what mythos, what world story, we want to serve.

Hearing you slowly (nuance in an age of tyranny)

Tyranny is the deliberate removal of nuance – Albert Maysles

As an antidote to this era of click-bait media, ‘noble lies’ journalism, feedback refusal and aggregating censorship, we are beginning a series of long-form interviews, collating the stories of people who are the experts of their own lives. And we’re sharing these stories for an audience who like their media slow, nuanced and raw.

So, here are the first four voices in the series Hearing you slowly. Thank you Trace, Marita, James and Dianne for sharing your stories. We hope you enjoy these episodes as much as we have enjoyed producing them, assisted by Miles, whose camera craft, eye and collaboration brings a special quality to this series.

In the first of these stories, children’s book writer and illustrator, Trace, speaks of her Covid experience as someone rendered health-vulnerable in large part by being overprescribed antibiotics as a teenager. She offers many insights for a post-pandemic world.

Permaculturist and grandmother, Marita, describes her youth raised and educated in Germany, and why Covid segregation has triggered her both emotionally and politically.

Highly vaccinated traveller, father and solar energy consultant, James, despite being advised not to get the Covid injections for medical reasons was not able to get a medical exemption. His personal story shines a light on the the erosion of the patient-doctor relationship and of civil liberties more broadly.

And last but not least, retired elder Dianne tells the courageous story of nursing her Covid-ill parents while she was also suffering from the illness, and offers us the gifts and wisdom she gleaned over the past two years.

We heartily welcome your generative comments and encourage your respectful feedback. If you haven’t already subscribed to our blog, please do so to be alerted to forthcoming episodes. We require a minimum of $250 to produce each story, so if you wish to support our work and are in a position to do so, please click on the Support tab in the top right of this page. Much gratitude to everyone who has already contributed financially and otherwise.

Next up, we’ll be bringing you a conversation with permaculture co-originator and futurist, David Holmgren, speaking on this present moment from his unique lens, as part of our commitment to bringing you diverse stories from the heart, the gut and the mind.

Sending much love, nuance and solidarity into your day,
Artist as Family

Celebrating the art of different story (from outside the tent)

Last weekend Castlemaine Free University (CFU) hosted an event featuring two new books: Terry Leahy’s The Politics of Permaculture and Pam Nilan’s Young People and the Far Right. The day before the event we had spoken to the organiser to ask if CFU would be willing to host the event in a way where it was possible for everyone to attend. After our request was declined a small group of us, including permaculture elders David Holmgren and Su Dennett, decided to hold a peaceful protest outside the venue.

There were a dozen or so of us who brought deck chairs and sat outside on the footpath, and another small cohort of people who could have gone inside but chose to show solidarity by staying outside with us.

A huge thank you to Maggie from The Northern Arts Hotel who installed a speaker on the street so we could listen in, and who arranged for jugs of water to be brought out in the heat of the afternoon. Thank you for your compassion, Maggie, and thank you to community elder Nikki Marshall for always lighting a path of love, for helping to bring people together and stating the case for our inclusion.

Many thanks to Miles from Ideas Agency for filming on the day, and to Ian Lillington for the additional photos and footage.

We hope your week has been full of compassionate and generative conversations, and that you find this video useful for your current thinking.

Signing off for now from us here,
Artist as Family x

Forest & free – an out-of-school experience and the power of risk

There are few places left where kids can use knives, climb trees, navigate forests, tend fires, sit in circle, speak their story, and generally get scratched up and stung by being participants of life. This is why we re-established a children’s forest group this year and why we volunteer our time to run it.

Forest & Free not about setting challenges that are too great for children, and we don’t encourage an overtly competitive or risk-taking culture, rather we encourage children to meet their own challenges and learn from others around them, and of course from the forest. We are observing, however, that the broader cultural narrative of ‘safety at all costs’ is harming children, making them less resilient, less mobile and suffering more health problems at an increasingly early age.

Forest & Free is about embodying resilience, meeting difficult (at times) challenges, and allowing uncomfortable things to occur – cutting oneself, standing on a Jumping Jack ant nest, putting all your weight on a rotten tree branch while climbing, taking off from the group and getting lost, and generally playing around with life.

Our culture, up until recently, used to see breaking a bone, receiving stitches, getting lost and a myriad of other uncomfortable things as ordinary rites of passage for 7-12 year olds – the pre-initiation age – necessary for the development of children. In the past few decades the possibility of embracing and learning through discomfort has been almost completely eliminated. This doesn’t serve children.

While we don’t wish on anyone any great pain – and we explain each skill, challenge, game or wild food in terms of the risks involved – adversity is the underlying, ever present flip side of enabling such learning and growth. That’s why we ask parents, carers and children to share the risk with us. This is the community model of organisation, which is a powerful antidote to the culture of fear and risk aversion that so greatly limits and incarcerates our children, and therefore inevitably our society.

As adults we come to understand that our greatest learnings come through some sort of discomfort, pain or suffering. And it’s how we respond to these things that really matters in building resilience, wisdom, freedom and bouncebackability. Overcoming fear is liberation!

In allowing a child to attend Forest & Free we ask parents to accept that some learning occurs through risk taking, that sometimes adversity will present itself as part of this risk, and in turn this presents itself as a gift of learning for everyone. When we go through adversity we gather in circle and share our story.

Children choose a forest name when they participate in Forest & Free. That is, when their forest names avail themselves. Sometimes this is a rapid process, sometimes a slow one. We have in our mob Echidna, Plantain, Blackberry, Deer, Silva, Blackwood, Jumping Jack, Thistle, Silent Night, Raven, Black Thorn, Fox, Black Cockatoo, Gum Tree, Huntsman, Brown Snake, Brush-tailed Phascogale, Pine Cone, Kangaroo and Kookaburra, amongst the dwellers who gather on a Wednesday afternoon.

Brown Snake’s mother: “I have watched such growth and confidence blossoming in Brown Snake recently, in huge part because of what you are offering – this space of adventure, risk, freedom, resilience, learning and cooperation. He holds himself slightly taller, prouder because he inhabits this space and can carry it with him. Without risk in the equation, as cliched as it is, there wld be no such reward.”

Huntsman’s mother: “There’s nowhere where the skills you share are offered in this manner & we are extremely grateful to be a part of it. Each week Huntsman is ecstatic when we meet up and can’t wait to tell his family and friends about the adventures you’ve been on.”

Pine Cone’s mother: “Thank you for all you do, for encouraging, empowering and enabling our children to rewild and connect with nature. We all try to avoid our children’s suffering at times, even when it’s beneficial for them to go through the process. It’s good to reflect upon this.”

Kangaroo’s mum: I love how much extra perception Kangaroo has of what’s going on in nature. That a tree has fallen on its own, or has been cut down, which [plants] to use for ailments etc. Probably most importantly, he has developed a better sense of his limits. So when he is climbing a tree, or a cliff, I feel more comfortable knowing he can make decisions for himself about how to stay safe and still take risks.

Black Cockatoo’s mother: “Forest & Free has given our child a sense of belonging and place at a time where he has been challenged to find that. It has reinforced and amplified his joy of being a part of a group and the relevance of safe behaviours in risky settings. Our child has been put down by educators for his engagement in “risky behaviours” such as jumping from things or climbing things that are “too high”, for questioning and pushing boundaries with a desire to understand. He has been made to feel like he is bad and naughty for wanting to explore and push the edges of his curiosity which has led to his exit from the education “system”. Through beautifully held mentoring where he feels respected and therefore chooses to be respectful… What is more, he is learning [to be in] a space where his intelligence, silence, ideas AND his wildness are ALL embraced. At F&F the world makes sense and therefore the boundaries are respected and embraced (because they make sense). Best of all, he feels like he is a part of something, something special, it is a place for belonging, a place to be his wild, loving, risk taking self and it grounds him, fills him up. Every week upon returning from forest and free he returns in the dark, dirty, beaming and bright eyed. He gets in the car and shows me his wet feet, scratches and cuts with joy from a good time well had. When asked how it was he always says it was awesome, or the best, something he never said about school.”

Many thanks to all who have contributed to the fun, adversity and adventure of Forest & Free this year. A big thank you to Blue Tongue and Thornbill who have both assisted us with the children. It doesn’t take much to organise a bush group, and the forest has so much to teach us, it’s just about getting children into forests, deserts, grasslands and any other non-mediated environments, and not placing too many restrictions on how they engage in these places so they can keep connecting to the living of the world’s worlds. Here is a short video made by Thornbill Fizzy Mitchell that gives a little more insight into how children connect if they have the opportunity.

Sending much love out to you, Dear Reader,

Magpie and Blue Wren

 

Collective preparedness

Back in 2018 Artist as Family was asked to be involved in an art event called Pandemic at Arts House in North Melbourne. The exhibition, coordinated by artists Lizzy Sampson & Asha Bee Abraham, was one of a number of Refuge events centred on where art meets emergency.

Artist as Family’s role was to address the topic of Collective Preparedness. A dinner was held and Patrick joined a Médecins Sans Frontières field coordinator, a herbalist, an epidemiologist, a Melbourne Uni outbreak forecaster, an Indigenous Futurist, a medical ethicist, and a human rights academic as one of eight Sanatorium Hosts.

Photo: Lizzy Sampson

This was one of the questions he was asked:

What do you do individually and what should we be doing collectively to prepare for the future?

And this was his reply:

[We are] learning ever more knowledges that decouple our household further from the monetary economy and help model ecologically focussed and resilient communities of place. [We are] re-establishing economies that make returns to people, biomes and the future.

Patrick took some talking point objects and brews with him. Our hand-made hunting and fishing equipment, hand carved tools, medicinal mushrooms, shade-dried herbs, Meg’s fermented mistress tonic, elderberry syrup, and our hawthorn fruit leathers as our walked-for Vitamin C, “fermented by the sun.”

Photo: Lizzy Sampson

Nearly two years later, we find ourselves no longer in an art event, no longer in a dress rehearsal, but actually cancelling house and garden tours (today’s was again fully booked), cancelling visitors, volunteers, public talks, play dates, community meetings and events, and basically every social hang. Today we also cancelled all future bookings for our Permie Love Shack. A first known case of Coronavirus, albeit still unofficial, has landed in our small town.

Things have been moving pretty fast over the past two weeks and we’ve been following the speed of the Coronavirus pandemic closely. However, this morning when a friend sent a link to Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now, we decided we wouldn’t wait for our leadershipless leaders to finally recommend everyone socially distance themselves. After reading the article we feel it is a social responsibility to act now, for the sake of health-compromised people and the health system more generally. There will be medical shortages, and therefore those of us who are prepared and have good health must step back from services and equipment that will be vital for those at greater risk.

Today we are pressing grapes to make wine, stewing and bottling apples, quince and pears, chopping and bringing in firewood, making bread and pancakes and pickling gherkins.

Photo: Michal Krawczyk

We do these things as we always do them, but now with a greater sense of urgency and intent. Our non-monetary home chemist will keep us as well as we can be.

Photo: Michal Krawczyk

Several weeks back, after the bushfire crisis, we were in Melbourne to speak as part of another art-meets-emergency event, Earth: A Place of Reconciliation, a Reconciliation of Place. Listening back to that talk is a strange thing now, as world events race across our local places and intersect with our local lives. One crisis follows another. The next will be another global recession.

Innumerable well-meaning folk have said to us over the years, “When the shit hits the fan, we’ll be knocking on your door.” While this comment is perhaps supposed to compliment us, it actually always makes us feel vulnerable and angry. The comment isn’t “we can see the resilience, economic logic and environmentalism of what you’re doing, and we’re also going to get on with our transition before the shit hits the fan.”

It’s time we all share in the responsibility of the predicaments of our time. We’ve been advocating for years decoupling from the Capitalocene before affluence-descent sends smug Modernity into chaos. Those luxurious days are numbered. Speaking of luxuries: five years of using family cloth, and these little op-shopped squares of soft flannel cotton are still going strong!

We’ll keep blogging in this time of social distancing and keep our sharing going digitally. We’re looking forward to honing our hunting, sewing, repairing and foraging skills. Reading all those books we haven’t had time for. Carving new objects, fixing tools, sowing more veg, and generally resting. We’ll prepare another post on what we’re up to shortly. You might find yourselves having more time for things you’ve been meaning to do too. We hope so. In grief there is learning, there is praise, there is renewal and opportunity.

We hope, Dear Reader, while this pandemic is still largely an abstract and mediated phenomenon, you are not vulnerable, not in despair or panic, but are preparing as adults in any capacity to meet this global predicament, remaining eternal students within this shapeshifting world as the Anthropocene matures deeper into systemic crises and calls on our adult selves to step forward.

Much love, community-immunity, social warming and joy,
Patrick, Meg, Woody and Zero