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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.

Artist as Family’s Book of Neopeasantry (second excerpt)

 

October 18
Meg

I’ve been meaning to check on them for ages and after work today I finally do. I take the tea towel off the bucket that’s been sitting under the fermenting table and realise I’ve left it too late. A 20-litre bucket of Jerusalem artichokes with a plate on top to keep them submerged under the brine. There is a thick crust of mould, and all of the pickles have gone soft. I’m so disappointed, and I curse myself for not putting a reminder in the calendar to check it earlier, as I usually do.

I scoop the mould off the top and feel around with my hand all through the bucket and find one big one that may be salvageable. It smells fine, so I give it a quick rinse and take a bite but it’s not as firm as I hope. I put it back in the bucket and carry the soft gloopy mess down off the deck, through the muddy swales and into the chicken coop to the very back corner and dump the whole lot there among 15 years of rotten down mouldy ferments.

When I come back up to the house Patrick asks me where I tipped them and I tell him.

‘Onto my midden of failures.’

 

 

October 23
Patrick

A plunge in the cold water tank, nude tea drinking by the fire, loft steps lovemaking, followed by more tea, reading out to each other the missives from thoughtsmiths and journos we subscribe to on Substack.

Blackwood wakes around nine and we ride our bikes up to the Sunday market. A sign catches my eye as we pass through town, ‘Relaxation Massage – $40 for 30 minutes.’ I’d seen the sign before but never given it a thought. Our usual cohort of body healers are not currently available, and I don’t see Kris for a massage in exchange for gardening, until Friday.

We continue onto the market and I buy a banana passionfruit vine from Florian, one of the organic growers there. Banana passionfruit are the only fruit ripe at this time of year and I’m determined to keep this one frost protected until it grows hardy.

I chat with Florian and later with Edward, another grower who grows without chemicals. Meg and Blackwood wander around the market, yarning with people, looking for old tools and useful things like containers filled with an assortment of nails and screws.

On the way home riding in convoy I notice the massage sign again, and feeling the pain rising in my back I call out to Meg and Blackwood, ‘See you at home, I’ll see if I can get a treatment.’

I cross the road and roll my bike down a little lane and walk into the reception area. The lady says she is available and takes my card and charges me $49. I feel as though I missed something in the exchange. English isn’t her first language and Mandarin isn’t mine. She shows me into the room, and leaves me there to undress. She returns as I’m laying on my stomach with a towel across my body. She asks whether I want my legs and buttocks done. ‘My back is what’s really hurting me,’ I reply.

Before I know it she has removed my underpants. Well, that’s pretty weird. I have the feeling again as though I have missed something. She uses her hands, elbows and forearms to work my tight back muscles. I begin to relax and breathe deeply in and out through my nose.

After about twenty minutes she asks me to turn over and places the towel back over my body. She speaks again, something about a ‘special’ and taps me on my groin. Oh, I realise, it’s this kind of massage parlour. ‘No thanks,’ I say, ‘but thanks for asking.’

She works my legs and arms and I lay there thinking about how unattached and pragmatic she is. My thought drifts to all the lonely men in the district starved of intimacy, starved of touch, where this service would at least be some kind of connection. I feel pangs of grief for all people who don’t have intimacy in their lives, which leads on to a wave of gratitude for the diversity of love and touch I receive each day.

After 30 minutes she thanks me and leaves the room. I put my farming clothes back on my farming body. No one is in the reception. There’s a ghostly feeling as I leave. It’s not exactly what I went in for, but there’s a little relief in my back.

I gently ride home and share my adventure with Meg. ‘Wow,’ she says. ‘I didn’t know such a thing existed in Daylesford.’ We laugh at how naive we are. Blackwood is in the workshop cleaning up rusted steel blades from old hedge trimmers he bought at the market.

‘Were you tempted?’ Meg asks me, grinning.

~

Drifting, fudging, dancing, initiation and subsistence with Gregori Papanastasiou

We’ve had the joy of spending this week with Gregori Papanastasiou, and numerous conversations have flowed through the labours of each day. As we’re beginning to take in volunteers again, which we call SWAPs (social warming artists & permaculturists) or SWANs (social warming artisans & neopeasants), we thought we’d share some of the gifts people bring to Tree Elbow and our School of Applied Neopeasantry, exchanging food, labour, fuel, medicine and story.

In this first, long-form podcast offering, we hear Greg’s passage from migrant parents to growing up in suburban Melbourne, his self-directed rites of passage as a youth, to dance, music, meditation and exploring subsistence lifeways in an urban context.

 

The conversation goes for well over an hour, and contains the wisdom, curiosity and direction of a young man seeking meaning and rich life without money. So feel free make some space for it, and let it slowly unfurl. Like much slow media the gold is hidden in the fissures of deep and open listening.

We hope you enjoy this gentle, meandering yarn. What is your rites of passage story as a young person? Where are your nodes of connection to Greg and his story? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Here are the books Greg and Patrick mentioned:
Martín Prechtel’s Long Life Honey in the Heart: A story of Initiation and Eloquence
Vandana Shiva’s Oneness Vs the 1%: Shattering Illusions, Seeking Freedom

Replacing growth with belonging economies

Last year we were invited to contribute a chapter to the forthcoming book, Food for Degrowth: Perspectives and Practices, to be published by Routledge later this year. Although, let’s not count on anything like that occurring.

We called our chapter, ‘Replacing growth with belonging economies: a neopeasant response’. We completed it in November.

Due to the times we’re living we offer it here as a film. It’s our most significant collaborative writing project since our book, The Art of Free Travel. (If you’re a subscriber and reading this in your inbox, you won’t see the below video, so here’s a link to it).


Replacing growth with belonging economies 
 
Lived, written and spoken by Patrick Jones and Meg Ulman
 
Text editing by Anitra Nelson and Ferne Edwards
Sound by Patrick Jones and Meg Ulman (assisted by Jordan Osmond)
Video editing and seven drawings by Patrick Jones (the second, third and fourth are in collaboration with David Holmgren)
Photographs and footage by Artist as Family, David Jablonka, Nina Sahraoui, Mara Ripani, Michelle Dunn, Thomas Dorleans, Michal Krawczyk, Giulia Lepori, Nicholas Walton-Healey, Ponch Hawkes, Gab Connole, Zac Imhoof, Anthony Petrucci, Jordan Osmond, Jason Workman, Ian Robertson and David Holmgren
Soundtrack: A place of simple feeding – a poem-recipe by Patrick Jones, arranged and performed by Anthony Petrucci
Gift Ecology Films
Shared under a creative commons license/non-commercial
an Artist as Family home production
Please let us know about your own transition from hypertechnocivility

Creatures of place

In March of this year, Jordan and Antoinette from Happen Films came and spent a few days with us to talk ideas, share food and labours, and film us going about our daily makings. The result is this beautiful short video, Creatures of Place.

If you are reading this in your inbox, you will need to click through to our blog to view it. And if you haven’t seen their films, we highly recommend you check them out.

***

In other news:

* For those interested in seeing up close how we live you can now book for one of our spring house and garden tours.

*And for those wanting to hear the audio version of Patrick’s re:)Fermenting culture you can now listen by clicking on the ‘pop out’ on the sidebar, or listen to it on our YouTube channel.

*Thanks to everybody who applied for our first three Permaculture Living Courses (PLCs). We received over 50 applications, which were all inspiring to read. This has made selecting just 9 people (for the three courses) very challenging. We’ll introduce them to you after the winter break.

Local, slow and youth: recent AaF media

We stopped in Calliope to look at a local bat population when Nicky Moffat, a young Gladstone Observer journalist, pulled over and asked what we were up to. This is her/our story: 
A little while ago Greg Foyster wrote a story on our food-cycling expedition and published it in Slow Magazine. No online version is available, but the magazine can be found fairly easily in Australian newsagencies.
Thanks Ian Robertson for taking this picture.
And back a few months NSW’s Youth Action invited Zeph to tell our story from his perspective in their online rag unleash magazine. What resulted is Zeph’s first published article. Go Zeph!
Read the whole unleash issue. Zeph’s article can be found on page 14 of the PDF.