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In preparation for our project, we have visited Sydney twice in the last month. The first time we travelled by plane, but after measuring our carbon footprint between Melbourne and Sydney we decided to travel by car on interstate journeys henceforth; by bike on local journeys and by bus, train and tram on any subsequent journeys. In fact we have made the decision never to fly again until air travel is fuelled by non-polluting renewable resources.
The project we have proposed for the MCA is a community food forest. Although we will have a presence in the gallery for the show, the main part of our work will comprise fruit and nut trees planted amongst vegetation that is indigenous to Sydney; bush plants that the Cadigal, the traditional owners of the inner Sydney city region, relied on for food.
As you can imagine, one of the most important elements of a project like this is finding the right location. On our last two Sydney trips, we have ventured all over the city in search of just the right site.
We visited Murralappi, the Settlement Neighbourhood Centre,
Fred Miller Park,
and numerous other parks, but the one we have our fingers crossed the most for is Ward Park, in Surry Hills.
This is the corner of the park we hope to plant out. It’s roughly 300sqm.
Before we drove home, we went to Ward Park once more to measure up
to pick up rubbish
to sketch our proposed food growing area
and to imagine the nearby residents looking down at the forest to see what fruit is in season.
We have solar panels, water tanks and bikes. But what about our food?
We have been spending a lot of time in the garden talking about what it will take for our family to become self-sustaining in terms of what we eat. So, to determine how far we have to go, we decided to mark the beginning of our journey by spending 24 hours eating the food we have growing here in our garden or provided by our chickens, and the public food we are able to forage locally. No salt and pepper, no butter, oil or any condiments. We only drank our own rain water. We didn’t drive anywhere all day and we didn’t spend any money.
As you can see, we by no means went hungry, though we all lacked energy throughout the day, had headaches at one time or another, and felt lackluster.
Patrick: I experienced a mild depression along with a headache. As the head gardener in the Artist as Family, I know how much work it takes to generate our own food, and this challenge – or experiment – really emphasised the enormous task we have of becoming self-sufficient.
Zephyr: Just before lunch I had a nap!! I haven’t done that since I was three years old.
Meg: I had a meeting to attend in the afternoon. While I was sitting in it, I couldn’t help but feel that the issues that were being discussed that I normally feel are vital and worth discussing, were completely irrelevant compared to the imperative issue of finding food for one’s self and one’s family.
40% of greenhouse gases come from industrial agriculture (supermarket food): pesticides, fertilisers, tractors, harvesters, packaging, transportation, refrigeration, lighting etc. Food prices are only going to rise courtesy of peak oil. Communities that start to plan for energy descent now will be better off in the long run. What the Artist as Family is learning, is that relocalisation is a several year transition.
Around the corner from that café is a laundromat we took our washing to this morning. Outside it are some planter boxes in which the owners have planted vegetables and herbs. “Why have flowers when we can grow vegetables?” They asked us. “Why don’t more people grow their own food?” We wondered back.
We found other food today. Though unfortunately not all of it was edible.
Mostly we just found rubbish. I guess because that’s what we were looking for.
At one point in the afternoon we found some trash that was a little out of our reach.
So we had to ask some of our feathered friends to help us.
Normally nimble Zephyr would have climbed that fence in one swift swoop and retrieved the rubbish from atop. But today Zephyr spent the day at the local primary school where he joined a class of other grade ones. School holidays have already begun in Victoria, but being the sociable kid that he is, Zephyr jumped at the chance to hang out with some peers and talk about his experience as one third of the Artist as Family. Here is some of the work he did today:
Although we’re meeting lots of people, kids have an innate knack of social warming wherever they may be. And Zephs’ brand new school was no exception. When we went to pick him up at the end of the day, we were invited over for a play at Perry’s house, one of the kids from his class.
We ate delicious cake and drank tea (Meg’s first good cuppa since we arrived)
and helped out with another art project: making Xmas tree decorations to be sold at Perry’s school’s upcoming school fair.
But not everything is always fair. Zeph declared it was most unfair that we couldn’t move to Newcastle so he could play with Perry and his other new friends every day.
Meanwhile, our own project continues to grow.
After a tour of our accommodation and the Lock-Up Cultural Centre we took to the streets. And after coming across this street-side line-up of herbs we were feeling very positive about our adoptive city.
All morning, Zeph kept asking, ‘When are we going to the beach?’ So. Our first stop: the beach. He hadn’t even been on the sand five minutes and he had collected this handful of discarded plastic. If you were to look out across the beach, you would think it was pretty clean, but take a closer look and you might find this amount in any two metre radius.
Waste proliferates along every coastline the world over. But it’s obvious not everybody is happy about this.