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For the fruiting, ferrying, vomiting, gifting and train travelling love of Indonesia

We left Amá Mar and Apá Yan’s home for the Indonesian border with a pod of family members and local villagers who were going to spend the day at the beach. On the last night in this warm and loving home, Yanti, Thaddeus and Bella came to stay. Yanti has been such a big help in the organisation of our travels since we left Dili, for which we are so appreciative. Thank you Yanti and all your family and adopted kin for making us feel so at home in Timor-Leste.

Our farewell was emotional. We’ve made so many connections over the past week or so, and we extended warm invitations to many to visit us in Australia.

Then, when all the hugs and waves and bondias (good mornings) and obrigadu/as (thank yous) and nadas (not at all) ran out, we were off in a little black pickup,

driving on roads that were in various stages of construction and deconstruction, the latter due to the common floodings in the wet season. Buildings too along our path were at various stages of their lifespan.

It was good to be travelling under a tarp with natural air conditioning because Patrick was heavy with cold symptoms for the second time this trip. Before we left we wondered whether we could find a place to rest for several days, as he was fairly run down. We are all still adjusting to the relentless heat, which is exhausting for we cold climate loving folk. Siestas, when we can take them, have been a godsend.

As it’s the dry season, everywhere cows free range on the soured stubble of the last rice harvest.

After about an hour or so in the pickup we arrived in Balibo, a town where five Australian journalists were killed in 1975 by pro-Indonesian militia.

Amá Mar came with us to check out this little museum dedicated to that grief story, which still touches our home town as one of the five, Tony Stewart, has family there. Tony was just twenty years old when he died.

The people of Timor, before European settlement, were not divided between east or west. They were, and, to a large extent still are, people of land, and therefore of ritual and ceremony, whose remnant traditional buildings still hold the traces of an earth-honouring and aesthetically astute culture.

While thankfully invading armies have stopped assaulting Timorese people, environmental pollutants brought in by colonising industries are killing the country in more insidious ways. While subsistence to local market economies remain strong, and are probably the reason why there is little obesity and type-2 diabetes here,


we have seen the many tendrils of the global greed machine at work in this beautiful country, and we hope the Timorese people will continue to fight for their independence from all forms of colonisation. Before lunch we arrived at the border,

said goodbye to our fellow travellers,

and were escorted to the start of our visa transfer process. Farewell Amá Mar and granddaughter Domin!

and farewell dear Timor-Leste!

On the other side of the line we were met by Yanti’s brother, Agus, who led us into Indonesia,

where we went through another visa process, which, as in Timor-Leste, was relaxed, and a stunning constrast to the increasingly paranoid corporatised nanny-state some call Australia. We’re happy to attest we didn’t bring to Indonesia paranoia or fear, but instead we walked through the metal detecting threshold with our knives on our hips, (after being told it was fine), dwindling stores of kangaroo and rabbit jerky, openness in our hearts, and

our trust for what comes next.

Agus took us into the town centre of Atapupu to change currency,

before backtracking us to his family home in Silawan. Seated here with us is Agus’ wife Anita (far left) and neighbourhood friends.

After school Alfan, Anita and Agus’ eldest child (13), and Woody (11) met, much to the hilarity of the younger kids.

It was a sweet moment of connection. We have come across no fellow caucasian visitors or residents in this part of the world. We met a few westerners in Dili, but have seen no others on our trip outside Australia, so far.

We are a bit of a novelty in these parts and everywhere we go what we find to be novel and interesting is often amusing for the locals. Meg and Patrick haven’t travelled overseas in the mobile phone age, and our snaps back then weren’t as instantly interactive and shareable as they are now.

In the afternoon, Agus took us for a walk around his village, where we met a man and his monkey,

and where we beheld this beautiful doe goat, who we’d love to cross with our buck, Hawthorn,

and we spoke with neighbours growing, tending and drying all manners of food, including cassava.

We returned home to this exquisite dinner made by Anita. Rice, fish, chicken, vegetables and always, always fermented chilli and lime. Sooo good!

The continual grace and generosity people offer us only grows our gratitude the deeper we go into this journey.

The myth that humans are selfish and narrow self-interested is promulgated by the ruling classes and their quasi-intellectual stooges, who are blind to other values and lifeways due to the social circles they keep. Think Noah Harari and Steven Pinker, for example. While some folk buy into the myth of the selfish gene, most don’t and their souls are very much intact as a result.

Agus lost his employment as a driver due to the Covid measures of his government. He had to sell his car, and economically things have been very hard since. One villager, Torie, who was keen to hang out and practice her English, told us “People didn’t suffer from Covid here, they suffered from the health measures.”

But rather than see themselves as victims, Agus and Anita’s home life speaks of a loving resilience inseparably connected to people and place,

a home life without running water, where they forego their own bedroom for strangers passing through.

After bean cakes and Timor-Leste coffee for breakfast, Agus loaded up his friend’s car with backpacks and people and all six of us headed off to Kupang at 7am.

The roads are on the whole smoother in Indonesia, but nonetheless the average speed we travelled was only around 40kms/hr. We were happy for this slowness. It’s not only conducive to animals, cyclists, tourists and the longevity of vehicles, but friendlier for pedestrians too.

On more internal matters, our microbiomes have been in radical transformation since we left home. Constant changes in our diets and body temperatures have rearranged our guts and not necessarily for the worse. Patrick and Meg have been eating much chilli and seeking out tuber vegetables such as sweet potato varieties, taro and cassava. There are always a bounty of bananas to collect, and we’ve all been trying to steer clear of fried foods because, as we reported in a previous post, cooking with vegetable oils longterm is a fairly reliable path to cancer. The confluence of nutritious foods and industrial contaminants mix in our bodies, and the toxins are either getting sweated out in the intense heat of the afternoons, or end up in one of these, which we’re getting more adept at using.

As we travelled we saw many examples of subsistence garden agriculture, as well as much uncultivated land, and therefore much potential for radical economies of place to grow from.

We stopped for a delicious lunch with Agus and fellow remaining passenger, Vincent, who was, like us, heading to Kupang to catch the ferry to Surabaya. We absolutely love Indonesian food.

Despite the fried parts (which would be fine if they were cooked in ghee or animal fats), such simple and delicious road food is very affordable costing just AU$14 for five hearty meals and tea. Imagine if we could get this quality of food with no plastic at a truck stop in Australia!

We drove on for another few hours passing many examples of local food and energy productions,

until we arrived at Yanti’s sister’s home. Tilde and her husband, Ady, welcomed us into their beautiful home and replenished us with dried bananas and hot tea.

From left in the above image is daughter of the house, Ningsih, mother Tilde, then to the right of Artist as Family, neighbour Ardy and father Ady. Using a translation app has been a godsend since arriving in Indonesia. For many of the people we are meeting, a foreigner is a very rare thing and an app has allowed us to speak across languages and share stories. Our hosts were informed that we are travelling with instruments and we were invited to play. After we shared a song, Ady and Tilde replied with a favourite of theirs, accompanied by their son, Lodri, on guitar. As a family who plays music together, this was super lovely to behold.

At Ady and Tilde’s home we continued to receive generous hospitality and delicious food.

We adults are particularly loving the vegetable dishes, and Woody could practically live off rice, chicken and fresh cucumber, which came out from the kitchen a moment after this photo was taken.

Woody has become quite the hit with the young women we are meeting, who shyly ask whether they can take a pic or two with him for their Instagram pages. He reluctantly and awkwardly agrees.

In just one sweet hour together our families had bonded.

Trust, grace, generosity and openness are infectious qualities, and Tilde and Ady’s home flowed with them.

We got back into Agus’ borrowed car-for-hire, and followed a banana truck further west,

until we landed at a fruit shop, where fruit bat Woody really brought out his amorous side.

The boy takes his fruit pretty seriously.

Night came in fast, as it does here, and we finally descended on the port at Kupang, where we farewelled dear Agus,

while we settled in for a four hour wait to board the ferry to Surabaya.

At 10pm, after ingesting volumes of exhaust fumes outside the ferry terminal, hundreds of we tired folk piled through two small doors eager to get onboard. It was chaotic. We’re not sure what was the culprit – something he ate, tiredness, the all day car ride, or perhaps just the petroleum and cigarette fumes none of us could escape – but Woody vomited several times on a tree at the dock as we waited to get through the next threshold. “You’re supposed to vomit on the boat, Woody,” said Patrick. We adults were fairly cooked as well, and somewhat delirious with fatigue.

Then, about thirty minutes later the call was announced, the wide gates opened and we were rushed onboard, a collective slug of people starting to fill the hull. We knew we shouldn’t dilly, though at this moment we didn’t know why.

It turned out that our tickets, like many others, were for ‘no seats’ for a 78 hour voyage, and fellow no-seats-folk (several hundred of us) were eagerly taking up little patches of carpet to make home for the journey. This photo was taken just moments after Woody vomited into a rubbish bin. The boat was still docked in the port.

He then promptly passed out, and eventually so did his parents. This tripodded image (taken early the next morning) is effectively how we spent the night, sans Patrick’s shoes and any available floor room.

Woody woke very pale and,

gingerly, he entered the noisy, busy fray of the morning, as Patrick made tea.

But the boy had slept, and this is our best medicine on the road, as indeed it is at home. He quickly came back into himself after a breakfast of fruit and the last of our oats, before Vincent came around and offered to give Woody a tour of the boat.

while Meg and Patrick connected with those sweet souls we slept beside and near. Instead of fighting over scarce real estate, people made room and connections.

On the middle day of our three night journey, an anniversary poem flowed out of Patrick, which we shared. There is something conducive to creativity when everything is stripped back to a vast ocean,

and all one has to do is sleep, converse with fellow travellers,

try their traditional foods, such as this Shabu rice preserved with the sugar taken from the Lontar palm and wrapped in a banana leaf,

catch up with correspondence (when there is signal), or stare mindlessly at the innumerable screens playing B-grade films in languages both spoken and subtitled that we don’t understand. We are so impressed how Indonesian people can sleep anywhere, and we’re learning to do this too, sleeping under bright lights and a cacophony of chatter, laughter, hacking coughs, loud phone media and crying babies.

The plastic pileups on this voyage, and indeed since leaving Australia, have been the most depressing aspect of our journey so far. So many banana leaves and rich fermentation and preserving traditions here, though sadly people have been steered down a path of convenience by the plastic industrial complex.

To combat our participation in this tragedy of Grandmother Gaia and her oceans, we’ve kept topping up our bulk food stores as we travel and we bought as much fruit with us as we could carry onto the boat, including watermelon, bananas, papaya, longons and salak. Salak is also called snake fruit due to the scale-like skin, and also memory fruit. As Indonesian traditional (or peoples’) medicine reports, it improves memory and brain function, no doubt due to its high levels of beta-carotene, potassium and pectin, which can improve blood flow to the brain.

Over the month we’ve been away, Woody has been taking his own photos on his little camera and writing regular journal entries. He has also been a keen editor of this blog, reminding us of things we’ve left out.

This three day passage began with vomiting and trepidation, but fairly soon we were thankful for all the connections we made, and the new foods we tried because of those connections, such as this traditional homemade food from Sumba incorporating nuts and banana. Yum!

We were also grateful we bought the cheapest tickets, as we found out the more expensive ones would have put us in these sardine cans.

Give us that floor of interweaving bodies any day! We came into Surabaya on the island of Java at around lunch time on the third day, took a final journey to the upper deck with Vincent,

passed by, with wide open eyes, the mountain of anthropogenic waste amassed in just 24 hours since the last port stop, (similar, no doubt, to an afternoon spectacle at the MCG back in Australia),

and alighted the ferry into the heat and haze of the afternoon.

We booked a AU$42 room 40 minutes by car from the ferry terminal. With cyclist guilt, caught a taxi there for AU$20, which we found out was about twice the going rate. The pedal-powered and heat-intense mobility we saw from the domesticity and AC of the cab reminded us of our previous adventures. There are different challenges with this journey.

Indonesia, gratefully, is much cheaper than Timor-Leste, whose currency is in US dollars. For an Australian family who lives well below the poverty line (that is, in money terms), we are both grateful for and mindful that this frugal adventure can occasionally bring a little more comfort.

We hadn’t washed for days, our clothes were putrid, and we longed for cold water. The apartment building provided.

On the street outside our apartment, a laundry business washed, dried and folded our clothes for around AU$4, and a five minute walk brought us to a little nasi goreng warung (fried rice roadside stall), where we bought dinner for AU$6. The meal was delicious. We’ll spare you another family selfie or food porn pic. We passed out early, woke early, and as we had to get across town before 8am, hailed another cab.

Taking selfies for social media isn’t ordinarily a cultural practice for our family, but since arriving in Timor and now Indonesia, it has become an everyday thing. Sunsr (sunset), our driver, wanted to “make selfie” with us. How could we refuse such a happy fella??

Patrick regrets he didn’t get the number of Sunsr’s dentist. At the conversion rate here, we might just be able to afford an implant or two. Not for the missing front tooth – Patrick loves his well-earned pirate face – more on the sides where numerous missing teeth make it difficult to chew. In Australia, for our overseas readers, we have universal healthcare called Medicare, though something our family doesn’t use, and thus doesn’t draw public money from, because of the way we live and because we don’t trust the medical industrial complex. Dentistry, however, something we would ues, isn’t covered by Medicare, at least in real terms. Meaning low income folk can get only rudimentary dental work done if they wait a year or so, but they cannot seek out a dentist they trust or who comes recommended. For decades, a lobby of dentists has pressured the government to make sure dentistry isn’t covered by Medicare, and so proper teeth doctoring remains a luxury treatment. Pulling out teeth when a problem arises has been the only affordable treatment for us, and more recently we’ve developed practices of self-applied dental work, which we’ll share in a future post at some stage. It’s not a big thing, we are happy neopeasants who make-do to keep ourselves free from economic slavery, but we are keeping open the possibility of dental work while on this journey, so if you have any hot tips for goodly dentists in Asia, please let us know.

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Cities are not really the point of this journey. We are not the sort of tourists who seek out cities and their sights. Instead, we’re much more curious about farming practices, socio-ecological relationships, food and cultural habits, rituals and ceremony, stories and songs, and technologies that keep both bodies and Mother Country well.

At 7.15am we arrived at the railway station, found a stall that served black coffee,

and boarded a train to Jakarta.

This all-day train journey brought us into contact with the extent of small farming practices in Java. Field after field grew rice, taro, cassava, banana, cabbage, corn, sweet potato, bok choy, various alliums and a plethora of other crops we couldn’t identify from the train.

Unsurprisingly, rice is the dominant crop. Even in the dry season there is abundant water here, to flood field after field of this staple monoculture. We witnessed the use of herbicides in the rice fields, but unlike the broad-acre, boom spraying regimes of conventional agriculture back in Australia, small-scale farmers here frugally spot spray weeds by foot and with backpacks. Not ideal, especially for we neopeasants who avoid growing and eating sprayed monocultural crops back home, but a far more superior farming method in comparison to US agribusiness colonialism, so reliant on dumping endless tonnes of pesticides into the world.

As we approach Jakarta, we are reminded of the warnings about this city people have shared with us along the way. Yanti told us to keep a careful watch on Woody as child trafficking exists in this mega city of 10.5 million people. Others told us theft is big and we’ll need to be careful of our belongings. This is all curious to us because we have felt so safe on this journey so far, despite the hitch-hiking in Australia and despite being virtually the only folk of our ethnicity we’ve seen since leaving Darwin.

As we have moved west from Timor-Leste, where the dominant religion is Catholicism, to the island of Java, where the dominant religion is Islam, we have felt the social functionality formal religions bring to people’s lives. Yes, we understand the colonial threads of these newer religions, but have observed such a deep cherishing of them here. For us, we feel much more aligned to the older animist practices we have witnessed on our travels, because of the centrality of earth story rather than sky god honouring .

For society to function, for there to be peace and respect, people need a story. We have not been judged for ours, which is neither Christian nor Muslim, rather we’ve been embraced and cared for. Where our stories overlap with people, there is always humility, intrigue and gratitude. Our family’s big universal story, the story we serve so as we don’t require the use of a formal religion or unconsciously default to the cult of materialism, centres on the sacredness, abundance and teachings of Grandmother Gaia and Mother Country. So our big story goes a little like this: If we serve the communities of life that make more life possible, if we are the humus-informed participants of the materiality and physics of life source, and we honour, give to and receive from the living and dying of the worlds of the world, then so much more than ourselves can leap forward into more divine life, and our spirits and souls can dance with abundance and sing more fruit into being.

Sitting on a diesel powered train, using a rare-earthed mined laptop, and eating food we don’t know the origin story of, might seem a trillion miles from such an earth-honouring cosmology, and it truly is. However, unless we have a story that we love, a story we can cherish for its possibility, how can we move to where our souls want to lead us?

Renewal, ceremony and abundance in Timor-Leste

Every day in Timor-Leste has been a feast of cultural riches, fine company, chaotic traffic, makeshift enterprises, beautiful beaches, unhappy pollutions and nourishing food, including this equisite dish of boiled banana flower hearts, lime, garlic, salt, and pepper.

After only a few hours of arriving in Timor-Leste, we were taken in by Ego Lemos and Yanti Wondeng and their three children Harmony, Thaddeus and Takamori (the littlest child pictured is cousin Misha).

Ego invited us to stay in his mother’s garden home in Dili (can you spot the breadfruit?),

and not only did Yanti and Ego cook many delicious meals, they taught us how to make some of them from scratch.

They took us to food markets,

where affordable organic produce for Timorese people is the rule, not the exception. Ego described the diversity of microclimates in the country, which in turn enables a diversity of crops and varieties.

Food scarcity in Timor-Leste is a fabrication, Ego told us. It’s fear stirred up by the expat “expert” class to promote the consumption of monocultural corporate foods that are not part of Timorese food custom.

Ego told us about 70% of Timorese food is grown in Timor-Leste, of which about 70% is organic. Wow!

Alongside food-to-market, other artisanal practices are maintained throughout Timor-Leste,

and cooking on the street is common, converting weedy eucalyptus into cooking fire energy.

Yanti showed us her favourite coconut stand in the neighbourhood, which we visited daily,

and how to buy from the many mobile vegetable discotheques that sell door-to-door, alerting potential customers of their proximity by playing loud Timorese pop music as they travel. You get to dance while buying the veggies!

Music is played in Dili night and day, and on one of the nights we got to dance and sing along to Ego and his band,

and learn more about his past performance life, such as playing with his friend Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu at various festivals. Ego’s song “Balibo” received a 2009 APRA award for best song in a film.

Ego lost his father and three siblings during the brutal occupation of Timor-Leste by the Indonesian army. He suggested we go to the Resistance Museum to teach Woody about the Timorese struggle, and Yanti asked Bella, a family friend and fellow permaculturist, to accompany us. We listened carefully to this big grief story of the Timorese people

From their family, only Ego and his mother, Madalena, survived the invasion. Here is Madalena putting her chickens away, as she does each night on dusk.

We can’t imagine how we’d respond to such seismic hatred and bloodshed, but in Ego and Yanti’s home and within their community of friends and colleagues, the response is wisdom, restoration and love. In 2023, Ego was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award, also known as the Asia’ Nobel Peace Prize, for his food sovereignty programmes in Timor-Leste.

Patrick and Ego made time to record a podcast during the week our families came together. In the podcast Ego outlines his permacultural vision for the country and the work of Permatil, the organisation he started in 2001.

If you wish to donate to Permatil you can do so here.

In the podcast Ego explains a little of the sensitive cultural work Permatil does alongside local villagers and their elders. During our stay, Ego invited us to accompany him, with several staff and volunteers, to visit a village in the province of Ermera. We travelled Timorese style in the back of a ute. Meet Sebas (Permatil director of projects) and Thomas, a German professor of social and cultural anthropology, who also joined the small party up the mountain.

Last year, Thomas wrote Mobilizing the Future: Timor-Leste’s Permaculture Youth Camps, which is an excellent review of the permaculture youth work Ego and his team have established. Thomas has made many visits to Timor-Leste over the years and speaks the two official languages, Tetun and Portugese, well.

As we travelled up the mountain we passed under a number of honey trees, where the bees make an open comb. Sebas told us that there are expert honey harvesters who climb high up to procure this wild nutrition. There is plenty of honey in Timor-Leste, yet none of it is cultivated in hives.

When we arrived on the ridge of the mountain we were met by the head of the village, who guided Ego and a small cohort of us to a natural water basin.

On the way we met his wife collecting cassava for the breakfast that was being prepared.

Ego explained to us the work that was needed to restore the water basin, and recharge the springs below. He described how the sedimentation and weeds that choke up these natural catchments are due, in part, to the absence of water buffalo who have traditionally played a significant role in maintaining them. When these basins are functional they enable the abundance of water that falls in the wet season to deeply penetrate into the mountain and significantly recharge all the springs below.

Before breakfast Ego took us to see Ramelo, the highest mountain in Timor-Leste.

As the elders began to arrive, we were called for breakfast.

We were treated to freshly harvested cassava and sweetened local coffee. Our gratitude flowed for the love of this food and for the welcome we received.

After breakfast, the elders began preparing for the ceremony. Instead of us describing this sacred event in detail – a ritual intended to see whether Permatil’s work should go ahead here in the village – we’ll share just a little of what we experienced as invited participants. Photography was welcomed.

The people of the village, the cohort from Permatil, regional clan elders, and we overseas visitors gathered at the ceremonial hearth,

to listen,

to witness,

and to learn.

We were given betel nut, betel nut leaf and desiccated lime to chew.

The gentleness, respect and inclusivity of the village moved us greatly. We witnessed these qualities in the preparation of the pig, from whose liver the sign was given that Permatil’s work in the village should proceed,

While the lunch was being prepared Meg was shown around the village,

Woody got a game of catch going,

and Patrick spoke with Zecky, a graduate of Permatil’s youth programme,

who now runs his own organic compost enterprise, and whose shirt sports his own unique permaculture wisdom:

“Better to seek funding from creativity than seek it from the government.” So true, Zecky! Then lunch was served consisting of village-grown vegetables such as bok choy, sweet potato, taro, and chillies,

and the sacrificial pig.

Every part had to be eaten before the end of the ceremony, and one of the elders took delight in cutting this delicious animal into small shareable parts, and handing them around.

Meg helped with the clean up, and the women communicated she was the first “Portuguese” woman they’d seen helping with the dishes. In Australia a picture of a woman happily doing the dishes can illicit outrage in sectors of the population. In Timor-Leste the very same image can be a marker of decolonisation, and respect.

When it was time to leave, the elders said to us, “No, do not say good bye, just go. We know you will come back. This work has begun now.”

And so begins a process that will last many years, which will see both the national and international PermaYouth camps come to the village and much water restoration work carried out. For our family, who are part of bringing back ritual, ceremony and earth care in our community, this day was profound. We gathered and yarned across languages,

we feasted and played together.

We learnt from each other, and beheld the ritual of an earth-honouring tradition. All this activity intermingled with such ease, gentleness and respect. We were immensely grateful to have been participants in such an important day for the village and for Permatil, and we are ever thankful to Ego for including us, for his great skill at bringing people together, and for his sensitivities and respect for life and for people.

The next day, for something completely culturally different, we sought out Dili’s main stadium where we’d heard the T20 national final was going to take place. Cricket is just 12 or so years old in Timor-Leste, and Woody was eager to attend the match. On arrival we were welcomed by the game officials, Sakara and Marianna,

and watched the match between the two teams.

It was intensely hot, even from our shady vantage point high up in the stadium. Water was brought to spectators to drink, and the players had regular drink breaks. After the match Patrick was spontaneously and unexpectedly invited to present the player of the series award,

and after the awards ceremony, Woody was invited to play in the young people’s game. They kitted him out,

and sent him in to open the batting.

While we stayed with Yanti and Ego, Woody played catch out on the street with Thaddeus and the kids in the neighbourhood,

Patrick helped Steve with a plumbing project,

and Meg helped prepare food with Misha’s mum, Melda.

We’ve made new friends over the past week,

and we’ve shared many stories and meals together. Thank you beautiful Lemos-Wondeng family for all your love and care of us in Timor-Leste.

We left Dili for Maliana, near the Indonesian border, at 3am in the morning on a bus that started off with just us, the driver and two young assistants.

It was a six hour trip that may forever rid us of any remnant Australian preciousness. In fact it was so hardcore we highly recommend this journey to any Aussie who is easily triggered. Consider it a kind of anti-whingeing therapy. Woody vomited out the window many times as the bus rattled over the innumerable flood-made potholes in the dark. Live pigs rode in the boot, squealing. Bags and people were sardined in, and what luggage couldn’t fit inside was thrown onto the roof, including a goat. Cigarette sparks flew across the bus stinging travellers. Pop music thumped so loudly our hearts, and ear drums, felt like they’d explode. Colourful lights strobed epilepticly down the aisle. Young men held onto the outside of the bus for dear life, as there was no room inside. Sleep was absolutely not possible. As we approached Maliana the daylight broke and the bus slowly emptied out village after village.

It was a wild ride. We were the last to get out and had to be stern with the local boys who kept attempting to take our bags. At first we thought we were being robbed, but they were only fighting over whose taxi they could steer us into. We had little language in common, and these spirited young men laughed at our disorientation and confusion. Several minutes later, Yanti’s beautiful parents, Yan and Ama, arrived to collect us and bring us to their family home.

We have been treated to the most generous hospitality while in Timor-Leste. Yanti’s sister and brother in law, Len and Selinoo, invited us to lunch at their home where we were treated to water buffalo, chicken, a chilly-lime ferment, vegetables and guava juice. So much gratitude has flowed in us in this magical country.

After lunch Len showed us her garden.

and before lunch, Yan took us high into the mountains to see the traditional villages, complete with living fences, bamboo gates and palm-thatched shelters.

On the way down the mountain, Yan pointed out the Indonesian side of the Memo River. Tomorrow we will travel in the back of a pickup truck to Atapupu in Indonesia, passing through Balibo on the way, which has a dear place in the hearts of our community back home. As our time in Timor-Leste comes to a close, at least for now, we are reflecting on just how much this country and its people have suffered, and have grown from the trauma with positivity, kindness and resilience. We have been touched deeply by the people, their spirit, their animals,

and the land. Long live Timor-Leste!

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.

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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

Communing with plants in the abundance of harvest

Gratitude to plants.

This is not a wafty, throwaway praise. This is an embodied knowing, a deeply felt thank you for the living, growing, seeding, podding, storing and shitting of plants. For their many giving parts.

Whether plants are in their own autonomy, in relationship with measureless earth others, or requiring peoples’ union to thrive, plants embody the feminine divine. Mother Country is the vessel in which all things are brewed, hotly or coldly, and plants are often the very fibres that enable the alchemy of such fermentations throughout life, into death and back across into life.

They are encasements of nourishment, wisdom holders, inebriation agents and great revealers.

But so much plant living has been violated by industrial food, energy and medicine capitalisms. Plants have been incarcerated, mined and used as gratuitous commodities. When welded to the dominant culture we devour them, we’re never fully satisfied, never fully full. Why? Is it our relationship with plants has radically changed under the spell and ideology of modernity’s project?

We have never had more food available to us in our short time as a species, but is it in this glut that gluttony occurs? That we are unfulfilled?

So many of the capitalisms that exploit plants are greenwashing capitalisms. Biofuels are the obvious example, but almost all uses of plants are a form of enslavement, within the machine of hypertechnocivility.

Domesticating plants, it has long been said, is the story of our own domestication. This is not always the same story as the process of becoming hypertechnocivil – that is, so industrialised to think we are the only species worth feeding – our food automated and chugged into cities, from where anthropocentrism powers over all life.

However, if we open to the ritual possibilities, the medicinal, magical and teaching properties of plants, can we call on our more expansive selves – the broader, mythological, transformative and cosmological potentialities of our selves – to take hold in our daily actions and processes?

This, we’ve found, is more possible when our foods, energies and medicines come from the gentle labours of our creaturely bodies. When we are ecological participants in loved biomes. When we are creatures of place. A loved homeplace.

When we walk for the plant gifts that make our lives possible, we cannot but step into the magical and divine realms of plants. From such a place both abundance and gratitude flow. We, people, can once again co-union with plants. It is deep in our cultural DNA that we live this way. It is lifemaking connected to ancestors. It refuses the severings of modernity.

Highly cultivated plants such as grapes thrive in conditions where people yearly prune their radical vines. In turn people thrive by eating the fruits created by the goddess herself.

Borlotti beans don’t need highly cultivated soil as they fix nitrogen in the earth and bring fertility to any earthly biome. Their colours delight us in the sun, under which we dry them to store for winter fuel.

Basil loves the full brunt of summer’s heat – a powerful herb and food medicine destined for almond pesto.

Ella, one of this week’s volunteers at Tree Elbow, communes with prune plums. We all delight in this prunus variety, also destined to be dried for winter’s cellaring and eating.

Volunteer Beau works alongside Blackwood with spelt from Burrum Biodynamics to alchemise this old grain into pasta to join the almond basil pesto for dinner.

Patrick sets up a tree net to catch acorns for their harvesting, thus stopping the midnight clang of hard little nuts landing on the water tank and waking the underworlders sleeping nearby.

Blackwood demonstrates his method of acorn shelling to his family and volunteers, using a nut cracker. Acorn meal will be used with spelt for winter pancakes and for the brewing of Patrick’s acorn beer (a recipe which can be found at the end of his re:)Fermenting culture book).

It has been a week of communing with plants, glowing in the gratitude of abundance, and savouring this time of harvest with volunteers and visitors, including Jess from Canada, who like Beau and Ella brought a joyful spirit to Tree Elbow.

The week finished with Wild Fennel – our local herbal medicine circle led by local witches, Catie and Zoe. Their beautifully facilitated plant medicine circle elegantly brought us all into deeper presence with the holy Tulsi, while we were warmed by the equinox fire in the garden at Tree Elbow.

A special thank you to Jordan for the pic of the plant circle, Catie and Zoe for the love and for the crafting back of the peoples’ medicine, and to Beau and Ella for your loving attention and joyous labours this week as SWAPs.

If you’d like to listen to a conversation between Catie and Patrick, tune into this episode of Reskillience.

We look forward to hearing from you which plant or plants you are present to right now. What herbal teas or medicine plant foods are you most grateful for? What is your latest herbal/harvest discovery?

Towards a microbiome approach to culture and economy (or, Re-dreaming a gender-distributed science) with Gemma Smithson

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Hello dear Subscribers and other curious visitors,

Over the past week we’ve hosted three new volunteers at the School of Applied Neopeasantry, who have been learning-helping with the harvesting and storing of this warm season’s abundance. We’ve been harvesting and preserving summer crops and also prepping soils to plant winter crops while there’s still heat in the giving earth, here in Djaara Mother Country.

While we’ve been working hard – doing-saying, lifemaking, neopeasanting, demonstrating the possibilities of living a low-impact ecological-economy – Tully, Anisa, Gemma, and we mob have also engaged in many conversations.

On Gemma’s last day, she asked whether she could record Patrick for a university assignment. Gemma is studying environmental science and has, true to her openness and curiosity, organised two radically different placements for her summer work experience – with Artist as Family and with Parks Victoria. Go Gemma!

We have edited this little interview, recorded on Gemma’s phone in the garden at Tree Elbow, into a twelve minute excerpt, and we’re sharing it as a way of giving an insight into some of the subjects/conversations we have with volunteer-students at the school, this time occurring at the end of a neopeasant lunch, just before we all headed off for siesta.

We hope you enjoy this little moment (12min listen) with Gemma, pictured here with Meg and Patrick.

As always, your input, questions and comments are valuable to our readers and to us, so please feel free to offer up what’s living in you after listening in. Also, we have a place available next month if you’re interested in volunteering and learning with us. Head here for more details and please get in touch if you’re keen to join us.

Artist as Family’s Book of Neopeasantry (fourth excerpt – the accident)

November 3
Meg

It’s Bloodthorn’s birthday and he doesn’t want to go to school. What he really wants to do is go fishing. His mum sends a text to ask if Blackwood is up for some lake time and a text in response is enthusiastically sent back.

It’s a work day for me, so while the boys spend the morning first making yabby spears and then catching their bait in the creek, I sit at the kitchen table with my laptop and a pot of nettle tea. At lunchtime I fang up the street on my bike to go to Himalaya Bakery where I buy two cinnamon fruit scrolls for Bloodthorn’s birthday. I’m imagining candles and singing and sharing the scrolls between the four of us. I put them in my pannier and head home. On my way down the hill, a car overtakes me and then suddenly turns into me and I fly over the back of the vehicle and end up on the bitumen. People come running towards me but the driver doesn’t get out of the car.

‘You nearly fucking killed me!’ I yell, banging on the side of the car, where I landed on the road. ‘You nearly fucking killed me!’

The driver gets out and our two lives adjoin. We are women together, no longer just car and bike rider, flesh meeting metal, but women. One howls on the ground, one tries to be helpful. Are you OK? Are you hurt? Do you need an ambulance? What do you need? Can you point to where it hurts? Can I get you anything? Do you need some water? Would you like to take your helmet off? Can I help you stand up and move off the road?

I ask her if she can please rub my back while I breathe, to just give me a minute so I can assess the extent of my injuries. My clarity and assertiveness surprise me. I keep crying while I try to gauge the damage to my body. One of the people who’s gathered around lifts up my bike and stands with the others as witness while we two women work through what happened and what needs to happen.

She says she didn’t even see me – not down the hill and certainly not when she pulled in front of me. Her name is Jo and she has just had a session with her chiropractor. She says she was feeling light headed after her appointment and about to faint so she pulled over.

One of the gathered men passes me my bag that had flung out of my front basket and I take some squirts of Rescue Remedy from the front pocket. I offer some to Jo. Zero goes with me everywhere in my bike basket. But today he opted to stay on his mat by the fire. I cry harder as I think about my little companion and what could have happened to him.

I need to go home. Jo keeps telling me how sorry she is and asking if she can do anything, but I can’t think of anything. I just want to be home with Patrick. Jo and I hug goodbye. I thank the people who came running and I cry all the way home, the whole left side of my body aching, my bike squeaking and rattling, my cries feeling ineffectual as I can’t breathe deeply enough because it feels like my ribs are sticking into my lungs.

Patrick hears my cries when I come home and comes straight out. He runs me a bath with Epsom salts and I lay on my side feeling smashed about but so grateful for the quiet and stillness. I can’t stop thinking about my mother. Later, after Patrick has helped me out of the water, I phone her to let her know I am OK.

 

November 3
Patrick

The day of the grateful living. Meg hobbles in from emptying the house wee bucket onto one of the citrus. “There might be a frost in the morning,” she says, holding herself gingerly as she steps through the front door. I go out and find the frost covers under the house and place them over the potatoes.

Potatoes can handle winter temperature soils, but not frost on their leaves. We plant them in August and cover them as they grow. I’m pleased they haven’t got sick with all the rain of spring. The tomatoes are already hothoused in their rows and doing well enough, considering the low temperatures. The bees have lost hundreds of workers. It happens every year. After a warm spring spell they convert their hive to a summer thermostat, then the following week the temperature plummets and we head back into winter. This is the time hives get a major set back or don’t make it at all because their winter honey stores are depleted and it’s too cold to go out and forage.

I dig up several comfrey roots in the garden. Wash them, discard the leaves in the poultry run, and pulverise the roots into a crude paste with a mortar and pestle. Meg is lying on the couch in considerable discomfort. I gently apply a large patch of paste to her left ribs and wrap a bandage around her torso to hold the poultice. I am so thankful this is the extent of the injury. A moving car, a driver not present, a bicycle rider. Aye yai yai.

Blackwood, off his own back, cooks frittata for dinner. In reading the situation he acts with resourcefulness and care. Using our duck and chicken eggs, gifted broccoli from one of the generous Forest & Free parents, Meg’s raw milk cheese and pepper berry from the garden. We eat the delicious creation our ten year old fashions upon the family hearth and we honour the food, its origin stories, and life herself with a thick flow of gratitude for all that sings and lives.

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