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Forest & Free: rebuilding the village from the forest in – our 2023 programs for kids

Forest & Free is a place of fun, adventure, challenge, and a place of risk for 8-12 year olds in Djaara Mother Country. The kind of activities the kids will experience are fire making and cooking, bush walking and foraging, fishing and wild swimming, safe knife use and simple tool making, regenerative farming and animal husbandry, deep listening and storytelling, tree climbing and shelter building, embodying ancestral lifeways and learning ecological knowledges and awareness, listening to one another and listening to Country.

There are few places left where kids can use knives, climb trees, navigate forests full of old mine shafts, light fires and generally get scratched up and stung by being participants of life. It is in this spirit that we invite children to attend Forest & Free and for them to experience a healthy interrelationship between safety and risk.

In allowing children to attend Forest & Free, parents agree to sharing the risk with us and with their children. The risk is therefore spread three-ways – we as the facilitators, the parents, and the children – and is distributed this way to build personal responsibility and to avoid blaming, shaming and the possibility of closing down this community resource.

Life happens, and we don’t believe this is a good enough reason to submit to the cult of safetyism, which is a mental virus that has bloomed from institutions of the most industrialised countries.

We are not about setting challenges that are too great for the children, and we don’t encourage an overtly competitive or risk-taking culture, rather we encourage children to meet new challenges and learn from others around them, and the forest.

Forest & Free is deep listening, embodying resilience, meeting challenges, learning skills and having fun. The broader culture, up until recently, used to see breaking a bone, receiving stitches, getting lost, being burnt by fire, etc as a rite of passage for young people – necessary for the development of children at this age.

While we don’t wish any of these things on any child, and we explain each skill, challenge, game or wild food in terms of the risks and benefits involved, adversity is the underlying, ever present flip side of enabling such learning and therefore such growth.

As adults we understand that some of our greatest learnings come through discomfort, and it’s how we respond to these situations that really matters in building resilience and bouncebackability.

In 2023 we are running 8 full-day paid events ($20 per child for the day, 10am – 4pm). These dates are either in school holidays or land on public holidays and will be open to not-schooled and schooled kids.

We also run a weekly full-day program for not-schooled kids every Monday from 10am – 4pm. These sessions are based on a gift exchange. If you have surplus homegrown or home-made food, hand-me-down clothes etc, they are gifts we value. When there is abundance let it flow. When there’s not we understand.

Children are required to come with water bottle, healthy lunch and snacks, a sun hat, clothing appropriate to the weather, a pocket knife, and a sense of adventure.

We are looking forward to an exciting year of forest play, learning, exploration and celebration of life. We begin each event with a listening circle so as we can all hear where each of us is at. This helps build compassion and bonds the group, while practicing deep listening.

If you are interested to learn more about Forest & Free, or are thinking of starting up a forest group in your own neck of the woods, please get in touch. Similarly if you know of other bush schools in your area or have experience as a participant in another community bush school, please let us know in the comments. We value your stories and your thoughts.

Signing off for now with blackberry scratches on our shins, and bidgee widgee burrs in our feathers,

Patrick and Meg (Blue Wren and Magpie)

Rebuilding the local village with Bei Yin and Jashan Singh (podcast)

Join Patrick as he asks timely questions of Bei Yin and Jashan Singh, two recent guests at our School of Applied Neopeasantry. Bei and Jashan’s stories offer clarity, warmth, honesty and generative responses to the discussion of how we might reclaim the local village.

You can listen to the audio-only version here.

 

And here is the audio with an image version:

Since our time together, we have begun discussions with Bei and Jashan and local farmers, land holders and community actors to see what can be achieved to enable young farmers from diverse backgrounds to grow food and sell it to local markets. We have been active in this space for a number of years matchmaking landless wanna-be neopeasants with people willing to share their land, and sharing our own story of farmless farming based not on private property ownership but rather on social relations. Our local food co-op feeds about 300 households and we could do with some more local growers who are willing to raise crops to directly supply them or to sell at the local Sunday market.

The majority of the world’s food is grown on small farms ranging between 2 and 70 acres. It is a blatant lie we need to use pesticides. It is a myth farmers need to get big. That’s merely the ideology of bankers, chemical companies, and the coalition of the willing found in the agribusiness and government sectors.

Neopeasants arise, take back control of how you grow and who you grow for!

Please feel free to comment or get in touch if Bei and Jashan’s story has inspired you and you would like to be kept in the loop about future farming possibilities. Additionally, if you have land to share and would like to offer younger farmers opportunities to start farming without going into debt please head to Land Share Central Victoria, contact us here, leave a comment, or start your own Land Share page in your region. The future of farming is debt and chemical free. We just need to link people up to begin discussions and collaborations.

What a time of the year to think big, farm small and cut out the banks and the middle men.

With love, Artist as Family