Artist as Family practice a unique form of performance art. Performances comprise how we live, get our food and move around; performing low-carbon modes of life making. We invite you to contribute comments and share your own experiences and knowledges as we travel Australia by bicycle, skip on the greenwash and attempt to pioneer truly sustainable food and travel ways in an era of destabilising climate, ecological crises, economic contraction and energy powerdown.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Hills and thrills and possum stew (from Cobargo to Orbost)

While staying with Ronnie and Phil on their farm just north of Cobargo we got to see up close what a small-scale commercial dairy looks and smells like. 


Crippling regulations for producers means they are locked into ways of farming that don't support best practice land management. We spoke with Ronnie about how regulations lead to large monetary loans, which in turn lead to putting more pressure on the land in order to service the accruing debt.


This is a common picture in regional Australia, the debt that is. Zeph hit it off with Ronnie and Phil's son, Alexander, sharing a love of independent mobility.


And we got to go walkabout up in the hills in between the storms. Thanks so much Ronnie, Phil, Alexander and Eliza-Jane! We had such a restorative and nourishing time with you all.


Alexander rode with us the 6 kms to the Cobargo township,


on the morning of our talk at Sweet Home Cobargo,


where about thirty thoroughly decent folk turned up to hear us rant the pleasures and pressures of cycling, stealth camping and everything else we do to inspire the idea of a permaculture mode of travel, a node of which we found in this very edible pond.


The pond included bulrush, waterlily and lotus lily and was situated just below our night's campsite,


which came about as a chance invitation from one of the punters from the talk. At the old butter factory east of Cobargo a little two day festival of music was occuring where a pig and cow were killed for the occasion and local vegetables roasted and laid out in beautifully primitive quarters while a band whose name we didn't catch played old school rock n roll.


It was a loose night and we packed up the next morning a little tired,


thanked our hosts and headed out of town, moving an anthropogenicised wombat off the road so it could decompose in peace.


As we rode towards Bega we got a call from our friend Mel Pickering, who'd arranged our Sweet Home Cobargo talk, shouting us a picnic by the river with her family.


Mel used to live in our community and was involved in the early stages of setting up the community gardens, the food co-op and the Daylesford branch of Critical Mass. Mel is also an experienced cycle tourer. Thanks so much Mel, Dan, Max and Evan, your lunch and company were delicious! To top off our time together the boys made a raft by the river.


We certainly have been spoiled on the South Coast of NSW, and on this day it kept on getting more social when we headed to Ian Campbell's home to meet his family and the family of Autumn Farm Bega. Ian interviewed Meg on the radio. You can listen to it here, if you like.


So many inspiring stories on the Sapphire Coast and we were treated to a ferment fest at Ian and Megan's home with Genivieve and Annie's rhubarb wine, Ian's Elderflower champagne and Megan's home-baked bread. Thank you everyone!

The following day we met a person who is putting all these great stories of human-scale action and production together in a fantastic magazine called Pip. Meet Robyn Rosenfeldt, telling her own narrative of the beginning of her beekeeping adventures:


We were cooked a delicious campfire dinner of Autumn Farm Bega chicken and home grown veg by Robyn and Alex and were joined by their girls Ruby, Ella and Indi and Alex's dad Andrew. 


We crashed out in their guest quarters and slept deeply until Woody rose with the roosters and got us up and packing, only to be stopped a few hours later on the road with some thankfully fixable bike problems. The worst part about this roadside fix-it job was being so close to traffic. Woody slept through the event.


It didn't take us long to relax into the rhythm of cycle touring again, with a complimentary copy of Pip mag to propel us,


all the way to Love Street, Eden (what an address!),


where Dale and Jenni live, and where they are working on their new extensive covered orchard.


Dale and Jenni met us on the street in Merrimbula and invited us to stay with them. These two salt-of-the-earth-back-to-the-landers are growing their own meat and vegetables and brewing their own beer and lemonade.


We again benefitted from the nutrition of nurtured food and land. A former butcher and man of many skills, Dale threw us an impromtu knife sharpening workshop (we are kicking ourselves we didn't video) and Jenni collected up a bag of home-grown produce to take on our way.

After such a social couple of weeks we were ready to head to the bush again and stealth camp for a bit at Quarantine Bay south of Eden.


We were really bloody exhausted but because of all the rain on the South Coast we needed to make up some kms.


For the first time in over a year we are working to a deadline. Our dear tenants move out shortly and we need to be home to feed the chooks and ducks and get Zeph ready for a life at secondary school (his decision) in January, the month of goats.


Where we breakfasted with the goats was also home to devil's guts (Cassytha filiformis) or devil's twine, a bush tucker more common in the north of the country and which comes with a toxicity warning as the seeds and skin of the berries can cause stomach cramps and even prove fatal if too many are consumed.


It was to be our last new found bush tucker before we reached our home state border,


an arbitrary line drawn by colonialists over the territories of Indigenous peoples with little regard. Nevertheless, it felt like a kilometrestone. With a wild storm brewing up hail stones and a radical temperature drop we knew we had crossed into Victoria and we set up camp in Genoa in good time.


We had some drip-drying to do the next morning,


before some more defensive riding on roads not that much better than NSW's. It's remarkable how many drivers will overtake a cyclist over a double white line, or what Patrick refers to as the doublewhiteAustralialinepolicy. The truck that almost collected us a few weeks ago overtook Meg and Woody on the crest of a hill and met another truck coming the other way. Who is the driver going to collect? Will he or she smash into a tonne of steel and potentially die or take the soft option and kill the cyclist?


We stopped before Cann River to check out the specials on eco tents not for sale along a rainforest walk,


before arriving in the town with terrible pies and great camp sites.



Zeph got busy making stick damper with some fairly ordinary Aussie flour,


and Zero found and put out of its misery a brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) that had been hit by a car. We were certainly not going to waste this tenacious life.


We stewed the possum with garlic, carrots, tomato, salt, pepper and a handful of buckshorn plantain (Plantago coronopus), the seed heads of which are mucalaginous and help thicken soup.


Over the five or so hours of slowly cooking our little brew our campsite grew. We welcomed Doris the vintage bike and her lovely rider Connor, a dancer from Leeds in the UK, with some damper and honey. Doris declined, while Connor relished the moment.


We invited him to stay for more damper and possum stew,


and camp with us. Just after dinner we welcomed another cycle tourist to our camp. Hello Nathan, delightful Kiwi. We are sorry there's no more stew left to share.


With possum in our bellies we farewelled our new northbound friends and rode our biggest day (75kms) for quite a while, powering up the ranges and singing down the slopes to Orbost in Gunai Kurnai country, and found a stealthy campsite here,


behind this lovely oak tree in the town's park.


We hope you too, Dear Reader, find a stealthy Summer solstice retreat where you can rest with loved ones.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The sodden leg (Hyams Beach to Sam's Creek, Cobargo)

Well, this was by far our wettest leg in nearly thirteen months of straying. 

We left Hyams Beach in the afternoon, climbed a short steep ridge and followed the Old Wool Road down to Sanctuary Point where we found a stealthy camp site on the edge of St George's Basin, and got cooking dinner.


We're going to miss these moments.


But perhaps not the deluge that came down that night, flooding our campsite and wetting every dry thing we possessed. We packed up between showers the next morning, throwing all and sundry into our panniers and hightailed it out of the bog.


After about an hour's ride south we stopped at a roadside café for some grub and warm drinks and found this little guy had buried into Meg's neck.


We human four haven't had many ticks this trip, but we've pulled hundreds from Zero. We check him a dozen times each day, usually when he's getting a scratch or a tickle, to make sure he is tick free. While warming up with our breakfast we flicked through the local paper and found, well, us:


The article didn't exactly get our story right but it was nice to see ourselves in drier and warmer times back in Huskisson.

With our steaming panniers of wet bedding and clothes we climbed the narrow and dangerous road to Milton. We rode past a B&B and it was just too tempting. Dot the host was in her garden. 'How much for a night?' we inquired hopefully. She replied with a figure that was above our budget. We thanked her and waved goodbye, but as we were heading off she yelled out another figure (sans breakfast) and we immediately backed up, tears of delight streaming down our cheeks and we set about washing and drying our gear and ourselves and settling in to a night of comparative luxury. Thanks so much Dot and Lewis!


The next day was bright and cheerful and we rode a short hilly distance to Mollymook where Patrick spent many childhood holidays in the 70s and 80s. His grandmother had retired there, and a favourite place his family would go to was the Bogie Hole.


We again set up a stealth camp just south of the point from this idyllic place, and stayed for three nights on the dog friendly beach there. Ordinarily we break three council by-laws all at once –  NO camp, dog, fire. But this time it was only two.


We foraged limpets (Cellana tramoserica), otherwise known as sea snails, on the rocks,


which we put straight on the coals. Delish!


Patrick spearfished in the weeds off the rocks and we ate Morwongs aplenty,


which were gutted by Zeph, cooked on the beach fire and devoured until there was nothing left.


Woody cut his finger while on the rocks and Meg brought out the most prized possession in her medical chest.


You don't get this kind of beam from anything other than two and a quarter years of guzzling boob juice. No industry science is nearly capable of such utter nutritional sophistication.


We moved on towards Lake Tabourie and Zeph showed Woody the basics of spearing a fish.


But it was a little further on where we camped beside the Tabourie Creek that we were sucessful in spearing two small mullet to use as bait fish.


But our luck ran out there and before dinner, which didn't include fish, the heavens opened and we were again under the influence of a significant storm. We made a crude biscuit and cheese dinner in one of the tents and went to bed early, waking to another session of drying logistics.


We rode on along the Princes Highway coming across more telling signifiers of too much affluence,


and Anthropogene intransigence,


until we were stopped just before Moruya by this happy bunch of seniors who wanted to know our story, and who had done a quick whip around hat collection for our troubles. We have knocked back donations in the past but because this was an insisting collective effort we couldn't refuse.


Just on from the bus tourers we spotted Pat, Don and Brent and we wanted to hear their stories, which were ones of maiden adventure and big bicycle dreams,


before heading into Moruya with a bag full of gold coins to find a place to have a big feed. Sometimes you just don't know how ravenous you are until someone drops a wad of money into your palm and shows you a bloody good café serving local organic food. We certainly needed the extra sustenance. We rode fifty-five very hilly kms from Batemens Bay to Tuross that day to hook up with Fraser and Kirsti, their kids Marlin and Pickles, and their co-workers from their Old Mill Road Biofarm, who were holding their end of year party both on and beside the water.


We were promised a mussel feast but again the weather had other ideas. We hurriedly set up camp and everyone else scattered before another great deluge.


The next day we packed up wet again and cycled over to Fraser and Kirsti's beautiful market garden farm and reestablished our camp under the newly erected hops trellis.


We were so impressed with their planning, plantings and crop rotations, which are meticuluously worked out on this blackboard by Kirsti.


We were again treated to delicious produce and many communal lunches and dinners with this lovely family and their awesome interns Erin and Christina. We were eager to gift in return so we helped out with harvesting, pickling, cooking, cleaning up, hanging out washing, and we took everyone on a weed walk indentifying 25 autonomous edibles happily growing in the beautiful soils on the farm.


Patrick delighted in showing off the wonders of bulrush (Typha) bulbs.


Sadly it was time to push on but not before another 100mm of rain extended our stay another day. We still hadn't snapped a good family portrait and on the day we actually departed Fraser left very early in the morning for Sydney. Luckily Fraser's brother Ewan, a student from Melbourne who comes regularly to the farm to help out, stood in his place to snap a family pic.


We left the farm through sodden paddocks,


and pedalled out onto the highway with immediate warning signs flashing the results of the region's heavy rains.


We stopped for a cup of tea at Blue Earth Café in Bodalla and met Mark and Meret, the green-thumb parents of the café owners,


who grow a considerable proportion of the food for the café onsite.


So inspiring to see Mark and Meret! We rode on to Narooma surf beach for a quick play,


stealth camp,


and a chance meeting with Grace and Dave. Dave told us about his six year walk from Perth to Sydney along the coast, mainly walking along the beaches and headlands, taking footage for a film. We can't wait to see it.


We then sailed into Mystery Bay and made lunch. This is where we met traditional custodians Uncle Wally Stewart and his son Corey, who are descendants of Walbunga and Yuin men.


Wally not only granted us permission to be on his country but took us to his family's traditional camping ground where he invited us to stay. He got us up to speed about his beef with NSW fisheries and the very profitable abalone industry. Both he says, work together to stop Aboriginal people accessing their traditional foods. The Facebook page for the NSW Aboriginal fishing rights group gives more details. Wally spoke of the health pathologies of local Aboriginal people which, like common in the rest of the country, comes back to the economic imperatives of the western diet. If governments really wanted to help Aboriginal people they would see fit that large areas of land, river and ocean were made accessible so they could enact their traditional economics of health and well-being as well as custodianship on country. A decent society would put this ahead of any industry.


Wally and Corey left us to set up camp, and while Meg was putting Woody down for his daytime sleep, Zeph, Zero and Patrick went to see what they could find for dinner. They nearly stepped on two snakes trying to squeeze some solar radiation out of the cool rock cliffs and soon found some limpets to collect,


Patrick speared a crab,


and Zeph foraged some Neptune’s necklace (Hormosira banksii),


which we prepared with some of Kirsti and Fraser's produce at Wally and Corey's family camp.


Then just after dinner down came the rain once again, so heavy it collapsed part of the shelter. We took it in turns to keep the pooling weight off the canvas roof and just watched in awe as the heavens let loose.


For the first 12 months of this trip we could count the days we've had of rain on one hand. It seems like this stretch along the NSW south coast is making up for such a dry year on the road. We are certainly getting tired of the extra work the rain brings with it, although we know that this is what living outside is all about and rain is such an essential part of the function of a healthy biosphere. With the promise of another 20-40mm, we packed up the next morning, rode across country,


to Tilba for a cuppa,


and headed on to stay with an old blogosphere friend, Rhonda Ayliffe and her family just north of Cobargo. It was on this stretch of road that we had our closet call. We looked up the name of the trucking company of the driver concerned and made a call:



It was such a relief to pull off the highway at Ronnie's farm. So good to meet you in person Alexander, Rhonda, Eliza Jane and Phil. Thank you for the dry and warmth and love of your home.


And thank you Dear Reader for joining us on this sodden leg.

We are going to be giving a talk on permaculture travelling to some good folk at Sweet Home Cobargo this Saturday the 13th at 1pm. If you are nearby, we'd love to see you there.