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.