Friday, 12 January 2018

Artist as extended family: our year with Jeremy Yau

As you might already know, Jeremy lived with us for the past year, learning and teaching, loving and sharing. This was his house, which we built with him and dubbed The Yause. And this is his story while living at Tree Elbow, told through our eyes and a shared catalogue of pics.

Jeremy arrived in early 2017 and immediately got involved in our everyday processes of living with baskets of skills and knowledges and very little money. He came for a week as a SWAP, and he stayed a year.

From different corners of the world, Connor and Marta had also just recently arrived at Tree Elbow, where they fell in love and (later) got hitched. With all three on deck we had a very productive time.

Food is big at Tree Elbow. It is life, liberty, health, ecology and energy. Jeremy soon understood how serious we take food and energy resources; how these often taken for granted things equate exactly to how each of us touch the earth.

Growing, preserving, fermenting, storing and cooking food became part of Jeremy's day to day. But this was not entirely new to him. Before coming to Tree Elbow he'd been an intern at Milkwood Farm, completed a horticulture certificate and a PDC, he'd volunteered as a community gardener, WWOOFed at various places and established a mini food forest at his parent's house in Sydney.

With so many staying at Tree Elbow, we needed more accommodation. Patrick offered to give Jeremy an informal building apprenticeship like he had with James and Zeph the year before.

The building had to go up fast, but we'd already saved materials from the local skip bins and tip.

Materials were also gifted and found online. Jeremy learnt most of the processes of building right through to putting ends and pops in the reclaimed spouting.

With the colder weather approaching, we needed to get the Yause, as Meg auspiciously named it, completed.

And we also had to get the glasshouse started.

It was a busy time, and a time of great learnings and hard yakka.

And while we were harvesting food, filling the cellar, building the Yause and the glasshouse, we also had to gather firewood for the winter from forests on the edge of town that are prone to fuel-reduction burns,

and waste wood material from a nearby mill for the humanure system.

We were all fairly exhausted by the end of Autumn, and the winter promised gentler labours. Jeremy used his horticulture skills to graft medlar scions onto hawthorn in the nearby commons.

He started carving things, such as this spoon, which he ate most of his meals with.

He learned new skills and passed them on. Woody was an eager student.

Jeremy made this small biochar furnace following our design and material salvaged trips to the tip. It works a treat!

Being an accomplished welder Jeremy made up these lugs for our back bike wheels at the local Men's Shed so we can hitch our trailers to them.

He made this little low-tech rocket stove, modelled on designs from David Holmgren's forthcoming book.

Jeremy starred in the trailer for that forthcoming book. The trailer was produced by Patrick and Anthony Petrucci.

Jeremy also starred in his own video showing the forge he made with scrap material from the tip, while at Tree Elbow. Anthony made the video for him in exchange for bike services Jeremy did on Ant's family's bikes. Participating in the extensive gift economy that exists locally was a revelation for Jeremy, and one he took to wholeheartedly.

One of the many things Woody and Jeremy liked to do was make a 'road train' (with the lugs) and head up to the skatepark for some wheelie good times.

Jeremy also taught Woody how to ride a flaming scooter. Hell yeah!

Jeremy also retrofitted old parts from the tip to make a new bike seat for Woody on the back of Meg's bike.

Over the year we became increasingly impressed with his technical skills.

Making all manners of things with materials that were either wild harvested or came from the tip. Most of these items he gave to people as gifts.

He made a coat rack for the Yause.

As it got colder he learnt from us how to knit with homemade needles made from hawthorn. This little scarf didn't come off him between the months of June and September.

He made a more significant rocket stove at the men's shed.

He learned to tan hides and make other useful things,

assisting at workshops with his friend Josh from the Bush Tannery.

Earlier in the year he attended Claire Dunn's natural fire-making workshop with Zeph and Connor,

and with these two and Patrick walked for three days along the Goldfields track

sleeping rough and eating bush foods along the way.

Jeremy became a regular in the community, often seen flashing around on his bike through the town's streets.

and regularly attending the monthly working bees at the community garden.

By the last month of the year he'd turned out just as every bit odd as everyone else around here. An anthropologist friend calls Daylesford the town of black sheep. Yay for black sheep!

We did a lot of celebrating life this year, and we loved Jeremy's spirit, joining in and relishing the looseness.

We finished the year with strut.

We're going to miss you Jeremy Yau, and all the fun things we did together.

We're going to miss you in a really big way.

Thank you for what you brought to Tree Elbow, Jeremy, and for what you brought to our community. You are always welcome here. With much love,

Artist as Family

Friday, 15 December 2017

Childhood wonderland

This year we've been running a weekly life-led bush school called Make and Play. We've carved spoons, made multi-pronged fishing spears, learned to cook on a camp fire, built cubbies, observed many aspects of the forest, made cord with flax leaves, yabbied and fished, swam, climbed trees, learned to find and share food, and enjoyed stories and good times with one another.

The last Make and Play for the year took place this morning and it was truly magical. After our initial acknowledgement of country and the Dja Dja Wurrung people and elders, and our own old people who have travelled from far and wide, Patrick told the story of how that morning the dawn Kookaburras had told him something strange was happening in the forest today. He asked the kids to keep an eye out for a sign or a clue as to what that strangeness might be.

Ashar told us the story of an indigenous group that uses ash from the fire to receive messages. He didn't know the full story so we decided to experiment with our old camp fire. Patrick buried his hands into some cold char-ash, threw it up, and as it settled on the ground he discovered a letter under the coals. We were all gobsmacked.

He read it out.

We knew we had to help The Captain of the Flying Pirate Ship, so the first thing to do was to find him. We got Zero, our trusty Jack Russell and his scruffy mate Fluff, to smell the letter and get the pirate's scent so these two rough coats could lead us to the Captain. We followed the dogs and lo and behold...

We found the pirate sleeping not far from our cubby camp. Our excitement must have woke him. He was so surprised to see us. The letter mentioned he couldn't talk unless he had his hat on, so we set out with the friendly mute pirate to try to find it.

The hat we soon found at the Can Tree, he put it on and - it was a miracle - he could speak! But it was a foreign language he spoke. We had to use our best expressions to tell him we don't speak his language. He quickly understood and spoke a language we could understand. He was so happy we could understand him and that we were eager to help.

He told us that his flying pirate ship had crash landed and his things were scattered all around. He was especially hoping to find his beloved stringed instrument which he had on him when he crashed. He lost it right after he'd heard the magical sounds. Therefore we wondered whether we would find his guitar at the magical musical sound machine (an old mineral water check point pipe) that goes deep down into the ground, and where we've often stopped and listened for the music of the underworld. It was here we found his guitar.

The pirate captain, who calls himself Norseman, asked whether there was a magical fairy tree close by. He remembered learning a song from the fairies back home, so he thought that maybe the fairies here would be able to understand the song. Some of the children knew about the fairy tree and led us to it. Our pirate sang the fairy song, and asked us to join in. Towards the end of the song Patrick saw Zero looking intensely inside the fairy tree and said to the little dog "what is it?" Zero raced straight inside the hollow and uncovered a beautiful coin bag. The pirate said that with this was his bag of magical coins and he could now do magic. He showed us how he could bite a coin in half and then blew it back to full size again. We all watched on in amazement. But how did he do it?

Just at this time a mother fox was seen watching us from just a few meters away. The two dogs got scent and off they went on a chase. We knew the dogs would catch up with us. The pirate was keen to go looking for his tucker bag and find his treasure box. And so were we, so we all headed off to help him. The tucker bag was resting by the mineral water pumps at Sutton Spring, and we stopped for some of this delicious underworld water, and the pirate shared some of his fruit leathers, dried nuts and seeds. Yummo.

We headed off again, this time we had the treasure chest in our minds. Keeping up with the older kids was quite a challenge.

We arrived at Lake Daylesford where our Norseman remembered his ship crashing into. He also remembered holding on to his treasure chest while swimming ashore, but remembered little else after that. We all got very excited that we were possibly close to recovering the chest. The pirate showed us a stick riddle. It's answer, he said, would tell us the direction to go.

The riddle revealed a fish, and the fish pointed as an arrow, and off we raced in the arrow's direction.

We knew we were getting warmer.

Two turtles and three ducks on the water all turned their heads as we approached and we knew this was a directional sign. We followed their pointer. A small bag with a key in it was soon found and we were jumping with excitement.

And then young Axel (or was it his older brother Oscar?) found it. The pirate was so happy because it meant he could perform the old magic he'd learned from shamans from all over the world.

He turned a blank book into a book of colourful drawings by just rubbing over the cover,

stuck four separate pieces of coloured cloth into his closed hand and when he pulled them out they were all stitched together.

The children were dazzled. How did he do it?

He was so grateful we helped him to find his lost things, and we were so grateful for the adventure he took us on. He took a bow and thanked us for our generosity as we bestowed gifts upon him.

We then feasted on nourishing fruits and fibres of the earth. We have honoured the earth back in many ways this year, one example of this is having our snack food nude, and not in disposable plastic.

We then hung out on the jetty, playing games, not quite believing the adventure we'd just had.

Luckily Meg and Patrick took some photos to show friends and family, because otherwise they would not believe the time we'd just experienced.