Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Creative commons, foraging commons

If you like our Food Forest rock operetta you can download it for free at myspace, or at triple j unearthed.

We made this music to accompany our Food Forest film, which documents our week of planting.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

The show closes, the forest grows on

In the balance: Art for a changing world ends today. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to have been participants in this show.

Thank you to the MCA staff, especially Anna Davis, and thank you to Francis Chalwell and the St Michael's community. Thank you to the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, and the Keir Foundation. And thank you to everyone who supported and assisted the development of this work, especially the Surry Hills community. We hope it will bring much pleasure and social warming for years to come.

Food forest is a free food commons. We only ask that it be a shared resource and that people, when they can, bring food to the soil (compost) in exchange for its bounties.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Food Forest: A Very Public Resource

Perhaps we're clutching at One-Straw Revolutions, but an interesting thing happened recently that we thought was worth sharing. Sydney Morning Herald writer Rachel Olding emailed us to ask whether they could use the Food Forest as a site to photograph a local chef foraging for his slow food restaurant for a story she was writing. We politely declined:
Dear Rachel,

Thank you for your email.

If Jared were cooking the food for a community event, then yes absolutely, we would be thrilled for him to be photographed in the Food Forest.

As we're sure you can appreciate, the principles of the Food Forest are to promote public, uncapitalised food. The Forest supplies local residents who might not be able to afford organic food, and the church's weekly soup kitchen.

We applaud the ethics of The Danks Street Depot, and what Jarred and Melanie are championing, but it still comes down to the Forest being a public resource, that celebrates the free transaction over anything monetary and exclusive.

Best of luck with the shoot, and apologies we were not able to be of help in this instance.

Meg, Patrick and Zephyr — The Artist as Family

Olding's article is great in terms of promoting the relocalisation of food resources and providing creative ways for getting off a heavily polluting agriculture grid (that's responsible for around 40-50% greenhouse gas emissions and wholesale deforestation). In this way the Waterloo chef's ideals and ours are similar. But it's the privatisation of public food resources we object to.

What Olding's article doesn't raise is the problems of privatisation, ecologically and socially, or how this chef's activity is akin to business taking content from blogs licensed under creative commons and capitalising on the material. Why should a restaurant owner take food from a community garden or public commons (ie foraging for edible weeds in Centennial Park) and then put a price on it?
Jared Ingersoll at the James Street community garden in Redfern.
Photo: Jon Reid, courtesy Sydney Morning Herald

Monday, 20 September 2010

The Forest Floor

Patrick is in Sydney and visited the Food Forest with family friend Josh Bowes, who generously helped with the initial planting back in July. They found fungi, edible weeds, an abundance of leaf vegetables, thriving fruit and nut trees, and evidence of dynamic social engagement.

A mushroom (perhaps don't eat) and some onion weeds (use as chives in a salad) spontaneously inhabit the forest floor, while rhubarb has been harvested to be used as an organic spray.

All these things show that humans and nonhumans are participating in this garden autonomously, and as a result this little food forest system (based upon permaculture principals) really appears to be working. Residents are bringing in their compost, harvesting plants and herbs to eat, while some are using plants to make organic sprays to allay pests. The woody mulch has, with spring warmth and rain, created humidity in the soil that fungi adores. Fungi in a forest floor is a great sign of soil health and, as gardeners will know, if the soil is healthy plants are less prone to pests. Growing plants in a polyculture using companion planting methods also assists the garden's health and allays pests and disease.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Relocalised food makes news

Among sex scandals and sociopathic world leaders, Artist as Family's Meg holds ground as Food Forest makes page 3 of yesterday's SMH.

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Read article here.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Bloomin' inspiring

Vote 1 Peter Cundall!

We got to spend much of the day yesterday with one of the most generous and knowledgeable sustainability gurus. We learned so much about plants and soil, garden pests and wildlife, and how an 84 year old man has lived on organic food for fifty years, has a clean bill of health, and in this time has never taken any pharmaceutical medicines.

He inspired and delighted us, but one thing he said really stood out:
"Show children how to create: the best way to do this is to show them how to grow something. Children who know how to create things never grow into adults who destroy things."

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Thursday, 19 August 2010


If you were anywhere near the top end of Albion Street, Surry Hills yesterday and you heard a high-pitched squeal, it was us! It was our first visit to the Food Forest since the Plant-In five weeks ago.

In the town we live in, in Victoria, we are still in the grips of winter: rain, frost, sleet, snow.

But here in Sydney, spring has sprung, the proof of which we saw in the Forest.

Food Forest is going to be officially opened on Saturday 21 August at 2.30pm, with a floor forest talk by the Artist as Family and gardening guru, Peter Cundall. Hope to see you there.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Ten days

Here's our five minute doco of the Food Forest install, accompanied by our home-brewed rock operetta. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Why we do what we do

1. Vandana Shiva

2. No matter how a person tries to frame or revise our culture there's no getting away from it – wealth delivers pollution.

3. Researchers tell us that the level of happiness peaks just above the poverty line, but we already knew this. Any accumulation of wealth after this point disables the adequate distribution of resources in order for local populations and ecologies to self-renew.

4. 32,000 people were treated last year in Australian hospitals for self-harming. The mental health of the country is flailing. An increasingly toxic food supply system is in part responsible. For a culture whose dominant ideology is based on a growth profit-pollution paradigm, figures like this will only increase.

5. The social and ecological costs of liberal growth economics should now be accounted. The world's elite impoverish life for everyone, especially the world's poor. An elite few are currently privatising the atmosphere to create the world's biggest commodity market – capitalising on pollution. This is sold as a solution – emissions trading and offsetting schemes – just as the Green Revolution was sold as a solution – privatised seeds and chemicals – for world hunger.

6. With ecological economics, community sovereignty of food, water and energy resources, and with permaculture principals you don't have to wait around for outmoded governments to reenter the real world; to understand soil microbes; to understand a just and sane way; to understand the profit-pollution paradigm; to understand the relationship between biodiversity and collective social health.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Key (draft)

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Additional food planted on the first community plant-in day (the following plants relate to the areas on the drawing that we've labelled annuals and/or herbs):

Annuals – a variety of brassicas, peas, nasturtiums and marigolds.

Perennials – native parsnip, lemon verbena, lemon grass, lavender, rosemary, pigface, dianella, rhubarb, thyme, mint, comphrey, whiteroot, Vietnamese mint and strawberries.

We would love to make this map of the food forest more interactive and web accessible. Any budding web designers out there interested in helping us?

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


A big thanks to our national public broadcaster for their coverage of our project last Saturday night, 10 July. Our nephew/cousin Freddy and Iona, a Surry Hills resident whose mum coincidently lives in Daylesford, are featured beside the newsreader, Deborah Rice.

Food Forest on ABC TV from Patrick Jones on Vimeo.

There are a few mistakes in this reportage, namely the exclusion of the entire Artist as Family (Meg Ulman, Patrick Jones and Zephyr Ogden Jones); they spoke to Patrick and labelled him "Patrick White, Garden Artist"; and the church grounds where the forest is planted is St Michael's not St Stephen's, as reported.

Sunday, 11 July 2010


One of the reasons we were attracted to St Michael's church as a site for the Food Forest is because they run a soup kitchen every Sunday morning. One of the aims for the Forest is that it will eventually supply organic fruit and vegetables to the kitchen.

We visited the kitchen this morning and shared a meal with the local residents who are all very excited about their community's new asset. This is the hall after we helped pack up, before we headed next door to the garden.

We still had a few more things to do such as finish off mulching and say goodbye to our microbial friends in the soil, who it's been a privilege getting to know.

We then hammered stakes around the Forest's circumference and secured the bunting, which we won't remove until late August when the MCA show opens.

We then went round and drew a mud map of exactly what plants are where, which we will have engraved on a plaque to be displayed in the grounds, and available here online.

We then dilly dallied. We took some more photos. We chatted to a few more passing residents about their hopes for the work. We sat down. We stood up. We chatted to the church congregation as they left their Sunday service.

And then it was time to go.

Thank you so much to everyone who helped in making this work come about.

And thank you to those whose enthusiasm and stewardship will ensure its future abundance.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Many Hands

What a great day!

Thank you to everybody who came along to take part in the Food Forest Plant-In.

For those of you who couldn't make it, here's a snapshot of what went on.

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Friday, 9 July 2010

Plant-In Preparation

We planted ten bare rooted fruit and nut trees today, including fig, mulberry, apricot, peach, nectarine, plum and almond.

The ground was extra soft because of all the rain we have had, making the holes easy to dig.

This is Richard and Heidi. We only found this ground at all because of Heidi. When we had the idea to plant a Food Forest, we had great difficulty finding some land. Heidi, a local resident heard we were looking and suggested we approach St Michael's. The rest, as they say, is history. In the making. Thank you, Heidi!

After saying goodbye to Heidi and Richard we spent a few hours mulching the Forest floor, leaving a meter around the periphery bare so people know where to settle their plants during tomorrow's Plant-In.

Just before lunch we went out to the Marrickville Community Nursery and picked up some Pigface, Whiteroot, Coastal Rosemary and native parsnip, which we are going to plant tomorrow in the Forest's outer ring.

So people can identify what's what, we then wrote each plant's name on a small copper tag and hung it on the corresponding tree.

It's rained nearly every day we have worked on the Forest. But this afternoon's downpour was too heavy to work in, even for us Victorians. So it was tools down, and bottoms up at a hotel around the corner.

We will be on site tomorrow from 10am to 4pm come rain or shine. Come one and come all!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Companions for a Polyculture

We had an organisational day today, so we were a little drier than we were yesterday. People have been contacting us to ask what plants would be best to bring on Saturday to the community plant-in. So if you too are wondering, here are a few suggestions:

Herbs such as basil (attracts butterflies), chervil, fennel, oregano, spearmint, dill and coriander (all repel aphids), sage, borage and hyssop (all attract honeybees), caraway (helps strawberries and attracts parasitic wasps), thyme, wormwood.

Flowers such as yarrow and tansy (both attract beneficial predators such as ladybugs and beetles), nasturtiums and marigolds (general all-rounders for attracting predatory insects).

Strawberries, rhubarb, Chilean guava and anything else that will grow in a semi-shaded position on the south-side of the garden. We are also requiring a few small hollow logs for lizards to inhabit.

As you can see below, the two internal zones (citrus, Cadigal and guava middle) and the upper canopy (large deciduous for winter light) are nearly complete, while the outer zone, the green pharmacy, will constitute the community 'plant-in' area.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

The Forest for the Trees

There was much activity on the corner of Albion and Flinders Streets today. Apart from all the rain and cloud action, we had trees and visitors aplenty.

Yesterday it seemed like an achievement to get two trees in the ground, today we planted considerably more, albeit somewhat smaller.

Here is one very special gardener with a very special delivery: olives, lemon verbena, rosemary, riberry and pecan.

And dianella and lomandra longifolia, the latter whose leaves contain a fibre that can be used in basket-making, weaving and to make string. Their flowers can be eaten raw, or dried and ground to make a flour for dense cakes.

We also planted a variety of citrus: grapefruit, mandarin, lime, lemon, orange and kumquat.

We also planted feijoas, coastal rosemary, lilly pilly, Brazilian guava, Hawaiian guava, avocados, lemon grass, loquat and cherimoya, which Mark Twain described as, "the most delicious fruit known."

With all the rain and planting the ground was getting pretty muddy, so we barrowed some mulch to make a path.

Then we cut down some trees and whittled them into stakes. Ha ha, not likely, although maybe one day the Forest will be abundant enough.

We fastened some hessian tree-tie to them, to support and guard each plant.

Just as the rain cleared, St Michael's Rev Francis Chalwell (right) came to say hello and introduce Bishop Alan Stewart.

And then a little later, Greens Senator, Scott Ludlam, Sustainable Cities portfolio, (right) and Tony Hickey, Greens candidate for the Federal seat of Sydney, (middle), came to see the Forest.

Dignitaries abounded, but the really very special guest was a visit by a beautiful native minor bird who danced around the oranges and had us entranced.

As well as updating this blog with the Forest activity, we have been documenting the progress on digital film, which we will edit into a short piece a little later on. Watch this space.