Monday, 12 June 2017

The buildings, growings, gatherings and storings of this regenerative age

It's been a busy 6 months of building, producing, gathering and crafting, so busy in fact that we haven't had a moment to blog. Until today.

Teaching younger folk to build has been our focus over the past year, starting with James and Zeph building The Cumquat, then more recently, Connor, Jeremy and Marta helping with the north-facing greenhouse.

We've built a number of other buildings too, including the Yause (named after Jeremy Yau, who came to SWAP with us in February and has been here ever since).

Jeremy moved into the Yause after just 7 weeks of building.

We also built the Cookhouse, the name we gave our low-tech sauna.

We used local cypress timber and discarded sheep's wool to line the inside of Zeph's old cubby, and we found an old wood heater at the tip which we bought for $30 and restored with a lick of stove paint. Thanks Zeph!

It works a treat!

We also installed more water tanks for further veggie production (nearly everything we spend money on is intended to take us away from further requiring it),

To preserve our gifted old timber windows (thanks Vasko!), Connor painted them before the rains set in.

and we started work on the Smithy, where Jeremy and Patrick will be setting up a blacksmith and wood crafting workshop to teach others.

There have been many other smaller projects we have worked on this year, such as completing the cellar – building more storage for our preserves, ferments, booze and cheeses. We are so close to going fridge-less now! Just a cool cupboard to build and a fridge to offload.

Home production has also been extensive with many hands making light work. Buster, who rode her bicycle from Brisbane, came to SWAP with us and hung about with Woody, decking the trampoline with summer fruit to sun-preserve. Thanks Buster!

Our bees have had a remarkable first season, storing food for themselves and for us in the near completed anti-aviary.

We robbed them of a third of their summer production,

obtaining a whopping 15 kgs out of a total of 45 kgs of honey that they produced in just 6 months. Astounding! Thank you beautiful creatures.

The annual veggie production began to ramp up again too,

and not only did we learn more about bees from our friends at Milkwood Permaculture, we learnt a thing or two about intensive veggie production too. We have begun to double dig all our beds.

Home production of perennials has also increased this year with plants such as hops for brewing and for sleepytime tea,

and kiwi fruits, which tease Woody with their unripeness well into early winter.

We have been gathering other perennial crops in the garden too, such as acorns – harvesting them for pancake meal and beer making,

and gathering together for all sorts of events with kin and community. From community garden working bees and free workshops that we've organised,

to fermenting workshops, including Culture Club's wonderful community pickling day,

mushroom and weed foraging workshops that we've led,

and Friday night local food gatherings, which we've hosted weekly at Tree Elbow.

We've had so many remarkable guests stay with us over the past 6 months. David Asher came from Canada to share his passion for wild fermented raw cheeses,

permaculture teacher, Penny Livingston-Stark, came and feasted with our community and shared her remarkable story alongside David Holmgren,

cousin Pepper and Ra were regular visitors,

comedian Lawrence Leung (who slept in the Yause) and independent filmmaker, Celeste Geer, came with a crew to film for Catalyst,

and of course our three long-term SWAPs, Connor and Marta (here stacking a fine compost on the nature strip),

and Jeremy (here working on a forge blower he's making from discarded material), have all been stalwarts at Tree Elbow this year.

Long term resident Zero, a huge personality in a little dog suit, will turn 49 this winter, rendering him the most significant elder of Artist as (extended) Family,

and while Zeph has been extricating himself from Artist as Family collaborations, he still makes regular appearances (often with friend Owen) to Tree Elbow, bringing his zest for disruption, bravado and beautiful independence, and keeping us all on our toes. Onya Zeph!

The way we get around and retrieve resources, or go out to participate in the community is very much about our continued practice of a low carbon consciousness. Bikes are essential for this cultural and economic transition. We've been car-less now for seven years!

Riding and walking into yet another wet and cold season means we are once again hardy to the change of weather. While community friends and other loved ones fall sick around us, colds and flu will be a long time coming into our neo-peasant home.

Walked-for, dug, and directly-picked food, dirt on hands, active and accountable living and mobility, goodly sleep, and generally being outside all gather as the ingredients for a health-filled, resilient and low-carbon life. While this is not THE solution to the many varied problems of industrialisation, it is for us a genuine response to the predicament of our age.

We hope you have found some spirit here, spirit to aid your resolve as we find strength and inspiration in yours. For those interested in a deeper unpacking of our practice and of our cultural fermentations, Patrick has an essay just published in Garland magazine. If you have similar life hacks you would like to share with us or any other Qs related to how we live, please leave a comment or send us a message. (NB: Trolls will be composted.)

Over for now,
much loving and flowing of gifts to you, and from and to the worlds of the world,
Artist as Family


  1. Congratulations to you all, keep up the good life and stay warm and well.

  2. I am inspired by your ability to create a community that clearly supports all involved and that you also pass on your skills to the wider community. The fact that you are able to do it, means that other people can as well. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for saying Ruth! It feels really great to be part of a global movement of people who use their agency to make the necessary changes.

  3. A PERFECT use for trolls. Even better than the billy goats gruff.

    LOVE reading about your life. It reminds me of how much more we can do where we live.

    1. Thanks Jessie, love and power and Pandora to you too. xx

  4. Can you guys write anothet book? The art of neo-peasantry or something...!! Love your work so inspiring

    1. Thank you! We have all the chapters mapped out all ready. Just the time to do it, and a willing publisher.

  5. Hi i read the article about your lifestyle in the weekend section of the Herald Sun on 8 July and applaud you for your ethics and hard work and everything else that goes with your lifestyle choices. I am however extremely curious to know how you can survive without having shopped at a supermarket for 8 years. How is this possible? Even though you preserve fruits and vegetables etc you do need supplies to do that. Where do you get such staples such as vinegar and sugar and spices etc for preserving? Do you not use milk tea flour etc? What do you use for cleaning yourself and your home, toilet paper etc. I was brought up in the country and because my father suffered from war nuerosis and was in hospital a lot we lived a very frugal life growing a lot of food and keeping chickens etc we ate a lot of rabbit which my brothers trapped and caught with ferrets. My mother was amazing at stretching the money. She was the eldest of 11 children and they lived a very frugal and self sufficient lifestyle as well as trading food and services etc having a small poultry farm and keeping a milking cow and a huge vegetable garden fruit trees water tanks using newspaper for toilet paper etc etc. They still needed money to buy staples even though they baked and preserved made their own butter soap etc but they still had to buy supplies to do this and feed for the chickens etc. I was brought up with these values but I still can't work out how you can get by without going to the supermarket in 8 years. I would really appreciate it if you could enlighten me as to what you do please.
    Thanking you in anticipation of your response.

  6. Hi Lynne, thanks for commenting. We use no refined sugar, we keep bees, we make our own scrap cider vinegar from wild and local apples, we forage wild fennel seed as our local 'spice' to use in cooking, and we also buy some things such as spices from further afield. These things come from our local food co-op or the small family operated goods store in the town. For toilet paper we use family cloth, which is washed once a week. We keep a nappy bucket beside the loo and process them like cloth nappies, only its much easier. If we can't make it, grow it, swap it or get something from the co-op or store we go without. It gives us much pleasure to not be reliant on supermarkets.