Sunday, 27 January 2019

White people dreaming (and performing other forms of culture and economy)

We saw out the year with greenkin friends, once again walking and pedalling the main drag of our home town for the 2018 Daylesford New Year's Eve Parade. 

(photo by David Jablonka)

It was quite a challenge to pull around 100kg of future community food on our e-bike. We community food gardeners were awarded money to dress our annual NYE float. By purchasing fruit trees and perennial veggies we once again steered arts funding into something deep-rooting.


This lil video will give you a feel for the parade and our contribution to it, for which we won the sustainability award. (Please note: videos won't appear in your inbox subscription.)


Yes, it's a strange time of year to plant dozens of trees, herbs and perennial veggies, but with our $100 prize money (Thanks Hepburn Wind!) we bought a new hose and established a watering roster so we can nurture these generous gifts through the coming hot weeks. A big thanks to the permie crew from Deans Marsh who strengthened our numbers and dug right in, joining the local permablitz working bee mob.


In late December we had a number of friends come and stay for the Melliodora solstice party, which eventuated in another form of spontaneous permablitz, this time a music video. Charlie (from Formidable Vegetable) came for dinner and he spoke of the possibility of a new video clip. We hooked him up with our mate Jordan (from Happen Films), added in a whole bunch of Artist as Family creative direction, garden and community peeps, and voilà, this was hatched:


It was another moment of spontaneous creation at Tree Elbow. Thanks to all the neopeasant solstice revellers who showed up and ensouled the morning; all we singulars numbering a collective effort with not a single dollar mentioned, spent or sought. An example of permaculture media-making at its best – and an antidote to typical white-people careerism, profit motives and meaningless content.

photo by Vasko Drogriski

In other news, the violet and rhubarb leaves at Tree Elbow are being frequented by these lovely Southern brown tree frogs (Litoria ewingi),


as well as common garden snails (Helix aspersa). While allcomer frogs, toads and froglets are more than encouraged to make their life in, through and around the garden, snails are gathered up in large numbers and fed to the chooks and ducklings, or we prepare them this way for dinner. Yum!


The ducklings certainly think so. Snails and comfrey leaves are their faves.

Photo by Amy Wagner

For Blackwood (much like the froglets, baby snails and ducklins), home schooling and home economics have become the same thing. Like us, most things he requires are non-monetised, but each of us have occasion to save up for things. A new guitar has been the motivator for this little market store.


But generally we try to make what we need, such as this fishing spear. Every occasion, every visitation, project and ecology


is another school for Woody. It is in these places where play, exploration and experimentation are given true homes. His education isn't evaluated or assessed. He is free to learn without anxiety or comparison. He is free to collate all his learnings and build upon them in his own time and way,


and with others, such as the children he is bonded to at the Make & Play bush school we hold. Here's Charlie again at the M&P end of year celebration. (Jumpers in late December? Yikes!)


And because of the expansive time given to him to learn, time to be, time to thoroughly explore what NAPLAN could never allow for a child, the rewards come, which only aid more learning,


where play making and knowledge building are all part of the same flow.


While his learning is mostly self-directed, he also absorbs his parents' knowledges, and they share with him what to glean and hunt and make bounties from,


while far away from the high country lakes


and productive gardens of home.


He observes the gifts that can be made from the abundant raw materials of our local terra. This wrist band was made by Patrick for Meg on her birthday. The lake is a special place for Meg, where giant-leaved newcomer NZ flax grow (great for cord making) and moulted breast feathers from oldtimer cockatoos are shed around the foreshores (thanks for the tip Kimshar!).


Woody observes the gifts and skills of other adults too, from musicians like Charlie, filmmakers like Jordan and Antoinette, and all the community gardeners to name just a few. Out of all the adults that generously pass on their trades, it is Jeremy that Woody calls mentor. Jeremy made this insulated oven window cover for us, especially for summertime cooking. It reduces the heat radiating into the house on the coolest day of the week when we bake bread, roast veggies and heat up our hot water.


We traded him a wild ferment brewing lesson, exchanging microbe knowledges for technical know-how. What we've found is that gifts flow, if generosity flows. A few years back Edward from nearby Adsum Farm gifted us some garden bed hoops. In spring they support a hothousing re-usuable plastic hood to get the potatoes going early, in summer they support a fine netting to keep the cabbage moths from destroying the brassicas.

Photo by Amy Wagner

Knowing what to protect and what to leave open to the multifarious relations of diverse garden ecology requires kinship with both domestication and wild entities – a subject Patrick will be speaking on with Claire Dunn and Maya Ward at the National Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne on February 9. And this subject is at the heart of why we hold the annual Terra Nullius Breakfast,


which acknowledges, accepts and seeks compassion for the history of this continent - a nation that has crippled symbiotic life by over-playing domestication's hand.

Terra Nullius stands at the heart of property relations in Australia and aggregating wealth division. When property is turned from a basic need into a predatorial industry, more and more people will suffer. We wrote this song for our friend Eka, a fellow Bentley Blockader, when we visited her on our travels last winter she spoke of the constant insecurity and powerlessness of her housing situation. Eka stood with thousands to stop the Northern Rivers from being fracked by greed's intransigence to common sense, giving her time and skills over weeks and months as a volunteer. While we dedicate this song to Eka, it is also for all people kept from having secure tenure over a little plot of land that can be loved, held sacred and given back to for the momentary time we dwell with and upon it.


If you feel passionate about this issue, please copy the link of this Youtube video and share it widely. Songs can be fertile seeds for change, even rough-cut home-brewed ones such as this.

Well, thank you Dear Reader, we hope we served up some nourishment and inspiration for you in our more or less monthly instalment. If you'd like come on a house + garden tour we've released more forthcoming dates. If you're interested in applying for one of our Permaculture Living Courses please watch this space, we'll be opening the applications for the spring 2019 courses shortly.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Fire in our hearts; fire in our bellies

Fire! It's wild, feared, harnessed and praised. Our first tool. Like the Greek story of Prometheus stealing fire to give to mortals, Djaara people – on whose land we have made home – also have their stolen fire story. Waa, the raven, was originally white and in stealing fire got himself burnt. We heard this told at Yapenya in Bendigo recently. All comers were invited to come witness this new Djaara ceremony.

Djaara women performing Yapenya, before the ceremonial fire is lit. 

Performing new ceremony is soulful, much needed work. Former SWAPs Connor and Marta – who met at Tree Elbow, got hitched, travelled far and wide and moved back to the area – are expecting a child. Patrick lit a fire for Connor and a number of men gathered in the forest to warm Connor into fatherhood with stories about being dads, sons and men. The night was transformative, a kind of medicine.


Meg concurrently held a women's circle for Marta and again the night revealed many insights and gentle sharings, and this group also realised ceremony was missing in their lives as women.

The cultural absence of gathering around fire, in forests and in other more-than-human environments, led us to establish Make & Play a few years ago. Patrick has recently begun a second weekly group for older kids called Feral & Free – a radical form of scouts (drawing on both the ecological masculinities and ecofeminisms of our day). The following quote from Patrick's book re:)Fermenting culture, which excavates the fire stealing creation myth of western culture, has been cited as the epigraph in the recently published, Ecological Masculinities: Theoretical Foundations and Practical Guidance:
A culture that has lost its beginning story is a culture adrift, destructive and self-harming. While the West can be seen as synonymous with imperialism, this is not our old people, this is not our true culture, gender-lopsidedness is not our only heritage.
Feral & Free crew

The Celts reportedly said that a woman's soul is male and a man's soul is female. How's that for oldskool gender fluidity? The father fire (technics) and the matering earth (ecology) are within us together, regardless of how we identify. They are not opposing stories, they are intertwined. We are technical animals; storytellers. Story derives from fire.

Story features at all these gatherings in the forest. It is stories – what we tell out and to ourselves – that make us who we are. When we gather and speak together across a fire a raw heartfeltness springs forth. Courage to do this is more than required. Woody spoke his first public story recently, at the local community Cicada storytelling night. He mustered all his pluck to raise himself from his seat and make the slow walk up onto the podium at the Senior Citizens' Room behind the Daylesford Town Hall. His story was called Spring Blossom, and he quietly spoke of beholding the blossom of a wild apple, trying with his 6-year old language to conjure that earlier moment of praise and delight for the tree, for all of us to share.

Pic: Juanita Broderick

Stories heard from across the crackling foci of the fire speak to our ancient selves in our present bodies. The podium or stage can adversely change this intent, but that's another story for another time.

Woody is growing up within a general household narrative where a commons (of any form) is never to be capitalised, where an economy (of any form) never enslaves us or makes ruin terra mater. On working out how he is to save up for a new guitar he said: "If I get the sticks from the tip to make my kindling bundles, then I'm not selling them from the floor of the forest but only selling waste." This ethic he did not learn at school but by learning to think with a forest's thoughts. What if the dominant value system shifted from unrestrained growth at all costs to the sanctity of humus and earth others at all costs? What transformations of culture would we see?

If we know that the tumorous Internet of Things is just the next sales pitch in a long line of greed and intransigence, how do we garner the courage to turn away from such seduction and face and embrace humus, and all the quiet things of earth not screaming for attention? How do we perform other stories that don't just passively go along with the dominant, egotistical ideology?

Pic: Laurel Freeland

Woody has been setting up his fire-starting stall beside his dad's edible weed ID stand at the Daylesford Sunday Farmer's Market. Like the mushroom ID stand Patrick offers in autumn, spring is weed time, and there are many beneficial autonomous plants to eat, make medicine from, preserve and ferment. None of these gems beneath our feet require climate altering transportation, weeds move around without industrial distribution systems.


Weed knowledges are just some of the things we've been sharing on our Permaculture Living Courses (PLCs) this spring. Foraging for weeds is a powerful way back to sensing what ecological economies might be performed in the near future. Weeds constitute about 5% of our diet, but because of their many health-filled properties this constitutes about 40% of our preventative medicines.

On the third and final 2018 PLC we hosted Ryan, Lucille and Clare for two weeks, and reperforming commons of all forms was central to the curriculum. As was making leek kraut, another arsenal in our preventative medicine chest as it is both a pre- and probiotic.


Just three students at a time is small enough to engage intimately with the many interrelationships and layered learnings within a permacultural neopeasant household. We began the course with a big list to get through, that grew and grew from this picture on...


Wood was collected on bikes from areas of forest where fuel reduction burns take place. We talked about the importance of reducing fuel load going into the fire season while at the same time leaving more than enough for habitat, mycelium and humus production.


We also scavenged useful materials from the tip such as chicken wire and fire wood. (If you're reading this in your inbox you'll need to click through to our blog to watch the video below).


We gathered elderflowers for brewing tonics and ciders in ready for the festive solstice period.


We planted pumpkins at the community garden, yet another goodly place for reclaiming and expanding the commons.


We prepped beds (double dug and humanured) in the Tree Elbow annual garden. By the time a PLC participant leaves The School of Applied Neopeasantry they would have been introduced to the imperatives of origin-known food. They are also introduced to our economic form: subsistence first (nourishment of household), surplus second (gifts in and out to community), money third (paying the rent and bills). If money by its very nature must grow as an economic form, and knowing what this means to terra mater, it must be sent into degrowth. Money constitutes just 30% of our economy now. We are active degrowth-ers.


Each day of the PLC, when we broke for refreshments, we engaged in discussions on the philosophy, poetics and politics of neopeasant economy, permaculture garden-farming, or regenerative culture making (take your pick of language). Oh, and the subject of Zero was a high priority...


While philosophy, poetics and politics are important, they are nothing without a sleeves-rolled-up pragmatism and a goodly interspecies back scratch.

While Ryan, Lucille and Clare were with us we updated our fire plan, a three page document featuring various codes and scenarios, and what our actions will be with each. We're sure this doc will be put to use a number of times this season.


We carried out a dress rehearsal on the first Very High day in early December. The PLC participants will no doubt call on such prep work well into their climate changed futures.


Bush fires are, of course, going to be more and more frequent, and more or less a direct feedback to neoliberal economics. Thanks Jordan Peterson environmentalism! Thanks neoliberals everywhere! Thanks belligerent Baby Boomers and your mainstay Ayn Rand ideology! Go get 'em Hercules, Superman, indulgence tourism! Plugging and filling our gutters with water is really such a quaint response to the climate leviathan so indelibly ready to pounce. But plug we will.


As a car-free family, we (ironically) need to be even more prepared on fire risky days than those with cars. Which days we stay home and defend and which days we leave early (on the bus out of town after hopefully persuading the driver to let Zero and his PTV rail approved dog carrier on board because we are, pleadingly, climate refugees) will be critical to call. Packing special items and required documents to have on hand throughout the season is just one of the many tasks listed on our plan.


Ryan, Lucille and Clare carried out fire mitigating work on public land nearby to Tree Elbow. This labour also has the benefit of ensuring a weedy commons is not sprayed with pesticides, burnt or bulldozed by one of the various land managers, and thus the weed cycle returned to phase one, again. Using chop and drop techniques and an old peasant trick of laying down a sheet of iron or a large board onto the brambles, we reduce fire risk while using the crushed material to make more humus for other (fire retarding) plants to grow within.


We made this video to highlight holistic, post-pesticide methods of fire and weed mitigation, which is not the same as traditional Djarra land management practices, due to the fact the A1 soil horizon, and thus the ecology, has changed so radically. However, like both contemporary and traditional Aboriginal principles of land care, our methods aim to incorporate fire-risk mitigation with ecological enhancement. Watch on our Youtube channel or below.


Fire is something we handle every day. For us it is a local, renewable energy. Our outdoor kitchen stove (repurposed from the tip) to fuel our 8-slice toaster made up of a wire rack (again from the tip), powered by wood (also from the tip) collected on foot or by bicycle. No grid is necessary. Being of the mindset that nothing needs replacing, things just need repurposing, remaking or mending, we move our household's economy further into a degrowth of money and debt, growing an abundance of relationships with people, forests, soil communities, knowledges, nourishment and skills.


And when the day's labours are done, and the heat is upon us, we descend to the lake with our big post-carbon rig. Just about everything we need comes from the tip, skip bins, op-shops, garage sales or from terra mater herself. A blow-up dinghy is only ever a reclaimed waste product, lovingly patched. It never comes new off the shelf. When the tip runs out of such things, then we'll learn to make our own canoes from scratch. This is powerdown in action.


Picnicking by the lake is a great chance to unwind, especially after the stresses of a day prepping for potential fire. Although it only turned out to be a dress rehearsal, it was a great opportunity to see where the weaknesses in our fire plan lie. Swimming in untreated lake water is so restorative after such a long, hot and windy day, especially after we'd been so pragmatically staying with the reality of climate chaos, trying not to lose our senses.


On the last night of the third PLC we invited the first 6 participants to join us. Nearly everyone was available. We walked with Liam, Cara, Ryan, Lucille, Clare, Moe and Marty up to the forest so each could see what the other had done in the commons to allay fire threat and continue the work of moving ecological succession into the next phase.


The PLC alumni came together for dinner and swapped notes and sang some sweet tunes. A tradition we'll keep going.


Marty and Cara, from The Rattlers, and the first PLC, gave a wee after dinner performance. (Again, you'll need to click through to our blog or Youtube channel to watch if you're reading this in your inbox).


Aren't they great! We're continually inspired by the love, labours and intent of young people on their respective regenerative culture making journeys.

Connor, Marta and Jeremy – the three Tree Elbow musketeers of 2017 – have all moved back to the area permanently, and are all brewing up special things of their own. Jeremy will be taking interns at his place in 2019, especially for those interested in learning all things curing animal skins, blacksmithing and other lost arts. Here he is with newcomer to town Tony, harvesting broad beans at the most recent community garden working bee.


Community garden working bees really get the love juices going. Through activities like gardening, the soil releases nonpathogenic Mycobacterium vaccae, which increases levels of serotonin and decreases levels of anxiety in mammals. Do it communally and you get oxytocin as a top up. Oxytocin is the bonding chemical found naturally in the body and exchanged between loved ones (including between dogs and humans). Though be aware, it also heightens awareness of enemies and potential threats. This smiling assassin will rake apart any mug who threatens terra mater.


And this mama, Lovely Duck, is also a fearsome warrioress when it comes to keeping her brood safe. It has been a pleasure to get to know her over the years. Her truly giving demeanour instructs us and lets us know what love is possible as radical homemakers.


There are many in our community who are actively engaging in a flow of gifts economy. These lil beauties were brought to us by Fiona and Edward from Adsum Farm. Kohlrabi kraut is the best! Knowing where the great majority of our food, medicine and energy comes from means we can better live accountably to our local land's logic and processes, and know what we need to give back to keep such abundance flowing.


Thank you Fiona and Edward for your generosity and nurture, and thank you Sari for your flame red morello cherries that you didn't want to see go to waste. They have lit our days; a wild morello cider is on the brew, and a bottle or two will boomerang back to you.


Flame red morello cider will be appreciatively consumed this summer as more and more fires will burn in the nation-state of Australia, never ceded. Bill Mollison famously wrote that, “Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple."


Fire is a wild force that could more than displace us and our community one day. Creation stories across the world speak of how humans tamed or procured fire as our first tool, and how we got burnt in the process. With climate change fire will be wilder and far less tameable. Djaara people haven't forgotten that Waa got burnt stealing the first tool and they are retelling that old story today. We would be wise to heed such a story.

Merry solstice everyone! May you continue to trust the fire in your bellies in 2019, and stoke your guts with goodly microbe-generating fibres and ferments from your homeplace hearths

If you would like to come and visit our homeplace we have three more house + garden tours coming up in 2019: Sunday 24 February, Sunday 31 March and Sunday 28 April.

Pic: Jennifer Polixenni Brankin
 Sending our very best wishes for the solstice and new year, much love from Artist as Family.

Monday, 12 November 2018

This is permacultural neopeasantry

It has been a very social time of late, guests from many places visiting with much sharing, learning and sleeves-rolled-up labouring. A lovely French couple, Ariane and Thomas, stopped in. They are making a film of transitioning peoples from around the world, and they provided us a very privileged bird's eye view of Tree Elbow University's School of Applied Neopeasantry, AKA our quarter-acre home ecology.


Thomas Dorleans even made this little mash up of the footage he took, which we layered with our mate Charlie's songful magic to make this little vid of the spring garden. (If you are reading this as an email subscription you'll need to click through to our blog to see it).


Thomas also took this lovely pic of us with our second Permaculture Living Course (PLC) participants, the delightful Christy, Moe and Liam. 


A PLC involves many differing skills and knowledges and any given day will include various songs of fermentation, cellaring, composting, sowing, harvesting, soil prepping, building, cooking, repairing tools, community gardening, community forest stewardship and fire prevention work, to list just a few things. Woody has been making a series of videos of late of such labours and learnings and this one shows the work Christy, Moe and Liam carried out to continue the fire prevention and ecology enhancing programme we've initiated on the south-west edge of the town, based on David Holmgren's and the Spring Creek community's volunteer work over the past 25 years in Hepburn.


This work complements and extends the beautiful labours that Cara, Marty and Teeka were doing in the previous PLC. Make and Play bush school kids, Woody, Luna, Fab and Leah, hang out while gently absorbing the volunteer service work of adults taking responsibility for their futures. 


Make and Play has been going for two years now and we have been learning so much about forest biomes, edible weeds and wild foods, and how to make magic, simple tools and build collaborative skills.


Patrick is about to start Feral and Free, a group for older kids, which will be a radical, less formal form of Scouts. If you would like more info please email him. Patrick has also been offering his weedy and feral knowledges at the Daylesford Sunday Farmers' Market, collecting donations for the community gardens in exchange for proclaiming the edible and medicinal properties of numerous weed species. His next weedy appearance will be on Sunday 2 December between 10-12 noon.


While Meg has been sharing her fermenting knowledges at the monthly Daylesford Culture Club meet-ups. In December she will be facilitating a miso-making workshop. Make sure you follow the Hepburn Relocalisation Network for details to come.

Photo: Mara Ripani
Other guests we have hosted recently include Eva Perroni and Eric Holt-Giménez, who came to stay with us on their tour of Australia for the Food for Thought and Action series. With Eva we put together the Land for Life event as part of this series, and it will soon be available as a video on our Youtube channel. Community elder and permie activator, Su Dennett, joined us for a post Land for Life breakfast.


The Land for Life event, featuring Bec Phillips, David Holmgren and Eric, was a remarkable moment in our community, drawing on indigenous, permacultural and post-capital relationships concerning food, land, culture and economy. The night transcended typical heady discussions to become more about trust building and healing the traumas of our imperialist pasts, each as capital subjects and actors of varying degree.


It is always sobering after such a powerful event to return to the stuff of the everyday, using the body for what we call productive yoga – lifting, hauling, cutting, stirring, holding, shaking, walking, mixing, harvesting, digging, sitting, throwing, forking, running, thrusting, hurling, bending, squatting, etc. All these things constitute the biophysical rhythms of the day from stretching the gluten of the spelt dough, to mixing the weed or poultry teas, or sifting the dry potash from the char to make a range of home-brewed fertilisers required for the garden. In combination they call us home to a certain presence of mind, through the body,


like hanging out the family cloth, for example. Each cloth, after being washed, is 'ironed' by the palm of our hand as we prepare them for the drying rack. They dry by the solar of the sun (outside) or by the solar of our hand axed and walked-for wood (inside). Many small, repetitive tasks throughout the day mosaic into a rich order of productions, which together constitute as low an impact life as we can currently achieve. We were once fecaphobes, now we are fecaphiles, as our brightly singing family cloths and humanure soils attest.


And it is this that we aim to impart during each of our PLCs. Below Christy, Moe and Liam plant out our home-raised tomato and basil seedlings into our newly prepped humanure compost annual beds. Closing the poop loop and saving seeds are two very powerful processes that enable us to live off the industrial food grid and therefore divest from that sector of capitalism.


Running these courses has been extremely rewarding and heartwarmingly positive. Building relationships are everything within regenerative-gifting economies, and the social warming that takes place in a PLC is certainly the sympoetic honey on the cake. 

Many thanks for reading. We look forward to responding to your comments and questions. If you are inspired by what we do please subscribe to this blog or Youtube page, and tell a friend or two about the things we're up to. It's your social network that will help to share and expand a culture of households who are in transition from damaging forms of economy to a culture that includes a plethora of regenerative and life-giving household responses to the predicament of our times.


***

Before we go we'd like to tell you about a number of forthcoming events:

A talk
Patrick is giving a talk in Melbourne on Wednesday November 14 at Hawthorn Library (584 Glenferrie Rd). The talk, entitled Here come the neo-peasants, is about how and why we live like we do and what are the social, environmental and climate imperatives of transitioning to low carbon lifeways. Entry is free. More info here.

A tour
We have one more house and garden tour for the year on Sunday November 25 from 1.30pm - 4.30pm. Tickets are $32.74 (incl. booking fee) and includes afternoon tea. You can buy tickets here.

More PLCs
Would you like to do a Permaculture Living Course? Do you understand the permaculture ethics and principles but are not sure what it means to embody them in your everyday life? Are you already on the path away from a pervasive pollution-consumption ideology but want to take it much further? Our next round of applications to do a PLC at Tree Elbow University's School of Applied Neopeasantry are open. Head here for more info about what's involved. And please email us if you'd like an application form. Applications close Friday November 23. The three autumn 2019 PLC dates are:

Feb 25 - March 10
April 1 - 14
April 29 - May 12

PLCs are 100% non-monetary and 100% non-accredited.