Monday, 28 March 2016

In praise of the teen age

While we were on our book tour — the first Artist as Family adventure Zeph has missed —he asked his dad whether they could go away together when the rest of us returned. This weekend the two of them decided on Bright. To get there they bussed from Daylesford,


caught another bus at Woodend and zoomed down the range to Southern Cross in Melbourne.


They then caught a train to Wangaratta, where they biked around. Zeph showing his old man a thing or two about a different sort of biking,


while Patrick showed his eldest a skill or two at sniffing out a goodly stealth camp on the edge of town.


The next day they bussed on to Bright and found a lovely streamside campsite where only bicycles and walkers could get to. Zeph marked the land with teenage exuberance,


but after watching the documentary Crude (in the tent on the first night), about the poisoning of Amazonian rivers, soils and people by an American petroleum company, Zeph was immediately more sensitive to riding near streamside ecology let alone enter the water with his greasy bike.


Zeph has quickly become a competent bike mechanic. Without a bike shop in our town, he has taught himself everything he needs to know to maintain and fix his bicycle. Before we left he ordered a new derailleur but it hadn't arrived, so he shortened the chain and made his bike into a single speed for the time being. Nothing was going to stop his week away riding downhill in Bright. Even climbing the magical Mystic mountain without gears,


in order to come down through the many varied and tricky tracks the mountain has to offer.


Patrick was fast falling in love with the intensity of mountain riding. Before they'd left he'd done some work on Meg's old mountain bike and put a pack rack on the back to carry most of the gear. The two came down from Mystic, after their first morning, on quite a high. Patrick headed off to do some work on his new manuscript, while Zeph headed to the skate park to work on his stunts. Then disaster struck.


After the intense concentration of the morning and after an hour of tricks at the skate park, Zeph rolled his bike over to sit under the canopy of a tree, moving slowly to a resting place, taking off his sweat laden helmet before down he came. In his tiredness he miscalculated and landed heavily on his shoulder, breaking his collar bone.


Initially devastated, Zeph soon became philosophical. What can you do about it but take it in your stride. He is of course gutted to have his biking days once again reduced to broken-boned rest and recuperation for several weeks. But, then again, these are the life choices he makes and knows he has to take ownership. It's a teen age, and there's so much to learn and process and set forward, with returns, retreats and even collapse just as much a part of it. Go Zeph! We love your spirit.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Firing up the (mostly moneyless) home economies

Our last post ended with the butchering of a large car-killed male kangaroo on the morning we rode into our home town on the last day of our three month book tour. This sad and angry moment, which became an opportunity to store a large amount of meat for Zero and us, has triggered a month of joyous local resource gathering, starting with dandelion coffee making.


We have harvested carrots, potatoes and beetroots that we planted before we left.


Revived our sourdough starter and made bread for home and friends. Friends and neighbours have also bestowed upon us many foody gifts, understanding our home production is at a low ebb courtesy of being on the road so long, coupled with an extremely dry year. They know, as do we, that what goes around comes around. Thanks Bob and Beth, Pete, Alison, Su, Maria, Nick and Larch, Lena, Beverly, Kate and Bren, Bee and Ra, and Andrew. 


Planted out new beds and put our permie love shack on Airbnb — proudly the cheapest, most primitive tourist accommodation in Daylesford.


And for money (and love) Meg is back at Melliodora writing, editing, answering emails and phones.


Back on the non-monetary home front, we've been walking daily for our fuel,


hand cutting and wheelbarrowing, readying for the winter.


We've been preserving fruit and vegetables, using the free service of the sun.


We've brewed up weed teas as bio-intensive soil foods for our winter crops of leek, kale, coriander, garlic, cabbage, carrot and spinach.


We've harvested apples.


We've pulled wild radish seedlings from the newly sown beds and used these autonomous greens in our salads and roo stews.


We've both admired and salivated over the kiwi fruits that are slowly readying themselves for our bellies.


We've been propagating tenacious spores of the edible King Stropharia (Stropharia rugosoannulata) mycelium,


to add to woody material (currently fermenting) in the attempt to get them naturalised in the perennial food forest parts of the garden. Hopefully soon we will be eating the delicious wine cap mushrooms they produce.


We've been setting snares for occasional rabbit nourishment,


and poaching unwanted fence-line grapes on our by-foot travels through our locasphere food commons.


And, over the past month since we've been home, we've also had several book events that in a way has extended our book tour. We have travelled by bus, train, bike and on foot to Geelong, Bright, Warburton and this weekend we're in Woodend for the Macedon Ranges Sustainable Living Festival where Patrick will be appearing on two panels discussing sustainable food with local food friends Tammi Jonas, John Reid and Justin Walsh, and where Artist as Family will be performative exhibitors. We hope to see you there.

Monday, 1 February 2016

The last drenched leg (of our mostly pedal-fuelled book tour – Genoa to Daylesford)

At Genoa, we said goodbye to Maya and James and rode 50 kms to Cann River, where we got a complete soaking.


The next day we rode 40 kms to Bellbird, where we found a free camp to dry out,


before riding on towards Orbost, coming across a novel road sign mirage, conjuring the future.


At about this time (actually, it went to print on Survival Day) Patrick had his first commentary piece published in a major newspaper. Unsurprisingly, the well-shared SMH article was about bicycles and the lack of access they are given on roads and with public transport hook-ups in NSW.


But, alas, we were finding the same thing in Victoria, at least in regard to suitable shoulders to ride on. We got off the near-death A1 Princes Highway and quietly meandered down to Cape Conran, where for a rare moment or two we acknowledged the 'dog on a lead' directive, until the local hounds told us otherwise.


We rode the flat dairy floodplain lands of the Gunaikurnai people to Marlo, and riding on we were suddenly impressed with the peasant architecture along the lower reaches of the Snowy River.


After another wet night in Orbost we stopped in at the Nowa Nowa Caravan Park to rest with friends Yael and Matt, who strum more than an interesting tune or two.


We cooked communally and played with their kids Esse, Dante and the great stick gatherer Akira.


We made slingshots,


and went fishing,


learned to ride bikes,


and fall off them,


we played on sharp things,


and performed many more timely lessons not taught in school before we got onto another quiet C road to Bairnsdale, treated to a generous shoulder almost the whole way. What relief!


In Bairnsdale we once more dried out our wet gear,


and waited for the evening train to Melbourne as our Gippsland book event never materialised. We hopped on a train, were treated to a night's stay with Matt's kind mum Linda in the city, and caught another train to Woodend, from where we began our last 40 kms.


In Lyonville, where our book begins, Woody took his last roadside wee for a while.


We pedalled to Bullarto, just shy of our town Daylesford, and fell into the arms of Zeph and Mel, who were awaiting our return.


Woody's and Zeph's reunion was a pleasure to behold,


and Mel cooked us a beautiful dinner of her homemade gnocchi.


We all bunkered down for the night, AaF excitedly inhabiting Zeph's room at Mel's like a slumber party. Zeph's first day of Year 8 saw to an early start the next day, and as we pedalled into Daylesford we were greeted by this handsome young guy, who's full creaturely life was cut short by the imperatives of human-centric industry — AKA fast mobility.


After a quick call to our our special vegetarian mate Pete, he arrived to help us transport the largest roadkill animal we've ever processed, and he kindly offered his place to do the butchering.


Thankful of not becoming roadkill ourselves during our 90 day, 20 event book tour, we honoured this car-killed beast, spending our first day home preparing his interrupted life into little packages of energy that will be part of our homecoming fuel to fire back up our household economy.

A big meaty Thank You! to everyone we met and/or stayed with on the road during our book tour, to everyone who joins us on social media and to those of you who have contacted us to let you know you've read our book and of the actions of positive change you've implemented. Keep them coming.

Farewell for now. We look forward to your company on the webs next time.

Love, AaF xx

Sunday, 24 January 2016

From Gerroa to Genoa (Wet days, warm people, dangerous roads and Dark Emu visitations)

We left Warm Showers Claire, who was busy hosting a number of sodden cycle tourers, such as this jolly soloist Angus,


and rode out of Gerroa to begin our coastal descent. In Nowra we bumped into more fellow pedalist comrades who were riding around the world from France to raise awareness about climate change,


before our book event at Dean Swift ABC book shop, where we spoke to the possibilities of climate changed economies and societies of regard.


More rain and more barely ripe public stonefruit in southern Nowra,


and we were off on another wet leg,


to Huskisson, where booksellers Noela and Jill greeted us for a little signing event,


and Jill and her man David


put us up for the night, avoiding another soaking from the tricky gods of acummulating clouds. We'd had enough of things by now. Dangerous roads, anti-cyclist drivers, unrelenting rains. So we mapped out the alternative (option 2 Huskisson back to Albury),


and even though we thought it would be easier to cancel the remains of the tour and ride back to Nowra, train to Sydney, train to Goulbourn, ride to Albury, train to Melbourne, train to Woodend and ride the last 40 kms home, we didn't. Something in us wanted to see this through.

Our decision was confirmed by this sweet family, who had read about us in their local paper a year earlier, got in touch and invited us to stay a night.


Ah, the comfort of strangers! Thanks Jo, Bren, Lucinda, Sam and Eliza. Even more gifts awaited us when we returned to one of our favorite guerilla camping spots south of Mollymook.


Last year we ate limpets and speared fish on coals at Collers Beach. This year Zero caught us a big rabbit,


and Patrick speared another bag of fish, including this leatherjacket and red mowrang for one of our meals.


We poached the rabbit in the billy for 25 mins and the flesh just slipped off the bones onto our fingers and into our mouths. For we hungry locavores it was a near perfect moment.


Living on Collers Beach for a few days further nourished our decision to complete this tour.


Further south in Batemans Bay we bumped into Justine and Pat, who like us were perfecting the practice of very very slow travel. When we all met up at about 3pm one afternoon, they'd travelled a whooping 2 kms for the day. We congratulated their efforts. It's a momentous achievement to go that slow in such a savagely fast world.


While they headed north, we trundled several kms down the road to Batehaven and set up camp on some marginal land beside a little creek inlet.


On the gentler coast road to Moruya we stopped to chat to northbound rider Rapha el, a French tourist.


We picked up supplies from the wonderful bulk wholefoods store when we arrived in town, and rode on as our event had been cancelled at Moruya Books due to a boating accident in the business. We pedalled on to Old Mill Road Biofarm and kept the boating accidents at bay while we cooled down in Kirsti, Marlin, Pickle and Fraser's luscious dam,


before feasting with this awesome lot — the brains and brawn behind one of the best market gardens on the south coast. As you can imagine the food was exceptional, cooked up by French chefs Nina and Elsa, who may well come and stay with us in Daylesford.


Southwards we rode, on and on our legs rotating, water in litres emptied down our throats, making the brief transit through our varied metabolisms out onto our clothes to transform into what we call cyclist stench. We stayed with this lovely family in Narooma (thanks Barry, Jimmie, Goldy and Em!),



rode on to Tilba,


with the kind promise of a lift to avoid the death trap 10 kms north of Cobargo where Meg and Woody had a near miss thirteen months earlier on our big trip. The kind offer came from Ronnie and her super family of Norris's, where we got to spend a few days, sit out more rain, swim with them at Bermagui, drink real cows milk and speak on air to one of our favourite ABC presenters, Ian Campbell.


When the sun poked through we hightailed it to Bega, our bikes hitching a ride with Ronnie's sweet folks in an empty trailer that was predestined for the southern coastal city, and climbed 10 kms west to Autumn Farm to stay with Annie and Genevieve and their kids Oscar and Olive (AKA Jo). They cooked us a beautiful meal in their stunning radical homemakers' kitchen.


The next day we were greeted by 45 enthusiastic Bega-ites who came to our foraging workshop and/or our book event at the wonderful Candelo Books. All the crazy summer traffic, physical fatigue and rain was rendered totally worth it by this enthusiatic mob.


The Princes Highway is a national road with many signs warning drivers of oncoming petrol stops, beach spots, drowsy driving, narrow bridges, overtaking lanes and wildlife. The highway provides, more or less, a safe lane for both northbound and southbound cars and trucks. But despite the daily use of this road by cyclists, almost nothing appears that aids our safety. This is what a typical lane looks like for a cyclist.


We're supposed to stick between the dangerous loose gravelly bit and the far left white line (intersecting on Zero's head in the photo). Now marry the above image with this one below and you'll get a fairly accurate assessment of just how much work there is to do to create safe transit ways for non-polluters in Australia.


Respite from the terror of this highway was found once more when we stopped in to visit Dale and Jenni in Eden again.


These two lovelies put us up last time we rode through Eden. They cooked up a beautiful feast of their home-produced chicken and veggies,


and the next morning Dale offered to drop us 25 kms down the highway where he had to drive to work.


Despite all the generous and wonderful people on the South Coast we didn't enjoy cycling down this highway on the first big trip. And this time has been little different with few opportunities to get onto quieter roads, so getting to the Victorian border signalled a kind of home coming, a kind of relief.


About four months ago, before we left on our tour, Patrick had contacted Bruce Pascoe to see whether we could visit him at Gipsy Point near Mallacoota. Bruce's book Dark Emu is a remarkable work of Australian history written by an Aboriginal writer concerning the profound and little known agrarianism that existed in Australia pre-colonisation. His book opens the door to a completely alternative history. We spoke in his nursery,


where he is growing yam daisies (murnongs), which were once a big part of the Aboriginal economies of regard in south-temperate Australia pre 1788. He gave us some seed to plant out in April. Dr Beth Gott, an ethnobotanist from Monash University, claims that a murnong tuber has nearly 10 times the nutrient properties of a potato and was an important part of the health of Aboriginal people.


It was in Mallacoota, Gipsy Point and Genoa that we hooked up with our friends Maya and James, who came with us to meet Bruce and his partner Lyn. Bruce offered us his boat to go fishing in and we cruised the gentle waters of the Genoa River, fishing for tailor, speaking of our river loves without, of course, the use of a motor.


We hope, Dear Reader, that whatever propels you forward into your days this year is just as enjoyable, thrilling, frightening and vital as what has been casting us forward. Thank you for accompanying us on this leg of our journey.