Artist as Family practice a unique form of performance art. Performances comprise how we live, get our food and move around; performing low-carbon modes of life making. We invite you to contribute comments and share your own experiences and knowledges as we travel Australia by bicycle, skip on the greenwash and attempt to pioneer truly sustainable food and travel ways in an era of destabilising climate, ecological crises, economic contraction and energy powerdown.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The sodden leg (Hyams Beach to Sam's Creek, Cobargo)

Well, this was by far our wettest leg in nearly thirteen months of straying. 

We left Hyams Beach in the afternoon, climbed a short steep ridge and followed the Old Wool Road down to Sanctuary Point where we found a stealthy camp site on the edge of St George's Basin, and got cooking dinner.


We're going to miss these moments.


But perhaps not the deluge that came down that night, flooding our campsite and wetting every dry thing we possessed. We packed up between showers the next morning, throwing all and sundry into our panniers and hightailed it out of the bog.


After about an hour's ride south we stopped at a roadside café for some grub and warm drinks and found this little guy had buried into Meg's neck.


We human four haven't had many ticks this trip, but we've pulled hundreds from Zero. We check him a dozen times each day, usually when he's getting a scratch or a tickle, to make sure he is tick free. While warming up with our breakfast we flicked through the local paper and found, well, us:


The article didn't exactly get our story right but it was nice to see ourselves in drier and warmer times back in Huskisson.

With our steaming panniers of wet bedding and clothes we climbed the narrow and dangerous road to Milton. We rode past a B&B and it was just too tempting. Dot the host was in her garden. 'How much for a night?' we inquired hopefully. She replied with a figure that was above our budget. We thanked her and waved goodbye, but as we were heading off she yelled out another figure (sans breakfast) and we immediately backed up, tears of delight streaming down our cheeks and we set about washing and drying our gear and ourselves and settling in to a night of comparative luxury. Thanks so much Dot and Lewis!


The next day was bright and cheerful and we rode a short hilly distance to Mollymook where Patrick spent many childhood holidays in the 70s and 80s. His grandmother had retired there, and a favourite place his family would go to was the Bogie Hole.


We again set up a stealth camp just south of the point from this idyllic place, and stayed for three nights on the dog friendly beach there. Ordinarily we break three council by-laws all at once –  NO camp, dog, fire. But this time it was only two.


We foraged limpets (Cellana tramoserica), otherwise known as sea snails, on the rocks,


which we put straight on the coals. Delish!


Patrick spearfished in the weeds off the rocks and we ate Morwongs aplenty,


which were gutted by Zeph, cooked on the beach fire and devoured until there was nothing left.


Woody cut his finger while on the rocks and Meg brought out the most prized possession in her medical chest.


You don't get this kind of beam from anything other than two and a quarter years of guzzling boob juice. No industry science is nearly capable of such utter nutritional sophistication.


We moved on towards Lake Tabourie and Zeph showed Woody the basics of spearing a fish.


But it was a little further on where we camped beside the Tabourie Creek that we were sucessful in spearing two small mullet to use as bait fish.


But our luck ran out there and before dinner, which didn't include fish, the heavens opened and we were again under the influence of a significant storm. We made a crude biscuit and cheese dinner in one of the tents and went to bed early, waking to another session of drying logistics.


We rode on along the Princes Highway coming across more telling signifiers of too much affluence,


and Anthropogene intransigence,


until we were stopped just before Moruya by this happy bunch of seniors who wanted to know our story, and who had done a quick whip around hat collection for our troubles. We have knocked back donations in the past but because this was an insisting collective effort we couldn't refuse.


Just on from the bus tourers we spotted Pat, Don and Brent and we wanted to hear their stories, which were ones of maiden adventure and big bicycle dreams,


before heading into Moruya with a bag full of gold coins to find a place to have a big feed. Sometimes you just don't know how ravenous you are until someone drops a wad of money into your palm and shows you a bloody good café serving local organic food. We certainly needed the extra sustenance. We rode fifty-five very hilly kms from Batemens Bay to Tuross that day to hook up with Fraser and Kirsti, their kids Marlin and Pickles, and their co-workers from their Old Mill Road Biofarm, who were holding their end of year party both on and beside the water.


We were promised a mussel feast but again the weather had other ideas. We hurriedly set up camp and everyone else scattered before another great deluge.


The next day we packed up wet again and cycled over to Fraser and Kirsti's beautiful market garden farm and reestablished our camp under the newly erected hops trellis.


We were so impressed with their planning, plantings and crop rotations, which are meticuluously worked out on this blackboard by Kirsti.


We were again treated to delicious produce and many communal lunches and dinners with this lovely family and their awesome interns Erin and Christina. We were eager to gift in return so we helped out with harvesting, pickling, cooking, cleaning up, hanging out washing, and we took everyone on a weed walk indentifying 25 autonomous edibles happily growing in the beautiful soils on the farm.


Patrick delighted in showing off the wonders of bulrush (Typha) bulbs.


Sadly it was time to push on but not before another 100mm of rain extended our stay another day. We still hadn't snapped a good family portrait and on the day we actually departed Fraser left very early in the morning for Sydney. Luckily Fraser's brother Ewan, a student from Melbourne who comes regularly to the farm to help out, stood in his place to snap a family pic.


We left the farm through sodden paddocks,


and pedalled out onto the highway with immediate warning signs flashing the results of the region's heavy rains.


We stopped for a cup of tea at Blue Earth Café in Bodalla and met Mark and Meret, the green-thumb parents of the café owners,


who grow a considerable proportion of the food for the café onsite.


So inspiring to see Mark and Meret! We rode on to Narooma surf beach for a quick play,


stealth camp,


and a chance meeting with Grace and Dave. Dave told us about his six year walk from Perth to Sydney along the coast, mainly walking along the beaches and headlands, taking footage for a film. We can't wait to see it.


We then sailed into Mystery Bay and made lunch. This is where we met traditional custodians Uncle Wally Stewart and his son Corey, who are descendants of Walbunga and Yuin men.


Wally not only granted us permission to be on his country but took us to his family's traditional camping ground where he invited us to stay. He got us up to speed about his beef with NSW fisheries and the very profitable abalone industry. Both he says, work together to stop Aboriginal people accessing their traditional foods. The Facebook page for the NSW Aboriginal fishing rights group gives more details. Wally spoke of the health pathologies of local Aboriginal people which, like common in the rest of the country, comes back to the economic imperatives of the western diet. If governments really wanted to help Aboriginal people they would see fit that large areas of land, river and ocean were made accessible so they could enact their traditional economics of health and well-being as well as custodianship on country. A decent society would put this ahead of any industry.


Wally and Corey left us to set up camp, and while Meg was putting Woody down for his daytime sleep, Zeph, Zero and Patrick went to see what they could find for dinner. They nearly stepped on two snakes trying to squeeze some solar radiation out of the cool rock cliffs and soon found some limpets to collect,


Patrick speared a crab,


and Zeph foraged some Neptune’s necklace (Hormosira banksii),


which we prepared with some of Kirsti and Fraser's produce at Wally and Corey's family camp.


Then just after dinner down came the rain once again, so heavy it collapsed part of the shelter. We took it in turns to keep the pooling weight off the canvas roof and just watched in awe as the heavens let loose.


For the first 12 months of this trip we could count the days we've had of rain on one hand. It seems like this stretch along the NSW south coast is making up for such a dry year on the road. We are certainly getting tired of the extra work the rain brings with it, although we know that this is what living outside is all about and rain is such an essential part of the function of a healthy biosphere. With the promise of another 20-40mm, we packed up the next morning, rode across country,


to Tilba for a cuppa,


and headed on to stay with an old blogosphere friend, Rhonda Ayliffe and her family just north of Cobargo. It was on this stretch of road that we had our closet call. We looked up the name of the trucking company of the driver concerned and made a call:



It was such a relief to pull off the highway at Ronnie's farm. So good to meet you in person Alexander, Rhonda, Eliza Jane and Phil. Thank you for the dry and warmth and love of your home.


And thank you Dear Reader for joining us on this sodden leg.

We are going to be giving a talk on permaculture travelling to some good folk at Sweet Home Cobargo this Saturday the 13th at 1pm. If you are nearby, we'd love to see you there.


Friday, 28 November 2014

Moss Vale to Hyams Beach (with a video recipe for eating garden snails)

We left Moss Vale with full bellies and much family cheer, but an aching to be on the open road again. The Illawarra Highway welcomed us with mostly broad shoulders.


Just before the little potato town of Robertson, Zero jumped bike and chased lunch down a hole. But he really needed some more skilful help – another Jacky, a feret or Andrew Ucles perhaps.


It will have to be spuds for lunch, then.


Just out of town we spotted some naturalised elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum) growing among the bracken fern (Pteridium sp.) – another edible, but only in a survival situation – and roadside weeds.


Great! Something to take to the Milkwood crew, now of Kiama.


We flew down Jamberoo Pass with our newly replaced brake pads smokin',


and arrived in Kiama mid-afternoon. Patrick thought he'd try to spear some fish to also bring to the Milkwood table, but he only speared this estuary cobbler or catfish (Cnidoglanis) thinking it was an eel. These fish have large venomous dorsal and pectoral-fin spines that are capable of inflicting very painful wounds. He put this ugly but divine critter back in the ocean and watched it swim away.


We did collect a turban shell (Turbo undulata),


that we hammered open to cook at Nick, Kirsten and Ashar's place. Hello Milkwood family! So good to meet you again after all these years.


The turban shell was, well, typically shellfish-like with a strong scent of pork as we cooked it in strained pig fat. We were blessed with an extended piggy feast that night: the pork was served up with bone broth noodles and our elephant garlic. A few days later we were to become intimate with the origin of that very local pork,


which we'll get to shortly. The next day we walked around to the Boneyard, a famous surfing haven when conditions are right, and went in search of lunch. Before long Patrick speared what we think is a wrasse of some kind,


and Zeph took us on a short fish gutting demo. Thanks Zeph!


While at the Boneyard we munched on some Warrigal greens (Tetragonia tetragonioides),


noted (not quite ripe) cape gooseberries (Physalis peruviana),


and saw loads of the edible weed cobbler's peg, otherwise known as farmer's friend (Bidens pilosa).


We picked some wild brassica leaves and flowers,


and some pigface (Carpobrotus glaucescens) fruit,


and with foraged sow thistle, wild fennel and some leaf vegeatables and herbs growing in Nick and Kirsten's new garden we made a salad,


to accompany the fish for lunch. It was a delicious and very local meal.


Milkwood had organised for us to speak at the Little Blowhole Café that night, where we shared our year's story with about 40 peeps. There was so much to say, and so little time, and so many great questions!


Thanks Nick and Kirsten for hosting us! It has been wonderful to get to know you both and Ashar better. Two of the people who came along to our talk were the very farmers of the delicious pork we'd had the previous night and they invited us to camp at their organic farm in Gerringong. This is the view we cycled across, looking south to Gerringong. Pretty horrid, hey??


We arrived at Buena Vista Farm and Woody jumped straight into the strawberry patch. It was serious work.


And in that same patch were hundreds of snails (Helix aspersa) that Maarten, a dutch WWOOFer working at the farm with his partner Marlies, collected up and demonstrated how to turn into a valuable source of meat. Brilliant Maarten, we love experimental permies!


We had two precious days of exchanging knowledges with the Buena Vista crew. We learnt more about cell grazing chickens and cows and market gardening, and Patrick took a foraging tour over the farm, identifying a dozen or so common weed species including plantain, hawksbeard, dandelion, black nightshade, dock, chickweed, stinging nettle, fat hen, fleabane, spear thistle, sow thistle, clover, cobbler's peg and amaranth.


After lunch we walked across a neighbour's farm to the coast to go for a spear,


and brought back two fishy offerings for the dinner table feast on our last night.


The feast included locally farmed trout, which Buena Vista had traded for some of their meat birds, and roasted parsnips pulled straight out of the rich organic market garden soil. Like at Milkwood we were treated to the region's finest fare. Thank you Fi, Adam, Henry, Tilly, Ivy, Holly the dog and the delightful (and knowledgeable) interns, Maarten and Marlies! Our stay at Buena Vista Farm was a true treat!


Before leaving the farm we realised we had a bit of a problem.


The seat post we had welded on the way up north in Gosford was showing signs of stress after about 6000 kms. Fi was going to Nowra on the morning we were leaving, so she kindly offered to load up her car with our panniers and we put the bikes on the train for the 18 km joy ride,


to Bomaderry station. Fi, who also took Zeph and Zero, met us there, where we bid farewell to this amazing woman, and rode across town to south Nowra where the alumimium welder Jason was waiting for us.


Only $20! Thanks Jason! We love not having a car! By the time we left the workshop it was 38 degrees in the shade. Zeph wished we did have a car. The heat surprised us, and so did this sign:


Wow, we're that close to home. We struggled on the short and dangerous ride to Huskisson but were rewarded for our efforts at Shark Net Beach on Jervis Bay. Where else would you want to be on such a baking afternoon?


This south coast really is remarkable. We got the free-camping low-down from some friendly locals who set our course on a 15 minute bike ride south to Plantation Point, which from our tents looked like this:


The boys made themselves at home,


and the dawns pretty much emmulated this one:


Pure dawn porn! We settled in for four nights in our quiet haven. One of the joys of cycle-camping is being able to get away from cars and vans and into areas where their various pollutions can't follow us. It was quiet at Plantation Point, the sleepy surf rocked us to sleep and created a perfect white noise to sleep past the little night sighs of our toddler and the sleep talk of Zero and Zeph. Ah bliss...

While at Plantation Point we spearfished and fished off the rocks with the remains of a bull shark some local fishermen had left behind. 


Zeph wrote a synopsis of Lord of the Flies and answered the question: Put yourself on the island: what would you do differently?


We ate native violets (Viola hederacea), the flowers and leaves,


and rock oysters (Saccostrea glomerata),


and we started to document seaweeds,


before we moved on just 10 kms south to Hyams Beach where we continued our research on these common Australian algaes we really know nothing about.


We're sure there is good tucker in at least some of these species.


If you know anything about edible seaweeds in Australia, Dear Reader, we'd love to hear from you.


Zero conducted his own research – chance canine encounters and coastal bird chasing.


We walked south along the white sand beach towards the navy college, musing, not on the education of young people in the business of man-made mass death, but on all the wondrous finds of regenerative life we came across along the way including this jellyfish,


American sea rocket, (Cakile edentula), which has thick succulent edible leaves.



beautiful marine jewellery,


and even more varieties of kelp.


Our walk was cathartic. Boys on a beach is a joy to behold; it doesn't get any more uncomplicated.


That night we again snuck the bikes into the beachside bush, picked up a bag of rubbish in exchange for our camping fees,


waited for dusk and the departure of the daily beachfolk before we set up our tents, cooked dinner, put Woody and Zero to bed and lit a little evening fire to help us reflect on the past few weeks.


That's about all from us this post. We'll see you again shortly, Dear Reader. We hope you too have comfort and warmth from the love of kin and healthy ecologies.