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.

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.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

The family leg (Willoughby to Moss Vale via Wilberforce)

The morning we packed up to leave Patrick's sister's home in the leafy northern burbs of Sydney,


the Sydney Morning Herald was awash with letters referring to a particular article.


The content of the article and its subsequent letters were not at all news to us, however seeing this content published in a major newspaper was. Australia has been smug about energy for decades; our odious car culture is built upon it. Power to the people without petroleum seemed like the right byline to head out on our bikes again, only we didn't ride far before, for the second time in the year, we put Zero in a box and boarded a train.


Breaking laws has been a big part of our trip. As long as no one gets hurts or anything is damaged we think a law is open for interpretative experimentation. Zero would certainly be happier if he didn't have to suffer the humiliation of being disappeared from view. Sorry Zero! But we'll have to wait for Sydney's cars to be out of petrol before we attempt to cycle out of this particular city.


Our train took us south over the Harbour Bridge, west towards the foothills of the Blue Mountains and then north to Windsor station. North you ask? Yes, briefly. We were asked to give a talk at Permaculture Sydney West and to stay with Danielle Wheeler, who is actively involved with PSW, and her family in Wilberforce.


We had stayed with Danielle and Mark, their son Patrick and pooch Rory on the way up about ten months earlier and it was a joy to visit them again. But we couldn't linger, our Patrick's mum's birthday was approaching and we wanted to be in the Southern Highlands to celebrate it with her.

On the way out of Wilberforce we came across swathes of roadside balloon vine (Cardiospermum grandiflorum) and while there is much ethnobotanical information on its sister plant Cardiospermum halicacabum, which is also called balloon vine (so confusing), there are no uses or benefits listed online for C. grandiflorum. We think the young leaves could make a good cooked vegetable,


and the seeds could be used medicinally as is the case with C. halicacabum, but we need to do some more research. Perhaps our friend Diego Bonetto knows?


Back in Danielle's garden another balloon-like-flower plant, the Cape gooseberry (Physalis peruvians), grows without care,


producing delicious fruits which we got to sample.


And further back on Palm Island (in August) we found native or wild gooseberry (Physalis angulata), also called (rather confusingly) balloon cherry and is related to, but not to be confused with, Cape gooseberry.


After a day's ride we arrived in Luddenham and pitched our tents near the Showies (once called Carnies) at the show ground and cooked some grub.


The next morning we were keen to get an early start so we skipped on cooking porridge, packed up the tents and headed up the road to the service station to buy some juice to put on our oats, ginger, raisins and chia seed breakfast of champions.


As we slowly climbed to the cool Southern Highlands, autonomous stone fruits began to appear.


As did black nightshade (Solanum nigrum), which we rate as one of the most adaptable species in Australia following us all the way from cold Daylesford to Cape York and back again.


Its leaf and fruit shape seem to vary from soil to soil, region to region, but as far as we're aware it's the same species. We harvested the following plant on North Stradbroke Island in May. You can see the leaf here is finer and less hairy than in the colder climates.


Thirty kms north of Camden the tandem's front tyre burst a hole and Patrick, Zeph and Zero came to a dramatic stop. We had absent-mindedly left our spare tyres in Sydney (under the cousin's mulberry tree) and so we had to draw on our wits to get us out of this dilemma. We went foraging for old rubber material, found an old truck tyre, fashioned a piece to fit, repaired the tube, which had also burst, and hobbled on to Camden.


Thanks for the help and the generous discount Camden Cycles.


On the way to Picton we passed unintentionally planted fat hen or lamb's quarters (Chenopodium album),


old wild rose hips (Rosa canina),


and new shoots of roadside wild fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), obviously thriving on all the Roundup its been getting.


We arrived in the town with the rain and observed all of civility's industrial pollutants (mainly car detergents) being washed from the road into the little nameless creek that runs under the main drag,


before being snapped by the local press.


In almost 12 months on the road, living mostly outdoors, this was one of only a handful of days in which we got a soaking. We had stayed in Picton on the way up and camped on the edge of the botanical gardens where the friendly gardeners had encouraged us. This time we spoiled ourselves with a dry room at the George IV hotel. Again we had to smuggle Zero, this time through the window, put him on his bedding and leave early the next day without a trace of dog hair or scent.

It is about 150 kms from Wilberforce to Moss Vale where we were heading to visit Patrick's parents. From Picton we needed to climb 60 kms or so to reach our destination. Along the way we discovered salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius) in flower and therefore too late to harvest as their roots become too woody to eat after buds appear.


But when we got to cooler Bowral we found some plants that were harvestable,


and we took them back to Patrick's folks' place where we cleaned and grated the roots and served up our delicious find.


Since our time in the Daintree, we had been carrying a small box of Daintree tea to bring back for Patrick's mum. It was a somewhat rough and ready birthday gift having just survived the wreckage of life inside one of our panniers. But we found some used wrapping paper, Patrick got out his watercolours,


and we celebrated Nana Jones' birthday with rich food and happy hearts.


Patrick's brother's family also live in Moss Vale and they had previously invited us to design and build them a chicken area. The arrangement that suited everyone was to be part gift economy, part family love, part money in the coffers. The bikes were overdue for a service and we booked them into Cycliste for the week we were to be in Mossy building. For any locals to this region, this was probably the best service we've had and we can highly recommend them. Thanks Marika and Stuart!

Before we began work Patrick mused on what makes happy chooks in order to get us all in the right frame of mind to begin work.


Ideally chooks are happiest and healthiest free-ranging but they also need protection from foxes and other creatures (pythons up north). We started out by marking the area we were to fence with kitchen string and flour,


and before going to the local hardware we first visited the local tip to see what we could recycle.


We found recycled wire, a small hutch that the Moss Vale Joneses could turn into a portable chook weeder, and a small homebuilt wheelbarrow for the cousins, Fred and Henry, and Woody to use while on site.


We also found a water tank we could install for the chicken's water supply.


The only thing we had to buy new were posts, screws, nails and self tapping stirrups. No need for concrete! The rest of the material Patrick's brother, Sam, had previously collected and stored near the site, awaiting our arrival.


We got to it. Zeph painting posts with old primer paint, Patrick doing the carpentry work, Meg documenting the process and bringing refreshments and Woody standing ready with his barrow to collect any off cuts.


We needed more wire so Uncle Sam and Zeph attacked the back fence and untangled some from various roots, shoots and leaves.


We built a gate, put flag stones under it (for fox proofing) and started work on the nesting boxes and coop.


We cut out privot from the garden and used branches as roosting limbs.


We stole some insulation from the roof in the main house,


and lined the walls, which will aid in extending the laying season.


Below where the chickens will roost is a slatted floor which enables easy scraping out of precious poo. A ramp helps the chooks up, especially young chicks who need the extra assistance. We built a small wall to come down in front of the roosting perches to block wind, although this opening is facing east and gets the least amount of weather. Making this area dark is appealing for laying hens but will also work to deter any egg thieving crows, who tend to avoid small dark areas. Uncle Sam still has to put on spouting and hook up the roof catchment to the water tank.


Outside the coop the nesting boxes can be accessed for quick egg retrieval. Above these boxes a 'floppy top' (chicken wire that flops about on top of a fence) has been installed to put off foxes jumping over it.


We have had such a lovely stay with family. Patrick's parents (Nana and Papa) and Uncle Sam and Aunty Jacqui and Freddy and Henry have all spoiled us with good food and company for a week. Thank you all so very much! We love you all to pieces.


Tomorrow we once again board our bikes and head to Kiama to stay with the Milkwood Permaculture crew who have organised for us to give a free talk about our adventuring this coming Tuesday, November 18. If you live nearby, please come along at 6pm to the Little Blowhole Café (4 Tingira Crescent Kiama) to say g'day.

Until next time, ride safe and may we all have clear skies and tailwinds.

AaF xx