Friday, December 19, 2008

Cuba's eggs

Cuba, one of our chooks, went broody this week. There are two things you can do for a broody hen. Either give her some fertilised eggs to incubate over 21 days, or place her in a cage in full sunlight with plenty of air, clean water and food.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

An angry post cheered up by a harvest of garlic, freshly washed

The one thing that everybody wants is to be free...not managed, threatened, directed, restrained, obliged, fearful, administered, they want none of these things they all want to feel free...they do not want to be afraid not more than is necessary in the ordinary business of living... Gertrude Stein, 1943
The daughter of the businessman, the income to write, the ordinary business of privilege; ever expanding post-war growth, ever expanding freedoms: cars, white-goods, confectionary, packaging, holidays; ever expanding art and art memorials; ever-expanding construction of culture well beyond the capacity of the landbase. Impermanent toxiculture; the mass market, the small secondary markets of the bourgeoisie: the snobs, the aspirants, the collectors, the publishers, the biography factory; ever-expanding obsessions of the civilised; utterly pre-tending to life.

"The world is round", Stein tells us, "and you can go on it round and round", she adds, as she did, as we do now, up and up, down and down, around and around, adding and expanding, unchecked and ill-managed, unbridled freedom, unlimited population, unleashed psychosis.

We have had 65 years of run-away capitalism, and here awaits us the blurred edge of run-away climate change: gas chambers lit for a new era holocaust by industry's furnaces and our desires.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Young people and the Yam daisy

This morning Barry Golding, from the University of Ballarat, led a group of us on a walk from inside the crater at Lalgambook (Mt Franklin) to Larnebarramul (Franklinford). Barry is a font of anthropological, geographical and archeological information dating from the earliest volcanic activity 20 million years ago, to more recent history, specifically that of the Djadjawurrung.

The other half of the day I spent at the senior citizens rooms behind Daylesford Town Hall with another group of people. The issue of heritage was a major sticking point with us, some people thinking that social heritage begins with Cornish miners. We were attempting to agree on a way forward for the contentious community reserve which adjoins the equally contentious youth (skate) park. On my agenda was public food, and I was sucessful in having fruit and nut trees (20-30%) considered as a recommendation for the final planting scheme.

Among the day's highlights was learning about the murnyong (Yam daisy). The murnyong was a major staple tuber that the Djadjawurrung lived off for tens of thousands of years, and which still grows wild in the area and across central Victoria. Barry had collected seed earlier in the morning and gave some out. I'm looking forward to propagating our five seeds. Another highlight was working with others of wide-ranging opinions to develop a common objective, and potentially the beginnings of a food relocalisation mind-shift, that local council backs on behalf of the community.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Shredding, gleaning, piling and heaping

Currently I glean most of the material for my composts. Neighbours recently saved a trip to the tip because I pulled up with my wheelbarrow and asked to take the loads away. I often take my wheelbarrow for a walk scavenging for material. Peter O has been getting into the habit of dropping off shredded paper from school (if only I could get hold of the White House's pile right now). We collect horse poo from the nearby horse riding ranch and, as I've mentioned before, we weekly collect the food scrap bins from a nearby cafe. As we have now started to harvest food, we have increased our green waste which, in a closed-cycle ecology, is not really waste at all. 

As you can see in the below picture our soil is highly disturbed, largely compacted clay. Intensive mulching, to keep moisture in the soil (which attracts worms who break down the clay), together with intensive composting over the next several years should see a dramatic decrease in water usage.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The crow and the chook

The eagle, the crow and the bat are the three totems that belong to the local mob – the Loddon tribe of the Djadjawurrung people, a clan of the Kulin nation – local, at least, to where I live.
Aborigines saw man as sharing a common life-principal with animals, birds and plants. They embraced all these in human social and religious life by establishing totemic relationships between them and people. (A P Elkin, 1967, from The Loddon Aborigines, Edgar Morrison, p.17., private press booklet, 1971, from articles published in the Daylesford Advocate newspaper 1963-1971).
The Loddon Aborigines, as anthropologists like David Graeber might suggest, had relations of 'common substance' with the land – a closed-cycle, single-broken-line homeostasis, where the body (as tribe) is contiguous with everything else. Here, the closed-cycle represents the tribal land, a clearly delineated food and water bowl where nothing is wasted, and the single-broken-line represents the necessity for other relations outside of this land.
Within these clearly defined boundaries their hunting rights were ordinarily respected by their neighbours with whom they normally enjoyed friendly relations and a measure of collaboration and inter-marriage. (The Loddon Aborigines, Edgar Morrison, p16., private press booklet, 1971, from articles published in the Daylesford Advocate newspaper 1963-1971).
This kind of collaboration can occur because the line is permanently broken. By contrast, the gated-existence model of industrial civilisation – the privatisation, capitalisation and transportation of resources – is represented as a solid double=white=line; a line of brutally imposed impermanent or throwaway culture.

Last night at a meeting at the Daylesford Town Hall, David Holmgren, co-originator of Permaculture, spoke with climatologist Rob Gell, in relation to the funding of a community-owned wind farm, Hepburn Wind. After their presentations, I asked them whether 6-7 years was a realistic timeframe to make the transition from industrial civilisation to a zero emission, water, energy and food relocalisation system, such as what we are attempting, with permaculture principals, in the Garden of Self Defence. Gell said effectively that yes, 5-10 years is the timeframe for radical change and that runaway climate change will result if we don’t all act significantly within this period. Holmgren went on to add that those who make the transition earlier, especially from oil dependancy, will find it easier than others to adapt because in a culture of high waste there is still so much to glean and reuse when only a few are doing it. When he opened his address, Gell said that he had just met with Penny Wong, Minister for Climate Change and Water, which confirmed for him that those who place their trust in governments (to make the necessary changes) delude themselves.

Government, effectively, is in a war of contradictions with itself. The war goes something like this: good intentions plus millions of dollars of consultancy fees equates to greenwash, while old world industries pressure bureaucrats to retain business as usual in terms of consumption and waste. Last night’s sentiment and permaculture’s general call to arms since the early 1970s suggests that governments are sluggish beasts who cannot act as quickly as we can at a local level.

If we require a system to replace neoliberal capitalism, and I believe we do, then it is indeed Permaculture. Cuba has demonstrated this, albeit an easier task within a socialist country where there is little unburnt fat to start with. Which brings me to an issue that has been bugging me for a number of months, playing out in our garden as I write. Permaculture of course includes chooks as central to any design. Our two chooks are called Dirt and Cuba. Chooks give manure, eggs and companionship while we provide food, protection and a warm bed of straw reciprocally. A family of crows have come to enjoy the pleasures of gleaning the chook food and competing with them for local resources. Our natural inclination has been to frighten them off and protect our chooks' feed. Sound familiar? 

When German missionaries came to Central Australia they seduced the local tribes into following the teachings of Jesus Christ by offering white man’s food – mainly grain for bread – and when the cattlemen drove their cattle through tribal lands, polluting the water holes, the tribesmen couldn’t believe how easy (stationary) these beasts were to kill for food. As a result many indigenous hunters were rounded up and murdered by both white stockmen and police protecting privatised food sources. Until that time aboriginal men and women had observed public food laws in terms of tribal hunting grounds. After occupation black trackers also assisted in the killings of black people, they had been converted to the state of uniforms, surplus food and waste.

In order to understand the possibilities for our own localised, closed-cycle, single-broken-line ecological existence, we have come to realise we have to remain open to and not bully-away these potent black birds, whose environment we occupy. Indeed everything of our previous existence must be challenged, especially our double=white=line – the supermarket and the transportation of resources, and the interrelationship with the global market, conversion monotheism, profit-growth capitalism, our militarised and specialised education system, to name but a few of the most destructive hegemonies.

An ecological intelligence or permapoesis depends upon our sensitivity to indigenous intelligence. When our economists are equally our ecologists and our systems and resources are again shared, we will have reclaimed some of the intelligence for a permanent culture that the local mob fully possessed.

The crow shares a common substance relation to the land. Are we capable of this too; severing our relation to (private) property and therefore wealth, veiled violence and avoidance?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Reaping that which is possible

Today's harvest: broad beans and snow peas.

When growing food ceases to become a lifestyle choice (a mediation), but a life conscious act – or, rather a collective act for community health and defiance against governments who support industrialised agriculture – our society will begin its slow walk away from a culture of abuse to one of sustainability; one that fixes carbon, not one which burns it; one that produces no waste because everything is used and re-used in a closed-cycle ecology. Until that time government proclamations about the environment are empty and off the mark.

The food needs to be walking distance (relocalisation) and human brutality direct and seen for what it is, not disguised on the shelves of supermarkets. Our council tips need to move from methane producing toxic dumps to aerobic compost heaps and community gardens.

All of this is possible if enough of us stop waiting for governments to act or watch them lead us in the opposite direction (John Brumby). Which leads me to my current read (a gift from Jason), which I highly recommend:

David Graeber, p23 –
Sexual relations, after all, need not be represented as a matter of one partner consuming the other; they can also be imagined as two people sharing food.
More on Possibilities later.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Nothing more, nothing less

There is nothing more self-determining, anarchical, pleasurable, poetic, subversive, exhilarating and intensely rewarding than growing your food. Today I planted 6 varieties of Banksia, two Blackwood wattles and about twenty stalks of sweet corn in the free soil, now weeded and mulched, that council dropped off last week.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hairy soil (for Peter O'Mara)

We had two truck loads of unwanted soil dumped by council workers who were moving earth in our street. Unwanted because of the weed factor. The soil was originally brought in by the council only 6 months ago to top dress the nature strip, it then became overgrown and complaints were made. I thought that it was better the soil stay in the area than be transported away again and asked Paul the truck driver, who used to run the Trentham hardware next door to my old bookshop, if he could bring it down.

Pete turned up and said 'what's with the hairy soil?'

We are beginning to go through it with the pitchfork, separating all the grass and thistle and other organic matter into a separate pile. We will then cook it in a compost to kill the seed. The filtered soil will be used to top dress the property before being mulched to improve the overall humus and grow more food.

A nice little self-serving exercise within this hairy ecology.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Compost & Cos

Today I killed Bill. She wasn't getting better with the garlic water and we couldn't justify the expense of a vet, nor the fantasy of industrial pharmaceuticals. I killed her as part of redressing the compost area, which looked like this at about 5pm. 

At 4.30pm I brought the black and white bins, full of kitchen scraps, back from Ben's cafe, laid Billy to rest at the base of the right-hand bay, tore up several cardboard boxes and placed them over her. I then wet down this elegiac layer and heaped on Ben's scraps, straw from the coup and Meg's day's weeding material, before covering up both bays to cook the compost.

The bay on the left (above), that I last turned here for Hamish Morgan – who today sent more reference humus: Katherine Gibson's 'The End of Capitalism' – is almost ready for use on the garden.

I picked our finest cos lettuce (above right) and returned Ben's bins, proudly presenting the first exchange of our casual gift-ecology.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


We're a little worried about Billy. She hasn't been looking that great of late. Our friend Jo said it sounds like she has a respiratory infection – budding vets and other chook experts can see Billy's condition for themselves here. On Jo's recommendation we have put a solution of boiled garlic in their drinking water. If Billy has not improved in the next day or two we will take her to the vet. Cuba and Dirt on the other hand are fighting fit – as demonstrated by their day's joyous offerings.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Social Warming

Until today we have managed to live on our 1/4 acre without one single fence, with the exception of temporary guards around our vegetables to keep the chooks from helping themselves.

However our neighbour to the North has insisted we build one because he doesn't like looking at our water tank and 'unsightly' produce area. We agreed as long as we could design and build it and not have to pay for it, so this is the beginnings of our social warming fence.

The Cuban says, "grow your own food, catch your water, say hello to your neighbour" – a reachable suburban anarchy.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Composting as collective offensive (for Hamish Morgan)

The following flick is an eyepiece for aerobic composting, where the aeration of the body is contiguous with the world. It's a short flick cut to a short track called Fall by the band called The Thing (now Dirtbird). It's a how-to-do-words-with-things film that emits little methane, recalling "All things fall and are built again" (W B Yeats, 1939), together with "Once upon a time the world was round, and you could go on it round and round" (Gertrude Stein, also 1939).

Carbon is fixed in the soil if the compost is damp and aerated. If the compost is too wet and not turned (not aerated), the organic matter rots, giving off methane. Carbon is the gaseous nutrient. It's transformation, into a greenhouse gas, is CO2. But carbon is organic matter in the soil, if treated well there is less gaseous transformation, less reduction of humus and therefore less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

All things fall and are built again in a closed-cycle ecology – NO WASTE – and those that build them again are microbial and joyous. Our economics and our ecology can now come home – Oikos – together. To give up on gaseous transformation – aspiration/celebrity – is to act as a collective offensive, or in mutual self defence.

So take your pitchfork and give some air to your body. The movement exclusive of industrial agriculture – supermarkets, refrigerants and Monsanto – is in full swing!