Saturday, 25 December 2010

High 5-ing the World

Resolution? Promise? Goal? I don't know what you'd call it, but a year ago we made one.

In a conversation about where we'd like to be as a family, we quickly realised that the future we were planning didn't include a car.

Three years ago we gave up shopping at supermarkets, a year ago we gave up air travel, two months ago we gave up eating out of season and we're slowly transitioning towards giving up our mobile phones. But giving up our car feels like the biggest decision we have made so far.

It took us a year of preparation. We started a log book so we could see all the reasons we were justifying using the car. We biked, walked, carpooled and used public transport as much as we could, and after surviving the winter, knew that we were ready.

The town we call home has limited public transport options—no trams and no trains—so we knew we'd have to be a bit more organised whenever we wanted to leave. But on the plus side, we live in town, so it's a five minute bike ride up to the post office or library.

A week ago, we drove our car to Melbourne and delivered it to its new owner. The second he drove away it started to pour, and it dawned on me for the first time, the reality of our decision.

The next day, PJ started converting our carport into a bike/tool/potting shed.

After researching and test riding several cargo bikes, we finally made our decision. Yesterday PJ and I bussed and trained to Melbourne where we picked up our Kona Utes. Our first ride was a two-hour stint from the nearest train station, home.

My legs feel strong today, though my arms are a little sunburnt. Not from waving down passing cars to give us a lift, but from feeling so overwhelmed with freedom, I couldn't help high 5-ing the world.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

We Rode

I thought we'd get a crowd of 20 people, I had hoped we'd get 30, but 40 turned up, which is about 1.3% of our small town's population.

We rode bikes and scooters. We rang our bells and we blew our whistles. We waved to people we know and those we didn't, standing on the footpath. We slowed the traffic to the pace of our cheers and wheels.

We reclaimed public roads as public space.

Then we all sat around with our celebratory ales, toasting the mighty and the free.

If you're this way inclined, please feel free to join the Daylesford Critical Mass Facebook page.

Or if you're that way inclined, please feel free to tune into ABC Ballarat this coming Monday at 6.40am (yikes!) to hear me talking about the event.

I look forward to riding with you in a month!

Thanks for the photos, Kate.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

En Masse

We made it! The weather here is still chilly and un-springlike, but the coldest wintry days feel like they're behind us.

We have walked and ridden our bikes on 90% of the journeys we made this winter past, and I am happy to report I haven't had a single cold. PJ takes a raw garlic clove at the first hint of a sniffle, but I swear by my daily intake of spirulina. And lots of time spent outdoors.

The advent of the warmer weather is bringing with it more people on bikes in this little town of ours, but not necessarily more bike awareness, so we thought we'd change that with our very own Critical Mass.

If you live anywhere near the Central Highlands, we're meeting at the zebra crossing outside Daylesford Primary School at 5pm on the last Friday of each month, which means our inaugural ride is tomorrow.

If you're going to come along, please do come say hello. For those of you I've never met, here's what I look like:

And yes! That is a puppy in my basket. Introducing Zero, the newest addition to The Artist as Family. He's a 9 week old Jack Russell and he'll be coming along tomorrow too.

Hope to see you there!

(Thank you, Kate for the photos.)

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Starry Starry Nose

We have been watching with much delight, each weekly episode of the series Life, narrated by David Attenborough. We have been mesmerised by insects, enthralled by reptiles, and last night we were spellbound by an assortment of animals hunting and hiding.

Featured in the most recent episode is the star-nosed mole. I had never heard of it before, and I definitely hadn't seen one — it's not an animal one is likely to forget.

Isn't it remarkable? Aren't we lucky to be alive at the same time?

Just after the British colonised Australia, a platypus was taken from these shores to the Empire where people couldn't believe their eyes. They thought the animal was a hoax; that the sailors who had brought the specimen might have been playing some kind of joke on them. What would they have thought of the star-nosed mole??

If you're interested in finding out more, here's a great four minute vid:

Friday, 3 September 2010

Leave Them Kids Alone

The other day, when PJ and I had our heads buried in books, Z found an old chair in the shed.

The less we parent, the better for everyone — a sentiment PJ and I often talk about, and now that Z is growing up, a practice more easily fulfilled.

The book I had my head buried in was Tom Hodgkinson's, The Idle Parent, a book that expounds do-nothing parenting, just as Fukuoka posited do-nothing farming.

Hodgkinson writes:
We need low-impact parenting, do-nothing parenting, no-work parenting. Harness natural processes and nature will do the work for you. In the case of gardening, this may involve a lot of simply wandering about. Just sitting in your garden or strolling around it will produce umpteen ideas for low-effort improvement and refinement. So it is with children. Just sit near them with a book and watch them play and chatter.
...And incite new life into old things. And old parents like us.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Vaginal Corona

When I was 18 I went out with a guy named Ben. It was our first year out of high school, we were overseas together and we were in love. One warm night we were so in love we decided to bequeath our virginities to one another.

Afterwards Ben said he was surprised that I hadn't bled. I mumbled something about horse riding, tampons and masturbation, then I fell asleep.

Fast forward 18 years to a few days ago when I web surfed my way to a pdf booklet put out by RFSU (the Swedish organisation for sexual enlightenment), which starts like this:
Known by the established term "hymen," the vaginal corona is the subject of many myths and misunderstandings. The most important of these is the notion that a woman’s vaginal opening is covered by a membrane that ruptures on penetration. This is incorrect. There is no such membrane. RFSU wishes to dispel the myths and promote knowledge of the true facts. In this booklet, we aim to give you a more accurate idea of what you will find just inside the vaginal opening of every woman.

Holy popped cherries, batgirl! My entire life I thought I had a hymen, and that somewhere along the line between being born and meeting Ben, this precious proof of purity was disturbed.

Between clitoris and labia in my Cambridge Illustrated Thesaurus of Biology is the listing for hymen:
Thin membrane partially closing the vagina in a virgin woman. It is ruptured when coitus first occurs.
Ha! One more myth of the patriarchy debunked. I wonder if there's a word for the membrane that seals a closed mind.

Thursday, 12 August 2010


Thank you Rachael for my care parcel!

I don't know which I was more excited by, the packaging or the contents.

The contents: Sugru.

Sugru feels like modelling clay, or Blu-Tack. It fixes in 30 minutes into whatever shape you mold it, and is ready to be used after 24 hours. It fixes soft because it's made from silicone. It sticks to metal, plastic, glass and ceramic. It's waterproof, dishwasher-safe, heat resistant, cold resistant, electrically and thermally insulating.

I don't write this to advertise, merely to explain.

Or if you're more image inclined:

After I fixed the ring and knife handle I was walking around the house like a woman possessed, trying to find broken things, considering what I could chip or bust or smash, just so I could mend it. I gave myself a high 5 I was so excited, when I remembered the missing bit at the bottom of the food processor.
I must admit I had hesitations at first, thinking of all the energy that goes into creating Sugru, but then I thought that anything that promotes the Repair Manifesto, over buying new gear, is definitely a good thing by me.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010


The train leaves the platform. After sitting silently for a while, a woman looks up from her newspaper and says to her friend, "It says here that 90% of all large fishes have disappeared from the world's oceans in the past half century because of industrial fishing."

Her friend looks up in dismay.

The woman continues. "Only 10% of the whole world's tuna, swordfish, marlin, cod, halibut, skates and flounder are left. In the whole world! That's it—I'm never eating tuna again."

"Are you serious?" Her friend says. "I'm going to eat as much as I can before it's all gone."

Sunday, 1 August 2010


Just over a year ago I was deeply moved as I took part in Deborah Kelly's tribute to one man's stance against the tyranny of his government.

So when PJ and I received an email about Ms Kelly's latest project, Muffled Protest, we jumped at the chance to be involved.

Here are some photos from yesterday's action in Melbourne, that aimed to highlight the overwhelming injustice of incarcerating asylum seekers and their children in detention camps—how blind we have become to the suffering of others.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

First Things First

There was his first day of school and then the first time he flushed the toilet and washed his hands without having to be reminded. There was the first time he said I love you to me and the first time he offered to set the table without being asked.

When I became a stepmother to Z four years ago, he was four years old and could already walk and talk, dress himself and put himself to bed.

It's not that I thought all of his milestones were behind him, but that all of the significant ones that make parents reach for their cameras had already been lived before I met him.

But then last night something happened. I walked into the bathroom where Z was running a bath, and there he was, casually leaning against the wall, his feet in the water, his head buried in a book.

A book! Not a picture book, or a school reader, but Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox.

"Don't forget to scrub your knees," I told him.

"Yep, I'm just going to finish this chapter," he replied.

I raced out of the room and called my mum.

"He's one of us!" I squealed.

Saturday, 17 July 2010


PJ, Z and I celebrated our four year anniversary yesterday.

I was at work, and halfway through the afternoon I received this photo from PJ:

I called to giggle my gratitude, and casually mentioned that he in fact had a thought bubble coming out of his mouth.

Five minutes later, this arrived:

Four magical years, indeed.

Happy anniversary, boys! I wouldn't want to share this odyssey with anybody else.

Monday, 5 July 2010

The Plant In

Hello hello from Sydney!

We drove up five days ago to start working on the Food Forest project and have another six days of digging and planting to go.

It's all very exciting. In a few short days we have gone from this

to this

and will eventually go to this:

If you live nearby, come and say hello and check out our progress. And if you want to get involved, please come along to our Community Plant In Day this Saturday July 11th from 10am till 4pm.

We will have planted all the fruit and nut trees by then, but we'd love it if you could bring a clump of something edible, Cadigal and/or beneficial from your home or community garden, to plant on the day.

The location: St Michael's Anglican Church, Surry Hills. (Corner of Albion and Flinders, near Taylor Square.)

If you're a Facebooker, you can join in the fun here.

Why not bring a picnic and make a day of it.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Born Free

I didn't know much about Julia Gillard before she became Prime Minister two days ago. I knew about some of her decisions as the Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, and as Deputy Prime Minister, but not a lot. Just another politician, I thought.

But after seeing Gillard interviewed on the 7.30 Report, I have changed my mind. She was gutsy, honest, intelligent, decent and likable. I agree with Joan Kirner, the first female to be Premier of Victoria, who said that Gillard is going to make politics fun again.

We also watched the 2006 Australian Story about Gillard. My favourite part was the story her mum, Moira, told about when her daughter was in high school:
Julia could never understand why the girls should stay in class to tidy up the classroom while the boys were just running around having a good time. So she said to the teacher that was not fair. Why couldn’t the boys do it one week and they do it the next week. He said to her 'Are you into women’s liberation, Julia?' And she said, she looked at him with utter scorn and said 'I don’t need women’s liberation, I was born free'.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

The Hopenfogels

My lil ol' blog is two years old today, and to celebrate, I have decided to create an award.

Every year on the 29th of May, we here at the Land of Meg will announce the winner of The Hopenfogel award. Hopenfogel means Hoopoe bird in German.

Hoopoes were considered sacred in Ancient Egypt, and symbols of virtue in Persia, but I have chosen them as the namesake for my annual award because Hopenfogel was my great grandmother Edith's maiden name, and it brings to mind all the impressive women in her lineage.

There are no criteria for the award. Some years there may be more than one winner, some years there may nominations in several categories, some years I may forget all together, but for this year's award, there is a single winner.

And it is Norrie.

From The Age, March 10, 2010:
This Mardi Gras, Norrie received a gift that no other androgynous person in NSW has had before.

The night before the parade, the postman brought a certificate from the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages that contained neither the dreaded ''M'' nor its equally despised cousin, ''F''.

Instead, it said ''sex not specified'', making the 48-year-old Sydneysider, who identifies as neuter and uses only a first name, the first in the state to be neither man nor woman in the eyes of the NSW government.
(Norrie has since had zie non-specified gender status withdrawn by the government who said that it is not permitted in law to state anything other than male or female on legal documents.)

But to us you are a winner. Congratulations Norrie! This inaugural Hopenfogel belongs to you.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

All in Good Time

The found plastic we hung on the hook when we took down the kitchen clock.

The bit of scrap paper I stuck on my laptop to cover the clock there too.

I don't know which gardening metaphor I like better: companion planting or self-seeding.

If I were a slug, I would have eaten this too.

But I'm not.

If you live in Central Victoria but don't have a garden of your own, feel free to come and share in our bountiful bounty in exchange for a green thumb workout. We have a listing on Shared Earth. Come share!

Portrait of the blogger as a bandita in her balaclava bought to make the frosty mornings bearable on her bike.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

I Made Cheese

I made cheese today. We had a choice of about 10 different kinds and I chose feta.

The class was held at a Community Centre about 30Km away. I have been working quite a bit at our local Community Centre so it was great to see how another one works. I was just as interested to see their kitchen and bathrooms and notice boards, as I was to do the course.

This is Dorothy our teacher. She was wise and funny and said it's her dream to see everyone in Australia making their own cheese.

This is the cheese I made. It's currently in the fridge bathing in brine. Tomorrow I will drain it and replace the liquid with olive oil, garlic, black pepper and a bay leaf.

How did they make cheese in the olden days? How did the Greeks make feta all those centuries ago without all our modern technical know-how and gadgets? Homer, in The Odyssey wrote: "Every one in that country, whether master or man, has plenty of cheese..." What lucky folk they were! And me too, even though I'll have to settle for being a man with this one, as the art of it is not something I'm ever likely to master.