Like Dark Emu, The Biggest Estate on Earth draws on the diaries and accounts of early European explorers and settlers. In it time and again delighted yet mystified Europeans report on a landscape puzzle repeated across the continent - open rich grasslands dotted with the occasional mature tree that looked for all the world like a "Gentleman's Park. And unlike the arid land we learned about at school instead there were reports of deep, soft soils, fish, fowl and game in abundance.
More watchful new arrivals saw what was behind these "park-like" landscapes observing the original farmers use of well timed hot or cool burns sensitive to the seeding times of plants, breeding patterns of animals, the fire tolerance or trees and food plants. They watched these farmers intelligently use fires along with landscape features like slope or stream to shape the vegetation and rotate game species from one area to another, making the harvesting of plants and animals convenient and predictable.
Gammage explains this template of management was repeated again and again across our whole country with timings & techniques altered to suit local conditions. The system guided and under-pinned by spiritual law with the aim to create a landscape balancing needs of various species that continually rested and renewed the land. The scale of it all and the application needed to achieve this can be illustrated by the discovery of Tasmanian Aboriginal peoples using fire, driven by prevailing winds, to slowly rotate whole grasslands plains through wet rain-forests over many generations.
Like the local culture, Gammage illustrates the first Europeans didn't understand the landscapes they were taking for themselves. Some assumed this rich open country their sheep were now thriving on was purely the work of God. That sad truth was slowly revealed time and again as the kangaroo grasses were eaten out by sheep, the spongy soils were compacted and eroded, the creeks stopped flowing and clearings were reclaimed by thick scrub. And though some of the more savvy settlers imitated Australian Indigenous people's land management, we have never gained the skills with fire or the understanding of our land to replicate the original farmers' results on any scale.
Today we're still coming to grips with how to care for this land and provide for ourselves into the future. We're also still coming to grips with how to reconcile and live respectfully with Aboriginal peoples. But with greater understanding comes greater respect. And through books like Bill Gammage's and Bruce Pascoe's when we begin to understand and see value in each other then the true reconciliation begins.
If you're interested in sustainable agriculture and landscape design The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia is as exciting a book as when you first read about Permaculture or Holistic Land Management or something by Joel Salatin, Wendell Berry or one of those inspiring guys.
Unglut Your Gut Challenge continues....
For the last three years, in an effort to combat the seasonal tsunami of wine, ham and chocolate covered comestibles, Fair Food have been holding the Unglut Your Gut Challenge (see below for details). It's a month-long journey of deep internal caring with a Soul Strength Ferment and a Lo Bros Kombucha reward if you make it to the end.
Want to take the challenge?
UNGLUT YOUR GUT WORKS LIKE THIS...
There’s three very important steps (you have to do all of these or you don't get the fermented goodies)
Step 1. Place your first order before 11pm on Tuesday January 24th
Step 2. Activate the challenge with your FIRST order by entering the code GUT2017 in the promo box at checkout
Step 3 Order for 4 CONSECUTIVE WEEKS (Orders need to be $30 or more and we’ll deliver a 250g bottle of Soul Strength Ferments Sauerkraut (various flavours) and a Lo Bros Kombucha 330ml (also various flavours).
Finally, I'd just like to say farewell to Glenda Lindsay who passed away this weekend. Glenda was a force of nature, a doer: she put her heart and her energy into so many local food and social justice projects that I used to think of her as a one person NGO. Over many years Glenda has been a hugely vocal and practical supporter of CERES, Cultivating Community, a founding member of the Fitzroy Community Produce Swap and also of MADGE and many, many more.
Glenda was also a singer and was never afraid to sing in public. At a large public meeting Glenda famously roped reluctant Yarra councillors and staff into a hilarious sing-a-long about tropical fruits & climate change after she and her gang of guerrilla gardeners gained approval for City of Yarra residents to install raised garden beds in their parking spots instead of cars.
Intelligent, caring, driven and generous to a T; in the ultimate Glenda-like act she threw open her own backyard to neighbours, creating a community garden known as Luscious Lane (that's her in Luscious Lane above). For so many people, including my self, Glenda has played the role of the relentlessly positive encourager. She was one of those few special people who grew to become a big tree in our forest, a tree so many have depended upon. Our hearts are with you and your family. We are all richer for knowing you Glenda.