The reading continued apace in the cottage for the second half of the residency. We bunkered down to ensure that, by week’s end, we had a working plan for our Earlwood Farm Radio project. Although we had hoped to blog and share each day while we were at the estate, it didn’t work out that way. Largely because writing is a time-consuming pursuit and we found we were spending more time sharing our ideas on the blog than properly discussing and developing them, which seems to defeat the purpose of a residency-retreat in the bush. So we stopped blogging and started working; this post is a summary of the rest of the residency.
One of the key ideas that emerged in the last few days of the residency was the Australian specificity of the project. Jen read Judith Brett’s 2010 Quarterly Essay “Fair Share: Country and the City in Australia” which explored the historical power divide between country and city at the start of the Gillard Government, when the three rural independents (Katter, Oakshott & Windsor) were integral to the formation of the hung parliament. The essay emphasises the specificity of the environment of our island continent, in relation to nation building, or, indeed, the failure of nation building, something that Libby Robin also explores in How a Continent Created a Nation (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2007). Brett illustrates how plans for massive population growth in the 1920s–to have a nation to levels of 100 or 500 million by century’s end–were utterly thwarted by the land itself (such failure is fictionalised frequently by Australian authors in what Ken Gelder calls “Rural Apocalypse” novels, like Tiffany Carrie’s Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living). Ambitions to emulate the growth and development of population and food supply of, say, the US, is physically restricted by our ecology and climate, despite the technologies provided by the “Green Revolution”.
So we want to use the podcast think about Australian agriculture both in terms of how indigenous people cultivated the continent and the ways in which they lived with the land of droughts and flooding rains, girt by sea, for over 40000 years before colonisation, in relation to the subsequent failed attempts of colonisers to turn the centre into vast salad bowl; but then we also want to look at permaculture and other politically complex and innovative agricultural ideas like Keyline farming and ask, why did such things develop in Australia?
That this is project must involve the more than human world is the other key development. While Craig continued on his epic 500-page quest into the history of agriculture and Jen read chapter 3 “Food”, from Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter, we realised that we need to include ants, potatoes, fungi, fats, rivers and storms, in our stories as well. Both texts, in quite different ways, emphasise the agency of the more than human world as key to the story of food production and consumption. So we will figure out ways to include such things in our episodes.
Overall, a movement from a vague idea about developing a farm-related radio program, to an idea for a program that will have specific historical and ecological dimensions is the main outcome of the week. This doesn’t seem very specific here, but we don’t want to lay out all our plans just yet: this is a snappy summary! That such progress can be made with just 6 short days away from an ordinary routine is quite extraordinary. It was a good length of time to achieve a simple goal: a 1 page plan for a podcast project, a draft for a pilot episode and some preliminary recordings. We left with those goal achieved. Although it was sad to leave, we also feel charged with ideas and driven to read more and continue to develop the project. So, watch this space for future developments on the project.
Thank you to the Bundanon Trust for supporting our residency.
Here are some snaps from our activities in the final few days: