Bundanon’s Spring Festival – “Siteworks 2015”
On a Saturday in September we celebrated Spring with a bunch of art-lovers at Bundanon’s Siteworks 2015. The properties at Bundanon, and Riversdale were gifted to the Australian people by Arthur and Yvonne Boyd in 1993. The drive into the property winds through thick, verdant prehistoric giant fronded fern infested forest, opening out on arrival to a wide, open, green valley, which on this day was filled with volunteers, campers, stall-holders and entertainers. Three objects atop the hill caught our immediate gaze, a 15 foot high spider-like creature, that looked like a recent alien arrival from Stephen King’s nightmares, a 1970’s-styled playground rocket ship, and a wine barrel come Stone Henge Sun Dial. Two inflatable white bunnies greeted us as we descended to the rivers edge. All across the grounds, spring is singing with bounteous beauty blossoming throughout. But, the tranquility of the flowing wisteria and Illawarra flames was broken by the startling appearance of something that resembled a T-Rex’s ominous head poking around a corner. This was Erth’s Allosaurus, an incredibly life-like giant sized dinosaur that scares the life out of the kids (and some of the rest of us) with its frightening appearance, and extremely loud amplified roar.
“The Weedy One” Diego Bonetto: Our Favourite
Of all the artists at Siteworks, we were excited to see that our favourite, Diego Bonetto, would once again be taking people on a wild, edible plant foraging tour. We must admit to a kind of Diego fanaticism. Some people plan weeks in advance to watch The Eagles at The MCG. Meanwhile we’re amongst patches of Stinging Nettles hoping to catch Diego. In fact we love him so much, immediately after finishing his first Siteworks foraging tour, we turned around, and followed onto his next walk.
As a boy, growing up in the North of Italy Diego’s Nonna shared with him traditional ways of how to identify, prepare, cook, and use the edible and medicinal plants growing around them. Having been an artist in residence at Bundanon Trust, Diego knows the place well.
The journey begins with Diego reaching down, cutting a yellow flowered Dandelion out of the soil, thanking the plant, and then sharing its story. The USDA recently announced dandelion as the most nutritious plant in the world. Diego recommends all parts of the dandelion, including slow, low roasted dandelion roots for a healthy, hot drink, similar to coffee, but markedly better for you. Then onto the benefits of fleabane. Did you know that you can save about $80/month in pet flea treatments by using fleabane? Or, that if mozzies are bothering you, all you need to do is burn some fleabane and its good bye mozzies.
Next was plantain, a very good bush bandaid, and diuretic. Then onto the next plant, Diego, snapping off a piece, and sharing it around. Its lemony taste was so appealing one guy stripped the thing bear. Mulberry – pick the berries, and eat them right there on the spot. Diego recommends eating food right there at the source. As soon as a plant is picked it begins losing nutrients, so Diego say, “Whenever you can, pick, and eat, pick, and eat.” And, then we come to, Stinging Nettles – incredibly high in all sorts of vitamins, and minerals, stinging nettles are great in a soup. Scotch Thistle – the first plant to be declared a weed in Australia because the burs got caught in sheep’s wool and were an expensive burden to the wool industry.
Want Help? If you want to know whether a certain plant is edible, take a clear, hi-res photo, and send it to Diego. He’ll identify it for you, and let you know of its properties.
During his Wild Stories walks, Diego relays hundreds of incredible, useful plant facts. As he says, “I can talk for hours.” But the walk, and talk with Diego, is an engaging, performance to be experienced as is. There is way too much to take in, so just enjoy it, and when you want to learn more, visit his website.