Jade Miles and her family - her partner Charlie Showers, and their three children, Harry, Bertie and Minnie - live on a heritage apple orchard near the little north-east Victorian town of Stanley.
The boys live for soccer and make apple cider doughnuts to sell, Minnie is the chicken whisperer, Jade and Charlie work the farm, and, when they can, offer workshops and open farm days and in-school programs, sharing their rhythm and rituals.
If you're making assumptions about their life from the photographs on the pages of Miles' book Futuresteading, you might think that theirs is a life full of picnics among the apple trees as they bloom, or of nights around open fires with cups of warm cider and a slow-cooked feast. It looks idyllic.
And it is, in many regards, says Miles, but it's also bloody hard work. Seven days a week, from dawn to dusk, planting, mulching, grafting, building and fencing. They started the farm from scratch six years ago and there is still so much to be done. But in every day there is always time for gratitude and pause.
It might be a simple dinner, where everything on the table has been sourced from the farm; it might be a morning walk followed by a fresh pot of tea; a weekly call to someone you haven't seen for a while; or a celebration of rain.
It's the idea of change that drives them. Making conscious choices for the future of the family, for the orchard, for the land it grows on, for the planet. When the fires were raging across south-east Australia in 2020, it gave Miles pause. It galvanised her determination to share their message.
"We cannot let all of the heartbreak, hard work, fear and fire in our bellies go to waste," she wrote in her diary at the time.
"Now is the time for individual and then collective change."
Which is the core idea behind "futuresteading".
"Simply put, futuresteading is living like tomorrow matters," she says.
"The term riffs on 'homesteading' and has roots in permaculture. Actions are localised, simplified, slow and food oriented - but, most of all, cultural.
"How can we supplant our current, hurtling-towards-destruction culture with a new one that values tomorrow?"
She likes the idea of people picking up a book "with a nonsensical name". She likes curious people. And this book, and ultimately the idea of futuresteading, is for curious people. You don't have to throw in your city life, leave your home in the suburbs, take exit from your one-bedroom apartment, you just have to be able to ask how can I live like tomorrow matters?
"The first thing to do in terms of starting is to take a massive big deep breath, give yourself time to observe what is or isn't working, understand what your enough looks like, and do everything that you can to make your enough curved enough to still feel rich, but small enough to feel like you're contributing," she says.
She says we spend too much time being pushed and shoved to pay attention to the things that are yelling the loudest.
"We get so distracted by that stuff because that's what we're designed to do. You actually find a real nourishment in turning inward a little bit and really paying attention to what's going on in your immediate surroundings.
"People always say but that starts to make you narrow, but it's quite the opposite: you act local, but think global, keep looking outwards, seek new ideas and understanding."
She knows it's easy to spend a lot of time thinking about these things, about saying you're going to do things, but the power comes with actually doing them.
Go screen-free for two days a week, shower in the dark, repair things rather replace them, grow food, share skills, swim in a river. It's about reconnecting.
She wants us to think about our vision for tomorrow, what gift we might offer to the future.
"When our world ground to a halt in the face of a pandemic, we were offered the gift of time to deeply contemplate the vision of what we wanted our life to look like," she says.
"It's now up to each of us individually to follow through and start taking steps towards making this vision a reality.
"It's time to be practical, nourishing and connected while we create a world of regeneration. Please don't be overwhelmed by the process. Let it add to the foundation of knowledge that will spur us on collectively in our actions to create a better future - because tomorrow matters."
The seven simple principles
While avoiding hard-and-fast rules, futuresteading does have some basic principles. Interpret these as you like, with actions to suit life as you know it.
Meet Mother Nature: Be in awe of her, be respectful and courteous to her, and assume a manner of gratitude.
Celebrate simple: Strip back the white noise to give yourself room to discover the magic in the simplest of wonders.
Make your place: More than a home or a mark on a map, your place fans your deepest sense of belonging.
Seek ritual: Create patterns and rhythms, rites of passage and processes.
Create your clans: You are as strong as those with whom you build your life; they are an extension of yourself.
Salute the seasons: Notice, respond to, adapt to and embrace the in-the-moment reality of where the outside patterns leave you.
Love local: The community that builds is bound by mutual trust, obligation and reciprocity that empowers all.
Summer vegie tart
The most seasonal grab-and-go meal we eat in summer is a simple vegie tart. We always have eggs, but the tart changes depending on the vegetables we have in the patch. With little more than a quick dice of a few freshly picked ingredients, the tart can be whipped up for lunch or dinner. It can be eaten hot or cold, and it's perfect when served with chutney (pear is our favourite!).
3 cups diced seasonal vegies
salt, to taste
8 eggs, whisked
a few dollops of easy pesto (see below)
handful of crumbled cheese (this is a great way to use up the last of the feta in the pot or leftovers from cheese platters)
chutney, to serve (see below)
1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
2. Place the diced vegies into a frying pan, add salt to taste and brown over low heat. You can use zucchini, tomatoes, fresh herbs, silverbeet, kale, corn, spring onions, peas, beans ... whatever you've got. If you use pumpkins, potatoes or carrots, it will take longer to brown the pieces.
3. Mix the browned vegies, whisked eggs, pesto and crumbled cheese together in a baking dish, and place into the oven. Cook for 25 minutes, or until the egg is set and the tart is golden.
4. Serve with chutney.
This delicious pesto can be used in rice and pasta dishes, on pizza bases and swirled through roasted vegies.
200g fresh basil leaves
125ml olive oil
50g finely grated parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast, if you requite dairy-free pesto)
1 tbsp roasted garlic
juice of 2 lemons
salt, to taste
1. Place all the ingredients into a blender and whiz until smooth. If someone in your family can't eat dairy, leave out the cheese or replace it with nutritional yeast at half quantity.
2. Place portions of pesto into clean containers of your choice. Store the pesto in the freezer for up to 12 months.
Makes approximately 750g
Recipes and eating rituals often come from excess food that needs a creative solution. You can change this recipe with ease, so experiment with that you've got.
Scale the measurements up or down to suit your pear quantity and taste.
15 pears, cored and diced (they can be any variety; we use half-ripe, unpeeled Beurre Bosc pears, which hold their shape)
1 brown onion, diced
220g brown, rapadura or coconut sugar
40g sunflower seeds
70g flax seeds, ground lightly using a mortar and pestle
200g finely chopped fennel, including the fronds
30g dill seeds
2 tsp salt
3 chillies, deseeded and finely sliced
roughly ground pepper, to taste (I love pepper; it balances the pears' sweetness exceptionally well, so I use up to one tablespoon)
375ml apple cider vinegar
1 litre water
250ml apple juice
1. Place all the ingredients into a large saucepan over low to medium heat. Simmer for two hours, stirring regularly. Add more water if the mixture looks too dry.
2. Once the solid ingredients have softened and mixed together, spoon the chutney into sterlised jars and use a water bath to seal the jars.
3. The chutney can be stored in the cupboard for up to 18 months.
Makes 6-8 375ml jars
- Futuresteading: Live like tomorrow matters - principles, skills, recipes and rituals for a simpler life, by Jade Miles. Murdoch Books, $39.99.