Bush Tucker Man

Major Les Hiddens, Bush Tucker Man
Major Les Hiddens, Bush Tucker Man

Back in the 90s I used to watch Bush Tucker Man, an Australian documentary television program that followed Les Hiddens as he roamed around Australia in a Land Rover looking for bush food. Here’s a great clip if you’ve never seen it.

I loved that show. Once I figure out how to get Region 4 discs to play on my computer, I’m going to order the complete collection.

Taking Back Control

Broccoli orecchiette, Rohan Anderson, 2011
Broccoli orecchiette, Rohan Anderson, 2011

Whole Larder Love is a wonderful blog by Aussie photographer Rohan Anderson. It’s an outlet for him to share his passion for producing, harvesting and making rustic food. It’s wonderful, and the photography will make you daydream. At the moment, he’s preparing for summer and working on a book for a Brooklyn-based publisher. If I could pre-order it now, I would.

With all the exposure that has been coming his way, it was only a matter of time before ABC (Australia’s version of the CBC) paid him a visit and shot some video. In the interview, he talks about exploring and understanding the food we eat — consider the seasons, eat what’s seasonally appropriate, take control of where your food comes from… These aren’t new ideas, but they are practiced by few and fewer still do it as beautifully as Rohan manages.

Goodbye Kris

Kris and my son
Kris & my son, Ngunguru, 2009

I don’t even know how to begin writing this.

My wife introduced me to her friend Kris Kjeldsen shortly after her and I met. He was born in Chicago, but moved to California when he was young and in the 60s he was a lifeguard at Zuma Beach in Malibu. By the late sixties, he had sailed a trimaran to Hawaii before hatching a plan to move on to New Zealand. There, he headed up north to Pawarenga, swapped his car for a horse — appropriately named Freepass — and made his way into the bush to build a home, start a family and live the good life. Clearly, this is the stuff of legend.

Watching over the propertyApproaching ParadiseNo Kooks
Approaching paradise, Ngunguru, 2008, 2009

Eventually, his love of water and his location in the Pacific came together and he began designing and building Waka Ama — Polynesian outrigger canoes. It’s impossible to measure his impact on the world of outrigger canoeing, particularly in his adopted country, but it is likely what he will most be remembered for. His brand, Moana Nui, can be found all over the world.

Waka Ama in productionThe sawPaddles ready
The workshop, Ngunguru, 2008, 2009

I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time with Kris and have visited him at his new homestead in Ngunguru a few times. I’ve paddled one of his personal canoes, eaten fish he had caught and read books from his library. These are all fairly minor things, but Kris is a huge inspiration for me and these little things add up. His approach to life and understanding of the natural world is second to none and I am grateful that he would share any of it with me. My wife has spent much more time with Kris and has plenty more to be grateful for.

He was excited to hear about our plans for Gambier Island and we looked forward to sharing more with him.

Surfboards collecting dust
Remnants of earlier days, Ngunguru, 2008

Last night we found out that Kris passed away on June 30, 2011. He lived an amazing life and has left behind an incredible legacy, but I am saddened by all that I will miss.

His eldest daughter has moved north, into his home and she’ll be running the business with her family. I don’t imagine this was an easy decision, but I’m very happy the story continues. I look forward to visiting, but it will be hard knowing that Kris won’t be there.

My daughter will have been too young to remember him, but my son might. Either way, they will both hear the story of a man who rode into the bush, was welcomed into a culture and became a hero.

Rest in peace.


Snug in the Tent, Gambier Island, 2009
Snug in the Tent, Gambier Island, 2009

Brett Macfarlane, a friend and colleague, recently sent me some thoughtful words regarding the launch of this site, and in responding to him, I gave some further thought as to why I created it. I figured it would be good to share it.

Hey Brett,

Thanks for the kind words, I’m very happy you like it.

I grew up as a boy scout and spent plenty of time out in the woods as a kid, something most of my close friends didn’t do. By university, I had graduated from attending excursions to planning them with like-minded souls. However, after moving to Vancouver, something had changed. I imagine I was too busy meeting friends, changing careers and exploring a new city to pay too much attention.

Then, I had kids and quickly found myself having to explain the world to them. This rekindled a interest that had been a little too dormant for too long and Applied Observation is means for me to document my rediscovery. I have so much to learn about the west coast, but doing so will generate and intense bond with my family and the land we call home.

As you mentioned, as a society, we’re mostly moving further away from our connection to the land. It’s not bad, necessarily, but it is unfortunate – our relationship with the wilderness is such a compelling story, it seems silly not to celebrate it.