Howdy y’all. Ben here, with another report from Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, which is pretty much where I intend to always be, regardless of the heat, cold, dryness, dampness, or whatever.
This current extended heatwave and accompanying dry weather isn’t quite pleasant enough to describe as sultry. I’m pretty ok with sultry. This heat is soul-scouring, at least for myself, and pretty much anything sentient or non- that I’ve come across lately. Except the snakes, the snakes seem to love it.
There is abundance in all this, and we have not reached epic drought status quite yet, though with another week of similar weather I feel like many of my food projects will become extremely more difficult. Still, mulberries and raspberries are in heavy production, my cowpeas seem unbothered by the lack of moisture, and we continue to wake up to newly hatched ducklings and chicks.
The high dry sun that slowly creeps across the cloudless expanse helps to provide an abundance of solar energy. In addition to capturing this power in the form of electrons to charge cordless tools, run fans and lights in my home and root cellar, and even power our first working refrigerator in over half a decade, I am on a kick of using it to dehydrate a nice sum of greens from our garden for winter consumption. And while I am able to search for the sunny side in all this heat, worries stir in my head about what our project will look like after many more weeks of this.
The grasses on the goat and chicken pastures are all but stunted in their growth, reserving their energy for when moisture can be obtained in quantity. This keeps us moving the animals onto new paddocks more frequently than is typical in June. As the grasses dry up, they become more difficult to mow with a scythe, which is a current necessity in our pasture management. Cracks are appearing in the worn and compacted parts of the earth. There is hardly dew on the grass in the morning, and it didn’t cool down at all last night, the breeze dropping off into a dry whimper.
Our earthen-plastered cob and strawbale house thrives on being able to absorb nighttime coolness this time of year. This is not currently happening. In order to keep our gardens hanging on, let alone thriving, we must haul many multiple buckets of water nightly. We also need to spend much time on watering the plethora of young trees we’ve been establishing. Meanwhile in the shade of my awning, grapes and sweet potato slips await transplant. Better to let them languish there than in the dead dry ground, ‘neath a wrathful sun.
Sometimes the days are breezeless, and I go about my daily routine in the still, stale air, dripping sweat that won’t evaporate, feeling the buzz of flies, doing my best to enjoy the sweet scent of animal fertility that I am continually stockpiling. Other days the wind whips fine, dry dust into my lungs as I helplessly watch my tender young trees and greens thrash wildly about in the gale. A good day for laundry drying, if I can spare the water for washing it.
The days are long, longer than I can bear sometimes. My day is framed by the rising and setting of the sun, or at least the chickens and goats seem to think so, therefore I have to maintain my alertness in the dawn and dusk hours. Still, in the predawn, sleeping next to an open window, or occasionally outside completely, I am awoken by fledgling sparrows and a cacophony of other birds. I am lucky when I’m able to sneak in a siesta midday, alongside baby Arthur, though he’s been prone to fitful sleep as of late, and by the time I’ve finished afternoon chores I may have fifteen minutes to rest. What else can I complain about?
This summer weather may be beating me down right now, but I can draw much inspiration to thrive from the things around me which seem adapted, resilient, and downright happy to exist under these conditions, like mounds of birdsfoot trefoil curling at the road edge, profuse in yellow blossoms, unperturbed by heat, wind, and drought; or the daylilies which, while perhaps a bit brown in the leaf, have seemed to open up overnight, feeding bugs a rich, sugary snack from their fleshy blooms. The honey locusts sway carelessly in the wind, their small, pea-like leaves able to withstand the rigors of a Midwestern summer. The Queen Anne’s lace is beginning to form snowy crowns. Down along the draws, poison ivy flourishes, guarding erodible banks and gullies from human intervention, flowering and fruiting, feeding birds and providing cover. Snappers bob cool and calm in the pond, the mucky floor abundant in crayfish. Young red-wing blackbirds sway wildly on the tips of cattails.
Our greywater pond is exploding with duckweed. We spend part of our time harvesting it as protein-rich poultry fodder. Down in our barnyard, vacated until winter, the spawn of squash and pumpkins long ago devoured by pigs emerge from the crusty layer of composted manure, alongside oats, peas, cresses, and so much ragweed. Wasps of all types busily build nests in the outhouse. Last night I saw a small group of bats flutter out from our shade tree.
All the work of building a village continues. Walking past Ironweed courtyard I catch a whiff of dehydrating strawberries. It smells like they’re making Fruit Loops. My place smells more like the bird house at the zoo, but I’d like to believe manure and food are two sides of the same invaluable coin, so I can cope with it. I can spy Caleb at six in the morning, stomping cob for benches, walls, and ovens in our outdoor kitchen. Thomas’ workshop-in-progress is now so complete I can hardly see him in there touching stuff anymore.
The long days encourage production, so long as I can remain unwilted in body and spirit. So far, I’m ok. I have everything I need, sometimes in abundance. Drought hasn’t hit Northeast Missouri, not by a long shot, and not yet. There may be less hay, or fewer beans, or some such. The municipal reservoirs may lower. But we have so much insulation against climate disturbances and famine here in the first world, like an enormous military, a glut of carbon-based energy, and a powerful, coercive economy. I can complain all I want about hauling a dozen five-gallon buckets of water nightly to keep my melons and collard greens alive, but ultimately, I am not literally fighting for my life, yet.
This is not the case everywhere, and it seems somehow important to recall, in my brief moments of discomfort, that somebody, somewhere else, must pay dearly for the choices we make regarding resources.