Cookie Crumbs and Fancy Pants: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Part of the "herd of hungry herbivores" in Critterville. Photo by Ben.

Part of the “herd of hungry herbivores” in Critterville. Photo by Ben.

Howdy y’all. Ben here, taking a moment to hardly update you on happenings here at Dancing Rabbit, which is sort of a winter wonderland, except without the snow.

It has finally become reasonably cold, for now at least, and the earth is stark and bare without the insulating layer of fluff preferred by soil, roots, and voles. For a while there it seemed like an earnest winter would not come, and I’d nearly forgotten the joys of ferrying liquid water to hungry, grumpy livestock and having my nasal contents thaw suddenly and with great force when back inside, not to mention double pants.

I’ve been wearing these things under my coveralls, and the label says they are an “active base layer,” which I suspect is a euphemism for tights, or as my Grandaddy woulda called them “long-handled drawers.” This is as close to fancy pants as I prefer to get, but it makes me wonder sometimes when I’m in town or at the feed store if all these burly farmer types are secretly wearing tights, or if it’s really just me. Well, call things what you wish, but I believe one man’s “long underwear” is just another man’s “leggings.” Either way, you’re halfway to a leotard, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Anyhow, until we as a human culture completely get away from treating our global community like a market, our neighbors like invaders, our friends like a target demographic, or our environment as a mere resource, there will always be obfuscation and verbal trickery, like when a chicken house with a door that gets opened sometimes becomes a “free range” operation. That’s like some overpriced long underwear that doesn’t even have the utility flap.

Then again, if I merely re-named a few things, perhaps I’d be more successful as a micro homesteader. Like when something doesn’t work and it becomes an experimental site. A lot of my garden is an experimental site. I could call the barn the Center for Goats and Donkeys and Chickens and Ducks, abbreviated CFGADACAD. I’m not quite sure that this would make any more money, since we do not sell milk or cheese, but that’s ok with me. I wouldn’t know what to do with the cash if I had a mouth full of it. Somebody once asked if a rose by another name would smell less sweet. I don’t know what they were getting at, but I think that if we called Dancing Rabbit something else, it would probably smell the same, mostly because we compost everything (including our own leavings) and are surrounded by cows. I sure hope we keep it that way.

Speaking of mouthfuls of money, we have a herd of hungry herbivores, and though this balmy winter has allowed us to continue grazing into the new year, they are now at a point where their nutritional needs have exceeded their access to live forage, and like myself spend their days scarfing down preserved fodders. The warm, damp start to the season has wrecked a fair bit of their high quality hay, so I occasionally spend time combing the forest floor for honey locust pods, as well as harvesting willow whips and honeysuckle. I call it goat candy, and a simple person like myself can easily spend forty-five minutes in the cold delighting in how funny goats look when they chew on stuff.

What I can’t figure out is why they seem to relish some of the pods, fighting over them as I dump a few feed sacks out, and ignore others. They are visually indistinct from one another, and taste about the same to me. This is one of the many mysteries of goat raising. Additionally, I sometimes put together a brew of warm water and molasses for the critters. It’s called goat-erade.

Winter is a time for many folks in the village to rest their bodies, if not their minds, and soak up the comforts of home. And though our living room (The Center for Coloring Books, Crayons, Cookie Crumbs and Seed Catalogs) offers a splendid view of juncos, chipping sparrows, cardinals, nuthatches, and other birds, I find the indoor ambience around January to be a bit chaotic for my tastes. Between the dog, the cat, and the kid, and their associated projects and residues, I frequently trample, knock down, and trip over a wide variety of items and beings. Besides, the chickens cannot drink the water faster than it freezes this week, so I pull on my farmer pants (they’re like an insulated leotard) and head out with a warm pail to the barnyard (Institute for Manure Management at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage) and trade it out for the icy one, and bring it back in to thaw on our stove. Along with my nostril hairs.

I am often asked how we manage to thrive in such small spaces, and the truth is, it’s easy when there’s so much to do and see outside, like a marsh hawk carrying a squirming rat off to its perch, nervous deer down in the brush, and the neighborhood opossum seeking shelter in our root cellar.

Now I have eaten an opossum before, at least twice to be more specific, under circumstances in which the gentle, loafing manner of the creature was not revealed to me. Now that I have frequently interacted with this particular critter on several occasions, I believe that to hunt such a plodding, constantly bewildered beast is bad sport. When raccoons, skunks, or other critters come around, I will toss whatever is nearest (usually a hedge apple) in the direction of the offending creature, and the mere movement and sound is usually enough to send it off.

But the opossum’s strategy is to slowly turn around with an expression that seems somewhat fearful, or confused. It is oddly cute anyway. I don’t know or care what the Center for Disease Control has to say on the subject, but I reckon a person with an opossum problem can just pick the thing up, gently rotate it like it’s playing pin the tail on the donkey, and walk away. That should solve your issue for a couple weeks at least.

January is perhaps my least favorite time to use the outhouse (The Center for Contemplation and Sustainable Digestion at Critterville), which is a shame, because that’s where I do most of my reading. The difficulty lies in manipulating my coveralls in addition to my “active base layer” in a manner both functional and comfortable. I sometimes consider stashing a blanket in the loo, but then I’d lose most of my hard earned character. Luckily, we have a cooperative culture here at Dancing Rabbit, which means some of us time our privy visits so that the seat is warmed for subsequent users, with the “pioneer” position rotating for the sake of equity.

Now I can go on and on, and throw as many words as I can muster at you, which readers of my updates are probably fully aware of, but I don’t reckon that’ll make much a difference, so I might as well trail off here, and go see what’s going on out there in the real world. If you’d like to haul water like most of the rest of the world, come on out and help haul ours! I’m sure we can find a bucket of something that belongs somewhere else.

Editor’s note: If you’re curious about Ben’s references to Centers and Institutes and changing names, it might help to know that the nonprofit connected with Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, formerly known as Dancing Rabbit, Inc., has just changed its name to the Center for Sustainable and Cooperative Culture at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. You can check out the Director’s recent post about the new name (and more) here.

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Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community and nonprofit outside Rutledge, in northeast Missouri, focused on demonstrating sustainable living possibilities. Find out more about us by visiting our website, reading our blog, or emailing us  (dancingrabbitaticdotorg)  .