Dan working on his porch addition as pumpkins look on. Photo by Ted.

Autumn is Here: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Forty-two degrees as a low the other night brought me clearly to awareness, and even an embrace of, autumn. I must admit I’m not ready for a frost yet, but we have had them as early as Sept. 15 in my years here, so all of this time—still-ripening tomatoes and peppers and having our paths lined with flowers and jumping in the pond after ultimate—all of this is bonus. And maybe a little compensation for the brutal June weather that delayed things in our garden.

Ted here, writing for the first time since I lost my Dad. I was there with him, with much of his close family, when he departed us, and was grateful for that opportunity. It will never be easy to say goodbye to somebody for the last time, and this year has brought us an unusually high rate of loss for my own frame of reference. But to be there with my father in his passing, and then to return home to this supportive normal daily life has been strangely ease-full.

I feel grief, but it is leavened with joy and even hope, knowing that I’m continuing to raise a child who gave my father great joy, and that I am here in part because of the conservation-oriented view I learned from him. I see that death is part of life and that we’re committed to it, inevitably, before we gain any lasting awareness of what it is to be alive. That our time is limited makes it no less valuable, only more so.

Strangely enough, time goes on even in the midst of loss, and many things happened in our fair village this week that I’d like to mention. Most significantly in its impact on our daily lives, we welcomed the last of this year’s four visitor groups to Dancing Rabbit on Monday.

Boosted by Terry and Liz, two women who came for the Permaculture Design Course in September and stayed to join the final visitor session while applying for residency, this new group of adults and children is joining us for a time to see how and why we live differently than the typical American life, to eat with us and work with us, and experience the rhythm of life here. As always, I’m grateful for the energy it brings me to see people from far-strewn locations coming together with intention to explore different ways to approach daily life with ecological sustainability as the focus.

Just a day after our visitor group arrived, we also welcomed another group, this one of high school students, to visit for a few days and learn what we have to offer. The group of 12 with their teachers from Ritenour High in the St. Louis area learned lots about sustainable living and also camped in our group campground through two harrowing weather nights. The first night’s front spawned tornadoes a couple hours north of here in eastern Iowa. It wasn’t as bad here, but still kept all of us in and out of sleep, with thunder rolling consistently throughout the night and a fallen tree in the campground to boot.

Ironweeder Erica departed this week for Italy to visit family there. We never like to say goodbye, though I can only imagine the relief with which she must land in her home territory and speak the language that comes most easily. We miss her when she’s gone, and her away times are also noted in sadness by a number of the local kids, including Aurelia and Althea.

Meggie, the latest Ironweed work exchanger, is  responsible for making at least 30 pounds of Ironwood goat cheese. Photo by Ted.

Meggie, the latest Ironweed work exchanger, is responsible for making at least 30 pounds of Ironwood goat cheese. Photo by Ted.

In similar Ironweed news, we’ll be saying goodbye to our work exchanger Meggie this week, who among other accomplishments is personally responsible for most of Ironweed garden’s new perimeter fence, and at least 30 pounds of goat cheese currently aging in a fridge. We’ve opened a couple of aged chevres in recent days that Meggie helped make and wrap in leaves back in July. As with most of our wexers (aka work exchangers), we’ll miss her a lot. She goes with many entreaties to consider whether Dancing Rabbit might not ultimately be a good place to stay.

Emma’s birthday celebrations this week seemed to cover several days, and included capture the flag, chocolate cake, and a treasure hunt, among other events. I love watching the gaggle of kids roaming the village, having reached an age where more often than not they are self-directed, without parents hovering nearby as was more typical just a year or two ago.

As a member of an ecovillage that claims feminism as one of its guiding principles, I have struggled a lot with the national news of late, and in particular the apparent state of the debate over gender and its role in our culture. The second presidential debate will be streamed at the Mercantile tonight for those than can stand to watch it. I plan to try to attend for a bit, but fear for my sanity in listening to opposing parties talking over each other and saying things, with equal veracity, that are diametrically opposed, but which they expect people to believe nonetheless. (Update: I lasted about 15 minutes.)

On a different note, I cannot miss noting the amount of energy some folks are giving to the protest surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline’s crossing of the Mississippi River not far from here. One way or another, many of the local kids have managed to visit or participate in the protest with other adults. Aurelia, who was away with me in Virginia during my father’s passing, was not present for earlier opportunities, but has heard more about them from the other kids, and has declared to me in no uncertain terms that she wants to go as well.

Given the time she and I have already spent away recently, we’re currently working to help her learn more about the issues involved and demonstrate her commitment to join in before planning an excursion. It is hard not to note the smaller community numbers on hand this week to host our new visitors, reminding me that as always there are many angles one must hold in deciding how to allocate one’s time and energy in life.

As I watch leaves slowly changing color, mums flowering, and various birds massing for fall migrations in familiar ways, I’m enjoying the fall construction energy: Dan is framing a mudroom onto his north wall; Meggie and I started framing pottery studio walls last week; Hassan is installing windows and tuning up exterior plaster recipes on his round house; and Stephen went to La Plata Sunday to help in a second round of getting a roof on the new structure of a couple of friends who just had a baby, without any power tools in use. I’m excited to plug in to the second round of sorghum harvest over at Sandhill Farm in the coming week.

Dancing Rabbit’s public tours will wrap up this month, and judging by the large crowd Bob brought around this past Saturday, fall is a popular time. Be sure to join us on the 22nd at 1 pm for the final tour of the year! Meanwhile, may your harvest be bountiful and your firewood supply adequate to the months ahead.

Want to learn more about creating a more sustainable life for yourself, but haven’t been able to make it to Dancing Rabbit in person? Check out our online education series “How to Live like an Ecovillager,” where Dancing Rabbit teachers will engage you in topics ranging from creating a carbon-efficient kitchen, to making your home and lifestyle more carbon-conscious, to building skills for cooperative culture! Learn more here!

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.