Wow! What a busy time of year. We’ve had events or programs of various sorts every weekend for the past three weeks, and there are at least two more weekend programs upcoming. Our tours are still going twice monthly through October, harvests are continual and abundant, and all I can do is keep getting up in the morning and checking off as many things from my list as I can in a day. Ted here at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage to bring you this week’s news.
Gorgeous weather attended our annual Open House a week past, when we opened our doors for afternoon tours to show everyone what we’re up to and what we’re building toward here. I love all the new faces each year, and also those that I’m fairly sure have come in previous years and perhaps just want to see how things have progressed. I also love the opportunity to really get my act together, and get the area around our house and kitchen as spiffed up as the busy season allows, which I had not managed to do to my satisfaction ahead of Singing Rabbit the week prior. It was a pleasure to watch my daughter Aurelia preparing for the week ahead, making rice crispy treats and lovely painted clothes pins to offer to visitors that day. She and Prairie also served as our welcome committee at the table out front. It is amazing how quickly teenagers start taking on the tasks of life and being a full part of the team that keeps it all running, once they find the commitment within.
Fast forward five days, and the village began welcoming the participants in part two of this year’s Natural Building workshop series on Thursday. Hassan is leading workshops on various aspects of natural building, with a focus on natural plasters, this time. The initial tour of various village buildings included stops at our house and kitchen, so I had a chance to say hello, recognize some familiar faces from the spring workshop or our visitor program, and talk a little about our structures. I try to include not just what the structure’s construction consists of, but also the desires we had in designing and building them, as well as what worked as hoped, what fell short, and what I might do differently next time around. The group has been seen at intervals around the village, with the inevitable badges of participation: liberal daubs of plaster on their work clothes. They also joined, and made still more festive, the Mercantile’s Thursday pizza night.
Next weekend the Milkweed Mercantile will host a fibers workshop focused on natural dyes, and the ways people dyed fabrics and fibers when these materials were still worked at home or more locally, and dyed with the plants and products of the Earth that came readily to hand. There is a great group of fiber artisans in the area that we’re lucky to learn from. I’m hoping this series of workshops continues because I’d love to get in on the next one. You can probably still make it to this one if you’re interested; it starts this Friday the 20th and runs through Sunday. Give the Mercantile a call at (660) 883-5522 to learn more and hone your dyeing skills.
Running in the background for me at the moment, as we near the Equinox, are the steady labor and fruits of late summer. Every several days we have a big bowl of snap beans and boxes of tomatoes coming in, as well as sour gherkins, basil, peppers, greens, and various other treats, making for mounds of color gracing our table and other surfaces for days until I can figure out eating, dehydrating, freezing, canning, selling, or giving away the bounty. Prairie and I harvested this year’s crop of potatoes this week as well, making for more mounds of color around the kitchen, though we got those curing on trays under cover as soon as possible and didn’t get to appreciate them over long. The potatoes finally died out in August’s heat while we were in Maine, but I had not wanted to dig them until I had a hope of a cool place to store them for winter eating and spring planting; but I also didn’t want to leave them in the ground past the return of moist soils when they might start sprouting in the ground. My hope is that by the time they’ve cured for a few weeks the nighttime temperatures will have allowed me to cool the root cellar and I’ll be able to get them stored before hard frost threatens their curing on our back porch.
In addition to our own harvests, I also took delivery of 10 pounds of Concord grapes from Dan’s vineyard, which went straight into our steam juicer to be reduced to a marvelously sweet juice, which we sealed in bottles until needed for a wintertime treat. Later in the week my next food storage task was pickling a couple rounds of dilly beans and sour gherkins. Tereza and Danielle helped stuff jars while I dusted off my latent canning knowledge, borrowed a canning pot from Ben (ours had a hole in it), and mixed up the brine. We were down to just a couple jars left from the last batch we put up in 2016… whew! I love me some dilly beans.
Cheesemaking filled in most of the remaining holes in my schedule. With our cow, Sugar, having calved a few weeks back, she was back in milk, but Mae and the others on our milking team had to work with her a week or so to figure out getting the milk to flow, as she seemed to be holding milk for the calf, and not letting down easily. Now it is flowing well, so that I am receiving as much as four gallons of milk in the dairy co-op fridge daily (two each of cow and goat). My large cheese pot holds six gallons… you can do the math on how often cheese needs to be made. I think I will soon need to fire up a third, smaller fridge at my mother’s house in Rutledge to accommodate the accumulating bounty of aging cheeses. I could have worse problems! I am spending a good amount of time considering how to level-up on cheese making efficiency.
This week Kyle and I will attempt to wrestle three lengths of heavy electrical cable through 250′ of conduit to serve as a trunk line, expanding our village power grid out to Skunk Ridge, our newest neighborhood. With luck and a little help from our friends (and some lubricant to ease the wires through), we’ll be able to get the cable run and set down in the trench Kyle dug back in July, which will in turn allow the trench to be filled and Dorothy to invite the crew that plans to dig and install her a water cistern before winter. We have to assemble the new substation at the road there and then trench smaller lines to Dorothy’s and the Gil’s houses, install their meters, and get them up and running. Dorothy plans to move in on November 1st, so I’ve got a deadline to work with. Never a dull moment!
We’ve been missing the Gil family, who left 10 days ago for Spain, a journey of several months that I’m envious of. I remember when I first started traveling myself, before email, when I was untethered from home but for the occasional phone call. By contrast I heard Aurelia chatting simultaneously via computer with several local friends as well as with Emma, who is on the other side of the ocean half a hemisphere away, and heard Christina’s and Max’s voices as well. I may never totally understand how all this tech works, but it continues to amaze and impress, and also makes possible for those of us (the majority) who are immigrants to Missouri to remain integrated with family and friends living elsewhere.
I leave you this week with a note about the value of mutual support. There seem to be a lot of people in my life with sadness, pain, or grief these days, and I am grateful for the support we can offer each other. Formal counseling and therapy are valuable to many, but it can be difficult to get those services in-person when living in a rural area. Filling in some of the gaps are the arts of friendship, but also some more diverse options like co-counseling, which involves two people getting together to take turns sharing their emotional landscape with each other.
In a co-counseling session, the time is shared evenly, and while one person shares what is up for them emotionally, the other listens. The counselor offers their full attention and the occasional nudge toward the heart of the matter, helping their opposite see for themselves the nuggets of self-knowing that can illuminate why they’re feeling the way they do and be reminded that they’re doing the best they can. Part of the goal is to avoid stuffing hard emotions down inside to fester, and instead to bring them to light and find acceptance of what is. Halfway through, the two switch places and the listener turns client. I’ve seen years-long co-counseling relationships, but it is also accessible for total strangers (even those who don’t share a language) with some minimal training to offer each other support. I’m grateful to have learned the basics, though I don’t often co-counsel myself, because it helps a lot to remember the challenges each of us face, and to offer mutual support to my friends and neighbors as I’m able. It makes such a difference to not feel alone in one’s hardships.
Have you always dreamed of living a life like Ted’s, filled with the joys of working in the garden, making cheese, canning homegrown vegetables, and playing with your friends and family in the fresh country air? You have a chance to get a taste of some of these simple pleasures by coming to our visitor program in October; it will be your last chance for 2019, so don’t miss out. We can’t wait to meet you.