March 26, 2012

Greetings! Tereza here, writing her first ever column in the 11+ years she’s lived at Dancing Rabbit!

Of course the top story continues to be the weather. The unseasonably warm temperatures mean folks are outdoors a lot, playing, hanging out–why, some of them are even working! (For those who may not know, this is a joke. Most Rabbits work their fluffy little tails off most of the time.) We’re prepping and planting and pruning, getting ready for another year of growing food for ourselves and our community-mates. Rumors in this area involve Cob pruning the raspberry bushes near the Community Building, and both Tom and Thomas experiencing invasions of cruel pea-shoot-nibbling varmints. Alline also announced at Sunday meeting the excellent news that she and Kurt harvested their very first asparagus spear! Hooray for spring!

Usually when it’s this warm outside there are oodles of short-term folks around, so having just our usual March population numbers on-farm makes for a relatively slow, low-key feeling. But we know we’re heading into the high season when we get our first trickle of new residents and work exchangers (WEXers), and it’s already seeming more like a stream! Former WEXer Haley finally finished school (and got her wisdom teeth out the same day, I hear) before returning as a resident last week, new resident SunGee came ready with a large yurt-like tent she plans to live in for the warmer months, and by my count at least 3 new WEXers are showing up this coming week. Welcome and welcome back, y’all! We’re excited that you’re joining us in our grand experiment and look forward to getting to know you!

The long awaited return of part singing was also welcomed this week. Over the years it has been difficult to find a critical mass of folks who are interested in learning and practicing different parts of songs in order to create beautiful harmony together. (I should mention that other key factors include being willing, able, and having enough time to commit to doing it– no wonder it’s taken so long to rekindle!) It’s been over a decade since I’ve personally done that kind of singing, and boy howdy, was I rusty. It was super fun, though, and despite several of us still having scratchy voices from the never-ending chest and cough crud that had been making the rounds, we sounded pretty good! I hope we can maintain our momentum in the busy weeks to come.

One of the most interesting events I heard about last week was a dance/birthday party for one of our youngest neighbors at Red Earth Farms, which was announced as “including dancing baby goats”. Now maybe I misunderstood, and I unfortunately wasn’t able to attend, but just imagining tiny goats frolicking around with all my little friends made my day much brighter!

Some of us participated in another interesting event this week, called a restorative circle. It’s a method of engaging with conflict by gathering everyone involved, communicating very clearly with one another about the impacts of the conflict, and making action plans to address various needs. You can read more about it at http://www.restorativecircles.org. It was a fascinating process, and I hope it will become another tool we can use for addressing this crucial and often difficult aspect of living together.

Conflict is inevitable in any group, and the ways we deal with it at DR are wide ranging. Some people prefer the time honored method of ignoring it and hoping it will go away. This rarely works well long term, however, so trying to communicate directly with the other participant(s) in the conflict is usually an excellent idea. Many folks first address themselves: figuring out what went on for them, what needs they were trying to meet that led them to act the way they did, and letting themselves actually feel whatever feelings they have about the situation. This is usually best done alone, or with a friend. Talking about it, crying, blowing off steam, basically doing whatever it takes to get the feelings out in a safe way without the other party present, makes it less likely that you’ll emotionally blast them. Unless you’re dealing with an ascended spiritual master (and quite frankly they aren’t too thick on the ground these days), that kind of blasting usually makes the situation worse. Both solo inner work and talking with a friend will often lead to more openness to the other person’s perspective, which can make a huge difference in how things feel once face to face communication happens.

If for any reason someone doesn’t feel able to meet with the other party on their own, there are almost always uninvolved folks who can be asked to step in and assist. We have a Conflict Resolution Team that maintains a list of Rabbits and friends from nearby communities who are willing to serve as mediators, and the Team is mandated to step in if a conflict arises that is significantly impacting the whole community. Very rarely an interpersonal conflict gets to the point where we bring it to the community at large; I can think of only a few times that this has happened in my lengthy tenure here. (The restorative circle held this week was not community-wide.)

One important note is that we have a standing agreement to solve conflicts non-violently. This sometimes leads to jokes about going across the road (i.e., off DR property) in order to fight it out, but we seriously are very committed to taking care of and supporting one another when conflict arises. I’m pretty impressed with how we engage with conflict at DR, especially as compared to the mainstream culture, and am glad to have witnessed yet another method that might help us continue to improve in this area.

Finally, a two-person film crew came to check DR out as a possible location for a documentary-type TV show about us. Exciting! Scary! I wasn’t involved with their short visit, but Alline was, so since she’s next in the rotation to write about DR happenings anyway, I’m going to let her share all the juicy details next week. If we’re lucky, she might even tell the truth, or at least that’s what she said when I asked her about it!

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community and educational nonprofit in Rutledge, northeast Missouri, focused on sustainable living. We offer free tours to the public twice monthly from April-October. Our first tour of the year will be April 14 at 1pm. Meanwhile, for more information you can visit our website www.dancingrabbit.org, read our blog The March Hare at blog.dancingrabbit.org, or give us a call at (660) 883-5511.

March 19, 2012

There was no putting off the fruit tree pruning any longer this week. It seemed to me that the peach tree in our courtyard, a two-trunked specimen that grew from the pit of a peach we ate while working on the kitchen foundation in 2004, went from bud break to bloom inside of a week. As I feverishly worked to finish the pruning of the ten trees we manage near our house, I was prodded constantly by the buds surrounding me, which seemed to pop open in the moments between glances. Sara put several sprays of peach and plum blossoms in vases around the kitchen, and within a few hours, each looked like a perfect still life for the illustration of a Chinese poem.

As the last days of winter draw to a close with afternoon temperatures in the 70s and 80s for the past ten days, I find myself wondering over and over whether we’ve already seen the last hard frost of the year– or whether, instead, we’ll watch all the exuberantly flowering fruit trees and vibrant pea sprouts face certain doom when more seasonal temperatures resume. At the moment I’m thinking the odds are about 50-50.

Despite every concern about climate shift, I can’t help voting for a long, fruitful growing season that has already begun. Sleeping with the windows open and being serenaded by the raucous peeper party in the pond nearby has done a lot to improve my spirits after an extended illness the previous week.

Ted here to bring you this week’s update from Dancing Rabbit.

A week ago the web team hosted an afternoon-evening party to work on all kinds of loose ends on the new Dancing Rabbit website it has been busily working on for months. After a few last-minute pleas to test various pages and proofread new content, our new website went live this week! It is the culmination of five years or more of effort toward improving the experience for visitors to our site, and to mounting the site on a new platform that will allow those with lesser tech skills to update content. Three cheers! Be sure to check out the new look at www.dancingrabbit.org.

Other signs of spring cleaning are everywhere, along with some capital improvements. An ambitious team of volunteers has taken on an overall cleanup of our front circle drive in preparation for rerouting the drive and widening turns. We’re hoping to ease the flow of larger vehicles in the future, especially in delivering building materials for our new common house beginning later this year. We also expect to gravel an area alongside our machine shed and convert its east wall into a two-bay garage for working on our vehicles in-house. Two small grain bins that have served for storage since 1997 will soon get picked up and tucked behind the machine shed, so a deadline approaches to remove our stored belongings or see them off on a dump run later this week.

After all this work has taken place, resources will be stored in a more orderly fashion in the newly mowed resource yard at one end of the drive, and then a landscaping crew will spring into action to beautify the entrance to the village. Whew! And it isn’t even April yet!

The driveway re-routing is hoped to take place at the same time as the impending installation of the next sections of village road, including the southern portion of the road around our future town center, where the building of our new common house will soon get under way. That will connect to Crooked Route, which runs through Grassroots, the “new” neighborhood that is now nearly full.

Having pulled 19 acres of land on the west slope of the village out of CRP last fall to accommodate the desire for more and larger agricultural leases, we’ve lately formed a new agriculture committee, which is trying to establish some infrastructure, ground rules, and guiding principles for the use of these areas before the wagons cross into the new territory (can you tell Aurelia’s been into Little House On The Prairie lately?). At issue are questions about how to preserve access to such land for future village residents while making best use of the land meanwhile. Knowing we need to get underway with lots of soil amendment, we’re also mapping out which slopes are too steep for tillage, and should therefore be in perennial shrubs and trees, versus those that might be good for grazing or larger plantings of annuals. As always, there is a lot to figure out.

We’re just on the cusp of our yearly population boom. A handful of residents accepted last fall to begin residency this spring will soon arrive, including a family with two girls who will further complexify the youth scene here and also bring the youth gender balance closer to parity. Aurelia is excited for more new playmates and school mates.

Our first group of visitors will arrive before long, and work exchangers and interns will soon start trickling in as well. So many surprises and new relationships to build, so much information to share with newcomers to the village– this lifestyle doesn’t seem to slow down much!

A handful of residents departed for a week in Texas in connection with a showing of Mandy and Ryan’s community documentary Within Reach at an arts festival in Austin. Katherine was excited to visit friends, and prior to departing, Jordan prepped and planted a string of garden plots around Sparky’s house, where he’s staying. We look forward to their safe return.

Kurt and Alline hosted a St. Patrick’s Day dinner at the Mercantile, complete with corned beef, potatoes, and a very tasty homemade cheesecake. They are perfecting all sorts of holiday meals and treats, and becoming ever more indispensable in the village’s social scene.

Alyssa and I got together last weekend for a date to make cheese, and ended up with two rounds of farmhouse cheddar. We made use of some supplies still remaining in our fridge from a cheese-making workshop at the Mercantile a bit over a year ago, and rapidly came up with the intentions both to start making cheese regularly, and to acquire a cheese press and other materials we’ll need. Now that we have a root cellar, I intend to devote a section of it to serve as a cheese cave. Yum.

I haven’t heard the tallies of syrup per hour worked from the annual cooperative maple tapping effort, but I do know that the advent of summery weather signaled and official end to the season recently. We send out our sweet thanks to neighbors Bob and Angela Neese and Dale and Christine Heaton for allowing us to tap the silver maple trees on their land– this year’s run was a sight better than last year’s, and we couldn’t get much sap without the generosity of our neighbors.

Lastly this week, I’m pleased to report that a handful of ultimate players inaugurated play on our new, regulation-size field after our Sunday meeting. With a bunch of stakes related to the installation of the new road sections now peppered about the old playing field, the new field north of town center welcomed us just in time with visions of countless games to come.

Now to get back out to the garden and prepare more beds! We hope you are making good use of the fantastic weather, and that we’ll see you here for a visit before long.

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community and educational nonprofit in Rutledge, northeast Missouri, focused on sustainable living. We offer free tours to the public twice monthly from April-October. Our first tour of the year will be April 14 at 1pm. Meanwhile, for more information you can visit our website (see above), read our blog The March Hare at blog.dancingrabbit.org, or give us a call at (660) 883-5511.

March 4, 2012

I have heard many cries in the distance this week, ranging from “Bent Raising” to “Ultimate Frisbee”. These warmer days have afforded an opportunity for not only more work, but play as well. After the responsibility of retreat (intense meetings for 2 weeks), it seemed that people wanted to subsequently rejoice in the benefits of living in community. Julie here for this week’s column.

The biggest event this week (and definitely the most fun in my humble opinion) was the grand opening of the Casa de Cultura. Bear has been working tirelessly on completing this beautiful structure, with an eye for aesthetics and fine detail. I was very impressed! Rachel is the dancer whose vision has been materialized in the form of this dance hall’s completion. Inside, the wall-length mirror doubled the perceived size of our community as we contra danced and cake-walked (think musical chairs with cakes as prizes). Some of the chair antics had people laughing so hard they were in tears. I had so much fun at the opening that I had to wonder at the power of community and sugar when combined. A spellbinding unification, that. We had a game of Charades, with Nani, who just gave birth last week, acting out the phrase “Homebirth, Naturally”, which is the name of the Midwifery company here at Dancing Rabbit. Her beautiful newborn daughter Abigail is such a perfect angel, and she blessed the evening with her radiant presence, and might have even enjoyed Tony and Nani’s rendition of Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” on karaoke. To see all of the happy and smiling faces was cause for such jubilation for me, and I personally wouldn’t argue against a weekly grand opening.

The Silver Maple trees have slowed their sap flow for the time being, but we have our fingers crossed that we’ll have one last sugar run before they stop completely. Between Dancing Rabbit, and Sandhill Farm, we have collected about 850 gallons of sap. That equates to about 17 gallons of delicious maple syrup to divide amongst whoever wished to participate in the tapping, collecting, and boiling of the sap. This is something I’ve wanted to do for many years, but was unable to do before coming here to DR, so you can only imagine the overwhelming gratitude I have at this time. I admit that pouring the clear sap into the stainless steel boiler was actually fun for me, and I would do it all year long if nature permitted.

Joining the ranks are four more residents applying for membership just in the past 30 days. It’s exciting to witness progress, since our efforts to build the new Common House are going to support members as our numbers swell. With 11 new residents arriving in Spring to join the existing residents and members, we are looking forward to exciting growth to add to the plethora of skills and contagious enthusiasm already present here in the village.

Many of us have started some of our seeds with the mindset of warm sunny days that are scything a path to us as you read this. I love the approach of Spring, because it is an irresistible metaphor for renewal, growth, love, perseverance, and the passing of the torch to the next generation of life. If I had the privilege of a seasonal request, (premature though it may be) mine would be for us to delight in this epic chapter of the cycle of life, and to mark its passing with a prolonged bow and nod–but preferably a song and dance–to acknowledge it for the wonderment it truly is. There is a Spring in each of us, and I hope that you may find it full and alive, leaping wildly in the recesses of your heart, and unfettered within the rich soils of your garden.

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community in Rutledge, northeast Missouri, practicing sustainable living among 50+ members. There’s lots to see, so start thinking about a spring tour now! We’ll start offering them again in mid-April. Meanwhile, for more information, please see our website (in the midst of a major rebuild) at www.dancingrabbit.org, visit our blog The March Hare atwww.blog.dancingrabbit.org, or give us a call at (660) 883-5511 .

February 27, 2012

This last week something strange happened…something wonderful: I put
on my favorite pair of plaid shorts accompanied by a newly acquired
plaid hat and, for good measure, a plaid shirt and jacket. This is
noteworthy because it was WARM and SUNNY and BEAUTIFUL. With spring
just around the corner I was swept up with glee and inspired to sport
my warm weather attire in celebration. As I rejoiced in the glory of
nature I saw folks joining in on the spring-like vibes. More walking.
More talking. More work outside. Less scurrying inside to start fires.
Less depression. More fun!

Being a native Californian I grew up without the joy of definable
seasons, so here I am now in Missouri loving the transitional period
that is apparently called a “season”. Although it may be new to me, my
fellow denizens of DR that have made this place their home for many
seasons are in good spirits as well. There are folks preparing for
gardening and plenty of chitchat on the subject. Seed swaps are in the
works as well as garden bed preparation. I have been poking my head
into various abodes to inquire about the latest news on people’s
starts and, selfishly, tenaciously attempting to have the first tomato
of the season. Call it pride, call it passion…it’s my life. Hopefully
some of the folks that are reading right now are thinking about these
things as well? Here’s to the best gardening season yet!

In other news, Dancing Rabbit’s annual retreat is coming to a close
after, in my opinion, much progress and a plethora of positive energy.
This was my first year at retreat and I’m so glad to have been in
attendance for some of it as it really opened my eyes to all of the
wonderful people here and how we interact at the most intimate level.
As I strive to communicate more clearly and express my needs, as well
as welcome in others, I can’t help but feel like this is my home.

Today there is a bent raising going on. There is an ultimate Frisbee
game. I am discussing garden plans. I am visiting friends and doing
laundry. I am watching wind turbines spin with ease and continuing to
find warmth in the sounds of construction and laughter. I would have
it no other way.

Thank you all for reading. Mark your calendars for our 15th
anniversary BASH! Hope to see a lot of bright and shining faces in the
mean time! Have a great week everyone.

by Jordan

P.S. This KILLS me to acknowledge that I actually left out possibly
the MOST important event of the week…but here goes: I somehow forgot
to include that DR’s first “on farm” birth just occurred! I hope you
all forgive me. This is exciting for so many reasons! Not only did a
healthy baby girl come into the world to bless our lives and this
place, but I was the proud “boiler-up-to-teperature-man”; ensuring
that the water for Nani’s birth tub was nice and toasty for a warm
welcome to Abagail! Yay Abagail! Hope the water was to your liking.

February 20, 2012

Hi, this is Sam, reporting from Dancing Rabbit’s 2012 annual retreat.

We’re in the thick of it now. The first weekend of our annual decision-making retreat began Thursday evening and ended Monday afternoon. We have a few days off before going back to meetings on Friday morning.

Retreat opened on Thursday evening with a potluck dinner and check-ins. “Check-ins,” for those unfamiliar, is a time for a group of people to get together and just listen to how each other are doing. Around here a variety of groups use them, from couples to committees to sub-communities, and once a year we check in with everyone at Dancing Rabbit who cares to attend, which is most of us. This annual retreat check-in helps us move into the process of decision-making at meetings with an awareness of each other’s state of mind, heart, and physical health so we can understand better and be more compassionate of different viewpoints and reactions to the ways things are. We make decisions by consensus, which means that while we may disagree on what the best way is to get a job done or accomplish our mission, we are bound to make decisions that everyone in the group are willing to live with, and agrees are best for the group. That makes being able to hear each other with an open and sympathetic ear–and to voice our own truths with confidence that others are hearing us that way–not just nice, but essential to getting anything done. A couple of hours spent in check-ins is a good investment in a year’s worth of decisions everyone in the group has given his or her approval to.

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and flower petals. Sometimes people cry in meetings, sometimes people become angry and exhibit bad meeting manners. We don’t always hear each other as well as we should, and we don’t always express ourselves as well as we could. Sometimes we don’t understand ourselves and our own motivations well enough to share truthfully in a meeting, and that can be very difficult for everyone. Meetings can be emotionally uncomfortable places to be at times. It takes maturity and willingness on the part of all participants to really listen to our community members and hold their feelings with gentle care.

Fortunately we have a skilled pool of meeting facilitators, and we’re in the process of increasing both the skillfulness and the size of that pool with a two year facilitation training. The facilitator’s role in a meeting is complex: He or she must maintain order, make sure everyone who has something to share has the chance to share it, interpret each contribution for others in the meeting to understand, help those who become frustrated, angry or sad to feel understood, and otherwise guide the discussion toward the objective at hand, whether it’s a decision, approval of a proposal, a brainstorm, or a sense of direction for a committee or other body to use to move forward in line with the will of the community.

This year, retreat meetings have gone remarkably smoothly. During the first weekend we got our group goals and priorities agreed to, our budgets approved to send to the board, our volunteer positions and committees acceptably filled, and guidance given to the Human Resources committee as they move forward with crafting employment policies. We heard from the Membership and Residency committee that we’ll have a total of 62 members, residents, and children living here come Spring. Pretty soon (some would say, last year or so) the number of people involved will make whole-group consensus will be too unwieldy. Future Decision-Making is hard at work figuring out how to make decisions as a group now that our group is getting so big. We gave them our approval and guidance as they move forward with that complex and very important job. Through all of this, people have asked good questions, made good points, and come together with solutions that work for everyone, even when none of the choices originally presented are universally acceptable. We finished some topics early, so we could give more time to others and even finish this weekend one meeting earlier than planned. I’m filled with gratitude for the spirit of community and the people I live with.

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community of more than 50 people and growing. We practice ecologically sustainable living in Rutledge, Northeast Missouri. We offer free tours to the public from April-October. For more information, see our website at www.dancingrabbit.org, visit our blog The March Hare at blog.dancingrabbit.org, find us on FaceBook at www.facebook.com/DancingRabbitEcovillage, follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/dancingrabbit or give us a call at (660) 883-5511.

February 14, 2012

Hi all. This is Alline writing for Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. Writing this column can be a bit embarrassing at times. After my last column, where I declared the new Community Building to be fully approved (it was not) I reluctantly donned the title Minister of Disinformation. I promise that I will try to do better in the future, and be at least marginally more accurate. However, since one of the more entertaining aspects of small-town life is rumors – well, accuracy flies out the window when entertainment is at stake.

Things feel very much in flux this time of year. Is it winter or is it spring? Will I stay at Dancing Rabbit, or will I go somewhere else? Will I continue to eat with this food coop or do something different? Ch-ch-ch-changes are everywhere.

The good news is that as new people move to DR they bring not only enthusiasm but their talents and skills. Included in gifts being shared: Mandy is leading daily meditation and yoga sessions, Sandy leads Kirtan chanting, and Brent blows us all away in Trival Pursuit time after time.

Each of these Memphis Democrat columns, written by a revolving cast of DR members, tends to be a glimpse into the life of each writer. While Dancing Rabbit is a village we have become too large for everyone to participate in everything, and for each of us to be close friends with everyone who is here. As my life seems to revolve around the Milkweed Mercantile, that has become my focus, and the center of my perspective. Which is just to say that I’ve noticed lately that the role of the Milkweed Mercantile continues to evolve. We serve pizza (open to the public) every Thursday evening, rain or shine, snow or tsunami. We’ve begun presenting movie nights – so far a few classics and sing-along musicals – and host a growing number of patrons each evening. With the fire roaring in the fireplace, it’s a nice place to spend some time. Even in the dead of winter we continue to host guests, and we’re delighted that people are interested in what we are doing here, at the Mercantile, at Dancing Rabbit, in life.

We wait impatiently for Nani & Dave’s baby (already named Abigail) to arrive. We also hope that her gender really is, as the ultrasound showed, female– if life was difficult for a boy named Sue we can only imagine what a boy named Abigail would have to go through.

We’re gearing up for our annual retreat, a time where we come together and decide what we will prioritize in the coming year. Some years the topics are exciting, some years they are, um, not so much. But we have a lot to accomplish, and so to keep ourselves inspired we insert multiple activities and snack breaks into each day of meetings. One of my favorite activities which tends to coincide with Retreat is the tradition of Validation cards. Much more inclusive than Valentine’s Day, Validation Day presents us with the opportunity to appreciate and say ”thanks” to our friends here at DR. Cards are made for every individual who lives here, and we all make the time to write in every single card. On Thursday evening, as we kick off the retreat, we’ll each receive a card with up to 50 ‘love notes’ inside. It’s a happy way to begin our decision-making marathon!

Also keeping us on our toes is an ongoing facilitation training class in which many members of Dancing Rabbit are participating. Without skilled facilitators to hold the threads of content, keep the topic moving and to wrangle the variety of personalities, our meetings would simply crash and burn. As someone who is better at taking notes than facilitating, I am extremely grateful for and appreciative of the time and patience it takes to learn and finesse this skill – thanks to all the Rabbit facilitators!

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community in Rutledge, northeast Missouri, practicing sustainable living among 50+ members. There’s lots to see, so start thinking about a spring tour now! We’ll start offering them again in mid-April. Meanwhile, for more information, please see our website (in the midst of a major rebuild) at www.dancingrabbit.org, visit our blog The March Hare at blog.dancingrabbit.org, or give us a call at (660) 883-5511.

February 6, 2012

Hello from Northeast Missouri! Ted here to update you from Dancing Rabbit. Hard to say what season it is out there, exactly. I’m not much of a birder, but I know the sound of Spring birdsong in my bones, and I certainly heard it this week. That and the faint but wonderfully consistent blade whir of the Mercantile’s wind turbine churning the steady wind into kilowatts.

There is an odd quality to peoples’ appraisals of the weather lately—a mixture of enjoying a seemingly stolen bit of another season, and waiting for the other shoe to drop…will we have some real winter? Will it just linger in this late Fall– early Spring mode? Have there been enough cold days for the apples and pears? Won’t the ticks be awful, and start showing up next month? Will mud season stretch on for months?

One strong vote for Spring came mid-week when we experienced a collective overflight of perhaps 100-200,000 geese in waves over the course of half an hour or so. For some reason I haven’t yet discovered, they always seem to go generally west over us in Spring. Wherever they were headed, though, I had to stop work repeatedly to watch the spectacle. At one point I observed a single bird exit formation and hover for a few moments to one side as the V from which it had come continued on. Then it seemed to find the flight companion it was searching for, and plugged back in to the migration, neatly filling a hole farther back in the line. The life of an individual in such a gathering is fascinating to contemplate, since I live in community myself.

I absolutely believe that human activities are altering the climate, and that we stand at a crossroads where we can either shift our mode of existence to something less impactive on the world, or barrel on ahead toward an increasingly impoverished future. And yet I have also studied biogeography, which offers a sense of cycles and changes to the planet that are far outside what we are currently experiencing, both in time scale and in magnitude of change. So when we experience unseasonal weather like this, the jury is still out for me. Perhaps this is the latest sign of climate change, or perhaps this is well within the range of “normal” on the 50-100-500 year scale. Another future winter may be frigid and severe to the same degree that this one is unusually mild. There are no hard answers, though I’ll continue to live as though my ecological choices do matter a great deal.

Speculation aside, I tried to make the best use of this week’s unusual warmth, and given the construction and other noises around our village this week, I know I was not alone. I’ve heard several villagers remark lately on the fact that construction season has never really ended this year.

For my part, the season really did end when our last work exchanger left in November. I’d put so much into our many projects in all the warmer months that I couldn’t keep myself pushing through the colder weather once I was working solo on the house. I’ve experienced a sensation many an early Spring here of having my feet and will power stuck in mud, when the object is to dust off the tools and get to work. So it took me a couple days of the warm weather to get my mind into gear, back to work mode.

Once I got up and running, though, I made some gratifying progress on our house, closing up eaves at the roof edges to reduce the number of entry and exit points for an abundant flock of house sparrows living in our unfinished addition. In a similar effort I put the second of two windows for Aurelia’s room in its place. Remaining holes in the structure include four more windows and a door. I can see the promised land.

I enjoyed being able to bring home the reclaimed, ship-lap siding for the job in five trips on foot up to Bear’s resource yard and back. Now I tote up the linear feet and electronically pay Bear with our community currency, ELMS (Ecovillage Local Money System, I think, but also named for the grand elm tree that once lived at the entrance to the village). This kind of convenience cannot be improved upon.

Bear took advantage of the warmth to finish painting the exterior of La Casa Cultura, which is slated to start service next month as a functional building for multiple events—including a weekend contradance event coming in April. I fell in love with contra while working on a farm in Maine in 1996, and I can’t wait.

Ultimate frisbee players tried twice for a game this past week, and while the first was literally a blow-out, with higher-than-expected winds, our Thursday game had all the qualities of a high-season game, with enough players to field five to a team for a while. I couldn’t have been happier for that hour and a half, but I am still dreaming about playing on our new field come true Spring.

The maple sugaring crews got started with sugaring work in the past week as well, tromping off into the woods here and there with buckets, taps, and tools for the annual tapping of our silver maples. Their sap has a lower sugar content than sugar maple, but makes a tasty, highly local syrup nonetheless, boiled down with Sandhill’s catch over at their sugar shack and split according to time worked by all who participate in the work. Aurelia got excited to join in (related perhaps to Zane also participating), and so we tagged along for a couple hours on a trip a few miles north to tap more trees along the local creek. Dale Heaton and family are among the kind neighbors who allow us tap on their land.

Mid-winter birthdays have been piling up of late. I’ll shortly be headed over to Zimmerman’s to celebrate our near neighbor Sparky with coffee and donuts (the Rutledge tradition), but this week we also have Ma’ikwe, Nathan, and Sandhill friend Emily. Emily had a bunch of Rabbits over to Sandhill Saturday morning for a birthday brunch, and we all talked and visited happily over mounds of scrumptious food for a couple hours and asked ourselves why we don’t do that even more often. Another birthday dinner tonight …and only a couple weeks till Sara’s and my back-to-back natal anniversaries and several others as well.

Update: coffee flowed, donuts and breakfast sandwiches were enjoyed, birthday congrats were offered, and we three communities (Sandhill, Red Earth, and Dancing Rabbit) entirely filled Zimmerman’s dining room for the first time that I am aware of. A fine start to the week.

Ali visited us this week in a bittersweet mode. She’s decided to return to some previous stomping grounds near her sister in the Philadelphia area. When someone joins the village and stays for a while, they get woven into the warp and weave of our lives. Ali has been (and will remain) as good a friend as they come to adults and kids alike, so it is with much sadness that we bid her farewell. For now. I’m not giving up. Ali loves a good dance party, so one was duly organized and took place Wednesday night. I had the honor of providing popcorn for the event, and boogied for a while in the crowd.

May the weather be seasonal wherever you are, or at least to your liking! Happy February.

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community in Rutledge, northeast Missouri, practicing sustainable living among 50+ members. There’s lots to see, so start thinking about a spring tour now! We’ll start offering them again in mid-April. Meanwhile, for more information, please see our website (in the midst of a major rebuild) at www.dancingrabbit.org, visit our blog The March Hare at blog.dancingrabbit.org, find us on Facebook or give us a call at (660) 883-5511.