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.

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