Fires, Visitors, Fun, and Trains: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Fires, Visitors, Fun, and Trains: A Dancing Rabbit Update

At last, perhaps, our trials of a lingering winter are coming to an end. Sara and I celebrated 15 years of living at Dancing Rabbit on the 16th, and this seems to be the lengthiest cold spring we can remember. Warm spells almost always start to show up in March, but from later February to mid-April this year we saw not a one. Cold weather hung around gratuitously like the proverbial guest that has overstayed its welcome.

The arrival of milder weather this past week still feels tentative and slow-moving, as though the land doesn’t believe it yet. Thankfully our bees are out to show us all the tiny things that are already in leaf or flowering, especially henbit and willow, with dandelion muscling in. We’ve been munching the copious chickweed for weeks, but will taper off now that they’re in flower and we have other options coming up. I’ve harvested a couple bowls-full of shiitake mushrooms from our logs, and I witnessed Ben harvesting nettles down the draw several times this past week. I think I’ll cook some up tonight myself for Ironweed supper.

Ted here to tell the news of the village.

Tree leaves are starting to creep out ever so slowly, the grass only just beginning to overgrow last fall’s dead thatch, so that goats are still down in the barnyard eating hay instead of out on pasture. I have a feeling I’ll blink and all of a sudden the real riot of green will have taken over, but who knows? We’ve had lows in the teens in mid-May before. Avert!

Last week closed out the second week of our first visitor session, with at least two folks applying for residency to arrive in autumn. Feels like a good start to the year. I led an alternative power workshop mid-week, which is always a little creaky when I haven’t done it in six months. Some groups are more keen than others on the topic; this one was all engagement and it went well.

I’ve lately joined in the work of our grid-tied village power cooperative’s current expansion effort, adding around 17kW of new photovoltaics to our production. Managing a grid, even a small one, can be a challenging task on numerous fronts. It helped, though, in terms of refreshing my framing for that workshop at the start of the season.

We can always count on the fabulous fire sign, K*, to show up for a prescribed burn. Photo by Javi.

Friday a group of us burned one of our CRP prairie fields over against Red Earth land on our west side. Wind has been strangely more from the East in recent weeks, our least typical wind direction. That meant it would blow toward Matt and Carolyn’s homestead across the fence line rather than away, but we went ahead with it with their permission.

The back fire went according to plan, slowly burning from the mown and raked margin toward the windward from the top of the slope. Once that had effectively widened the fire break on that edge, we rounded the fire to the windy side and let it rip. It is always a thrill to see how rapidly it takes off, and then just as rapidly goes out when it reaches the back-fired edge. Everything went as well as it could, no escapes, well-timed. Now the preferred native grasses will be renewed and the less preferred ones set back, and within days the ground will green up from the ashes. The smoke of other fires is in the air these days, and Rabbit/Rutledge fire chief Javi has been called out to fires a number of times in recent days.

Saturday brought a raft of choices of how to spend my time.

Among other things, the village hosted a return visit from a community friend who specializes in the study of burnout, and avoiding it. He had come for a shorter talk during our retreat, and we invited him back for a more thorough jump into the topic. Some of us here experience burnout more readily than others, with the steady stream of events and visitors piled on top of our personal goals and projects each year. All those I’ve heard from said it was just as thought-provoking as the first, only more so with more time to get into it, and to offer some tools to help avoid burnout.

Saturday also brought an auction at the Possibility Alliance, another community not too far from us down in La Plata. In anticipation of a move to a new location, and to benefit that effort as well as some of their favorite local organizations, they were auctioning the many goods and tools they could not take with them. Given their focus on radical simplicity, I was keen to attend the auction and perhaps bring home some gems for our own related efforts. Mae and Arthur and I drove together.

I did indeed bring home some tools and hardware useful to my needs, as well as a couple handmade bows, one for Aurelia and one for me (we’d been to a bow-making workshop there a couple years back, but never finished the bow we’d started). Though it made sense for them to do it, I nonetheless struggled with the scene emotionally, imagining an auction of all the goods we have accumulated ourselves here, and that stark contrast between the value of a thing to me and what it might go for in a fast-paced auction setting with whomever happened to show up. The pace is brutal.

A small host of folks from our three local communities rode the 40 miles or so to the event on bicycles, very fitting for a trip to a project where bikes and human-powered everything were so much to the point. They went both for the auction and for the later potluck celebration, to which a couple carloads of folks from here also traveled. Here’s to a bright future for the Possibility Alliance in its new home; and thanks for the community gathered around it that continues to take root, along with the time we’ve had to benefit from their work and example.

As if that were not enough for one day, Javi also hosted a bonfire Saturday night to celebrate with our soon-departing visitors down by the pond. I enjoyed talking and drumming until bedtime, at which point I happily collapsed into slumber after a long day. Javi had also supported the Rutledge Fire Department fundraiser in town earlier in the day, so I expect he slept well too.

Sunday we managed the second game of Ultimate in the space of a few days, which we hadn’t done since February by my recall. That I can now look forward to much more regular play leaves me very happy indeed, and now we’re discussing a possible return to the Show-Me State Games Ultimate tourney in July in Columbia, after a few years’ hiatus.

Now it is Monday and I’m looking ahead to leading the mushroom inoculation workshop for the Mercantile on Saturday, getting all my gear together and getting organized. Aurelia helped me pull the logs out from the far side of our land early in the week, so they’re stacked and ready to go. There may still be spaces available to join in, so if you’re interested, give them a ring or check out their website and sign up! You’ll take some mushroom logs home with you to fruit for years to come. Hope to see you there.

I leave you with the latest from my child Aurelia, who is re-enlivening the blog she started a year or two ago, an impassioned campaign to gain an Amtrak stop here in Rutledge (where the train already passes daily).

Happy spring to all! And remember that we’ve started our public tours for the year, 2nd and 4th Saturdays at 1 p.m. and I hear the Milkweed Mercantile is offering lunches before the public tours now! See you soon.


Train Stop for Rutledge

Every time my family or anyone else in my village goes on a train trip we have to go at least one hour in every direction, even though Amtrak runs right through Rutledge two miles away. If we could get even a 60 second stop, my family and everyone else would use so much less fuel that rises and burns a hole straight through our atmosphere. We try, but ride sharing doesn’t change the fact that every time we use gallons of fuel just going to the train station. If we had a station in Rutledge we could be able to bike all of our stuff there in a trailer.

A year ago I started a blog advocating for a train station in Rutledge, MO, U.S.A., and I called it Amtrak for Rutledge (amtrakforrutledge.wordpress.com). If I succeed, it will ease our travel guilts immensely.

Aurelia Sterling.


Come learn, laugh, work, and play with us at a Sustainable Living Visitor Program session soon! The next one starts May 6th!

1 Comment. Leave a comment

  1. Cat Beach

    Oh Aurelia, I had no idea you were working on this. What a fantastic project. I would like to work with you on this when I arrive in July. Best to you Ted.

    Cat Beach