One of the pleasures of life for me here at Dancing Rabbit is that we have long focused on preserving the fruits (and leaves, etc.) of our seasonal harvests for the leaner times of year. Despite the ever-miraculous ability of birds and mammals to eke out a living through the cold months here in the mid-latitudes and above, I look out the window these days and know I would not be eating much if I had to rely on what was readily available.
Ted here to bring you this week’s news from northeast Missouri at the tail end of January. I recently returned from a month out in the world visiting family and friends, and immersed in a world where nearly anything, food or otherwise, can be had at most any time without respect to what time of year it is. On a surface level it is wonderful to behold; and on a deeper level it feels exposed and unsustainable to me. Honestly, have you ever had “asparagus” as part of a meal in winter (or really any time other than spring) and found it tender and flavorful? Unless it is pickled in season, I’d rather wait for the real thing.
In one of my first cook shifts for Ironweed this past week I made some miso soup for dinner to nourish and fortify those recovering from flu and those of us still hoping to avoid it. Without really trying too hard, I managed to include more than 20 vegetables in the meal. Some of those were durable storage veggies like garlic and potatoes; some were fermented, in the miso and kim chee; and aside from a few fresh seasonal veggies imported by Cob at the public market, the rest were dehydrated by us and stored for just such an occasion. This sort of thing always buoys me up this time of year.
We had more than food and fire to keep us warm this past week, though. Trish and friends at Sandhill started organizing a “hat bands” event in December, wherein all interested participants put their names on slips of paper in a hat, and trios were then chosen at random from the hat to form bands that would perform at an event in January. The bands generally performed covers of known tunes in styles ranging from a cappella to acoustic to electric. Some were more practiced than others, but all cheered and warmed the packed crowd in La Casa to the point where most spectators were peeling off layers to stay comfortable. I’ve heard a rumor that some clips may be available on the interwebs…
In other forms of staying warm, ultimate players gathered for two great games during the lull in the cold, extending our years-long efforts to play at least once or twice in every month of the year. I had come home with a pair of new cleats, and found that I was not alone, with at least half the players sporting new ones themselves. Felt wonderful to throw off most of the layers of clothing and run full-out.
I also spent several days this week processing firewood, which as the saying goes warms you twice (at least). Most of the cord or so I got cut, split, and stacked for next winter was pole wood gleaned from various tree trimming efforts around the village over the past year. While not as dense with potential BTUs as regular cordwood, they lend themselves wonderfully to cutting long and burning in our downdraft “rocket” stove, which is an efficient heater. The wood burns down in the firebox at the base of the fuel stack, and self-feeds down into the fire as it is consumed, heating the air and the tush-warming earthen bench the flue travels through.
For those of you remembering my last column about how much firewood I had stored up for home and kitchen, I’m pleased to report that stocks are holding up nicely and we’ll likely have quite a bit to roll over to next winter. Better too much than not enough!
We’re a little behind in ordering seeds for spring, at least in part because Alyssa, who usually organizes a group order in early January, was off for a two-month trip through southern Mexico with Bear and Zane during the normal ordering time. We, too were traveling at the typical order time. Sara pulled out and inventoried our seeds while I cooked Sunday, and now we just have to choose among the dozens of varieties (and purveyors) of each thing we need, dreaming into the approach of spring. I’m itching to plant trailing flowers and vines into some of the newly-built pocket terraces on our home’s earth berm. Sprouting time is just around the corner, and I wouldn’t be surprised if early bird Javi has already started some.
Goat co-opers are eagerly awaiting birthing time, when all our pregnant does are due to kid in the space of a single week, with the potential for as many as 14 fluffy, mewling, adorable goatlings, according to co-op matriarch Mae. Then comes the arduous task of socializing the new little ones, with lots of snuggling and playing so they’ll grow up familiar and friendly with their human friends, rather than skittish and hard to wrangle. One of our human kids, Althea, excels at this task, and with young trainee Arthur (who began the amazing shift to speaking in copious words while I traveled this past month) will undoubtedly show us the way.
Or is it whey? We are just breaking into some of the stored hard cheeses in the root cellar from this past season, which is another lovely reminder of a warm season past and another to come. I am both excited and trepidatious to imagine how much more milk we’ll have for cheese-making come a couple months from now!
On a similar note of cooperative labor, Mae and I joined the initial meeting of a budding orcharding collective over at Sandhill this week. Currently at low population, and with a baby on the way soon, the Sandhillers have invited interested folks to join in the labor of pruning, thinning, tending, and harvesting their various established fruit trees in exchange for a share of the produce this year. I have lots of immature trees growing in our orchard at home, so I’m excited to enjoy the potential fruits of some collective effort and established trees this season, with dreams of ever more abundance in the future. Of course I still have to trim and care for all the trees over here, including the Asian pears and others in the Dancing Rabbit orchard.
That’s it for this week, as the activity here picks up toward the start of our annual retreat next week. We’ll be talking about robust-ifying our village power grid and long-term village planning, among other things, while sharing meals and down-time gatherings alongside. No doubt you’ll hear more of it in future columns.
Meanwhile, warmth and light to you out there as you gather your energies for the budding year to come, and I hope you’ll enjoy the super blue blood moon event coming up Wednesday as we plan to 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.