Produce from Ironweed Garden

Life Tastes Good: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Ted here with the latest from Dancing Rabbit ecovillage. It is harvest time, and with all the cool, clear days and nights right now, it feels like it. Honey locust leaves fall steadily, and other leaves will soon start turning, but in the garden, we’re still bringing in harvests of summer fruit while the brassicas gear up for their starring role after the first frost. We’ve had a surprisingly successful year with squash, and will have a dozen or more tan Seminole winter squash to bring in, while the summer squash and zucchini are still producing steadily! (Given our experience with squash over the years, that statement does require an exclamation point.) We’re still enjoying fermented pickles from the fridge, while tending the Chinese cabbage and daikon that will make for our next ferment in a month or two.

The turning of the seasons means our Land Day is also approaching in short order. October 1, 1997 was the day the community’s founders purchased our 280 acres, and we celebrate each year with a variety of events including some telling of the stories of the early days and some of the more memorable moments since, plus games, meals, a bonfire, and some celebration of the land itself and the plant and animal lives it contains. Shared meals are a little more complicated this year, but among other events we’ll have a work party to cut back tree growth around the edge of our swimming pond and perhaps some other work to tend plantings of trees, trim the edges of the labyrinth, or otherwise give back to the land we live on.

By the same token we also engaged this week in our twice-annual land clean to come out for a few hours as a community and share time cleaning and tidying. Some of the most visible improvements included catching up on weeding and tending the garden out front near the parking lot and re-contouring the Common House courtyard to reduce the potential for flooding of the building in major rain events. But I was most pleased by some of the less obvious work clearing out and reorganizing some of our shared buildings. I helped in removing lots of unused shelving components and other items from one end of our machine shed, and then grouping and organizing the various electrical components needed for our current village power grid expansion. Other folks removed a lot of stripped bike frames from Bike World to the metal scrap pile that is set to be picked up shortly, thus making room for the many bicycles we use on a regular basis. Numerous other gains were made, and we collectively retired from the field with a sense of accomplishment.

Construction efforts continue on a variety of village structures. Thomas and Scout are taking a short break on Connie’s house, Duckweed, after preparing the exterior for siding; I’m planning to make use of the time to get started on installing the electrical for the house, which includes a major greenhouse and various related systems that I’m excited to work on for the first time. At the same time, I’ll be working with Jed and Graham to complete the new power grid expansion to Skunk Ridge, which will bring permanent connections to Gil house and Daybreak, Dorothy’s house, as well.

Meanwhile Jed, Arune, and her two work exchangers, Grace and Samuel, have completed the second-floor deck of Arune’s new home, built on a grid of black locust poles. There will be a hoedown this evening to celebrate the progress. Having first arrived at Dancing Rabbit as an intern in 2001 and hosted many work exchangers over the years, it feels great to see that tradition continue, offering building work experience to interested people who also contribute in valuable ways while living in our village short-term– and not infrequently sticking around to establish residency!

It is always a pleasure to see new structures take shape here in the village, representing the continuing power of our ecovillage’s mission to inspire new people to set down roots here, experimenting in natural building and engaging a local culture that is built on a lot of cooperative effort and support. It is also built on shared fun, which made Arune’s birthday celebration last week extra fun. Snacks and drinks and social distancing all coincided in an afternoon courtyard party that included a saltine challenge that I had not previously participated in: to eat and swallow, within one timed minute, seven saltines. Sounds easy– but turns out to be deceptively hard to accomplish!

Mae and I this week neared the end of preparations for mounting the roof on the new south section of the barn, which will shelter our cows this winter and leave more room for the goats inside the main portion. Next week we’ll get dairy co-op members and other supporters together to move the 20′-long roof pieces up into place one at a time, and be able to count another 600 square feet or so of sheltered space on farm. Meanwhile we keep supplying milk, yogurt, and various cheeses to our co-op members. Life tastes good.

September turns out to be another nexus of village birthdays in our village, like February and late June/early July. Alongside Arune’s day, Ironweed hosted Dorothy for dinner on her birthday this past week, which also included my mother, staying at her house in Rutledge for a few weeks. Tereza’s birthday came mid-month, along with Georgia over at Red Earth, and there were a number of others I’m forgetting. As Prairie also mentioned last time, Dancing Rabbit and Tamar’s family and friends came together on a Zoom call to share the celebration of 10 years since she departed this mortal coil after contributing significantly to the early growth of the village. I appreciated the warmth of seeing and hearing her family and friends remember her, at a time when the grief of loss has had some time to ebb. In the building of community, births and deaths are major events that we peg our memories to that serve as way points in this collective endeavor. On a similar note, many here also mourned the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg this week.

As the world churns through 2020 in ever more extreme ways, from hurricanes and fires to a global pandemic and political and social wildfires here and abroad, it can be hard to keep my head up. We humans seem to have a deep capacity to seek meaning in our lives and in the physical world. Sometimes I have to remind myself that things just happen, and the meaning I want to ascribe to events might not really be there. Acceptance seems to be the theme of my past decade, and the lesson is one I still have not entirely learned. I’m also trying to accept that my daughter has really moved into her next phase of life and resides with us no more. We could not be more glad that she has made it through her first month away at school without any major struggles, as Sara heads up to see her this weekend. But I miss my child so much. I’ve heard that the only constant is change; I guess I’ll keep working on acceptance.

May we all experience more ease rather than less as this year of extremes begins to wane. Here’s hoping we can take a little time to enjoy the more lasting rhythms of life amidst the seeming chaos, and relax into the season of rich colors on the land, warm beverages, neat stacks of firewood, clean chimneys, and the warmth of friends and loved ones. Cheers to you from Dancing Rabbit!

Ted Sterling is a long-time resident of DR who originally came to DR as a work exchanger. He supplies cheese and yogurt to the village using milk from Sugar, the cow, who lives over at Fox Holler Farm.

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