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.